Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recent Case Success - Felony Reduced to a Misdemeanor

We had a trial set for this Monday. However, we were able to get the case resolved as the charge was reduced from an identity theft to an attempted identity theft and a felony was avoided.

Reducing many theft charges to attempted thefts can save someone from getting a felony on their record. When you plea to a felony charge or are convicted of a felony you are potentially giving up many rights and putting a blemish on your record that cannot generally be undone.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mental Illness and the Police

As both a criminal defense attorney and a civil rights attorney, I interact with a number of clients who have been diagnosed with serious mental illness. I also believe that I have represented many more clients over the years who have an undiagnosed mental illness.

Mental health issues are very important in my area of practice.

Just this morning I read about an officer in Washington State who was convicted of beating a man to death diagnosed with schizophrenia.

This is just one example of the police and mistreatment of those that are extremely vulnerable. Certainly better training would help but as we know many of our police departments are facing cutbacks of resources.

I firmly believe that one area that we should not skimp is in the area of mental health services. However, as we know many of our government officials ignore the strain that lack of resources in mental health have on our criminal justice system. Therefore, we continue to do the best we can in representing our folks and unfortunately get prepared to see more examples of mistreatment like that of Mr. Zehm in Washington.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Birmingham Man Wrongfully Convicted of Child Rape Freed -

Great read in this morning's Birmingham News

So much running through my head after this story. A couple of the "highlights"

1. Proof why we need good, ethical judges and prosecutors that will do the right thing when it has been discovered that egregious wrongs have been committed.

2. Unfortunately, it is quite possible that other wrongfully convicted folks are out there that went before the former Judge in this case.

3. Does Mr. Williams have any chance of success on the possible causes of action that exist in this case against any of the responsible parties?

Let us know your thoughts -

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Deliberate Indifference to Inmate's Serious Medical Needs

We are involved in litigation in several incidents where our clients died or were seriously injured as a result of jails "deliberate indifference to the inmate's serious medical needs".

This issue is becoming more and more prevalent throughout the State of Alabama as budget constraint affect every town, municipality and County.

Inmates are being denied the most basic medical care as well as being subjected to serious overcrowding which only exacerbates the issues at hand. We have also seen a number of instances where clients have been denied or withheld from their anti-psychotic medications. This can cause problems for not only the inmates but pose a significant threat to jail staff and other inmates.

A judge often considers the medical conditions in determining whether or not to lower bond so keep that in mind if you have a loved one or family member in jail that are pre-trial detainees. If they have already been sentenced and they face these issues they often just need someone to bring these issues to the attention of jail or prison personnel.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Changes to Alabama DUI Laws

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed a law which enhances the penalties for aggravated DUI offenses .

Aggravated DUI charges result from driving with a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher. The old law provided punishment for driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.

The actual text of the bill as follows

Enrolled, An Act, Relating to Alabama's DUI law; to amend Section 32–5A–191 of the Code of Alabama 1975; to provide for a mandatory sentence of at least double the minimum punishment for a person convicted of DUI who has 0.15 percent or more by weight of alcohol in his or her blood while operating or being in control of a motor vehicle, as well as a one-year minimum sentence for a misdemeanor offense and a minimum one-year revocation of the person's driving privileges; to provide that if a person over 21 has a child under 14 in the vehicle during the offense, the person must be sentenced to at least double the otherwise applicable minimum punishment; and in connection therewith would have as its purpose or effect the requirement of a new or increased expenditure of local funds within the meaning of Amendment 621 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 111.05 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended.

The act becomes effective on the first day of the third month following passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law. It was approved on June 9, 2011.

While the intentions of this law may be to reduce the number of DUI's and fatalities and injuries as a result, it could create some problems for law enforcement and the court system in terms of challenges. We certainly advocate any efforts to keep drunk drivers off the road, but as defense attorneys we want to make sure all laws are fair and constitutionally sound.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Budget Cuts Affect the Criminal Justice System

Local governments across the country are still feeling the effects of a weak economy. Cuts are being made to a number of services. This is extremely evident here in Jefferson County where it was announced that $1 million in funding would not be available for the Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities programs. Cutting TASC monies will only lead to overcrowding of the jails which are already over-capacity.

So while some believe these cuts are necessary, those that deal with the courts and the jails on a daily basis argue that these are misguided uniformed slashes. In the end, what may have been intended to be cost-saving measures can actually cost governments more money.

Interesting times in which we live.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mental Health Issues in Criminal Law

Very often I encounter clients that have mental health issues. These issues often have contributed to the charge for which they are facing.

It is best that those issues whether current or in the past are disclosed to the attorney at the initial client/ attorney interview. As all conversations, this information is covered by the attorney-client privilege. In many jurisdictions a separate mental health court has been established which will help with diagnosis and providing resources that other courts may not be set up to properly handle.

I've had a number of clients successfully complete mental health court and receive treatment that has help them make adjustments. . Here is a link to the overview of mental health court in Jefferson County. Be aware that some of the procedures may have changed since this site was updated.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Been extremely busy over the past few months.

Working on a number of new cases involving alleged serious police misconduct.

Also busy with DUI cases/ Driver's license appeals and other criminal cases.

We've had success in helping a client avoid a life sentence after the state could not prove previous felony convictions. The state must provide certified copies of convictions in order to proceed under the habitual felony act.

If a Defendant has multiple prior felonies it's still wise to ask for all certified copies especially if those convictions are from out of state jurisdictions.

Never assume that the convictions are certified unless they show them to your attorney.