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Friday, December 31, 2010

The DUI Exception to the Constitution- Another Attorney's Opinion

As many will be ringing in the New Year shortly, I thought I would post another attorney's detailed speech regarding the prosecution of DWI's throughout this country. Called The DUI exception to the Constitution, it is a very detailed commentary on his opinion of the history, science and politics behind DWI cases. Agree or disagree, it contains a lot of interesting information. For me personally, his commentary brings back memories of several DWI/DUI jury trials I prosecuted as a Deputy District Attorney in Orange County against attorneys/clients from his office.

Happy New Year and Safe Travels.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Unpopular Person in the Room

A good defense attorney will often be, second to the accused, the most unpopular person in a courtroom. A good defense attorney has to be comfortable with that. I had a conversation with a judge in chambers when I was a new prosecutor at the District Attorneys office. The Judge said "The best job you can have as a new attorney is a prosecutor. You are the person waiving the white flag." This judge was a former defense attorney.

Last week in California, a man was sentenced to 51 years to life for killing 3 people and causing life threatening injuries to another when he slammed into their car while driving with a blood alcohol level of almost triple the legal limit. Even worse, this man was on probation for DWI and was driving on a revoked license because of the DWI. It is a terrible case. One of the victims was a promising baseball pitcher who had finished pitching a came for the Anaheim Angles baseball team. The other victims had promising futures. The one person that survived will live with his injuries the rest of his life.

I have been following this case because I am familiar with some of the attorneys involved in the case. The press has covered this case in depth. The testimony at the sentencing hearing from the victims family was gut wrenching. However, only the Simple Justice blog highlighted what the defense attorney said at the hearing.

Click here to read the post and the attorney's remarks. For anyone who wonders what a defense attorney could possibly say about a case like this, what a defense attorney could say about their client who committed this offense,  read the post. Like I said, a  good defense attorney will often be one of the most unpopular persons in the courtroom. I cannot say it any better than Simple Justice- In the face of a courtroom filled with nothing but agony, the attorney stood firm.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

At What Age Are You An Adult?

The Charlotte Observer ran an editorial a few weeks ago about North Carolina being in the minority of states that treat 16 and 17 year old individuals as adults. Most states treat individuals as adults once they turn 19. Mandy Ableidinger wrote a commendable editorial about this important issue and highlights pending legislation to change this policy. I have been meaning to blog about this topic and with several juvenile cases on my caseload recently, it has seemed even more relevant.

Some criminal defense attorneys do not handle juvenile cases. While juvenile cases can be very time consuming, it also has different procedures, a different legal language and involves many agencies. Ideally, the criminal defense lawyer, the district attorney, the court counselor, the police department, the judge and any other rehabilitative agencies involved work together in a collaborative fashion to reform the juvenile, prepare them for a successful life, while also protecting the public from any additional harm. It can be very time consuming but also very rewarding. I enjoy these cases. A successful case results in the judge terminating probation for successful completion. It is comforting to see your client succeed in school and know when they graduate from high school, they will do so without an adult criminal record. Conversely, a 16 year old can be convicted in adult court and be forced to carry that conviction throughout life. The 16 year old will be forced to explain that conviction every time he/she applies for a school or a job.

I recently handled a serious case involving a 16 year old individual in custody at the Mecklenburg County jail. The case was ultimately dismissed by the District Attorney, but visiting a 16 year old at the Mecklenburg Jail was disturbing. I was able obtain an educational assessment and ensure the individual was attending high school classes while in custody. However, additional services  are very limited. The case was filed 11 days after the individual turned 16. This person was a child, but was being treated as an adult. Fortunately, the case was dismissed; a clean record still exists for the 16 year old. .

North Carolina is only one of two states that treat 16 and 17 year olds as adults. Research shows that youths who serve adult time are twice as likely to be convicted of crimes as youth who are punished and rehabilitated in the juvenile system. For those who practice in the criminal courts on a regular basis, this statistic is not surprising. Adult court is based on punishment, not rehabilitation. Action for Children has an informative website that has some important statistics everyone should read. I think you will be surprised by the statistics. Meanwhile, let's hope North Carolina changes this very old law.

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

North Carolina's SBI Lab- Problems Persist

I wrote an earlier post on the severe and alarming problems with North Carolina's SBI Lab. According to an article in the Charlotte Observer today, not much has changed. There has been little progress. Click here for todays Observer article or you can read the entire series by the Charlotte Observer.

As I stated in an earlier post, if you are arrested by Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, SBI is usually not involved in any analysis. However if you are arrested by Huntersville, Pineville, Cornelius or Matthews Police Department for a DWI or a drug offense, the criminal analysis will most likely be completed by the state SBI lab.





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