Getting Ready For Court

Innocent Until Proven Guilty? Don’t Count on It: Why You Need a Lawyer Even If You Are Innocent

It’s only natural to assume that if you are innocent of a crime you are accused of that you don’t need a lawyer. In an ideal world this may be true, but it doesn’t always hold true in the real world. Sometimes relying on the old adage “innocent until proven guilty” isn’t as clear cut as it seems. If you have been arrested for a crime you didn’t commit, that means the prosecution already has evidence and believes it proves your guilt. You will need to do your part to convince the court otherwise. Consider these common reasons innocent people are found guilty of a crime and how a lawyer can help you avoid a conviction. Misidentification Eye-witness identification is often viewed as proof of your guilt, but according to The Innocence Project, witness misidentification plays a big role in wrongful convictions. It lists witness misidentification as a major contributing factor in 70 percent of convictions that are later overturned with DNA evidence. There are many reasons for witness misidentification. Your lawyer has the experience and expertise to help you avoid the trap of misidentification by examining the evidence and bringing these common reasons for misidentification to light. Improper lineups or police questioning. This may include presenting a lineup and asking the witness to identify the suspect without informing the witness that the actual perpetrator of the crime may not be in the lineup. This can cause the witness to choose the person most likely to be the guilty party. Other factors that may lead the witness astray include informing the witness of a suspect (even if he does not fit the witness description) or including that suspect in the lineup and including a suspect (you) in the lineup that stands out in some way, such as being taller, larger, smaller, or a different race from the other subjects. Misinterpretation of witness statements. Witnesses may indicate that you may be the person they saw or that you could have been the person they saw at the scene, but the information may then be presented to the court as a positive identification. Faulty memory. Many cases of misidentification result from faulty witness memory. Stress associated with the event, others’ reports of what they saw, and even the word choice of the investigator when the witness is questioned all effect the formation of memories and may cause the witness to omit actual […]

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Arrested For DUI In Tennessee? How Could Changes To The Law Affect Your Case?

If you’re under the legal drinking age and have recently been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI), you may be worried about the effect of a criminal conviction on your future plans — from your ability to borrow federal student loans to being able to get a job after college or trade school. However, some recent changes to Tennessee’s underage DUI laws could impact the sentence you receive if you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial. Read on to learn more about the recent repeal of a Tennessee law governing underage drinking and driving, as well as how this may affect your case. What changes were recently made to Tennessee’s underage DUI laws?  While you may assume that there is no amount of alcohol that can legally be in your system if you’re not yet old enough to buy it, the federal government has actually prescribed a maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) for those under the age of 21 — 0.02 (rather than the 0.08 BAC reading required for someone over 21 to be deemed over the limit). Those who are pulled over for speeding or another traffic violation and blow only a 0.01 should not be subject to arrest.  In an effort to maintain the spirit of this law (if not the letter of it), Tennessee’s legislature passed another set of laws that raised the legal limit for those between 17 and 21 to 0.08 — but which would require them to spend the same 48 hours in jail after arrest as all other DUI offenders. This had the practical effect of allowing those under 21 who were stopped but whose BAC was less than 0.08 to drive freely on their way, while assessing fairly severe sanctions to teens and even minors who were arrested with a BAC over 0.08.  The federal government had a problem with Tennessee’s unilateral raising of the underage drinking limit, deeming it a violation of the federal “zero tolerance” policy, even though Tennessee argued that the stiffer sentence for those whose BACs were 0.08 or higher helped balance out the increased limit. Amid threats to cut off millions of dollars in federal highway funding, Tennessee lawmakers reluctantly revoked this law during September 2016 to reinstate the prior policies and sentencing guidelines and maintain their eligibility for federal funding. How could these changes impact your pending case?  […]

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Personal Injury Claims: 3 Types Of Evidence To Prove The Effect Of Injuries On Work

In the unfortunate circumstance that you have been injured in an accident, you might be entitled to compensation if you missed work due to the accident or if the injuries you sustained have a negative impact or effect on your ability to work. Filing a personal injury claim is the best course of action to take. Approximately 95% to 96% of claims are settled pre-trial. With sufficient evidence, your personal injury attorney can build a strong case on your behalf to negotiate with the responsible party. Here are 3 types of evidence you’ll need to collect to prove the effect that the injuries have had on your ability to work. Printed Work Schedule with Documented Proof of Absence or Time Missed One of the first things you have to prove is that you took time off work as a result of the accident or the injuries sustained. Proving that you were going to go to work and were expecting to earn a certain income or to clock a certain number of hours will show that the accident caused you to lose out on your wages. A printed schedule from your company that clearly shows the days and times that you were supposed to go to work will be strong evidence that you could have otherwise used the hours spent in recovery to earn some income. If you took time off work, you’ll need to document that. For example, you might want to submit proof that you took time off of work due to the accident via an email that you might have sent to your supervisor. A written testimony from your company can also prove that you requested time off of work to deal with the injuries you sustained from the accident. Medical Reports of Effect of Accident on Ability to Work You’ll want to gather all medical reports submitted by medical examiners to prove that the injuries you’ve sustained are severe enough to force you to take time off work. The medical reports should also clearly state how the injuries have affected your ability to work. For example, if you broke your wrist, you might not be able to work because you are a copywriter. You might not be able to go into work because the pain from the injuries limits your mobility. If you have already reached your maximum limit for recovery, you should also gather evidence to […]

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5 Times You Should Plea for a “Wet Reckless”

A “wet reckless” is the common term for a plea bargain that takes a DUI or DWI charge and reduces it to reckless driving involving alcohol (or drugs). For many people faced with a DUI or DWI, a wet reckless is preferable because it does not have mandatory prison time or license suspension attached. Those convicted of a wet reckless may not have to install an interlock device in their vehicle, and the fines are greatly reduced compared to those of a DUI or a DWI. However, fewer plea bargains are being accepted due to stricter drunk-driving laws that are easier to prove in court, such as a DUI being automatically assumed for people with a blood alcohol content (BAC) over a certain level. With that in mind, you should know there are certain times when you will want to try to plea down to a wet reckless.  Your BAC Was at or Below the Limit in Your State In most states, a BAC of 0.08% or higher will result in a DUI, even if your driving was not erratic or dangerous and if you did not seem to be under the influence of alcohol. If you submitted to a BAC test, and your level was significantly above 0.08%, a prosecutor will be unlikely to agree to a plea bargain because they are almost assured a conviction. However, if your BAC was at or below 0.08%, the prosecutor will have to prove that you were under the influence by your actions, and that is much more difficult and makes it more likely that you will be granted a plea.  Your BAC Was Not Measured  In some states, you have a right to refuse a BAC test. However, often this is looked on unfavorably if your case goes to trial because some juries may see your refusal as an indicator of guilt. However, if you have a legitimate reason for not wanting to have your BAC measured, such as a fear of needles in case of a blood test, or if the test was administered over an hour after your arrest, you may be able to successfully plea down to wet reckless because the prosecutor will be missing a critical piece of evidence.  You Have Credible Witnesses Who Can Attest to Your Sobriety  If you were in a highly public place, and several people saw you acting normally and in control […]

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Things to Think About When Consulting with Potential Criminal-Defense Attorneys

In a criminal court case, you have a right to counsel whether or not you decide to hire an attorney out of pocket. But, when choosing to use a public defender, you don’t have an opportunity to determine whether or not the lawyer who is appointed to you is a good fit for your needs. So it’s important to consider hiring your own attorney to represent you in court. Here are a few things to think about when consulting with potential criminal-defense lawyers. The Portfolio One of the most important things to consider when consulting with potential criminal-defense lawyers is their portfolios. Not only should they have a solid track record of successfully representing their clients, but they should have a long client list to look through too. Just because a lawyer wins four out of five of their cases doesn’t mean they have the experience to keep their good track record up. A lawyer with hundreds of clients under their belt and a high percentage of wins is likely a better bet. You can’t expect your lawyer to have been successful with all of their past cases, so don’t settle for an attorney with a perfect track record yet limited experience. It’s more important to find a lawyer to work that has years of experience and a proven track record. The In-House Staff It’s also important to think about who will be working on your case as it progresses because the chances are that your lawyer will employ the help of their staff to get at least some tasks done. Find out who your lawyer works with, what kind of experience they have, and whether or not they have any legal licensing in the state in which they’re working. Will a legal secretary be doing needed research, or will an office assistant do it? Will any court reporters or paralegals be involved in your case? Exactly which tasks will be performed by staff, and which will your lawyer personally focus on? You should have a clear understanding of how your case will be handled, who will be handling it, and how much control you’ll have over the process before leaving any consultations. Paperwork Management You can expect to have lots of paperwork to deal with as your case progresses, and you shouldn’t have to manage it all on your own. Make sure that the criminal-defense lawyer is willing to […]

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3 Factors To Consider When Choosing A Personal Injury Lawyer For Your Car Accident Case

Being injured from a car accident can be a life-changing event, and you might be able to receive compensation for the effects the car accident had on your life. To seek compensation for your injuries and damages, you will need to hire a personal injury law firm to handle your case. If you decide to seek legal help[, it is very important to select the right attorney for your case, and here are several factors to consider as you search for the right lawyer. Specialty And Experience The first thing to look for is a personal injury law firm that specializes in car accident cases. Car accidents are just one aspect of personal injury law, but there are many others, including medical malpractice and dog bite cases. If you want the best results from your case, you must choose a lawyer that not only specializes in car accidents, but also has a lot of experience with these cases. You can base a lawyer’s experience on two main things. The first is the number of years the lawyer has been handling these types of cases. The second is the number of cases the lawyer has handled, as well as the percentage of wins versus losses in cases. One That Will Accept Your Case There is one important thing to know about personal injury lawyers, and that is that most of them charge contingency fees instead of normal rates. A contingency fee is a percentage of the settlement amount that you win, and this percentage can range from 33% to 40%. For the lawyer you hire to get paid for your case, he or she must win the case. Because of the way this works, personal injury lawyers are quite selective with the cases they choose to accept. They will typically want to hear every detail a client knows about a case before they will accept it. As they listen to you tell your story, the lawyers will look for facts, evidence, and proof that the other party is at fault. The lawyers might even want to see the police reports from the accident and other documentation before agreeing to represent you in your case. In order to find a lawyer that will accept your case, you will need a good case. Even if you have a good case, though, there is a chance that you may need to visit several firms […]

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Trademarks, Copyrights, and Patents: What You Should Know About Each Type of Intellectual Property

There is much confusion around the terms trademark, copyright, and patent, and it can be challenging to understand the differences between these various forms of intellectual property rights. If you are the author or creator of a work of art, piece of literature, concept, invention, unique name, design, or symbol, then you should know the differences among the terms trademark, copyright, and patent. In the United States, all three of these designations are specifically defined under the law, including the Constitution in some instances. Below is more information that will help you make these important distinctions as you move forward with the process of protecting your intellectual property. Trademark A trademark is a legally protected word, group of words, or symbol that designates a particular product. A lesser-known term, but one that is closely related, is service mark; this is an identical legal protection except that it designates a service instead of an item. In the United States, trademarks can be created by their owner, and there is no requirement under the law that they be recorded by any governmental authority to be valid. However, trademarks must be continuously used and vigorously defended to remain in force; otherwise, they will be deemed to have expired and will be considered available to the general public for unlimited use. This process is called genericization, and there are numerous high-profile examples of how this has occurred: aspirin, escalator, and thermos are all products that were once trademarked. Registration of a trademark is optional, but it does confer various benefits for the registrant, such as official recognition and visibility. The cost of registration is between $275 and $375, but that does not include legal fees if an attorney is retained to assist with the process. Copyright A copyright is a parallel protection to a trademark except that it applies to written work, art, film, music, and other original, creative expressions. Just like trademarks, copyrights do not require registration to be valid; the mere creation of an original work causes the copyright to come into existence. However, unlike trademarks, copyrights will expire within a definite period of time, the length of which depends upon specific factors concerning the work’s date of creation and authorship. Once a copyright expires, the work enters the public domain and may be used without restriction. As with trademarks, you may register a copyright with the United States Copyright Office in […]

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Will Workers’ Compensation Insurance Pay for Scars?

Depending on the type of injury you sustain at your job, you may be left with scars as an eternal reminder of what happened. Depending on the severity and placement of those scars, you may qualify for reimbursement for them through workers’ compensation insurance. Here’s what you need to know to file a successful claim. Eligible Scarring There are a few factors that influence whether you’ll be paid for scarring and the amount of money you may receive. These include: Where the scar(s) appears on the body The size, appearance, and severity of the scarring How the scarring occurred The impact the scar(s) has on present or future employment The impact the scar(s) has on your quality of life Your gender Your age One of the main things workers’ compensation considers when determining whether scars are eligible for compensation is how they occurred. Scars resulting directly from the injury—like those from cuts or puncture wounds—are covered. Additionally, scars caused by treating the injuries are also covered. For instance, you could receive money for surgical scars as long as the procedure was done as part of healing or curing the injury. However, it’s also important to note that, in some states, the scarring may be lumped in with certain types of injuries. In North Carolina, for instance, a person who gets a scar as a result of losing a limb will only be compensated for the lost body part. You would not be eligible to receive a separate monetary award for the scar itself, unfortunately. The second thing the insurance company will consider is the location of the scar. Some states only pay for scars on body parts that would be exposed to the public. For instance, you may be paid for scars on your face, neck, arms, legs, and chest but not for scars on your stomach, buttocks, breasts, or other areas that are normally covered by clothing. Other states will pay for scars regardless of where they are located, though the amount of money you receive may be less for scars in areas not normally exposed. Compensation Options Workers’ compensation insurance uses a couple of different schemes to reimburse workers for scars they may suffer due to the accidents they have had on the job. In some states, the scarring is factored into the long-term disability benefits awarded to the claimant. States that do this typically assign a disability […]

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6 Mistakes to Avoid When Arrested

There are few things more nerve-wracking than getting arrested by the police. Whether you have been arrested for a petty crime or a felony, being charged with a crime can negatively affect your life in several ways. For example, you could lose your job or strain your relationships with family and friends. However, it is important to remain calm. If you panic, you could make mistakes that could hurt your case. Here are six mistakes you must avoid when you are arrested. Don’t Resist Arrest Even if you are wrongly accused of a crime, you should never try to resist arrest. Attempting to run away or even argue with a police officer will put you in more trouble than you are already in. If the judge finds out that you tried to resist arrest, he or she may give extra charges. To avoid any extra hassle, go quietly and listen to everything the police officer tells you. Don’t Give Any Information to the Police After you’ve been detained, the police will likely ask you some questions regarding your case. They may be very friendly and assure you that they are there to help you. However, you should under no circumstances volunteer any information about your case. Even if you are innocent, the police may use tactics to get you to confess to the crime. The information you tell the police could be used against you later in court. That’s why it is best to keep quiet until you speak to a lawyer. Don’t Wait Too Long to Hire a Criminal-Defense Attorney One of the most important things you should do after you get arrested is to hire a good criminal-defense attorney. An experienced lawyer will help you get the best possible outcome with your case and will also be there to support you. If you are guilty of the crime you are charged with, you might think it is pointless to hire a lawyer. This is the wrong way to think. Even if you are guilty of a crime, your lawyer can still help you get a shorter sentence by addressing certain factors to the judge. For example, if you were charged with a DUI, you might hesitate to tell the judge about your alcohol addiction. An experienced lawyer, however, would use this factor to your benefit and possibly convince the judge to consider rehab instead of jail. Don’t Try […]

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Are You Legally Required to Stop (or Help) After Encountering an Auto Accident?

If you’ve ever been involved in an auto accident on a busy stretch of highway, you may have been dismayed at the number of fellow drivers who breezed right by you—or worse, audaciously honked their horns for you to move out of the way—without stopping to see whether you needed help. However, it can be difficult to know how you’ll react in a situation until you’re confronted with it directly, and if you’re late for work one day or simply don’t want to risk putting yourself in danger, you may find yourself driving past after witnessing an accident. Fortunately, a number of states have enacted “good Samaritan” laws that provide civil protections and even immunity to those who attempt to render aid in good faith (even if this aid winds up having the opposite effect). Read on to learn more about your protections against liability if you choose to stop and help after witnessing an auto accident as well as some best practices by which you should abide when rendering help. What states have laws governing “good Samaritan” behavior? Not all states have good Samaritan laws, so the issue of whether you’ll be immune from liability for stopping and helping after an accident can vary widely depending on where you live (and drive). However, most states do have laws on the books that provide civil immunity (including protection against being sued in the first place) for those who stop to render aid to someone who appears to be in critical condition or who is not able to handle his or her own medical needs.  These laws don’t always extend to all types of treatment or even all state citizens. For example, Arizona’s good Samaritan laws apply only to health care providers—so a private citizen rendering aid to an injured person may not be protected from liability. Other states may provide protection for certain types of treatment like CPR or wound care but not for more extensive or risky ones, like an emergency tracheotomy or splinting of a broken limb. It can be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the good Samaritan laws in your state (as well as those you visit regularly) so you’ll already have a handle on your rights and responsibilities if or when you find yourself in an emergency situation.  What should you do if you witness an auto accident?  Regardless of the specific good Samaritan laws […]

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