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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Texting Crosses All Generations

Texting while driving became illegal in December 2009. I think many of us assume that it is the teenagers and college students texting. I was surprised to read these statistics in the Charlotte Observer today-

Approximately 1200 drivers have been ticketed for texting while driving. Mecklenburg County had 114 citations issued. Here is the breakdown of those tickets by age:
16-25: 612 tickets
26-35: 379 tickets
36-45: 192 tickets
46-55: 59 tickets
56-65- 15 tickets
66-75- 2 tickets

This article references one of the two individuals in the 66-75 year old range. Priscalla Blake, 67, was cited after she dropped her daughter off at college in Wilmington.
Ms. Blake told the officer she was texting and accepted her ticket. I guess the baby boomer generation, the Gen- X and whatever the current generation is called have more in common than originally thought.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Difference Of One Year

Sometimes the difference of one year can have a monumental impact on a person. This week in Mecklenburg County district court I handled two seperate cases involving a 15 year old and a 16 year old. The 15 year old is accused of a misdemeanor for an incident at high school. The 16 year old is accused of a drug charge. The 15 year old was in juvenile court. The 16 year old in adult court.

The juvenile's family didn't understand why probation was necessary for the incident, why a court counselor was involved in their life and why the court was going to keep an eye on their child for the next 6 months. Unfortunately this family had experience in adult court with an older sibling before and was not used to the responsibilities and requirements of juvenile court.  I explained to the family that their child was showing red flags- poor performance in school, poor attendance in school, hanging out with less than desirable individuals and participating in incidents at school,  although minor, still deemed criminal under the law. In theory, the juvenile system is designed to help this young person become a productive member of society and not become a statistic in the adult system. If the child is successful, they can become a productive member of society without any criminal record. They have the chance to succeed without explaining a criminal charge on a job application or job interview.  

The 16 year old in adult court is facing drug charges. There is no court counselor. There isn't a judge that will be personally assigned to the case, familiar with the teenager, and familiar with family members. Mecklenburg County had a drug rehabilitation program for those facing drug charges, STEP Court, but it appears there is no money to fund the program anymore. If convicted, the 16 year old will have a criminal record. An explanation will be required throughout his/her life.

North Carolina and New York are the only two states in the entire country that automatically view a 16 year old as an adult. There has been positive movement in North Carolina to change this to 18 years of age.



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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stopping DWI's through Facebook?

Huntington Beach, California, my former stomping grounds, is in the news today. Citing a method to crime prevention, the Huntington Beach City Council has proposed an ordinance that would post mug shots of people who have been arrested for DWI. I don't really see the logic in this. First, these people have only been arrested,  not convicted of a DWI offense. I'm not sure how the Huntington Beach City Council reconciles the constitutional presumption that everyone arrested of a crime is presumed innocent. DWI cases are rejected for insufficient evidence or found not guilty at trial regularly. I spent 2 1/2 of my 6 years as a Deputy District Attorney in Orange County handling Huntington Beach cases. I went on ride alongs with police officers from Huntington Beach, flew in their department helicopter, filed their cases, took their cases to trial. I am familiar with the Department. I liked working with the Department. HBPD is not embracing the idea. The Department has only posted a few booking photos from very egregious cases where the department believed the public was at risk. Police spokesman Lt. Reinhart stated "Law enforcement is not about public shaming."

While I agree that a Facebook page can be a effective tool for a Police Department to reach the public with missing persons or wanted suspects information, I question how the council believes this will prevent crime. I'm not sure the person who is considering getting into a car after drinking alcohol will make the decision to call a cab because of a Huntington Beach Facebook page. If preventing crime was only that simple....

On a side note, had to include a picture of the beach.. Here is a link to the Huntington Beach webcam if you want to escape for a moment. 

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Booze It or Lose It Results

I've blogged about the Booze it or Lose It campaign in the past. The total number of citations issued throughout North Carolina were posted in the Charlotte Observer this week. Here are the results- Mecklenburg County accounted for the largest number of traffic and criminal citations in North Carolina. From December 3rd through January 2nd, a total of 13,580 citations were issued; 3,138 were for speeding and 360 were for DWI.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

A 60 Minutes Story

Last night I watched a segment on 60 Minutes about Jared Loughner, the individual arrested for the horrendous acts in Tucson, Arizona. What many have found unusual about this young man is the lack of any arrest or criminal record.  People often point to what they perceive as the failed justice system in an attempt to find some answer to the question 'why'.  Here is the link to the 60 minutes story- The Tucson Story: Descent into Madness and the video is below.

What is clear from this story is that Loughner is a very disturbed individual. Loughner was a very disturbed individual once in college. Scary for any parent who has a child in college. The college couldn't treat his illness. His family couldn't treat it. Criminal attorneys know that the courts are not equipped to deal with mental illness.  Now we are left with a tragedy beyond words.




Loughner has an attorney. Judy Clarke is an attorney that has never shied away from tough cases. Reminds me about the most unpopular person in the room post. Acting in the best interest of their client when the world is against you is what the best defense attorneys do.  That is the job. Many will disagree with the job, but I would hate to see the state of our justice system without it.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Mecklenburg Magistrate Closed For Snow

The snow not only closed down the courthouse on Tuesday, but also the magistrate's office. The Charlotte Observer had an article today about the Mecklenburg County Magistrate office closing its doors Tuesday due to inclement weather. As a result, some arrested had to wait more than 20 hours to see a magistrate. This is a problem. After arrest, you have a right to see a magistrate within a reasonable amount of time. Criminal attorneys spend a good amount of time arguing over what is reasonable.

When arrested for a DWI in Mecklenburg County, a person has the right to obtain an independent blood test. Obviously a person can't obtain an independent test when in jail. However, a person is not released from custody until they see a magistrate. If a person sits in jail for 20 hours, their alcohol level is dissipating, eliminating the opportunity to get an independent test close in time. When a proper motion is filed by a defense attorney, this delay can result in a dismissal of the case. For those arrested early this week, the result of the closure will have to play itself out in the court system.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Modern Day Superstore

Prior to the snowstorm of 2010 arriving in Charlotte Sunday night, I went shopping for a sled over the weekend. My mother told me to go to Bed, Bath and Beyond. I thought this was strange but arrived at the store to find that they had sleds, dog safe salt for your driveway and a device to make snowballs. The modern day superstore.

Standing in line to pay, I saw a portable breathalyzer machine the size of a remote control on your car keys. Hanging next to the alarm clocks, ice packs and drain cleaners was a portable alcohol testing device. I blogged about one being sold at Office Depot during the Christmas holiday season. I was shocked then, but Bed, Bath and Beyond? Really? As I stated in an earlier post, these machines are scientific instruments that are still capable of error when properly calibrated and operated by trained police officers. I'm curious to know how people feel about this being sold at a store that specializes in household items.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Modern Day Working Environment

With offices closed throughout Mecklenburg County for a second day due to weather, a Charlotte Observer article online prompted me to ask whether an office really ever closes anymore. Courthouses are forced to close, but with today's technology, do offices have boundaries anymore? Employees can easily work from home and many companies now offer the option to work from home. Many law firms have given up wood paneled offices and a marbled floor lobby to decrease overhead. As a criminal attorney in Mecklenburg County, I use my cell phone much more than my office line. Criminal attorneys are in court. That is their office. I would be cautious of a criminal attorney that is always at the office. I have organized my office so that I can communicate with clients  remotely in real time.  A text message is sent to my cell phone when a message is left at my office.  Faxes are sent to a computer. I can only wonder where we will be in 10 years?

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Snowing Today? Mecklenburg County Courthouse Inclement Weather Policy

Charlotte is covered in snow today. The Mecklenburg County Courthouse does have an inclement weather policy. To read it, click here.  If you can't open the PDF, start at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse Home Page. Revised late in 2010, it is a two page document describing the policy. I would suggest calling your Mecklenburg County criminal defense attorney to get clarification. Looking up your court date won't work. Many times your attorney can appear for you.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

A Second Chance at Success

I had a very serious case today in juvenile court. I have been working with this juvenile for almost two years now. This case has been challenging, gut wrenching and emotional at times. This morning there was an editorial in the Charlotte Observer called A Nation of Second Chances. It seemed appropriate in my case-
The most effective responses are also the most daunting. Crime prevention, in the long run, is youth development. The alternative to cultivating the next generation is fearing it. Children, as one would expect, do better in life when they have not been poisoned by lead paint, abandoned by parents or betrayed by failed schools. There is promise in encouraging preschool attendance, providing mentors for the fatherless, demanding competent teachers, rewarding high school completion and making street gangs less attractive. 
Turning back to my case today, ultimately, it will be up to this young person to decide what changes he/she will make in his or her life. However, this juvenile is finally in an environment where the opportunity to succeed exists. A support system finally exists. I saw an authentic smile on his/her face at the conclusion of the hearing today.  By no means is this young individual on a road to success yet. There is a lot of work to do. The team that works with this juvenile can provide as many services as they see fit, but ultimately the decision to succeed is in the hands of juvenile. Given the deck of cards that most juvenile offenders are given, that is a daunting task for most.

I was happy with the result today. An opportunity for success exists for this young adult. I am thankful that this young person is in the juvenile system and not in the adult court system. Now we will see what the future holds for this youngster. I'm glad he/she was given this opportunity. A second chance at success.

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Baby on Board!

We have all heard the stories people tell police officers when they get caught speeding. Some of them are very true and some are probably better left untold. How about the women in labor going to the hospital? Far fetched but very true. These parents to be were speeding to the hospital after the wife's water broke. They saw the blue lights behind them. The husband called 911 and told the 911 operator that he wasn't going to pull over because his wife was about to have a baby. The police officer following them ends up giving the couple a police escort to the hospital. The baby was born 6 minutes after they arrived at the hospital. I can tell you it takes more than 6 minutes for an officer to conduct a traffic stop. After the baby was born, the police officer hands over a speeding ticket to the husband, stating "Congratulations, but I will see you in court. Here is a video about the story:



The Police Department is supporting the officer's actions, stating that the husband put other people in danger when he drove at speeds over 90 mph. Many would disagree with the position of the police department. Meanwhile, the husband has a court date. I imagine he will be taking the baby with him.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Montel Needs A Lawyer!

The debate over whether marijuana should be legalized hit the news today when talk show host Montel Williams was cited for taking a marijuana pipe through security at a airport in Milwaukee. Williams suffers from multiple sclerosis and has been very vocal about his use of marijuana to ease the pain.

Mecklenburg County has hundreds of possession of drug paraphernalia cases working their way through the court system. Some believe marijuana is a gateway drug to other crimes. Some believe it should be legalized for medicinal purposes only. However, the business of marijuana is complicated.  Some people believe for the sake of economical efficiency, it should be legalized.

One thing is clear- drug cases are rarely straightforward. Each case is different, every person has a story. Before a person goes to court on a drug paraphernalia case or marijuana possession case, they should speak to a criminal defense attorney.

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