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by PoP Sponsor July 24, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

By attorney Matthew Crowley, barred in the state of Virginia. With over 10 years of extensive courtroom experience, Crowley now focuses his practice on defending individuals from all walks of life, including CEOs, celebrities, government workers, and many others.

In March 2017, in Dare County, NC, Gabriel Stitt got a $213 speeding ticket in from a Sherriff’s Department deputy. However, the citation was given to Mr. Stitt solely based on the observations of a former law enforcement officer who reported Stitt’s alleged speeding via phone to the Department.

The incident happened near the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge where Stitt was alleged to have been speeding.

The Dare County District Attorney’s office explained the traffic citation as “unusual” but legal, and the former law enforcement officer’s experience with detecting speed rendered her qualified.

Mr. Stitt denies speeding. He would like his case dismissed and an apology from the DA’s office. He plans to litigate the citation.

Outer Banks traffic attorney John Graham explained that it is legal in North Carolina for an officer to issue a citation “based on the observation of others.”

However, the former officer must testify in court for a judge to find Stitt guilty of speeding.

Graham advised that Stitt’s best defense is to create uncertainty about the former officer’s expertise and have DA’s office “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Stitt was driving over the speed limit.

A review of local court records indicate Stitt received another speeding citation three weeks after the first one. Specifically, Stitt was alleged to have driven 30 miles per hour over the limit in a 55-mile zone, which a deputy detected by radar.

Attorney Matt Crowley commented, “While in North Carolina it is legal to issue a ticket based on others’ observations, I imagine this would almost always be contested and litigated.”

by PoP Sponsor July 19, 2017 at 11:30 pm 0

By criminal defense attorney Thomas Soldan, who is barred and practices in the state of Virginia, with Price Benowitz LLP. Soldan has focused his practice on reckless driving, DUI/DWI, traffic, and personal injury litigation.

A recent study released by the Highway Loss Data Institute shows an increase in collision claims reported to insurers in states that have approved the sale of marijuana for recreational use.

The sum of collisions reported to insurers in Colorado, where marijuana has been legal the longest, Oregon and Washington, is three percent higher than expected if marijuana was not legal.

The study observed that more drivers admit using marijuana, which shows up more frequently in accidents.

To see if accident rates were higher in the legal use states, the Institute compared collision claim rates prior to and subsequent to legalization with the collision claim rates of nearby states where marijuana is illegal.

The aggregate-state analysis yielded the results that Colorado, Oregon and Washington have had more crashes, while the testing done on the individual states implies that the size of the effect depends on many factors including length of legalization.

For example, Colorado realized the biggest increase in crash claim frequency compared with its control states: the increase in Colorado’s collision claim frequency was 14 percent higher than in Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.

The Institute noted that while there is evidence that marijuana can impair some aspects of driving performance, researchers have not been able to connect marijuana use with more frequent crashes definitively.

Although the Institute’s research found a greater crash risk, it did not conclude if the increase in collisions was directly caused by high drivers.

As more states consider legalizing recreational marijuana use, critics worry that this will cause an increase in accidents from people driving while high. Currently, there is no test for marijuana use like a Breathalyzer.

Defense attorney Thomas Soldan noted that “while these numbers are a start, certainly more research and data is necessary to determine if marijuana legalization is truly leading to an uptick in dangerous driving.”

by PoP Sponsor July 19, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

By Attorney Amato Sanita, barred in the state of Pennsylvania. Amato manages one of the most active criminal defense practices in the commonwealth, and he concentrates his practice on adult and juvenile crime.

Embezzlers are not like other criminals: most work in an office setting, often have no prior history of committing crimes and surprisingly, today most are female.

According to PinkCollarCrime.com, a website focused on women and fraud and embezzlement issues, since 1990 embezzlers who are men have increased merely 4 percent while women who embezzle have grown by more than 40 percent during the same time. In the workplace, hold key positions, including the office manager, accountant or bookkeeper.

A review of recent Oregon cases shows that women embezzlers were caught taking $6,000 to over $1 million from businesses, charities and educational institutions. While most of the women did not go to prison, they did get probation and had to repay back monies owed.

According to Portland Oregon-based forensic psychologist Dr. Linda Grounds, who has reviewed the history of 40 females charged with embezzlement, the women had no prior criminal history, except for two DUI arrests.

Most had faced neglect or abuse as children and many experienced anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Reasons for women embezzling range from gambling addictions to maintaining a nicer lifestyle but mostly to provide basics for their family. The women were most often motivated by desperate financial straits.

From the male perspective, criminologist Dr. Darrell Steffensmeier of Penn State explains that men embezzle more often because of debts that could be caused by gambling, affairs, alcohol or drug addiction or a business investment gone bad.

Other notable differences are that women usually take less money when they embezzle, and when women are caught, they generally immediately confess and repent.

Some Key Takeaways To Watch Out For In the Workplace:

  • Employees acting cagy.
  • Employees with a standard of living beyond their salary.
  • Employees who will not take vacation.
  • Employees with possibly expensive problems (medical, financial or family related).
  • Abnormalities with accounting.
  • If something seems improper, look into it further and do not take explanations at face value.

Attorney Amato Sanita commented, “Most people assume that white-collar crimes are committed by men, but even though they may have different reasons for doing so, women are just as likely to engage in these activities as men are.”

by PoP Sponsor July 11, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

Attorney Seth Okin is an accomplished criminal lawyer that practices in the state of Maryland. Attorney Okin is also a member of the Maryland State Bar Association and the Baltimore County Bar Association.

An 18-year-old Newnan teenager said she feels victimized a second time after being arrested for confronting her ex-boyfriend after he leaked a nude video of her.

The young woman said she confronted her ex-boyfriend at school after he posted the video of her on the social media site Kik. A teacher at the school allegedly witnessed the argument and told police that the young woman threw a bottle of water on him and threatened to kill him because of what he had done.

Police turned around and arrested the girl. She told local media that the video made her feel violated and that was why she confronted her ex-boyfriend and is even more upset that she is the only one being charged with a crime. This despite the fact that Georgia has a revenge porn law on its books.

The law, which went into effect in July 2014, allows law enforcement to charge someone with a high and aggravated misdemeanor for their first offense. Second and subsequent offenses can be charged as felonies.

When asked why the person who posted the video has not been charged with anything, Deputy Chief Rodney Riggs said, “Obviously there was a disruption there at the school she attended, and that was the only charge that has been made at this point.

The fact that some photographs were sent doesn’t necessarily constitute a crime. There are certain criteria in sending that photograph that has to be met and that’s what we’re trying to determine.”

Upon hearing about this case, attorney Seth Okin commented, “I find it outrageous that the police have essentially violated this young woman a second time, arresting her, putting her in handcuffs, and forcing her into the criminal justice system as a defendant, instead of as the victim.”

by PoP Sponsor July 10, 2017 at 6:30 am 0

Dr. Victor Hayes is a board certified spine surgeon who practices within the state of Florida. Dr. Hayes has an extensive educational background, as well as he is trained in both endoscopic and reconstructive spine surgery.  

A promising new discovery has been made by Gladstone Institutes scientists which could bring new hope to victims of spinal cord injuries. Scientists used human stem cells to create a new neuron which may be able to repair damaged spinal cords.

Named V2a interneurons, the cells transmit signals to the spinal cord in order to assist in controlling movement. Results of the study have been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Normally, these interneurons send signals to the spinal cord from the brain, connecting with motor neurons that enable us to move our limbs. These interneurons also are part of the breathing process.

When V2a interneurons are damaged as a result of a spinal cord injury, the signal between brain and limbs is severed, causing paralysis.

In order to produce the V2a interneurons from human stem cells, researchers were able to come up with a “cocktail of chemicals” that eventually led to the stem cells developing from spinal cord progenitor cells to V2a interneurons. These interneurons were then transplanted into spinal cords of healthy mice.

When this was done, the interneurons sprouted and integrated with existing cells. Especially critical to the research was that the mice still moved normally after the transplant and there were no signs of impairment.

The study team said they plan on taking this research to the next level by transplanting V2a interneurons into mice with damaged spinal cords to see if movement can be restored.

According to national statistics, there are about 300,000 people living with spinal cord injuries in the U.S., with more than 15,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries that occur each year.

The two most common causes of these injuries are motor vehicle accidents, which are responsible for approximately 40 percent of injuries, and falls, which cause about 30 percent of spinal cord injuries every year.

Spinal surgeon Dr. Victor Hayes commented, “this is certainly an exciting breakthrough and one I hope ushers in a new increased focus on treating catastrophic spinal injuries.”

by PoP Sponsor July 10, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

Kerri Castellini is a trusts and estates lawyer who is based in Washington, DC, with Price Benowitz LLP. Kerri offers assistance with various types of estate planning and development techniques.

When most people think of estate plans and wills, they often visualize an older adult making those plans. Many of us feel uncomfortable when it comes to discussing end of life decisions and it is common for people to delay putting their wishes down on legal pen and paper.

But the reality of it is, is that accidents and illnesses can strike at any time and having a solid plan in place not only ensures that our wishes are carried out, but also helps alleviate the pressure these types of situations can have on our loved ones. It is also critical to have plans in place if you have young children.

If a person dies without a will and they have minor children, then the state makes the decision of who will be the children’s legal guardian. The probate court will make the decision over how your assets will be divided among your survivors, regardless of what type of relationship – good or bad – you had with them.

In order to avoid family fighting, and the legal probate process, many people decide to set up living trusts. Other people decide to put assets in their children’s name before they die, however, many attorneys advise against this because – unlike a living trust – you lose all control over your own money.

In addition, while gifting your assets during your lifetime may avoid probate, it often results in the requirement of filing a gift tax return, and exposing the asset to your children’s creditors. A good example of this is putting your home in your child’s name, but they later file for bankruptcy.

It is also critical to make sure that you periodically check the beneficiaries you have on any financial accounts to make sure that these are coordinated with your estate plan.

This is especially true if you have gone through a life event, such as a divorce. Whoever is listed on the accounts is the person who will receive the funds, despite who your will may have listed.

Other issues to consider addressing in your will include granting your personal representative the authority to handle your digital assets. Many people also provide provisions in their wills to address who should care for pets.

Attorneys also often recommend that individuals include an advanced directive or a power of attorney for medical treatment in their estate planning, which designates who they want to be able to make medical decisions for them in the event they become incapacitated and are unable to do so for themselves.

In a discussion about estate planning, Trust and Estates attorney Kerri Castellini commented, “It is never too early to sit down with a probate attorney and legally document exactly how you want your estate to be divided, and to prepare for your own incapacity.”

by PoP Sponsor June 27, 2017 at 4:00 pm 0

By Oleg Fastovsky, an attorney with the Maryland Criminal Defense Group representing clients who have been charged with a wide array of criminal offenses.

When candidate Trump was running for president, immigration reform was one of his major rallying cries, like building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Since he has taken office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) has dramatically increased the number of raids and deportations that have taken place.

According to some estimates, ICE, under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, has arrested approximately more than 30 percent of people in 2017 compared to last year, under the Obama administration.

One of the major criteria of those being deported, according to the administration, is targeting those illegal immigrants who have a criminal record. Unlike past administrations, who targeted those with high-level offenses like rape and murder, the current administration is also going after those who have been convicted of low-level offenses.

In January, Trump issues an executive order that proclaimed that any illegal immigrant who has been charged with a criminal offense, convicted of a criminal offense, or has committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense are subject to deportation.

According to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the deportation threshold is much lower now than in the past. Kelly pointed out in a recent interview that even someone who has been convicted of a single drunk driving charge could face deportation.

These sentiments were also echoed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has said that the country has entered a new era over how it deals with immigration issues, referring to it as the “Trump era” in a speech to border patrol agents.

Sessions also recently sent out a memo to federal prosecutors, urging them to prosecute anyone who harbors illegal immigrants, particularly those who are found to be harboring three or more illegals.

Despite the spike in ICE arrests, the number of deportations has only increased slightly from the Obama administration. An ICE spokesperson blames government bureaucracy for the delay in actually deporting the people who have been arrested.

In a discussion about the new immigration reforms, Attorney Oleg Fastovsky commented, “It is disconcerting not only the numbers of people ICE is arresting, but also the months these people are being forced to sit in limbo, waiting for hearings to find out what their future holds.”

by PoP Sponsor June 14, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

Nicholas Braswell is a former public defender now in private practice as a criminal and DUI defense attorney in Richmond, VA.

A recent statistical analysis of marijuana arrests in the state reveals racial disparities in marijuana arrests in Virginia.

Data was collected from state and local law enforcement agencies for arrests which took place between 2010 through 2016. In all, there were over 160,000 arrests made.

The data revealed that blacks were three times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges as whites. In one county, that number spiked to six times more likely.

Hanover County has 88,000 white residents and 9,600 black residents. The average number of whites arrested each year for marijuana possession is 246. That means for every 100,000 white residents, 280 are arrested.

The average number of blacks arrested each year for marijuana possession is 171. That means for every 100,000 black residents, 1,779 are arrested.

Other Virginia counties fared no better. The breakdown of marijuana possession arrests for every 100,000 white and black residents was as follows:

  • Arlington County – 145 out of every 100,000 white residents and 1,173 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Chesapeake County – 233 out of every 100,000 white residents and 1,003 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Chesterfield County – 322 out of every 100,000 white residents and 1,070 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Fairfax County – 265 out of every 100,000 white residents and 861 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Henrico County – 123 out of every 100,000 white residents and 450 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Loudoun County – 163 out of every 100,000 white residents and 459 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Norfolk County – 96 out of every 100,000 white residents and 447 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Prince William County – 306 out of every 100,000 white residents and 637 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Richmond County – 345 out of every 100,000 white residents and 491 out of every 100,000 black residents;
  • Virginia Beach County – 91 out of every 100,000 white residents and 435 out of every 100,000 black residents;

Some law enforcement denied that the disparity in numbers has anything to do with racial factors, instead pointing to Virginia being part of the “drug corridor” running from New York to Florida, but civil right advocates disagree and say this is just another example of how widespread the problem is.

Upon learning of the new report, defense attorney Nicholas Braswell commented, “This report just emphasizes the reality for Virginia and the rest of the country that a racial disparity in our criminal justice system truly exists and that we need to address that instead of denying it.”

by PoP Sponsor June 4, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

By Shawn Sukumar, barred in the District of Columbia. Shawn practices criminal law including cases involving traffic stops, drug offenses and DUIs.

If you are in Washington D.C., the law allows you to possess, grow, or give away as a gift marijuana. What you are not allowed to do is sell it. It is that law that D.C. police are using for the $20 sting operations they have been running lately.

Last month, police ran sting operations where they purchased $20 worth of marijuana in separate occasions which resulted in the arrests of seven people. The limit of possession under the local law is two ounces. Twenty dollars will currently get someone approximately one gram of pot, far below the legal limit of two ounces.

A spokesperson for the police said the decision to run these sting operations were a result of complaints from people living in the neighborhoods where the operations took place, which were located southeast of the Anacostia River and does not reflect a change in the department’s marijuana policy.

One of the founders of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign expressed some doubts as to the department’s statement. In a statement, activist Adam Eidinger said, “I would disagree; there is a crackdown compared to the first year after legalization,” he says. “The first year of legalization in 2015 was very hands-off, except for in Ward 8 with public smoking arrests, but now citywide there seems to be a crackdown.”

One of the major issues in marijuana reform is the failure of federal laws to recognize the changes that state laws have made when it comes to the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana.

Two months ago, statements made by Attorney Jeff Sessions drew sharp criticism from marijuana advocates when he said that marijuana use is “slightly less awful” than heroin use and questioned the viability of medical marijuana.

Under current law, there is a congressional spending rider protecting medical marijuana. There is not one for recreational marijuana because the Justice Department under the Obama presidency chose to leave it up to local prosecutors in order to allow for state autonomy.

But many of the current AG’s rattlings have indicated that he may be considering legal action that could overturn the current state-regulated marijuana markets.

In a discussion regarding the latest police stings and possible threat to current marijuana laws, defense attorney Shawn Sukumar said, “It appears that law enforcement – under the influence of the current administration – may be once again taking a heavy-handed approach to marijuana policing. The majority of D.C. residents have spoken with their overwhelming support and approval to eradicate the criminalization of marijuana, as well as study after study which proves the benefits of medical marijuana to people suffering from a range of illnesses. Why does it appear that law enforcement is not listening?”

by PoP Sponsor June 4, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Steve Duckett is a criminal defense attorney in Manassas, Virginia, with Price Benowitz LLP. Steve defends clients in Virginia and federal court, and his practice includes white collar defense, felony allegations, and DUI cases.

Inflation not only affects your wallet, it can also affect your criminal record in the state of Virginia. That is because – unlike 30 other states across the country – Virginia lawmakers refuse to increase the dollar minimum for felony charges.

Virginia has held to the same felony bar amount of $200 since 1980. Two hundred dollars in 1980 is equal to $600 today. If you are accused of stealing an item that is worth more than $200, you could be facing felony charges.

Compare that to dozens of states which have raised their felony bar amounts, and Virginia’s law appears to be extremely harsh. For example, more than 35 states have a felony bar of $1000 or more. Texas and Wisconsin have their felony bar amount set at $2,500.

Yet in Virginia, if a young person makes a one-time error in judgment – often the case in low dollar amount theft cases – they could end up with a felony charge on their record which could affect them for the rest of their lives.

Attempts to raise the amount to $500 last month was blocked by the Virginia House after it passed overwhelmingly by the Senate. Representatives faced great pressure from retail groups who questioned why lawmakers were trying – in their opinion – to make it easier for people to steal.

First-time offenders are often left facing a tough dilemma because although many prosecutors will agree to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor if the amount stolen is under $1,000, they often insist that the defendant has to do some jail time. Yet most judges do not sentence first-time felony offenders any jail time.

So, a person charged is forced to decide whether or not to do jail time and have a misdemeanor on their record or do no jail time, but have a felony conviction on their record, which can have a serious impact on a person’s future chance of employment, housing, education, and government benefits.

In discussing the state’s felony bar amount, defense attorney Steve Duckett said, “Charging a person who makes a one-time mistake and steals an item the same charge as a person involved in a shoplifting ring that steals thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise is archaic and unjust. It is time Virginia lawmakers take the appropriate steps to address this problem.”

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