5 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Attorney if Charged with DUI

Anyone can be charged with a DUI. Most people are unsure how to proceed after being charged. With the uncertainty of criminal sentencing, the benefits of retaining counsel far outweigh the cons. Here are some reasons why.

DUI Attorneys Know the System

Many defendants will choose self-representation because they assume the consequences of a charge will be manageable. Either they believe the sentencing will be the same with our without a lawyer, or they assume there will be no surprise consequences. But with DUIs, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Drunk-driving attorneys know the game and can reach a plea bargain much easier than someone without legal experience. They can also avoid unforeseen consequences, like insurance spikes and other driving restrictions.

Attorneys Know How to Gather Evidence

Chances are, if you’ve been charged with a DUI, your primary defense will be your memory of the incident. But rarely is a case won solely on the defendant’s testimony. A skilled defense attorney can cross-examine the arresting officer, track down character witnesses, and use lines of questioning that support an innocent plea.

DUI Cases are More Complicated than You Think

Many cases are dismissed simply because the breathalyzer equipment was faulty or the officer did not conduct the arrest in a legal manner. Rarely can this legal outcome be achieved by a self-represented defendant. Only skilled DUI attorneys know the holes in the system and just how to use those kinks to their client’s advantage.

It’s Worth the Cost

Experienced DUI defense attorneys are not cheap. But you should never assume they are not worth the expense. Even if you think a DUI case is “simple, court fees add up. If you are charged with a DUI, the court may require the installation of an interlock device. They will also charge you fee for the installation. Also, be sure to factor in the cost of lost wages, as well as the lost future earning potential with a DUI charge on your record. At the end of the day, it’s a risk vs. reward equation.

Repeat Offenders and Aggravated DUIs

If this is not your first DUI, there is no question whether you should seek legal counsel. The prosecution will go after you with a vengeance, and you will need legal expertise on your side. Also, if your BAC was above .15 or an accident resulted in death, it is considered an aggravated DUI. Sentencing can be severe and have drastic, life-long consequences. You will need the protection of someone familiar with the system.

With any life choice, you have to be prepared for the results of your decision. If you’re happy with the consequences of a DUI conviction, self-representation might be for you. Maybe you have enough money and prestige to risk a ding on your criminal record. But if not, it might not be worth the risk. If you want the opportunity for a clean slate, an experienced attorney is the only way to go.

Contact me for a consultation. I can review the facts of your case and provide you with legal guidance and counseling on how to best proceed.

Rideshare Programs Prevent DUIs Nationwide

Rideshare Programs Prevent DUIs Nationwide

Technology is changing our everyday lives. Now, thanks to new rideshare apps like Uber, it is even keeping us safer on the road. New studies suggest these programs are not only convenient—they are preventing DUIs.

Rideshare companies, like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar are gaining nationwide popularity because of their convenience and low cost. The services are available via Smartphone and are very user-friendly. They are easily downloaded, and payment is pre-arranged through credit card so you don’t have to hassle with having cash on-hand. Service drivers use their own cars, which helps drop the cost up to 40% lower than their taxi counterparts. This means, an intoxicated driver doesn’t have to work as hard or pay as much to find a ride home.

Cities like Philadelphia and Seattle have already seen huge safety benefits with the introduction of these apps. Pittsburgh computer scientist Nate Good released a report that showed a drop of 11% in DUIs from April to December 2013. While some wonder if the drop was coincidental, Seattle showed a similar 10% DUI reduction after Uber was released. More and more people are opting for these services instead of driving home from the bar. Uber spokesperson Taylor Bennett says the DUI drop was an unintended but welcome change. 

As rideshare programs spread across the nation, we can only assume DUI rates will continue to drop. Taxi services will have a hard time competing with these safe, affordable, and tech-savvy ride alternatives. But we can thank these apps and our smartphone for helping us all get home safer.

If you or a loved one has been charged with drunk driving in the New York City area, contact me for a consultation. I can be reached directly at 718-246-5050.

 

Police Are Cracking Down on DUIs This Holiday Season

State patrol and local police across the nation are beefing up their efforts to stop drunk driving. Thanks to the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over initiative, drivers must be more careful while driving home this holiday season.

What to Expect

December 12thJanuary 1st, drivers can expect to see an increase in DUI checkpoints nationwide. More troopers will be patrolling highways and other roadways and making more arrests. Also, expect to “see” more unmarked patrol vehicles and stops made for distracted driving, or texting-while-driving.

In December 2012, 1,698 DUI fatalities were reported. A third of those deaths were directly linked to drunk driving. Last holiday season, police issued 38,000 tickets, of 630 DUI charges and 1,500 distracted drivers. Records show an increase in drunk-driving deaths nationwide. For this reason, we are sure to see a significant increase in drunk-driving arrests this year.

What to Do if Stopped for a DUI

First and foremost, stay quiet. Politely and calmly follow the officer’s directions. But never offer more information than your name and address. Anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Officers are highly-trained to get drivers incriminate themselves to make cases easier for prosecutors. Know your rights, and don’t fall into this trap. You don’t have to say anything without a lawyer present.

It is also your right to refuse a field sobriety test or roadside breath test. These are notoriously unreliable, but officers will use them to gain probable cause. If you refuse, there is a chance you won’t be arrested. Also, in most states, your refusal cannot be used against you again. Unfortunately, the same is not true for the Breathalyzer test or blood alcohol test. The “implied consent” law in most states requires all drivers to submit to blood alcohol testing. A refusal will usually result in the temporary loss of driving privileges, a fine, and possible car impoundment. If you’ve had many drinks and expect the results to show a high blood alcohol content, it might be worth a suspension to avoid a DUI charge on your record.

At the end of the day, it is always safer to have a designated driver. But if you are caught on the wrong end of a DUI stop, remain calm, politely, and quiet. Then, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney who can review your case and prepare your defense.

 

Common Defenses to Assault and Battery Charges in New York

In New York City, assault and battery cases range from the very straightforward to the overwhelmingly complex. While there are a variety of defenses you can use in court, an experienced criminal attorney can find the defense strategy that is best suited to your case.

Self-Defense

The most common defense to an assault and battery charge is self-defense. To establish self-defense, the accused must prove a threat of unlawful force was made against him/her. A reasonable basis for the fear must exist, and there must be no evidence that a reasonable method of escape was available. For example, let’s say Cal is approached by a large, intimidating stranger named Mike. Mike threatens Cal while shaking his fists wildly in the air, provoking a strike from Cal. In this case, Cal has reasonable grounds for self-defense. But if Cal provoked the attack by threatening Mike beforehand, the defense has no legal merit.

Lack of Intent

Another common defense is lack of intent. To prove assault and battery, the prosecution must show that the suspect intended to use unlawful force or put the plaintiff in fear of physical harm. Let’s say Mike and Cal are training at the gym. Mike walks in front of Cal while he is boxing with a punching bag. Instead of striking the bag, Cal accidentally strikes Mike’s face. The prosecution will have trouble gaining a conviction because there was no intent on Cal’s part to commit assault.

No Immediate Harm/Unreasonable Apprehension

In New York, “assault” is defined as the reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm. A defendant can argue that harm was not immediate or that the plaintiff’s apprehension of harm was unreasonable. Imagine that Mike approaches Cal at work and tells Cal he will be sorry if he doesn’t move out of Mike’s way. Cal would have little grounds to claim assault because the words “will be sorry” are not reasonable grounds for a fear of attack. Also, there is no immediate threat because Mike did not physically demonstrate intent to cause bodily harm.

The circumstances of any criminal case are unique, especially those surrounding a charge of assault and battery. When facing a conviction, it is important to act fast in obtaining legal counsel. An experienced criminal attorney will carefully review the charges filed against you and analyze the circumstances to prepare your most solid line of defense.

Using Pre-Trial Motions to Win Your Case

Before any criminal case goes to trial, your New York criminal defense attorney has the opportunity to reply to the prosecutor’s arguments. Experienced defense attorneys use pre-trial motions to create more favorable outcomes for their clients.

Omnibus Motion

If a favorable plea bargain is unlikely, the Omnibus Motion is your best line of defense, as it encompasses a multitude of motions in one fell swoop.

A motion of first resort is the Demand for Discovery Pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law. This motion provides the defense team access to all statements, photographic evidence, and expert reports the prosecution plans to use in trial. Statements can be used to prove the police did not have probable cause to arrest the defendant. Also, a judge can throw out expert reports or tests if the method for conducting the tests was improper or illegal. A judge may also throw out the case if a defendant’s statement was collected before his Miranda rights were read.

After receiving access to the prosecution’s evidence, the defense team can also use the Motion to Suppress Evidence. This motion can be used to prove the defendant’s property was illegally seized. For example, drug paraphernalia obtained through an illegal search cannot be used to prove criminal possession. If the evidence is suppressed, it cannot be introduced in trial, which may lead to an immediate dismissal if the prosecution has no other evidence.

Another powerhouse motion is the Motion Precluding Eye Witness Testimony, which can prove a witness is not legally competent to stand trial, for reasons such as blindness or old age. You can also cast doubt on a witness’s reliability by proving that conditions of the crime were unfavorable. For example, if the crime was committed at night, or if there was a great distance between the witness and your defendant, the judge might accept your motion or possibly dismiss the case.

Pre-Trial Motions in Grand Jury Indictments

With grand jury indictments, there are two primary motions you can use to gain a dismissal. The first is a “Motion to Inspect the Minutes of the Presentment of the Case to the Grand Jury,” which can lead to a dismissal if the prosecution presented any of the evidence improperly. If you can prove the document itself is defected or missing crucial information, such as a police officer deposition, you will also have grounds for dismissal under the “Motion to Dismiss for Facial Insufficiency.”

If you have been charged for a crime in the New York City area, I invite you to contact me for a free consultation.

 

Building a Strong Defense Against a Restraining Order Violation

Being the recipient of a restraining order is an understandably stressful ordeal. Facing the repercussions of a violation is even worse, especially in the event you were wrongfully accused. But with the right information and legal counsel, you can prepare a thorough, solid defense.

New York State criminal courts issue two types of restraining orders, full and limited. A limited restraining order directs the defendant to refrain from stalking, assaulting, intimidating, or harassing the complainant. A full restraining order prohibits the defendant from making contact or communicating with the protected party. If a home was shared with the protected party, this would mean finding a new place of residence. It could also mean avoiding contact with any children the defendant shares with the complainant. A full protective order also prohibits any phone calls, texts, or emails with the complainant, even if the protected party initiates contact.

Any violation of a court-issued protective order qualifies as criminal contempt, and charges range from a Class A misdemeanor to a felony, with a sentence of 2 to 4 years in prison. If a protective order was issued by a family court, the minimum sentence is generally six months in jail. A repeat violation of a protective order results in an immediate felony charge. Temporary protective orders are generally issued by the criminal court as a condition of bail or release. Therefore, a violation would result in an immediate re-arrest.

With all protective orders, one party is designated as the defendant and the other as the complainant. Therefore, the restrictions apply to only one party. That being said, it is not uncommon for a complainant to wrongfully accuse the defendant or maliciously attempt contact with a defendant under a full protective order. While this may seem unfair, it is technically legal. If you find yourself wrongfully accused of a protective order violation, a New York criminal defense attorney can help. An experienced criminal lawyer can use the circumstances of your case to create doubt in the judge’s mind about the character of the complainant. If the motivation of the original charge is unclear, it is even possible to have the protective order dropped completely. After reviewing the details of your case, an attorney can use the actions of both parties to bring you the justice you deserve.

Contact me for a consultation regarding your restraining order violation. I provide legal representation to residents of New York City.

Wrongful Domestic Violence Allegations

Regardless of your criminal history, a domestic assault charge in New York State carries immediate and devastating consequences. The state requires the immediate arrest of any individual facing a charge of domestic assault, regardless of the circumstances or corroborating evidence. In misdemeanor cases, law enforcement is required to determine a “primary aggressor,” even if both parties are clearly at fault. Sentencing of a misdemeanor domestic assault charge starts at a one year jail sentence, while sentencing of a felony charge can mean up to 25 years in prison. In most, if not all, domestic cases, a protective order is issued upon arrest, barring you from you home and separating you from your spouse, significant other, and/or children until the case goes to court, which can take up to weeks if not months.

Domestic assault charges should not be taken lightly. It is not unusual that a complainant will make a charge out of selfish gain, whether to gain the upper hand in divorce proceedings, parental custody, or temporary control of the home. Because of the state’s “automatic arrest” policy, defendants have no recourse against victims” who use the state legal policies to their advantage. Upon accusation, an arrest is made, and charges are immediately drawn. While the ramifications of such a charge are devastating, it is foolish to assume that your innocence will resolve the issue. Finding experienced legal counsel is the only way to ensure that justice is carried out.

An attorney can gather reports from witnesses immediately after the arrest. If a neighbor can assert that no yelling or screaming took place, or that the complainant was the one showing the most aggression, your testimony will be greatly strengthened. Also, photographs and/or medical evidence can be used to corroborate a testimony of self-defense. The type and location of your injuries can be used to your advantage, especially if those injuries include a back injury or bruises and scratches to your neck, arms or face. It is crucial to secure this evidence immediately after arrest. A legal professional can also act quickly to secure testimony from the complainant. Locking them into a story early in the case can be used to show inconsistency with the original police report.

Before signing an incident report or accepting a plea bargain that can damage your name, career prospects, or personal relationships, act quickly by seeking an experienced criminal defense attorney. A conviction will have negative consequences on your entire life. Knowing that these consequences resulted from a false charge will only add insult to injury. Gaining legal counsel is the only way to protect your life, name, and liberty from false or exaggerated allegations. An experienced lawyer can review the details of your case and help you prepare a solid defense.

 

How Police Detectives Are Analyzing Social Media Networks to Investigate Crimes

Police Officer Using in Vehicle Computer for Public SafetyLaw enforcement agencies are starting to expand their use of social media networks to investigate criminal matters. Nowadays, because so many people have an online presence and share tons of personal information, investigators are able to gain new tips and insights into alleged crimes committed by suspects.

Sometimes, police are able to get tips from suspects’ “friends” after the suspect inevitably brags about his deviant behavior on the social networking site. Other times, detectives can gather evidence from pictures or video posted on sites like MySpace and YouTube.

For example, a criminal investigation is currently pending regarding the posting of nude photos to Twitter.

Local law enforcement agencies are investigating a nude photo of a teenage girl that was circulated via Twitter and are considering possible criminal charges in the case.

The matter came to the attention of authorities on March 20, after the photograph was posted on a Twitter feed called @CVConfession. The picture has since been taken down and the Twitter account suspended.

The sheriff’s deputies are investigating whether circulating the photo, which was posted to a Twitter account belonging to a Benton County resident, constitutes a crime.

Late last year, a Florida woman tweet was used as evidence against her by law enforcement officials  regarding a fatal drunk driving crash she allegedly caused:

Under the user name “Kaila Mendoza,” the Miami New Times revealed that the Broward College graduate had fired off dozens of tweets about getting high.

“Car permanently smells like weed,” she wrote in the days leading up to the incident.

“Rolling a blunt in the airport parking lot,” she added, also once saying: “Can’t sleep without my bedtime blunt,” and “I really am so baked right now.”

And, less than three hours before the crash, she wrote: “2 drunk 2 care.”

If you are being investigated for committing a crime, you should seek legal advice immediately and not share any information regarding the matter with family, friends, or on your social media accounts. The information you post may be used to prosecute you for a crime. Contact the Law Office of Gilbert Parris for a case consultation regarding your misdemeanor and/or felony charge(s).

Sources

Social Networking and Law Enforcement

Nude Twitter photo could lead to charges

 

Innocent Until Proven Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

031987717-jurors-sitting-courtroom-durinYou are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law if you have been charged with a crime. The presumption of your innocence is your legal right in any court of law in New York. The prosecution has the burden to present enough compelling evidence and testimony that is legally admissible and lawfully obtained, that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If any type of doubt remains, then you will be acquitted.

Unfortunately, innocent people are convicted of crimes in which they did not commit and serve lengthy prison sentences as a result. For example, Mary Virginia Jones was imprisoned for 32 years for a first-degree murder conviction, kidnapping, and robbery.

Prosecutors stated that Jones accompanied her boyfriend during the process of all the crimes, but Jones professed her innocence the entire duration of her case including her prison sentence. Jones was held hostage by her boyfriend who threatened to kill her if she did not partake in his criminal activity. As a result of the crimes her boyfriend committed, Jones was sentenced to life without parole.

“He pulled a gun on me and shot at me, and my mother witnessed that,” said Jones-Goodie. “And he threatened to not only kill me but to kill her and anybody else that came to our aid.”

Fortunately, after reviewing evidence, a judge agreed with Jones’s testimony after serving a 32 year sentence.

Malisha Brown, a resident of the Bronx, was found guilty in 2007 for her alleged role in a 2005 home-invasion shooting. After spending 7 years in prison, the case against her was dismissed.

The information failed to sway a judge at a 2008 hearing. But future breaks in the case produced her exoneration after nearly seven painful years behind bars. Freed in January, her case was formally dismissed on March 11.

Brown stated the following regarding the imprisonment:

“It took me a while to realize they just convicted me on an attempted murder charge that I had nothing to do with. I broke down, but I never lost hope.”

If you believe you have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, you have the legal right to appeal the conviction. Assuming that the lower court made no error, there are two main grounds in which your conviction can be appealed: 1) The lower court made a serious error of law; and/or 2) The weight of the evidence does not support the verdict.

Innocent people go to jail all the time in the U.S. Some spend decades behind bars for crimes they did not commit. If you or a loved one has been convicted of a crime in which you did not commit, contact me for a case consultation.

Sources

Innocent Woman Freed from Prison After 32 Years

EXCLUSIVE: Bronx woman to sue city after spending 7 years in prison for crime she didn’t commit