Friday, November 20, 2015

Love this Bar

southern indiana attorney
Toby Keith loves this bar, but what happens to you, after you leave the bar?  You know not to drive, as you don't want to deal with an Operating while Intoxicated, so you might call for a cab or walk home.  You are not out of the woods. The next consideration is, are you at risk for public intoxication in Indiana?  The law is tricky here, but you need to know that, despite the idea that you want to do the right thing and take the walk... Consider that you need to do to also ensure you're following the law.  College towns, in particular, like to pass out the public intox tickets to "police the streets",  but many officers forget the intricacies of the law. So, you should likely consult your friendly neighborhood lawyer.

The Indiana Courts have had to really look at the language of the public intox statute, as it's pretty broad.  In 2012, the public intox statute changed to ensure that merely being drunk in public was not a crime. This is to ensure that people are encouraged to walk or get a cab when drunk, instead of trying to hide away in their own car, potentially driving while intoxicated, a much more dangerous feat... This is just good public policy.  But, you will still get stopped for the infamous PI ticket, especially in college towns, or small towns that want to make money for their coffers. So, what do you need to know?

The State has to prove that you actually endangered yourself or another person, harassed or annoyed another person, or breached the peace.  Frequently, officers tend to forget these elements, and/or decide that you are just annoying and charge you. This simply is not the standard the Court has set forth in case law. Furthermore, you can be as annoying as you want in your own home, and it's not public intoxication, as it's not taking place in public.

Now, all of this is information that's good to know, but just a friendly neighborhood reminder -- it's not information to spout off to officers if they are giving you a ticket for public intoxication.  It's best to take your fight to Court, not to the officer while they are dealing with you in an inebriated state...  When you hire an attorney, we can do a lot more for you if you haven't tried to "teach" the officer what you know about the law.  While this should not matter, sometimes, it could.

*The opinions expressed are of the blogger only and were not intended as legal advice or as an avenue to open a lawyer-client relationship.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Legal Talk: Straight Up -- A B-Town Lawyer's Blog: Governmental Entities - This Land Is Your Land

Legal Talk: Straight Up -- A B-Town Lawyer's Blog: Governmental Entities - This Land Is Your Land: In Indiana, governmental entities, political subdivisions, and certain entities imbued with their assigned tasks, are offered certain protec...

Governmental Entities - This Land Is Your Land

In Indiana, governmental entities, political subdivisions, and certain entities imbued with their assigned tasks, are offered certain protections under the Indiana Tort Claim Immunity Statutes, better known as ITCA. Examples of governmental entities or political subdivisions are fire departments, police departments, local and state government offices, and certain EMS non-profit companies that are sole EMS service providers in their appointed area. Each entity should obtain an attorney well versed in the law associated with governmental entities, as there are certain statutory and common law protections that apply which can either bar lawsuits or provide damages caps in a lawsuit.  ITCA and the common law can also provide protections for certain actions within a negligence suit, which may allow for further narrowing of issues or damages.  Without an attorney with such specialized knowledge, your entity may not be protected.

Conversely, should you find yourself at odds with a potential governmental entity, you need to find an attorney or firm that knows how to provide appropriate notice and information to you in the event you believe a lawsuit is appropriate.  You could lose the right to claim damages against a fire department or police department just because you do not provide proper notice within 180 days. This is a protection provided these types of entities due to the very important services they provide.

All in all, the bottom line is, governmental entities are allowed protections. Whether you are one, or you need to sue one, you must remember, this Land is Your Land, but this Land affords protections to the entities that keep it going. Hence, you must play by the rules when dealing with a lawsuit involving a governmental entity, and do your homework on which entities qualify to be the same.

*The opinions expressed are of the blogger only and were not intended as legal advice or as an avenue to open a lawyer-client relationship.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Beautiful Noise -- AKA Ramblings of a Defense Attorney, FormerProsecutor, and Tired Society Member

criminal defense, bloomington indiana, owen county indianaThis post is more opinion essay than legal blog post. The title references Neil Diamond's song, Beautiful Noise. In this song, Diamond talks about all of the noises of daily life, that await him to give them a tune. This blogger has decided to give voice to several of her observations, rather than discuss legal principles. The essay may not amount to a beautiful noise, but it is this blogger's parsing together of some current issues facing defendants addicted to drugs and alcohol that wind up in the criminal justice system.  Diamond lays down a righteous tune; this blogger will provide, what is hoped to be seen as thoughtful ramblings of a somewhat frustrated person with intimate knowledge of the system.  Diamond's song is much more fun to listen to, most assuredly!

It's apparent that many things are supposed to be changing in court in recent times. Unfortunately, change is hard for those in power that have to execute the change...  In fact, while the legislature in Indiana overhauls the criminal code to make a shift toward more treatment-oriented courts for lower level drug offenders, many jurisdictions have not availed themselves of the money available for treatment-based courts and/or resources. Instead, the same old guard continues to use the same old methods of dealing with repetitive drug violators.  It is much easier to continue with what you know than to establish and maintain new programming and treatment resources.  In keeping with the status quo, the drug offenders are placed on probation, randomly drug tested, told to go to treatment, and when the treatment that is available in the county is full, or not very easy to get into, the defendant violates probation by continuing to use drugs, and the defendant -- you guessed it -- gets violated on probation and thrown in jail.  

What happens when a drug or alcohol offender is put in jail?  Are there many programs in county jails in the State of Indiana dealing with addiction? No, there are not. In fact, if you're lucky, a faith-based contingent will go into the jail once or twice a week, and if the defendant is unable to meet with that person, tough luck. Further, if a defendant is hooked on opiates, like suboxone, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine or heroin, or the other wonder drug, methamphetamine, they are thrown in jail, and left there to detox.  Detoxification from opiates or methamphetamine, without proper treatment, can lead to death or serious physical injury. What are these drug defendants getting in county jails?  A one way trip to the padded cell until they are done detoxing.  Is this the jails' fault? No, the jails are understaffed and not able to deal with addiction treatment and counseling. Is it the system's fault -- absolutely.

What's going to change this?  Hopefully all of us are going to change it. At some point, it will become apparent the war on drugs has become, instead, a war on people who need help. Now, this sounds extremely like a bleeding heart liberal, trying to excuse people from choices they have made in life.  Admittedly, this blogger may be more liberal than most. However, she is also a big sister, a former prosecutor, and a stern and blunt person who holds people accountable for their misdeeds, choices, and mistakes. However, the defendants with documented drug or alcohol addiction that are repetitively shoved through the system are not the only ones that have made poor choices. The officers who live in the communities and know the defendants have discretion in arresting people or referring them to treatment.  The prosecutors have discretion in charging, negotiating, and offering deals or alternatively, offering treatment. The judges have the choice to determine whether they divert a defendant to treatment, mental health court, or drug court. The county's commissions/councils, and elected officials have the choice to assist in developing alternative treatment courts. Public defenders and criminal defense attorneys continue to have the choice of listening, advocating, and scouring the earth for that last, little known treatment program. However,  the only one in the room asking for treatment or looking for treatment should not be the defense attorney.  We all have a part to play.  Let's do our part.  If we don't, there will continue to be a neverending cycle of drug use, probation, violation, incarceration, repeat. While this may increase the county's coffers  for probation fees, it does not increase the county's coffers with regard to productive citizens, paying customers at local small businesses, etc.  In fact, it provides us with a subdivision of people that are stuck in a revolving door of need, with no end in sight.  At some point, don't we have some responsibility?  

Do the defendants with drug problems have responsibility -- absolutely.  Does society, who judges them via the court system, have a responsibility to effectuate some type of punishment/rehabilitation in order to prevent the endless cycle -- absolutely.  So, hopefully, someone out there sees this and agrees and starts to take notice in their branch of society.  If other people start to take notice of systemic failures, we can start to have grass roots pushes for systemic change.  Sometimes, that grass root effort is what you need in smaller jurisdictions...

Thanks for listening to this blogger's ramblings.  Albeit not a Beautiful Noise, like Neil's classic song, but the only one this blogger has to share...

*The opinions expressed are of the blogger only and were not intended as legal advice or as an avenue to open a lawyer-client relationship.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

What's Love Got to Do with It?

Tina Turner asked a great question, and sometimes, this blogger believes she was singing for all those involved in a custody battle. Often, when one is involved in custody issues in Court, love goes out the window. Custody determinations are to be made pursuant to the best interests of the children. Too often, however, the fight over custody modifications or determinations revolve around how much the former spouses can throw at each other.  The answer to Tina's question is, love has nothing to do with it.

Custody often devolves into anger, frustration, and mudslinging.  Image result for tina turner love got to doIs any of this in the best interests of the kids?  As a former prosecutor, defense attorney, and an attorney who has represented countless persons in custody battles, this writer's answer is a resounding no.  Adult anger leads to damage to kids. So, how do you "fight" for custody without increasing the trauma of divorce for kids?  There is no magic formula and no guarantee, however, you can engage in fair and productive discord over custody without engaging in mudslinging, anger and fear-based reaction to divorce.  How can you do this?  First, talk to your attorney. Let your attorney know your concerns, fears and best case scenario on custody. Second, remember that you want your kids to be taken care of and to know that the parental split does not reflect on a split in love for them.  Third, listen to your attorney and allow the attorney to engage in any needed confrontation regarding custody issues.   Fourth, find an attorney that can assist you in productive discord while standing up for your rights.  Otherwise, damage will be done to all...

*The opinions expressed are of the blogger only and were not intended as legal advice or as an avenue to open a lawyer-client relationship.