Neighborhood disputes don’t often lead to criminal charges but when they do, you can bet tensions will run high. Just last week, I represented a woman at trial who was accused, along with her husband, of beating up a neighbor. She came to me last November and hired me to defend her against the charges of First Degree Assault (a felony) and Second Degree Assault.
I immediately began to investigate the situation by visiting the crime scene and speaking to whatever witnesses I could find. Additionally, I looked into the victim’s background and found that he had not always been the most honest individual in the world. He had been accused of many different crimes, including theft. I attempted to use the information gained from my investigation to convince the prosecutor to drop all the charges against my client but she refused to do so. As such, I continued to prepare for trial.
At trial, my familiarity with the scene, the witnesses and the event were very helpful. Also, the jury was not impressed with the victim, in part because I was able to show them the convictions I dug up. I had prepared my client for her testimony and she was very persuasive on the stand. She was, ultimately, found not guilty of all charges.
This case just reinforced in my mind the importance of preparing for trial and leaving no stone unturned. It’s always nice to put in the hard work and see a good result.
Getting into an automobile accident is never fun. Some of the consequences can be property damage to your car, bodily injuries resulting from the collision and dealing with an insurance company that, although the commercials say otherwise, is not there to protect you. That being said, if you do get into an accident, Personal Injury Protection, which is commonly referred to as PIP, is a great thing to have.
Normally, after an accident, an injured person will incur medical bills from the hospital, doctors, physical therapists and pharmacies. How those bills are paid can affect your bottom line when the case is settled. If your health insurance policy covers those bills, that insurance company can file a lien against any proceeds from the settlement. Once you get the settlement money, you then have to pay back that money to your health insurance company. So, if your medical bills amount to $2,500 and you settle the case for $7,500, you would only keep $5,000 from the settlement. The same goes if the health care providers (hospital, doctors, etc.) aren’t paid until after the settlement. They can file a lien against the settlement proceeds. And you’ll have to pay them back out of your money.
However, if you have PIP coverage through your automobile policy, those bills are handled differently. Once you open a PIP claim the medical bills are paid by the PIP insurance company. And, guess what? You don’t have to pay them back. That is why you pay an extra premium every month for the PIP coverage. So, in the above scenario, you would get to keep the entire $7,500. Most PIP only covers the first $2,500 worth of medical bills. But that is $2,500 you get to put in your pocket.
I highly recommend that you call your automobile insurance company and make sure you have PIP. If you don’t, sign up for it now.
The laws governing drinking and driving have changed substantially in the last decade. This crime is perceived as inherently dangerous and worthy of a prosecutor’s (and judge’s) attention.
There are actually two legal consequences you can suffer when you are facing charges of this nature. The first is that you will have to go to court to face traffic violations which carry possible fines and jail time. You can also be placed on probation, which may require you to be supervised by a probation officer. In addition, when you are placed on probation, you can be required to have an ignition interlock device on your car, abstain from all alcohol and drugs, perform community service, attend treatment and you may not be able to leave the state without permission from the Court.
The second possible consequence is an administrative one. It is likely you will be facing some type of suspension of your driving privileges. The length of that suspension depends on whether you refused to take the breath test or, if you agreed to take the breath test, the result of that test. In some situations, you may get permission to drive to school and work during that suspension. Also, it is possible to have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle to avoid a suspension but that carries its own problems to consider.
There are things you can do to mitigate those consequences; the most important of which is being evaluated and treated for any potential alcohol issues. But you need to act fast. Some decisions about your administrative sanctions need to be made within ten days of the stop. The reality is that these are serious charges with serious consequences. If you are charged with DWI, it is important to consult with an attorney quickly. Charges like this can be beat but it is important to speak with someone who is experienced in handling matters like this.
Can I still go to jail if I am caught with marijuana? I get this question quite a bit now. The answer is maybe. The penalties for possession of marijuana have changed recently. But, depending on the amount or circumstances, it still may carry the possibility of jail time. First, however, it is important to know the difference between felony and misdemeanor possession of marijuana.
Possession of marijuana occurs when you are either in physical possession of marijuana (in your pocket, for example) or when the marijuana is within your dominion or control (such as on the table in front of you). That is referred to as simple or misdemeanor possession. Felony possession of marijuana is when you are in possession of marijuana with an intent to distribute some or all of it to another person. Intent can be proven in any number of ways, including having an amount of marijuana so large that it could not be for personal use. Misdemeanor possession of any amount of marijuana used to be punishable by up to a year in jail. Felony possession of marijuana is punishable by up to five years in jail.
A couple of years ago, though, the legislature modified that law so that the maximum time of incarceration for possession of less than ten grams of marijuana was ninety days. Possession of ten grams or more was still punishable by up to a year in jail.
In 2014, the legislature made a further modification. Now, possession of less than ten grams of marijuana is only punishable by a civil citation that carries a fine. There are, however, two exceptions to that new law. If you are under the age of twenty-one or if you are twenty-one or older and it is your third or subsequent time to be charged, the court is supposed to set your case in for trial. However, nobody seems to have a clear idea of what that means. It may mean the penalty is still a maximum of ninety days for those exceptions or that you have to come to court to face the charge but you still only face a fine. So, there is no clear answer to that question without knowing more about the person who has been charged. The law is unclear and, frankly, a bit frustrating to those in the criminal justice system.
However, it is clear that prosecutors and police officers have begun to treat marijuana in a different manner since the passage of this new law. Whether this is the first step towards the complete legalization of marijuana remains to be seen.
When your children get into high school, the chance of their attending a party where alcohol can be found increases exponentially. This is something that all parents should discuss with their kids, to prevent poor decisions and potentially catastrophic consequences. And for those who are considering hosting teen gatherings, be forewarned--adults who own the home where such parties occur could be criminally liable.
In Maryland, the law states that you cannot give alcohol to a person under 21 if you know he/she is under 21 and you know he/she is going to drink it. In addition, you cannot knowingly allow a person under the age of 21 to possess or drink alcohol in your house/apartment/cond0.
There are two exceptions to these prohibitions. If both parties (the adult and the person under 21) are members of the same immediate family and the alcohol is possessed or consumed in a private residence or if both parties are participants in a religious ceremony, then the above laws do not apply.
The penalty for breaking those laws is to have a misdemeanor conviction on your record and pay a fine up to $2,500 for the first offense and $5,000 for any subsequent offenses. Frankly, the more serious liability occurs if someone is injured or killed because you gave a minor alcohol. If a child leaves a party at your house after drinking there and gets into an accident, you are going to get sued. And your homeowners insurance may not cover you. The consequences could be financially devastating.
If you have any questions about these issues, please feel free to call me at (410) 828-5500.