Look For These Traits in Your Attorney

If you find yourself on the defensive end of criminal charges and need to hire an attorney, you should want to hire the best possible. If you do not already have rapport with an attorney in your area, you will need to start from scratch. Not all attorneys are the same. Look for the traits in the article below when meeting with your options.

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

By Stephen Cooper

No one wants to be charged with a crime. But, if you are, or, if one of your friends or loved ones is, here are five things to consider when deciding whether you’ve got a good defense attorney or not.

1. Irrespective of payment or a client’s guilt or innocence, from the start, a good criminal defense attorney cares and takes steps to ensure the client’s constitutional rights are protected, and vindicated, and that the client is treated Opinion Logofairly and humanely by the criminal justice system. This doesn’t mean everything is going to go smoothly, or, that every decision from the first court appearance is going to go in the client’s favor. Usually, and particularly with serious charges, it doesn’t. But, a good defense attorney, whether representing an accused serial killer or shoplifter, is going to fight tooth and nail for their client — and it should be obvious they are — even if decisions by prosecutors, probation officials, and judges don’t immediately reflect their efforts.

2. Criminal defense attorneys, like judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and cops, are “repeat players” in the criminal justice system. Not always, but often, before a criminal case begins, the defense attorney has an established working relationship with the prosecutor and a passing familiarity, or better, with other repeat players in the case. This can be good, because if the attorney has a good reputation (for being competent, passionate, and ethical, for example), they will be in a better position to negotiate and advocate for the client as the case winds through the system. This relationship between repeat players is important to be aware of because some defendants (or their family members) might see the defense lawyer share a smile or laugh with a prosecutor or probation officer and start immediately thinking — jeez, is this person on my side? But, the reality is, that smile or laugh may be part of a strategy the attorney is using to secure an advantage — be it information that might help defend the case, the dismissal or reduction of charges, a good plea deal, a favorable bond determination — or a million other decisions and calculations affecting a criminal prosecution. Remember the familiar adage: “You can catch more bees with honey?” It applies.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if a criminal defense attorney is constantly cozying up to the prosecutor and other repeat players such that it seems like he or she might actually care for them more than the client — that’s a problem — a big problem. But, then, likely, the lawyer in question is not zealously defending the client — see number 1 above — and the client should already be trying to get a new lawyer.

3. A good defense attorney doesn’t care if their client “did it.” Overwhelmingly, criminal defendants want their defense lawyers, just like they want everyone else, to believe they are innocent. But, a good defense attorney doesn’t care whether their client is innocent or guilty because it’s of no moment as it concerns their constitutional obligation to try and beat the case, or, failing that, to secure the best, least penal outcome. Good defense attorneys aren’t focused on whether their clients are innocent or guilty. Instead, they protect and fight for defendants of both stripes using all available energy and resources.

4. A good defense attorney doesn’t accept what is in police and prosecution reports. Once assigned a case, he or she, in conjunction with a trained criminal investigator, will immediately begin investigating the allegations by: demanding that the prosecutor turn over information (called “discovery”) about the case, collecting records, going to the scene of the alleged crime, talking to witnesses, hiring experts, taking statements, securing relevant video footage and pictures, serving subpoenas, etcetera.

5. A good defense attorney will regularly remind and urge their client to exercise their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, insisting they not talk to anyone, except the defense lawyer and investigator, about the allegations. At the same time, a good defense attorney will regularly meet and talk with their client about their case whether the client is locked up or not. Defense attorneys are uniformly busy people, but, if they are any good, they will make time to talk to their clients. Not only do they have an ethical obligation to do so, they know and appreciate that the best part of being a criminal defense attorney is the relationships formed with clients.

So, what do you do if you or someone you love doesn’t have a good defense attorney?

Well, if it’s a private attorney being hired, research should be done to find an attorney who has a good reputation for criteria 1-5 above. If it’s a court-appointed attorney or public defender not doing their job, it will be more difficult, but generally not impossible, to secure a substitute. What the client has to do — not a family member, unless the client is a juvenile — is speak up! Without saying anything about the charges, they must write to the judge or tell the judge at their next court hearing that they want, in private, without the prosecutor present, to talk to the judge about how their attorney is failing them — using concrete examples of how (see criteria 1-5 above as a guide). There is a chance the judge will decide the client is right, or, that there has been a “complete breakdown” in the attorney-client relationship such that the appointment of a new defense attorney is required no matter what.

Stephen Cooper is a former District of Columbia public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills.

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Source: http://timesofsandiego.com/opinion/2016/11/25/5-ways-know-whether-criminal-defense-attorney-good/

Valuable Information About Personal Injury Cases

If you are or have been involved in a personal injury case you know that evidence can greatly affect the outcome. There are times that, in these cases, spoliation occurs which means evidence is hidden or destroyed. There are certain things you can do if this occurs, and this article explains that.

Lawsuits are only as good as the evidence. And this is especially true for personal injury lawsuits, which could rely on extensive physical and financial evidence in order to be successful. But what happens if evidence — like photographs, handwritten notes, medical records, or receipts — goes missing? Or what if you threw something away that you didn’t realize could even be evidence in an injury lawsuit?

The loss or destruction of evidence is called spoliation, and courts may handle it differently depending on the type of case, the evidence involved, and how it was lost. Here’s what you need to know.

Spoliation, Defined

Spoliation normally happens when a defendant destroys, hides, or refuses to produce evidence they know will be harmful in a lawsuit. Two main elements of spoliation are (1) whether the evidence was under the party’s control, and (2) whether the party knew or should’ve known the evidence would be relevant to future litigation.

For example, let’s say someone slips and falls in a grocery store. If they’re injured they may request security camera footage of the area where they slipped, for a time period before and after the accident. This camera footage is definitely is under the grocery store’s control and if there’s an incident in the store they should know it could contain evidence relevant to a slip-and-fall accident. The grocery store will normally be asked to provide that evidence to the injured person, their attorney, or the court, and could be in trouble if it doesn’t.

Spoliation Penalties

If a party, like the grocery store above, can’t or won’t produce requested evidence due to spoliation, they could be facing a range of legal penalties. In some states, intentional spoliation (like purposefully destroying the security footage from the grocery store) is a criminal offense and could result in fines or incarceration. In other jurisdictions, the court could advise the jury to infer that the party who destroyed the evidence had a “consciousness of guilt” or that the supposed evidence should be viewed as unfavorable to the spoliator.

If you’ve been involved in an accident, you should do your best to preserve any evidence. If you’ve been accused of causing an injury (or even think you might be) you should make sure not to destroy any evidence that relates to the incident. And if you’ve been injured, you should put the party responsible on notice as soon as possible so that they don’t accidentally destroy evidence.

Issues of spoliation are best left to experienced personal injury attorneys. Contact one today.

Related Resources:

Source: http://blogs.findlaw.com/injured/2016/10/what-is-spoliation-and-what-happens-if-evidence-is-destroyed-in-a-personal-injury-case.html?

DUI and DWI Overview


Take Notes After an Accident or Injury


Being More Than a Criminal Defender

The work of a lawyer is stressful, exhausting, and humbling all at once. Those who choose to focus their work on criminal defense should really take a page from the book of the lawyer showcased in this article. He sees each client as an innocent human being no matter what crime they are accused of, and builds a trustworthy relationship with them. Read the full piece below:

Prison sadThose who have represented people accused of crimes know that there is no more terrifying moment than realizing that your client is innocent. Our criminal justice system is deeply flawed. Knowing that you and your resources — meager as they inevitably feel at that moment — are all that stand between you and a substantial injustice is overwhelming.

Brian Stolarz — a partner at LeClairRyan — knows the feeling. His innocent client wasn’t just accused; he’d already been convicted of killing a cop. And, worse, he had already been sentenced to death. Stolarz has written a book about the: “Race and Justice on Death Row: The Race Against Time and Texas to Free an Innocent Man” (affiliate link). It’s coming out soon, and is available for preorder on Amazon.

Stolarz stuck with his client and his case for years and, finally, was there when his client walked out of death row in Texas. His book is the story of his journey with his client from the moment he came to believe his client was innocent until the day his client was freed.

It’s also, happily, a really good read.

Here’s how it starts:

I knew Alfred Dewayne Brown was stone-cold innocent the moment I met him. He was a 25-year-old, soft-spoken gentle giant with a 69 IQ living in the Polunsky Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Livingston, Texas, north of Houston. Polunsky is where Texas houses people before it kills them. In 2005 he had been sentenced to die for the murder of a police officer, and he had been living on death row pretty much ever since. I was working for K&L Gates, a high-powered mega-firm in Washington DC, longing for a case I could be passionate about.

The book walks through what Stolarz had to do, both with the system in Texas and at K&L Gates, to get his client off of death row. (He did so much pro bono work on the case he didn’t get a bonus for years.)

But, while the book shows exactly why it’s really bad to be a poor black man accused of killing a cop in Texas, how broken that system of justice is, and how uplifting it can be when someone who should have a heart full of hate takes a different path, it’s also a very real peek into the emotional life of a criminal defense lawyer wrestling with a case that he takes very very personally. If you’ve never spent a lot of time in a jail cell with a client, it’s hard to get a picture of what that relationship comes to look like. It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes you become pretty good friends with the person on the other side of the table. I recognize so much of my own time as a public defender in Stolarz’s relationship with his client.

Stolarz would always bring money to buy food at the prison for Brown while they were meeting. At one point he describes a lull in their conversation as they ate.

[W]e were running out of thing to talk about so I asked him one of my favorite questions of friends — what would be your death row meal? But I forgot I was actually on death row.

It’s odd to think that you can forget where you are so completely. But it’s also one of the things that’s really true about the kind of relationship you sometimes form with a client when you’re eyeballs deep in a case. (Brown’s answer, for what it’s worth, was crawfish. He’s from Louisiana.)

Lawyers often miss a sense of calling, a sense of meaning. Our profession is too frequently chronically unhappy and too quick to take comfort in alcohol or drugs or other bad choices. Much of that is because we too often chase secure money or position instead of sacrificing to improve the lives of others.

Stolarz describes how his firm reacted to his pro bono work, and the comments he got from other lawyers while he toiled away for his friend on death row. I’ve known him for years and, as the book explains all too well, this case has been a crucible for him. Since his client has been freed, he’s been speaking around the country talking about the case and his work. I’ve seen him speak; it’s inspiring. He’s been profiled in the Washington Post and been on TV talking about the case.

In short, he’s gotten for himself — by pursuing meaning instead of money — a good bit of what anyone would recognize as success. For Stolarz, the straightest path to this reward came not through the safe play of grinding out billable work for large corporate clients, but by following his heart on a big quest for justice.

It’s a rare lawyer who can’t learn from that.

Matt Kaiser is a white-collar defense attorney at KaiserDillon. He’s represented stockbrokers, tax preparers, doctors, drug dealers, and political appointees in federal investigations and indicted cases. His twitter handle is @mattkaiser. His email is mkaiser@kaiserdillon.com He’d love to hear from you if you’re inclined to say something nice.

Source: http://abovethelaw.com/2016/09/the-grace-of-a-criminal-defense-lawyer/

Accidents Involving Pedestrians

There are instances when accidents happen involving a pedestrian. This article does a great job of laying out the types of accidents and what goes into the criminal investigation and/or court processes of each. The people involved should consult our firm or a local attorney first and foremost, but this article can get your wheels turning.

Pedestrian v. Car

If a pedestrian is struck by a car, any legal liability will rest on whether the driver was negligent in causing the collision. You can demonstrate driver negligence by proving that he or she was speeding or disobeying traffic signals, failed to yield to pedestrians, was distracted or inattentive, or was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Generally speaking, if the driver was negligent you can be compensated for any injuries sustained in the accident.

Pedestrian v. Bike

Cars aren’t the only danger to pedestrians — as more people are biking around these days, the number of cyclist-pedestrian collisions has increased. As with motorist accidents, an injured pedestrian would need to show a cyclist was negligent in order to have a successful injury claim. For the most part, those on bicycles have to follow the same laws as those in cars, so if a cyclist was speeding through a red light, riding against traffic, or failing to pay attention, he or she could have been negligent. And while there are some instances where cyclists can ride on the sidewalk, they must still ride responsibly.

Motorist or Cyclist v. Pedestrian

Not every pedestrian accident is someone else’s fault. The more we’re looking down at our phones while walking, the more we can be at fault for a collision with a bike or car. There are cases when a motorist can sue a pedestrian after an accident, and courts can deal with pedestrian liability a bit differently depending on where you live. Some states have pure contributory negligence laws which make it impossible for an injured party to recover any damages if she was at all responsible for the accident. Other states try to apportion the amount a plaintiff can recover to her percentage of fault under comparative negligence laws. Knowing the difference between contributory and comparative negligence can be essential to your injury claim.

Any personal injury lawsuit can be complicated, especially those involving a pedestrian. If you’ve been injured as a pedestrian, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney near you — most are willing to consult with you about your case for free.

Related Resources:

Source: http://blogs.findlaw.com/injured/2016/08/when-to-sue-for-a-pedestrian-injury-accident.html?

Decreasing assault is of the utmost importance

With social media drastically changing the way that ideas spread and the way that we communicate with each other, and in effect, policies, legislation and consequences are then made and you can see them in the practical world. One of the many positive things that has come with this rise in technology has been the increased awareness of abuse and other situations in which other people can help prevent bad situations from happening.

Bartenders were quick to stop a lecherous man’s advances on a woman sitting alone in a bar at ChurchKey in Washington, D.C., last week. 

She seemed uncomfortable when he put his arm around her. So when he tried to kiss her, one of the bar managers said, “Don’t you think you’re getting a little aggressive there?” The bartenders checked with the woman while he was in the bathroom. She said she “was not really interested but didn’t know how to get out of the situation,” according to the manager. The staff helped her go out the back door and get a cab before he came back. She called later to thank them. 

What happened at ChurchKey that night was bystander intervention ? and it may have prevented a sexual assault, said Jessica Raven, the executive director of the advocacy group Collective Action for Safe Spaces.

The organization had trained the ChurchKey bartenders through their Safe Bars program, run with Defend Yourself, another local empowerment group. 

Raven’s group is now working on training more watering holes around the D.C. area and teaching organizations in other cities, like Philadelphia, how to launch programs similar to Safe Bars.

And this is being made possible through a grant from a somewhat unlikely source: the National Football League. 

So far, $1.2 million has been spent on 27 local organizations around the country to address sexual violence.

The NFL faced scrutiny in 2014 when it gave Ray Rice, of the Baltimore Ravens, a two-game suspension for punching and knocking out his fiancee. Once video surfaced, he was cut from the Ravens. In response, the NFL put money into a domestic violence and rape hotline, developed education programs and rolled out public service announcements on abuse, though these efforts still faced criticism.

But in June, the NFL announced it was giving the first-ever major corporate funding of sexual violence prevention initiatives, donating $10 million to a new initiative called Raliance, with a bold goal: to end sexual violence in one generation. 

“I think the NFL has a role to play in this; we don’t expect and we don’t want to do things alone, but we want to make change in society using the platform that we have,” said Anna Isaacson, vice president of Social Responsibility at the NFL, a position created two years ago following the Rice scandal.

New York Daily News via Getty Images

The NFL faced intense scrutiny in 2014 over how it handled Ray Rice’s domestic abuse of his fiancee. 

Raliance comprises three prominent groups in the industry: California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. Raliance will become a central hub of programs that local groups working in preventing and addressing sexual violence will deploy. It will also supply grants to get more initiatives off the ground. 

“With those organizations joining forces we’ll be able to give more momentum get more advocates ? at both state and national levels ? get better organized,” said Karen Baker, director of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. 

Where The Money Is Going 

Groups like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence have wanted the NFL to spend their time and money helping local organizations, and through Raliance, that’s what the league is doing.

The grants are supporting efforts to create protocols for how police should address LGBTQ rape and abuse survivors, education initiatives tailored for violence in the black community and teaching middle and high school coaches on how to speak to their athletes about sexual violence. The Pittsburgh Action Against Rape plans to examine current sanctioning practices for sexual misconduct on college campuses with their grant.

So far, Raliance has used $1.2 million of the NFL’s money to distribute 27 grants, each at $50,000 or less, to local and state organizations, including $20,000 to CASS to support Safe Bars in D.C. 


The bystander intervention education, like Safe Bars or a similar program being funded in Montana for staff at festivals, can start paying off instantly. While bystander intervention is not new, most of the programs are designed for high school and college students, not bar staff.

“There was no training on sexual harassment for bars, which is kind of absurd because we know there’s a strong connection between alcohol and sexual assault; alcohol does not cause sexual assault, but it’s used as a weapon and that puts bar staff in a unique position,” Raven said.

Sam Nellis, assistant manager of ChurchKey, said all bars, no matter the style or size, should do the Safe Bars program. 

“The training makes you think about the things we’ve all seen over the years, and the times we had intervened,” Nellis added. “And inevitably as you start to think ‘What if I’ve missed something?’ And not because we aren’t looking for it, it’s because we don’t necessarily know what to look for.”

Courtesy of Andrew Bossi

Jessica Raven and Lauren R. Taylor, the women in charge of Safe Bars, got a grant from Raliance to continue training bar staff on how to spot sexual harassment. 

CASS and Defend Yourself, the groups behind Safe Bars, are both nonprofits, so the Raliance grant allows Raven to spend more time responding to requests and doing technical assistance. 

“There hasn’t been a lot of funding so we’ve had to charge other organizations to bring us out there ? so now we should be able to cut those costs since we have funding,” Raven said. They can also charge less to the bars, making it more likely they’ll bring them in to do the Safe Bars training, she said.

“It sustains us as an organization but also helps us grow to a level that we couldn’t have dreamed of,” Raven added. 

Advocates outside of the Raliance initiative say male-dominated corporations have not given much money to these issues, and the government isn’t much better. 

“There’s very little prevention money for the violence against women services community coming from government entities,” said Dawn Dalton, executive director of Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment & Appeals Project. “When we look at our society, we come from a place over the past 25 years where we’re tough on crime, and over the past 40 years, the prison rate is going through the roof. There’s been a very big emphasis on the criminalization of behaviors and locking them up.”

How The NFL Can Help The Prevention Programs Spread

Even if the NFL is just giving money to the Raliance initiative to get some good publicity, the rape victims’ advocates will take it. 

“[It’s] as important to us as their money is their influence,” said the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Baker. “The influence they have over so many people ? particularly young people ? they can help us reach audiences that we have not interacted with.”

If the NFL is putting money toward addressing sexual assault, then hopefully other major corporations will donate too.

If the NFL is putting money toward an effort to address something as uncomfortable as sexual assault, then hopefully other major corporations will donate too, said Delilah Rumburg, CEO of the NSVRC.

And if a company is going to do that, they should do it now, insisted Sandra Henriquez, executive director of California Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “We’re at a watershed moment,” she said.

Henriquez believes they’re seeing the very beginning of culture change. “People are starting to get outraged and speaking up ? it’s something that three to five years ago that might not’ve happened,” she added. “There’s an outrage, an intolerance that’s being developed around the issue and what should be happening.” 

The Plan Came From The Experts, Not The NFL

The conversations between the NFL and NSVRC began in fall 2014, around the time of the Rice scandal. The nonprofit brought other partners to the table and they started talking about what they could do for a longer-term collaboration, according to the NFL’s Isaacson.  

“We rely on the experts to help direct us,” Isaacson said. “We do our homework and our research, but we want to make sure we have the right message that’s going to resonate ? not saying something that’s going to set us back instead of moving us forward.” 

The NSVRC, CALCASA and National Alliance to End Sexual Violence came up with the idea of Raliance as a central hub to showcase what’s already happening and provide funding to get more programs off the ground in areas where the violence prevention community could be more proactive.

“We’re not looking to reinvent what’s already happening,” Henriquez said. “We want to uplift and highlight those programs that are effective.”

Courtesy of Collective Action for Safe Spaces/Defend Yourself

An organizer from Defend Yourself leads a bystander intervention training at a bar in Washington, D.C. 

The NFL is mainly listening, not talking, on the issue, Isaacson said. While they’re providing funding, they aren’t conducting anything, she said. But they do communicate with the Raliance groups “every other day” to find out what’s going on and how they’re making progress.

Isaacson will share what programs are working in cities or states where the NFL has a team, but then let the clubs decide for themselves whether they would like to get involved. There are no plans yet to deploy sexual assault awareness at games. 

“We are lucky that we have this megaphone that we can use and get this message across,” Isaacson said. “We feel it’s our responsibility to use that platform for good.” 

Justin Block contributed reporting.


Tyler Kingkade is a national reporter that frequently covers sexual violence, and is based in New York. You can reach him at tyler.kingkade@huffingtonpost.com, or find him on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.

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Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nfl-sexual-assault-prevention_us_5783e412e4b01edea78ef4df?ir=Crime&section=us_crime&utm_hp_ref=crime