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What Makes a Great Defender – Lessons Gained from Experience

In this post, I am returning to my “What Makes a Great Defender” series. Through these posts, I want to share the lessons I’ve learned in being a woman criminal defense attorney. I truly believe that women defenders have unique gifts and perspective on defending and the art of persuasion, and that it is through sharing our thoughts and our history that we can continue to build one another up in the profession. In this series, I have previously addressed the skills of judgment (which I will return to in the future because its importance cannot be overstated) as well as heart. Now I want to turn to the invaluable lessons that experience gives you. I know that it sounds obvious to trumpet the importance of experience, but it can be easy to take experience for granted, especially when we are some years into our careers. We have to remember that we are gaining new experiences no matter how many years we have been in the profession, and there are always new experiences to add into our arsenal and store for later use. Experience is not simply an issue of time in the trenches or age. Experience is what we gain when we are open to learning and willing to do something new so that we can tackle the same situation in the future. We all have to risk failing and making mistakes to learn. Case in point, in a recent trial it was obvious at some point that we would not sit a jury from the first panel and that we would eventually require a second panel to sit the jury. Now when I was younger, I wouldn’t have paid attention to this fact. I would have continued to focus on each individual juror deciding if 1) I had a for cause challenge, and 2) if I did or did not want to exercise a peremptory challenge. But, since I am a student of experience, I remembered the lessons learned from an earlier episode in my career involving the necessity of a second panel. In that previous experience, I had used all of my peremptory challenges during the first panel, so that, by the time we reached the second panel, I had no peremptory challenges, giving our side a sense of powerlessness affecting the final formation of the jury. Powerlessness in selecting a criminal jury is the kind of lessons that one never forgets. So, in this recent trial, when I realized that a second panel was inevitable based on elementary mathematics, I decided I would keep a few people that were otherwise not my favorite jurors but whom I could live with, but with the benefit of saving one peremptory challenge. Fortunately for my client, the government lawyers had not retained the same lessons that I had and did in fact exhaust their peremptory challenges during the first panel. Although I only had the one peremptory challenge left, one was all I needed to make all the difference. By holding the power of the peremptory challenge I was able to keep a juror that was open to our theory of defense. The prosecution had successfully challenged all others jurors open to that theory from the first panel, but as they had no peremptory challenges left for the second panel, there was nothing they could do to keep this juror off the jury. My client was acquitted at trial, and without question this juror was a powerful influence for our side. I truly believe that if it was not for that one juror that the client might not have been acquitted. And the one thing that made the difference was the experience to know to maintain a peremptory challenge at all cost. Every day that we do this job is an opportunity to learn and gain more experience. And the lesson that you learn today may very well provide you the experience to make a call that walks your client out of jail. Three previous posts that exemplify the “What Makes a Great Defender” series are here, here and from guest blogger Ellen Brotman  here. I want to invite anyone that reads this post and is a women defender to write a post on How to be a Great Defender and send it to me. The post What Makes a Great Defender – Lessons Gained from Experience appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Drug Dealer Busted by Online Package Tracking

'Tis the season for furiously clicking that "Track Package" button in sales confirmation emails. Whether you're worried about outgoing gifts making it to their destination on time or excited about an incoming present, tracking a package online can become a daily or even hourly obsession. And it can get you arrested, if you happen to be tracking a package full of drugs from China. Track Your Order Harold Bates was doing just that, and it led federal investigators right to his door. Ars Technica tracked down a judge's order from Bates's case, and it's a doozy: In October 2013, U.S. Postal Service (USPS) investigators opened a package in Hollywood, Florida that contained 500 grams of a "white crystal-like substance" that turned out to be the synthetic stimulant methylone. Investigators determined that a computer with an IP address registered to the Rockland, Massachusetts home of Harold Bates was tracking the parcel's whereabouts, and USPS notifications about the parcel's progress from Hong Kong, where it originated, had been sent to Bates's e-mail account. Moreover, they learned that Bates had tracked as many as five other USPS Express Mail packages sent from Hong Kong and China over the previous two months. Track Your Charges Bates was arrested in 2013 and pleaded guilty to importing methylone, or "Molly," in 2015. In the meantime, law enforcement says Bates continued to try and import drugs and even smuggle them into the jail where he was confined. Federal prosecutors say Bates "proceeded to change his email and Skype passwords in order to prevent law enforcement from monitoring any future communications he might have with his Chinese suppliers," and just a few weeks after his initial arrest Bates used a false name to retrieve yet another package from China. When Bates was indicted on drug charges and turned himself in, he allegedly tried to "smuggle drugs into the correctional facility where he was to be detained." Don't import drugs from China, kids. And if you do, maybe be careful about how you track those imported drugs. Finally, if you find yourself in Mr. Bates's position, you should probably contact a criminal defense attorney. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) Internet Crime (FindLaw Blotter) Can Cops Pose as Cable Repairmen and Search My Home? (FindLaw Blotter) Calif. Couple Busted Over Alleged Pot Sales on Silk Road 2.0 (FindLaw Blotter)
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Who Pays for Stolen Packages?

A stolen package at Christmas time is a terrible thing. Whether it was a gift for your child, or something valuable sent from someone you care about -- you are going to be mad. And you are going to want some compensation. Can you look to the delivery company for a little payback?Whether a delivery company will reimburse you for a stolen or lost package depends on a number of different factors, most importantly your contract. Yes, when you send a package you enter into a contract. The terms of that deal govern the extent to which you can seek reimbursement for a delivery that never arrives. Factors That Matter Factors that will impact your ability to seek reimbursement include what delivery service you use, whether and how much the package was insured, and where it was stolen, among others. Packages stolen off a front porch are less likely to be reimbursed than those taken from a delivery truck. Terms of receipt are also very important, perhaps the most important contract term in this context. So let's take a look at what you can do to ensure that presents don't all get swiped from your doorstep. Require a Signature To ensure that you receive what you ordered and that your gifts reach the intended recipients, require a signature when packages are delivered. Requiring a signature makes proof of delivery to an appropriate party an element of your deal, or contract. When you do not require a signature, you are agreeing that the extent of your deal with the delivery company is that they get the package to a particular address. In other words, you are not requiring that the package reach a specified individual, or even that just any person at the address may accept the package. You are asking only that the package reach its destination and certifying that the company's responsibility ends with dropping the package at the door. If you require no signature, then it is also much easier for a package that actually disappeared en route to be classified as a package stolen later. So although it can be very convenient to order goods online and find them waiting in a pile on your porch, it's probably worth the effort to ensure that deliveries only occur when you are available to receive them. Related Resources: Criminal Consequences of Stealing Packages (FindLaw Blotter) US Code Section 1708: Theft or Receipt of Stolen Mail Generally (FindLaw) Shoppers, Beware Christmas Counterfeits (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Legal Malpractice or Just Bad Lawyering?

A lawyer is an administrator, counselor, clerk, earpiece and voice, sword and shield. It's a lot to ask and not everyone does every aspect of the job just right. Sadly, there are bad lawyers. But that does not mean that they are committing legal malpractice or that you can sue an attorney when a case doesn't go as hoped. Lawyers do not guarantee results. They are, however, bound by the law, ethical rules, and standards of practice. And when they violate the codes of conduct that govern the legal profession, then a malpractice suit is in order. Legal Training and Standards The American Bar Association's (ABA) Rules of Professional Conduct have been adopted by all states but California. All licensed lawyers swear under oath to follow these codes, as well as the law and professional standards, after passing a rigorous exam ("the bar") and graduating from law school. This long process exists in part to drill certain ideas into lawyer's heads. They can't mix their money with client funds -- that is called co-mingling -- and they must work to vigorously represent client interests while remaining within the bounds of the law. If a lawyer has an undisclosed conflict of interest, that can be a basis for a malpractice suit. Breach of contract is another malpractice basis, as are violations of the ABA's codes. Failure to maintain the professional standards when it harms a client is a basis for a negligence claim. Negligent Lawyering Negligence is a basis for a claim whenever a person or entity who owes a duty of care breaches that duty and causes compensable harm. To prove legal malpractice, you must show the following four elements: The lawyer owed you a duty to provide competent and skillful representation. The lawyer breached that duty by acting carelessly or by making a mistake. The lawyer's breach was the cause of an injury or harm. That injury or harm resulted in financial damages. Have a Claim? The rules of professional conduct are many, and lawyers must follow them all. If you believe you have a malpractice claim, speak to an attorney and get your claim assessed. Related Resources: Browse Legal Malpractice Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) Legal Malpractice Claims (FindLaw) Legal Malpractice Lawsuit FAQ (FindLaw)
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Can You Give Someone Marijuana as a Gift?

'Tis the season for giving, and some of you may be wondering if your gifts can be a little ... greener this year. And while we would love to give you a clear-cut answer on giving the gift of marijuana, the fact remains that pot laws and your ability to give someone pot as a gift will depend on where you, and that person, live. So before you put a bow on that bud, here are some drug laws to keep in mind: State-by-State Statutes Currently the legal status of marijuana is a patchwork of varying state laws overlaid with a nationwide prohibition. (Although federal authorities have said they will allow states to prosecute their own drug laws, you should know that any marijuana cultivation, possession, or distribution remains illegal under federal drug laws.) And even among states that do allow recreational pot sales, regulations may differ: Alaska restricts plant possession: Residents may have six marijuana plants, but only three can be mature and flowering at one time; Colorado sales depend on your residency: Coloradans can purchase 1 ounce of marijuana, out-of-staters can only purchase half an ounce; D.C. doesn't allow sales: While you can possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to six plants in the nation's capital, the district didn't legalize pot shops or sales; Oregon bans weed delivery: You can possess up to eight ounces of marijuana, but delivery of pot is a felony; Washington pot limited to in-store sales: The state hasn't approved home ownership of marijuana plants. So don't do anything with weed this holiday season before you know the marijuana laws in your state. More Marijuana Mandates Obviously whether you can even legally purchase marijuana will be the first concern when it comes to giving pot as a gift, but even if you can buy it, there are some other restrictions and regulations you may want to be aware of. First off, the feds are still in charge of postal service, so you can't just mail the marijuana to your friends or family. Second, there are legal limits on travelling with pot, and crossing state lines with marijuana is generally a no-no. So just because it's easier to get weed doesn't mean it's easy to give weed. While that special person may appreciate the gift of marijuana, make sure your giving is legal. Related Resources: Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Overview (FindLaw) Seven States Struggling With Medical Marijuana (FindLaw Blotter) Snoop Dogg Invests in Medical Marijuana Delivery Service (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Does Indiana's Religious Freedom Law Cover Marijuana Church? (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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Top 10 Divorce Questions a Family Lawyer Can Answer

Going through a divorce is hard. And it's even harder to go through it alone without any legal help. There are many reasons why you'll want to hire an experienced family law attorney to help you with your divorce. One of them is an attorney's ability to accurately answer any and all questions you'll have about the divorce process generally, and your divorce specifically. Here are the top 10 divorce questions to ask a family lawyer: 10. How Long Will My Divorce Take? Although it occupies the 10 spot, this question may be one of the most important you have. Every divorce case is different, but you need to know what to expect and that your attorney has a good sense of how your case will go. A good family attorney should be able to provide a timeline of your divorce from initial filings to completion. This will also give your attorney a chance to give you a step-by-step overview of the divorce process in your state, as well as cue you into any deadlines or waiting periods. 9. What Is Your Experience With Divorce Cases? As part of demonstrating his or her familiarity with the process, your attorney should give you a rundown of their resume. Family lawyers might be experienced in various types of family disputes, without having many divorces under their belts. You should ask your attorney how many divorce cases he or she has handled, or what percentage of the firm's time is devoted to divorces. This gives your attorney a chance to discuss his or her legal experience -- hopefully in a way that inspires confidence. 8. What Can I Reasonably Expect From My Divorce? This is a broad question, but along with the timeline, you need to ask your attorney, if you hire him or her, what you can reasonably expect out of litigating or mediating your divorce. Your attorney should be able to paint you a range of likely outcomes based on your case, giving you a good basis for what to expect. 7. What Documents Will I Need for My Divorce? Depending on your shared assets and debts, you might need to provide quite a bit of documentation to back up your divorce filings. You may need to bring everything from pay stubs and tax returns to prenups and birth certificates to a consultation with a divorce attorney. And a good lawyer will be able to tell you how best to prepare for a divorce. So know what you'll need before you start you divorce. 6. How Will the Divorce Affect My Business? If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner, your first question might be how to protect your business assets during a divorce. Ask your attorney about which legal structure can best insulate your business from divorce proceedings and whether placing your business in a living trust could help protect it, and its assets, from your spouse. An attorney can also help you create an enforceable postnuptial agreement regarding the business (if you don't already have a prenup) and advise you on the effect of community property laws on small businesses. 5. How Will Our Property Be Separated? Who gets what in a divorce can become a major battle, and you'll want to know where you stand before the first shots are fired. But if not, you may need to divide everything from the furniture to the financial assets. There are two main factors to deciding property issues: (1) whether you live in a community property state or not, and (2) whether the property is separate or marital property. Your attorney should be able to tell you which marital property laws apply, and how those laws will apply in your case. 4. How Will Custody and Visitation Be Determined? More important than sorting out the kitchenware is sorting out the kids. ...
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Shoppers, Beware Christmas Counterfeits

Christmas shoppers in a hurry to check everyone off of their gift lists may wish to take a moment to pause. Almost a quarter of online shoppers unknowingly purchased a counterfeit brand online, according to a study published by Trademarks and Brands Online. The vast majority of those consumers said they would not have bought the counterfeit product if they were aware it was a fake. But the chances of making a mistake go up during Christmas when people tend to buy a lot on a short deadline. As online shopping increases generally -- and specifically ahead of the holiday season -- so does the likelihood of buying a fake. Dangerous Imitations? The imitations are not just disappointing for failing to be the genuine article but also pose some health and safety dangers. While it may not be harmful to anything but your ego if you can't buy a genuine Chanel bag or collect silken scarves from Hermes, imitation brand cosmetics can cause serious skin problems, allergies, and severe rashes. Imitation electronics can also present fire hazards. The risk of purchasing dangerous imitations goes up a great deal when shopping online. Respondents to the Trademarks and Brands Online survey -- conducted with participants from the UK, France, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the US -- asked shoppers how they ensured that they were on secure sites. About one quarter of respondents said they did not know how to validate the legitimacy of websites they were using. What to Do In order to avoid getting caught in the counterfeit trap, you only need to be careful. If you are buying things online, look very carefully at what you are clicking on when you surf the web. Notice when you are surfing away from the store or site you sought to see and do not make purchases from websites that seem in any way shady. What is shady? To some extent, incredible bargains are shady. Chances are good that if something is a steal, it may not be real. Be extremely carefully about the payment process when you are shopping online -- sites that direct you externally for a purchase warrant extra scrutiny. Finally, if you want to guarantee you are getting the real thing, go directly to the source and buy goods from the manufacturer and their suggested retailers. Related Resources: Find a Lawyer (FindLaw Directory) Online Scams (FindLaw) Louis Vuitton Wins Counterfeit Bag Lawsuit (FindLaw)
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Criminal Consequences of Stealing Packages

It is a federal criminal offense to tamper with the mail. So no matter how delightful and intriguing the neighbor's deliveries seem, avoid the temptation to pilfer a package from their porch because you're short on Christmas gifts. Theft of a letter, post card, package, bag, or mail from a US post office or a collection center associated with USPS is subject to fines and up to five years imprisonment, according to the United States Code, Section 1708. Receiving mail that was stolen is similarly punishable. Postal Police The United States Postal Inspection Service is the federal law enforcement and security arm of the Postal Service. It has 3,000 Postal Inspectors and Postal Police Officers charged with safeguarding the nation's mail system and combating mail theft and fraud. The Service has 1,600 Postal Inspectors who investigate postal-related crime, such as identity theft, mail bombs, postal robberies, and burglaries. In an average year, postal police make about 10,000 arrests of criminal suspects, they say. Many of the arrests are for mail theft or possession of stolen mail. Additionally, the Inspectors respond to an average of 900 postal-related assaults and threats, leading to hundreds of arrests. The Service investigates roughly 3,000 mail fraud cases and about 4,000 reports of suspicious substances and items in the mail, including mail bombs. According to the Service, "the overwhelming majority of incidents are nonhazardous." Non-Governmental Deliveries The United States mail belongs to the federal government and is protected by it. But that does not mean that you can steal from other delivery services. Although not all packages come with the heft of the feds behind them, it is still a crime to steal. Last year, a Texas woman caught a man stealing a package from her porch on camera. "Just backed up like they belonged here. Gentleman comes out the back of the car, grabs the package, puts it in the car and they leave," explained the theft victim. The thief was later arrested and charged with theft. Too Tempting? If you do end up charged with theft of mail or any other crime, do contact a criminal defense attorney. Counsel can defend you, whether or not you are guilty. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) Theft Defenses (FindLaw) Shoplifting (FindLaw)
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Teens Livestream Ice Cream Theft, Get Arrested

Hey everyone! Watch me break the law! If two boys commit a crime but no one is watching, did it really happen? Perhaps not, which is why two teenage boys had the bright idea to film and livestream their illegal ice cream stealing escapade. Unsurprisingly, the video landed them in juvenile court. The Robin Hood of Ice Cream Two 16-year-old boys, unidentified because of their age, used Periscope, a smartphone app, to livestream themselves breaking into a semi trailer filled with ice cream. A viewer of the livestream notified the police and gave them enough information to track the two boys down. Police quickly found the boys and arrested them after they admitted to stealing the ice cream and leaving them on neighbors' porches as gifts Periscope Solves the Crime Do you remember how the bad guys in the show Scooby-Do always say, "I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"? Well, these boys probably would have gotten away with the ice-capade if it weren't for their phone and the Periscope app. Periscope allows users to record and upload videos online simultaneously. The videos are posted on the site's website for 24 hours after a livestream, then deleted from the company's servers. The app also allows users to geo-tag their location to share with followers on Twitter and Periscope. If only all criminals used Periscope. The police would have a field day. Juvenile Punishments As for the two boys, they'll be answering for their crimes in juvenile court. When minors are involved in crimes, they usually go to juvenile court, unless they committed particularly serious crimes and are charged as adults. In many ways, juvenile court procedures differ from normal criminal courts. In juvenile court, crimes are actually called delinquent acts, and the punishments are more creative. Rather than simply sentencing minors to jail, juvenile court judges can order fines, restitution, counseling, probation, community service, or a diversion program. Once minors have complied with the judges' orders, their records are almost always sealed and expunged when the minor turns 18. Hopefully, these two boys learn their lesson and don't livestream any more stupid acts of childhood mischief. Related Resources: Utah Teens Arrested After Livestreaming Ice Cream Theft on Periscope (NBC News) Minor Crime Is a Major Ordeal (FindLaw's Learn About The Law) Boy, 13, Charged as Adult Based on Size of Genitals: Report (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Do Juveniles Get Jury Trials? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Legal How-To: Disclaiming an Inheritance

Although an inheritance of money, property, or other assets is often a welcome gift for the recipient, there are circumstances in which a person may want to disclaim a gift from another person's estate. For example, a person whose own estate may already be at or near the limit of the federal estate tax exemption may choose to disclaim an inheritance for tax purposes. Disclaimers may also be used to take advantage of martial deductions or to prevent a beneficiary's creditors from making a claim on property that he or she inherited. So how do you legally disclaim a gift or bequest made by another person' estate? Here's a general overview: How to Make a Qualified Disclaimer Under IRS rules, there are five requirements that a person must satisfy in order to disclaim an inheritance: The disclaimer must be irrevocable and unqualified. The disclaimer must be in writing. The disclaimer must be completed within nine months of the death of the person who left the bequest. The person making the disclaimer must not accept any benefit from the disclaimed property.The interest disclaimed must pass to someone else "without any direction on the part of the person making the disclaimer." If these conditions are satisfied, the property will pass as if the person making the disclaimer had predeceased the person making the gift. The disclaimed property will then pass to whoever is specified by the will, trust, or other instrument, or by the operation of law. The disclaimed property will also not be treated as a transfer or a gift by the person making the disclaimer. This allows the person making the disclaimer to avoid the tax issues that would otherwise be involved with accepting the inheritance and then giving the inherited property as a gift or transferring ownership to another individual. Need More Help? If you are dealing with a large or complicated inheritance, or need advice on whether a disclaimer is right for your situation, your best option may be to seek the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer. Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo. Related Resources: Saying 'No Thanks' to a Bequest (The New York Times) Millionaire's Heirs Wait 92 Years for Inheritance (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal How-To: Omitting Relatives From Your Will (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Sign Up for Our Free Legal Planning Newsletter (FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up)
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