One of the most common frustrations we hear from clients facing criminal prosecution goes something like this: “The police only arrested me for one misdemeanor. When I showed up for my arraignment, I learned that the district attorney indicted me on that misdemeanor PLUS three felonies. How can they do that?”
According to the sassy crime victim news correspondent diva, otherwise known as Nancy Grace, 23-year-old Jessica Vega pretended to have terminal cancer so she could attract sympathy from friends, relatives and strangers alike who stepped in to give her a dream wedding – FOR FREE! The rings, the wedding dress and the photos all were donated. The catering hall was heavily discounted, and the (awful) bride and her (dumb as a doornail) groom flew off to their honeymoon in Aruba with donated money, using plane tickets bought by well-wishers.
Apparently, the jig was up when Vega’s rocket scientist husband, Michael O’Connell, finally realized that his long-time partner (and mother of his child) didn’t appear to be ill.
According to various news sources, a criminal investigation is pending.
So our question to all you Matlock wannabes: What could she be charged with and/or convicted of?
So here’s the thing: Police officers are very good at making you feel like they are your friend because they are trained to make you feel like they are your friend. And nine times out of ten, they get convictions because they convince people, like you, that they are their friend. They’re not. I don’t care how nice/sweet/innocent you are or how much money you have. Agreeing to give a statement to a police officer without an experienced criminal attorney present is the best chance you have of getting convicted of a crime.
Forget Law and Order. Forget Cold Case. Police officers and district attorneys get convictions as a result of statements made by defendants. It pains me to think of the number of cases I’ve handled where, without a defendant’s statement, the state would never have had enough evidence to convict.
When a police officer tells you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, they are doing so because the law requires them to do so. Not because they really want you to remain silent and/or call a defense attorney.
But I get it…it’s human nature to want to cooperate, be nice and go with the program. And when someone wearing a uniform and carrying a gun says something like “I’m sure once I hear your story, everything will be fine and you’ll get to go home,” your first reaction will be to just tell them your story.
DON’T TELL THEM YOUR STORY!
What 99% of the country doesn’t know is that years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the police can legally be deceptive when questioning suspects. In other words, police officers are lawfully allowed to lie in order to get a confession.
“Your friend just gave you up” (untrue).
“You might as well come clean. We have evidence linking you to the crime” (untrue).
“I’m sure if you just tell me what happened things will go easier for you” (untrue).
The bottom line is that it is NEVER in your interest to give statements to the police. Even if you’re completely innocent. The right to an attorney is there for a reason. Use it. And yes, police officers will often say that if you just give them a statement you’ll most likely get to go home. Almost always not the case. If anything, giving a statement will lead to an indictment.
If you tell a cop that you want a lawyer, they must stop interrogating you. Regardless of circumstances, please, please, please take advantage of your constitutional rights and tell said cop that you want a lawyer and DON’T SAY ANYTHING until you’re criminal attorney arrives. In almost every instance, a good criminal attorney will tell you to say nothing.
And odds are, it will save your life.
We often hear from frustrated personal injury victims who don’t understand why an insurance company won’t just offer them a reasonable settlement when, after all, they’ve been injured and the other party was clearly at fault. Quite often people try to settle their claims without hiring an experienced injury attorney.
More often than not, by the time we meet with such clients, they tell us the insurance adjuster with whom they’ve been dealing has either A) made an unreasonable, insulting offer, or B) just keeps giving them the runaround.
Why should I give a car accident lawyer a percentage of my settlement when the law is on my side, you ask?
At the end of the day, insurance companies (and their adjusters) are above all else, trying to make a buck. Most seasoned insurance adjusters view unrepresented individuals as easy targets; they think that without an experienced personal injury defense attorney involved in the case, you will take whatever lowball offer they make.
An experienced auto accident law firm will know how to value a case, which means the right injury attorney will advise you on a reasonable settlement range. And if the insurance company doesn’t make a reasonable offer, your lawyer will tell you it’s unreasonable and advise you to go to trial.
Yes, this means that a percentage of your settlement will go to your personal injury defense attorney. But nine times out of ten, the adjuster you’re dealing with won’t begin to discuss a reasonable and appropriate settlement until they get a call from your lawyer – whether you’re in Portland, Vancouver, or Bend. Insurance companies know how to play people and they will do whatever they can to win.
A pending criminal case can be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life.
Regardless of whether a person is looking at a misdemeanor DUI, drug offense or serious felony that carries a maximum minimum penalty, the months or years it takes to resolve such a matter will be very hard on even the most optimistic person.
Hiring the right defense attorney is a critical step in successful resolution, whether that means avoiding jail or prison or going all the way to trial with a seasoned criminal defense attorney who will give you the best chance of a not guilty verdict.
If you open the phonebook in Portland, you will find hundreds of lawyers who sell themselves as the best criminal attorney in town. But how can you truly know if that Portland lawyer has the experience, smarts, aggressiveness, and reputation to get you the results you need?
Of equal importance, if you need a lawyer, you should hire someone with whom you feel comfortable. A lawyer who demonstrates good customer service and recognizes that you, the client, should always have phone calls returned, questions answered, and issues explained to you in a way that is not condescending, but communicated in a way you understand (no fancy lawyer speak!).
Not all criminal lawyers have experience with all types of charges. While driving under the Influence charges are usually misdemeanors (meaning the maximum jail time is one year), good DUI defense lawyers understand the complexities of such cases. It’s not just a matter of was she or wasn’t she driving under the influence. There are many challenges DUI attorneys can make to the methods and tests employed by the police officer who made the arrest. But those challenges require experience. Just because someone markets themselves as a DUI attorney, that doesn’t mean you should hire them.
When you meet with a criminal defense attorney in Portland, Vancouver or elsewhere, you should interview them. Ask them how many similar cases they’ve had. Ask them how many of those cases went to trial? Ask specifics about their practice – what percentage is criminal and what percentage is other kinds of law. How often do they practice in the county where you were charged? Have they ever had a founded bar complaint?
There are several lawyer referral websites you can search to learn specific information about the attorney you’re looking to hire. Such sites provide client reviews (good and bad) as well as endorsements from other lawyers who have worked with these individuals. Do your homework!
And at the end of the day, you should feel comfortable with your attorney: comfortable speaking openly about your case or your circumstances; comfortable calling your attorney with any questions or concerns, and comfortable that your defense lawyer, above anything else, is advocating for you and your interests. Trust your instincts.
For those of you who think only hardened, violent criminals are subjected to the harsh mandatory minimum sentences enforced across the country (including Oregon), let us introduce you to Gregory Taylor, a homeless, hungry Californian sentenced to 25 years in prison for trying to break into a church kitchen to find something to eat.
Thanks to the work of Stanford University law students and the law school’s “three strikes project,” a Superior Court judge amended Gregory Taylor’s sentence to his eight years already served. The 47-year-old, who was sentenced in 1997 to 25 years to life, will be a free man in a few days.
Due to two prior robbery convictions in the 1980s (one for stealing a purse containing $10 and the other for trying to rob a man on the street—neither of which involved the use of a weapon, and neither of his victims was injured), Taylor was convicted under California’s notorious three-strikes law.
While Oregon’s mandatory minimum statute is not exactly the same as California’s, the result is the same. In Oregon, for certain offenses, the circumstances of the case are irrelevant and judges have no discretion with regard to sentencing. Regardless of the individual’s background, age, criminal history (or lack thereof), or the role he or she played during the criminal act, if convicted of one of the specified crimes, that person will be sentenced to prison for a very long time. If the District Attorney is unwilling to reduce the charge, even the best Portland criminal attorney will have few strategic options if their client is convicted.
Stated simply, the mandatory minimum-sentence requirement does not work. It sends homeless people to prison for years for trying to steal food. It prohibits judges from using their training, experience, knowledge and common sense when sentencing defendants.
Ask yourself why we should have judges if they’re not allowed to make the decisions that would best serve our communities?