February 08, 2012
When did you stop hitting your wife?
February 08, 2012
Guidelines for Drug Court in Allen County
February 08, 2012
The BMV has a new computer program!!!!!!!!!
December 05, 2011
December 05, 2011
Attorneys who represent people accused of crimes are frequently asked, "How do you defend criminals?" Curiously, some people who have never been arrested or criminally prosecuted assume that those who have must be bad. Okay. I understand that there's maybe a lack of understanding for how a person might find himself or herself on the wrong side of a jail cell. Maybe people should be a bit more empathetic, however. Good people can break the law.
Let's start with alcohol. Under Indiana law, if you are 21 years or older it is legal to possess or consume alcoholic beverages. And if you are 21 years or older you can legally enter a bar or tavern. Drink away, right? Wrong. It's a crime to be intoxicated in any public location. Walking on the sidewalk or sitting in the passenger seat of a car driven by a sober driver is against the law. The bottom line: if you have ever had too much to drink at a bar, restaurant, football game, wedding reception (you get the point), then you've committed the misdemeanor offense of public intoxication.
In Indiana, a person becomes intoxicated when he or she is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any other drug that alone or in combination leads that person to an "impaired condition of thought and action and the loss of normal control of a person's faculties." Ever drank enough that you didn't feel, well, "normal?" Isn't that kind of the point? In Indiana, a person can receive a 180 day jail sentence and be placed on probation for up to a year (or two years in some cases) for a public intoxication conviction.
Now that you know what it means to be intoxicated, let's address what it takes to become so in "public." A person's home is not a public place. Likewise, the inside of a person's apartment is not a public location. But, the lobby or hallway of an apartment complex might be considered "public." The front porch of a house or even the driveway should be safe, but watch out for the sidewalk if you've had too much to drink. Sidewalks, parking lots, streets and alleys will in most cases be deemed "public."
We all know it's illegal for an intoxicated person to drive a vehicle. So, how does the guy who walks to the bar to get his "drink on" get home without breaking the law? Grab a ride with a designated driver or call a cab, right? I think that's a great idea, but you should know that the Supreme Court of Indiana ruled this summer that an intoxicated passenger of a vehicle driven by a sober driver committed the offense of public intoxication. Based on the way the public intoxication statute was written, the Court made the right call. Even though we have an expectation of privacy within our cars, those cars travel on public roadways and are considered "public" locations for purposes of the public intoxication statute. A drunk person can't even walk home without breaking the law because sidewalks are also considered "public."
So, if you want to stay within the confines of Indiana law you might be best served to drink at home or not drink at all. Maybe instead of "Don't Drink and Drive" the slogan should be "Don't Drink and Drive, Ride or Walk." Also, it helps if you show respect and act politely toward law enforcement officers. Police officers have discretion and can choose when to arrest for the offense of public intoxication. The more respect and courtesy you show to police, the less likely you are to be arrested for public intoxication. Even though it might be illegal, your best options if you find yourself intoxicated in public are still to get a ride with a sober driver or to walk safely. Don't drive.
Most people who have consumed alcohol have committed the crime of public intoxication. Most don't get arrested and we should feel fortunate if that's the case. If you ever drank too much, you probably committed a crime (or two). Criminal defense attorneys certainly understand just how easy it is for a person to find himself in need of a lawyer. The next time your buddy tells you he can't go out drinking, go easy on him. Maybe he's busy reviewing his case with his attorney.
DRUG DEALER AT THE GAME?
Posted by: Jeff Terrill
December 05, 2011
Several weeks ago I wrote an article explaining just how easy it is for a drinker to commit the crime of public intoxication. Drink too much basically anywhere but inside your home or hotel room and you have broken the law. Easy. Well, you might be surprised to know that it might take even less effort to commit a drug crime.
Have you ever handed a spouse or family member her prescription pain medication? Did you ever pick up and read the label of someone else's pill bottle? Depending on the contents of the bottle, you might have committed a felony drug possession offense. Even worse, you might have actually dealt a narcotic drug. If you give your spouse an old pain killer to help with an injury, you are dealing a narcotic drug or controlled substance. Do so within 1000 feet of a school, park, family housing complex or youth program center and you just committed one of the most serious drug offenses on the books! A Class A felony is punishable up to 50 years in prison.
Try watching a prime time show or sporting event on television without being subjected to one of the pharmaceutical giant's advertisements pushing products to help with disorders ranging from sleep and depression to attention and erectile dysfunction. Want an even stiffer challenge? Try visiting your doctor's office and avoid being offered a drug sample or prescription for that which ails you. Images of white lab coats, physicians with white hair and words difficult to pronounce glide across television screens in an effort to solidify credibility for their drugs. Conversely, names like crank, crack, meth, coke, dope, ecstasy, LSD and heroin don't quite get the same fanfare as do pharmaceutical drugs.
Recently, I looked around on the internet and learned a few things about prescription drugs. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), five of six Americans age 65 or older take at least one prescription medication daily and over half take at least three different medications. Another study found that 20% of all U.S. teenagers have taken prescription medication without a valid prescription. In 2008, Americans spent over $234 billion on prescription medications, doubling the amount spent ten years earlier. Finally, almost one third of people age 12 or older who use drugs recreationally admitted that their drug use started by using someone else's prescription drugs. Kids are growing up with consistent exposure to prescription drugs. They are either prescribed one, have a friend or family member who is on medication or both. Further, kids are inundated with pharmaceutical marketing and propaganda that make some drugs appear more mainstream or acceptable. Within most medicine cabinets exists a plethora of pharmaceutical products.
Now on to my point. A guy in possession of cocaine knows he's breaking the law. But the guy with the aching back who reaches into his wife's purse (with her permission) and borrows one of her prescription pain pills so he can stay and watch the last few minutes of their son's soccer game has no clue he just committed a Class C felony punishable up to eight years in prison. Let's say that same man had his wife hand him her pill bottle (while they sat in the bleachers by the soccer field behind the high school watching their son play), she would meet the legal criteria for "dealing" a narcotic drug within 1000 feet of a school. Our lawmakers intended tough penalties for people who come near a school to solicit youngsters to buy their drugs. Sounds reasonable, right? No one wants bad guys coming near kids. But the problem is that the "bad guys" in the example above are well-intended parents who have no idea that they each committed a felony while watching their son play soccer.
In Indiana, the drug statutes do not require that a "dealer" profit or receive any financial benefits. A person is a "dealer" if that person knowingly or intentionally manufactures, finances the manufacture of, DELIVERS (emphasis added), or finances the delivery of the narcotic or controlled substance. A person with a valid prescription can legally possess the drug. The law, however, is not so forgiving when another person without a prescription comes into possession of that same drug. Let's go back to the same example of the husband and wife sitting in the bleachers behind the school watching their son play soccer. Even if both the husband and the wife each have had prescriptions for the same pain killer, the husband cannot legally take his wife's pain pills. The wife "dealt" a narcotic when she "delivered" the pill bottle to her husband. Doing it on school property would mean that the penalty becomes even more severe. Chances are those parents wouldn't be charged or even investigated in the examples above. It would be interesting to know exactly how those two hypothetical people would feel about the drug laws. Would they support lengthy prison sentences for drug offenses? What about drug crimes that take place near a school?
Posted by: Jeff Terrill
December 05, 2011
PAY OUR JUDGES WELL
I'm an attorney. I deal with judges just about every day. I don't always agree with their rulings and I can assure you they don't always agree with me. Judicial officers work really hard and their county subsidies should not be eliminated. My law partners and I, along with local attorneys and others associated with the courts, agree that judicial officers don't deserve a pay cut. Pay them more, not less. If it were up to me (and it's not), I would recommend a judicial pay increase after each year of service. The more years they put in, the more they make.
In October of this year, the Allen County council members approved pay cuts for 19 Allen County judges and magistrates. The move was intended to save taxpayers approximately $100,000 each year, but would likely end up costing the county substantially more. The judges, magistrates and hearing officers in Allen County are valuable assets, not liabilities. Good judicial officers save taxpayers money. They are highly trained professionals who get more efficient each year at handling escalating caseloads. Judicial officers aren't just required to be quick and responsive, they also need to be precise and accurate with their rulings.
In 2007, a Grant County judge successfully sued the county for a similar pay cut approved by that county's council. The judge was ultimately awarded his back pay, plus costs and interest. The state constitution prohibits reducing circuit court judges' pay midterm. Apparently, Allen County council members voted for the pay cuts without first consulting an attorney. Council members are scheduled to revisit their vote this week and it appears that their vote approving the pay cuts will be rescinded. That's good news for judges and magistrates and also for all of the members of Allen County.
County judges and magistrates receive salaries that are paid by the state. Those same judges and magistrates each receive additional compensation from the county that ranges from $4,000 to $5,000. The current salary for a county judge is in the neighborhood of $126,000. Nationally, Indiana trial court judges rank 34th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia for judicial pay. That lands Indiana in the bottom third. Not horrible, but also not real impressive. Proper incentives and compensation can attract skilled attorneys to leave private practice.Judicial officers don't get into that kind of work for the money. Many judges and magistrates could earn more in the private sector. Cut their pay and we risk losing the services of these well-qualified judicial officers. Some could resign and others might choose not to seek re-election. I don't think a lot of turnover on the bench is healthy for our legal system. Judicial officers should know what to expect as compensation. They shouldn't have to show up for work one day only to learn that they will be paid several thousand dollars less.
Suing or getting sued isn't fun. Getting charged with a crime or receiving an eviction notice is no joy either. Very few litigants find pleasure within the judicial system. Courts can be like emergency rooms or physicians' offices for many. People would rather not be there and are thrilled when they can leave. Cutting your doctor's pay won't improve the overall patient experience, however. The same is true for judges. Would it make sense to cut the compensation of an airline mechanic and pilot all in an effort to save $5 off of the cost of an airline ticket? I think most people would rather pay the full cost of the ticket and have confidence that the pilot and the mechanics were competent (and happy).
Those ever growing caseloads impact all of us, not just attorneys. Many people want their day in court. Judges are the people that allow that to happen. Traffic tickets, criminal charges, labor and land disputes, foreclosures, divorce petitions, custody hearing are just a few examples of they types of cases that require competent judicial officers. Take misdemeanor and traffic court, for example. Two judicial officers will hear well over ten thousand cases each year. Small claims court deals with even more volume. That type of caseload requires competency and proficiency and our judicial officers deliver.
When a person sues someone else there is a really good chance that both sides consider that dispute a very big deal. When two parents are litigating over who will have custody of their children, both parents will typically acknowledge nothing in their lives would take priority over the outcome of that case. A person held in jail or a victim of a crime understandably fixate on how their cases will be resolved by the court. I could go on with these types of examples. The bottom line is that judges and magistrates deal everyday with critically important issues. They must rely on their expertise and acumen in an effort to understand the facts and apply the law. Judges and magistrates aren't just lawyers who decide to do that for a handful or so years. Many judicial officers have years and years of experience on the bench. Many will retire some day after spending the vast majority of their professional life in service on the bench. Like the pilot or the airplane mechanic, they get better at what they do over time. The judges and magistrates weren't asking the county for an increase in their pay this year. They should, however, at the very least get paid what they were told they would be paid.