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Why Trial Should Be an Option for Corporate Defendants

The Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) company was just convicted on 6 out of twelve felony counts relating to the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion that caused death and massive property damage because of a deteriorated portion of the pipeline. I understand that my title seems strange in light of this conclusion but keep reading. The company was charged with eleven counts of violations of pipeline safety laws and one count of obstruction. They were convicted of five of the pipeline safety violations and one obstruction count. The trial lasted over a month and jurors had begun deliberating, when in a surprising move, the prosecutors informed the court last week that they wanted to reduce the criminal penalties they were seeking from PG&E from $562 million to only $6 million. Yes, you read that correctly: an approximately 99% reduction in the amount of penalties sought. Now with a conviction they face only a maximum penalty of $3 Million. This unexpected move by prosecutors is unquestionably a significant victory for PG&E in spite of the conviction. What strikes me is that this is yet another example of a corporation reaping the benefit of going to trial to defend against a government accusation of criminal conduct, rather than plead out by reaching an expensive, non-prosecution agreement or other costly settlement.  I think it is safe to assume that during plea negotiations either prior to or after the prosecution’s indictment that the fines proposed by the federal government far exceeded $6 million.  That is because it is easy to talk tough when your evidence or theories of the case aren’t being tested in a courtroom in front of a judge or jury.  It’s one thing to champion a winning theory or your evidence in a conference room – but you put your money where your mouth is so to speak – in the courtroom.  I recently blogged about a similar situation in a criminal case brought against FedEx in which the judge dismissed some charges against the shipping company at trial and prosecutors later voluntarily dismissed all the remaining criminal charges.   The prosecutors’ request to lower the proposed fine against PG&E to $6 million is a huge shift from their original position of $562 million, and it could be compared to an individual being charged with a felony which prosecutors then later reduce to a misdemeanor in the middle of trial. But this appears to be such a drastic reduction that one has to wonder if the Government’s pursuit of such a high penalty was anything but bluffing. When more and more corporate defendants start to stand up to the government rather than automatically thinking their only option is to “cooperate” then maybe we will start to see indictments based on stronger evidence, or criminal investigations that are simply ended because there is not enough evidence to win at trial. The post Why Trial Should Be an Option for Corporate Defendants appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Brain Injury: Military Studies and Legal Recovery

A brain injury can easily happen to anyone for any number of reasons. Adventurers, athletes, accident victims, babies during birth, kids at play, and military veterans, are all at risk. But treating head trauma is very difficult, and the best bet is to prevent it. Now Defense Department scientists are focusing on pinpointing how brain cells change after experiencing explosions to learn how to improve protective equipment. Let’s consider their experiments and legal recovery for brain injury. The Experiments Military researchers say that mild traumatic brain injuries are on the rise among veterans. There is so far no relief for these injuries, no treatment. So the scientists are trying to prevent them altogether by making better protective equipment. To do this, they must first understand what happens to a brain that experiences trauma, even mildly, over time. To figure out how the brain responds to trauma physically, the Defense Department scientists recreate the effects of explosions on the brain and measure how cell structure changes accordingly. The hope is to then sort out how to prevent these changes by making equipment that appropriately protects vulnerable areas. “For mild traumatic brain injury there is currently no treatment available, so we need to assess the mechanism of injury to find out how we can mitigate it,” said Thuvan Piehler, a research chemist with the Army Research Laboratory’s Explosive Technology Branch. Her team measures brain damage thresholds for the development of protective equipment. The civilian public often benefits from this type of military experiment. The Internet, for example, was a defense project before it was our window on the world. So it stands to reason that we’ll see the fruits of these experiments in civilian equipment soon enough. Brain Injury Lawsuits The most famous brain injury lawsuit is no doubt that of National Football League players who suffered from concussions and sued the league. But there are many ways to suffer from a brain injury and many such cases. Anyone who suffers head trauma in an accident, at the hands of a doctor, or otherwise due to someone’s negligence, could sue to recover damages. Suing is not just about allocating blame. It allows people who have incurred medical expenses and lost wages, and experienced pain and suffering to get much-needed compensation for current and future costs. Talk to a Lawyer If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, talk to a lawyer. Tell your story. Many personal injury attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to hear to assess your case. Related Resources: Have an injury claim? Get your claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) Brain Injury Symptoms and Diagnosis (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Types of Brain Injury (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Brain Injury Rehabilitation Resources (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law)
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Fracking Health Risks: Latino Children in Danger?

A new lawsuit claims that California's failure to regulate the fracking operations in the state has disproportionately endangered the health of Latino children. Rodrigo Romo has sued Governor Jerry Brown and California's Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources, seeking to invalidate recent fracking legislation and bar current fracking operations. Romo's claims center on the proximity of fracking wells to schools -- specifically the school his daughters attend, Sequoia Elementary School, which sits just half a mile from three wells. What the Frack? Romo's lawsuit alleges some sobering facts. As reported by Courthouse News: The Kern County resident claims that 5.4 million Californians live within a mile of an active oil or gas well, and that a disparate amount of such schools have with large Latino enrollments. He says one of his daughters began to suffer severe asthma and epileptic attacks since fracking began 1,200 feet from her elementary school. The suit also claims that teachers often keep schoolchildren inside, banning outdoor recess for weeks because of "bad smells assumed to be associated with the well stimulations." Eighty-six percent of Sequoia's enrollment is Latino. That's Fracked Up. Gov. Brown signed new fracking regulations into law two years ago, but Romo and others contend the provisions of SB-4 don't go far enough. While the regulations focus on groundwater protections, Romo claims his daughter has suffered from asthma attacks and epileptic seizures since the fracking well opened near her school. An independent study into the health risks of fracking called for additional controls on chemicals and even a ban until scientists can gather more definitive data on fracking's impact on the environment and human health. And a Texas family recently won a $3 million fracking pollution lawsuit against a drilling company, which could provide some precedent for Romo's suit. In that case, a nearby well caused the family years of sickness, killed livestock and pets, and eventually forced them off of their 40-acre ranch. Related Resources: Fracking Called Special Threat to Latino Kids (Courthouse News Service) Does Fracking Settlement's Gag Order Apply to Kids? (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Colo. Fracking Site Explosion Leaves 1 Dead, 2 Injured (FindLaw's Injured) Vermont Bans Fracking, Citing Injury Concerns (FindLaw's Injured)
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What Counts as Criminal Mischief?

Although many criminal charges are very specific, others, such as criminal mischief, can encompass a wide variety of criminal behavior. Criminal mischief generally includes what is commonly known as vandalism, dealing mainly with crimes committed against property such as defacing someone's building with graffiti or breaking the windows of a business. Although vandalism may be included under state criminal statutes forbidding "criminal damage" or "malicious trespass," in many states, vandalism may be charged as criminal mischief. What typically counts as criminal mischief? Here are a few examples of criminal mischief laws in different states: Texas. Under the Texas Penal Code, criminal mischief includes knowingly damaging or destroying another person's property or tampering with the property of a person if that tampering causes loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or another individual. Texas' criminal mischief statute also forbids intentionally or knowingly making markings "including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings" on another person's property. In Texas, criminal mischief is a felony if it causes a loss of more than $1,500 or involves fencing used for livestock or game animals. Alabama. Under Alabama law, criminal mischief is considered intentionally inflicting damage to property, when you have no right (or reasonable grounds to believe that you have a right) to do so. Criminal mischief is a felony in Alabama if the damages exceed $2,500 or are inflicted by means of an explosion. Otherwise, criminal mischief is either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. New York. New York also charges criminal mischief as a felony when a person intentionally damages another person's property (without right or reasonable grounds to believe he has a right) in an amount exceeding $1,500 or by means of an explosion. Misdemeanor criminal mischief in New York includes a number of different acts such as breaking into a locked vehicle to steal property or intentionally participating in the destruction of an abandoned building. If you've been charged with criminal mischief or another crime, a criminal defense attorney can explain your legal options and represent you in court. You can learn more about criminal charges, criminal court procedure, and your constitutional rights at FindLaw's section on Criminal Law. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Man Bulldozes Home Without Telling Wife; Gets Arrested (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Doughnut Vandalism Leaves Ore. Town Glazed and Confused (FindLaw's Legal Grounds) Woman Arrested for Vandalizing Florida Satanic Display (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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