Lawyer Gal's Blog

A Young Lawyer's Perspective

Touchdown Jesus won’t be making any calls.

Anyone that has driven along interstate 75 between Columbus and Cinci knows about touchdown Jesus.  He is a garish statute that looks like a ref about to call entry into the endzone, surrounded by water and lights.  On Monday, he was struck by lightening and went down in the same fashion as he was up – conspicuously.  You can see a video of him in flames here http://www.ohio.com/news/break_news/96364699.html [The church notes that it will cost $300,000 to replace him.  Imagine what wonderful productive uses upon which this money could be spent.]

According to the church pastor, touchdown Jesus is “to lift Him up and draw people to him.”

I’m not sure about you, but this sort of talk is crazy-speak.  Anyone condoning the use of “whatever it costs” to rebuild the structure at a time when Americans are suffering through, in some cases, extreme hardship, undermines the essence of being a Christian.

However, as a libertarian, I fully support the idea of letting people do whatever they want with their money…even if it’s nonsense.  And as an American, touchdown Jesus is an example of the freedoms embodied in our Constitution.

Indeed, these freedoms can translate into vehicles of extremism (although I don’t think touchdown Jesus is extreme, more like, overdone).  Images of the church that holds up signs saying “God hates fags” comes to mind. 

From a constitutional viewpoint, weird statutues are perfectly acceptable, so I suppose I shouldn’t descry the obsurdity of rebuilding such a profligate structure.

On a side note, one of my favorite touchdown Jesus videos is the one of boys jumping into the surrounding lake on Christmas Eve. [I saw this video before he burned.]

http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=qqni98diqzA&feature=related

June 17, 2010 Posted by | Your legal rights | 1 Comment

Ban on gay & bisexual men giving blood to be reconsidered by FDA

On June 10-11, the Federal Food & Drug Administration will review its 1983 ban on homosexual and bisexual men giving blood.  The ban is a lifetime for any man who has had sex with another man since 1977.

I found the viewpoints on both sides to be very compelling, and have offered tidbits of each.  Comments and feedback would be valuable.

Lifting the Ban Viewpoint

In March, John Kerry and 17 other senators, including Sherrod Brown of Ohio, wrote a letter to the head of the FDA urging reconsideration of the ban.  In 1983, when the ban was implemented, a lot of hemophiliacs were becoming HIV positive through blood transfusions.  The science was not in place to accurately screen HIV blood from entering the donation banks. Since then, science has advanced quite a bit.  All blood goes through 2 rigorous tests.

Other developed states, such as Japan, Australia, Argentina and Sweden permit donations from homosexual and bisexual men after a 1 year deferral period.  The deferral [waiting] period lets gay men in monogamous relationships for a year or more give blood.  There is a risk of 1 HIV positive blood unit for every 11 million units of blood with the 1 year ban.

The Canadian Medical Association Journal advocates the abrogation of the policy, which also exists in Canada.  Deferral policies of a year already exist for people who have had sex with a prostitute, gotten a tattoo, or been in a malarial zone.

The Journal article parallels the growing trend towards abrogation.  The American Red Cross and the American Association of Blood Banks support a change in the FDA rules after a deferral period.

Keeping the Ban Viewpoint

According the the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50% of new HIV cases in 2009 were among homosexual men, especially in the age bracket of 19-25.  The Center notes that of the 1.1 million people living in the US with HIV/AIDS, 1/5 are unaware of infection.

The FDA notes that gay men have a HIV prevalence 60 times higher than the general population; 800 times higher than first-time blood donors; and 8,000 times higher than repeat donors.  Additionally, homosexuals have an increased risk of other infections that can occur through blood transfusions.  Among the gay population, Hep B is 5-6 times more common; Hep C is 2 times more common.

Although blood is tested twice, screening tests can be falsely negative during a “window period” of up to 11 days.  The window period is the interval between the time an infected individual may transmit the disease and the time when screening becomes positive.

Thoughts

This issue, obviously, is highly sensitive.  The policy is clearly discriminatory, which the FDA admits.  But the discrimination is not invidious and is based upon health concerns.

Certainly, the pool of blood donors would be significantly widened if gay and bisexual men were permitted to donate.  With the constant shortage of blood, the increase in supply could potentially assist very ill people.  Yet, there is still a chance that someone fighting one disease or illness, albeit remote, could be infected with a deadly disease.

The June 10-11 meeting is open to the public.  Expect groups from both sides to vehemently debate.

June 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You are cited for a traffic violation, but have doubts. What to do?

Here is a familiar situation that many motorists find themselves in at one point or another:

-A police officer stops you and cites you for a violation, such as failure to stop, no turn signal, lack of assured clear distance, etc. 

-You firmly believe that you in fact were following all traffic laws and the cop erred.

The threshold question should be: am I merely angry and defensive, or did I legitimately follow the law?  The reality is, any ticket strikes a chord of annoyance.  In most counties, a ticket costs at least $100 – money which feels completely unjustified and wasted.  The majority of us admit the sour a ticket can put on any person’s day.

It is important to remember, however, that traffic violations are strict liability offenses.  This means that even if your citation for failure to stop at a stop sign took place at 9 a.m on a Sunday, with not a soul in sight but the officer, you will still be liable.  No matter your mind set [“I never intended to break the law”] or the seeming unreasonableness  of the citation, if you break a traffic offense, you are most likely guilty.  The goal of traffic laws is to deter unsafe driving, and strict liability ordinances are an avenue by which legislatures try to acheive this objective.  Moreover, courts would expend vast resources if proving a traffic violation required specific intent. 

With this background in mind, to be properly liable for a traffic offense, it must be proven according to the standard of proof that you committed the act.  So if you are confident [as opposed to obfuscatory from resentment] that you did not commit the violation, a few pointers can go a long way.

Images will always speak louder than words. Fortunately, most police departments equip cruisers with dash cameras that typically capture helpful footage.  Depending on the positioning of the cruiser, your assertion could be proven.  If you stopped at that stop sign, then nothing will show it better than a video!

A video is also really helpful in doubtful situations because it might show that you didn’t comply with the law.  This will save you the effort of trying to fruitlessly prove your case.  Performing a pro se [represent yourself] traffic trial only to have the prosecution show the magistrate the dash cam video of you blowing the stop sign would make you feel pretty sheepish!  [Especially since the court will be irked for wasting its time, and will make this annoyance evident through highly unpleasant court costs.]

Sunshine laws make dash camera footage available to the public.  In order to obtain a copy of a dash cam recording, look at your ticket. It will state the time and date of the stop, as well as the officer’s name.  Call the police department of this jurisdiction, and request a copy of the stop.  Some departments will require you to provide a dvd and a self-addressed/stamped envelope.  Others won’t – it just depends on the jurisdiction.

Once you get the copy, pop it in your computer or dvd player and watch it a few times.  If you broke the law, then pay the ticket. If you are not sure, then you may want to take the footage to an attorney.  Or, for the brave, you can try representing yourself [although honestly, it doesn’t usually turn out too well.]  

This is an efficient and cost-effective way for shaping your ultimate decision.

June 7, 2010 Posted by | Your legal rights | , | Leave a comment

Police can now give you a ticket based on visual judgment!

Wanna be Kyle Pettys (or as he pronounces it, “Cow Patty”), beware.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 5-1 decision that law enforcement can give you a ticket even without a radar or laser.  The Court based its decision on the training of the officer.  In their training, officers usually get background about visual speed estimation.  An examination of the Ohio Peace Officer’s class catalog reveals that trainees spend 2 days doing field exercises with radars and speed estimation.  If broken down equally, that means all of 1 day is spent on speed estimation.  Is there ANY field, besides law enforcement, where someone can be deemed an expert based on a day of training?

The Highway Patrol did provide some relief by stating officers don’t give tickets based on speed estimation.  Yet a person has to ask themself, over the course of your driving records – tickets included- how many times have you gotten a ticket from HWP versus a municipality?  I’ve been pulled over 5 times for speeding [I have a truck these days, so never speed anymore. She just refuses!], been given a ticket 2 times, one of which was HWP.  But 4 of the stops were city police.

In 2009, according to OSHWP stats, officers made 230,905 enforcement stops.  Interestingly, year to date, [January 1, 2010-today], they’ve made 205, 598.  Maybe revenue is down!

I couldn’t find statistics on the gross amount of people pulled over in Ohio on a yearly basis. 

While this ruling will make it pretty tough to fight a speeding ticket, I think it unlikely that many officers give tickets based on visuals alone.  Whether the ruling will create more cases based on visual estimations will have to be determined.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

How does filing bankruptcy IMPROVE credit?

A lot of time, people’s credit improves after bankruptcy.  Most people who file are already behind on payments, have high balances and face collection accounts – so there credit score isn’t usually very good.

Although bankruptcy usually stays on credit reports for 7-10 years, people often find it easier to obtain credit after a discharge.

  • A debtor’s credit report is essentially wiped clean after bankruptcy: all the late payments and records on unpaid debts are marked as “included in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.”
  • Creditors know that the Bankruptcy Code permits filing once every 8 years, so someone fresh out of bankruptcy cannot turn around and refile.
  • Income that otherwise would be spent on debts “frees up,” allowing people to build credit with timely payments.
  • Bankruptcy shows that you are dealing with your debt, as opposed to letting it compile.  Some banks would rather see this.
  • Developing new lines of credit can improve your score rapidly.

May 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized, Your legal rights | , | 1 Comment

Want a job where you can lie but be lauded a hero? Become a police detective.

You wouldn’t think “liar” and “hero” go together…unless it involves police work. Then society loves you, even though any successful detective will tell you that arrests come about from trickery and the Game Theory.

Ok, I’ll admit, I have a few Facebook friends who are cops and are probably irked with my writing. Sorry about that, boys.  Then again, if you are reading this, you’ve knowingly entered into the Sarah Hulburt realm of incredible disgust towards many police practices. And lying to some poor sap just to get an arrest tops that list.

Here’s a little example [facts/scenario changed, but same idea].

 I got a call from a  dude – of course in trouble.  He is a really cool, chill hispanic dude. He’s not the sort of guy that has done anything really bad, but he has a bit of a record. (It happens. I know you all have a friend who is a chill dude with a record.)

Anyway, the source of his problems are a vengeful ex-gf.  If I’ve learned one kernel of advice to give to dudes, it’d be: don’t date someone tempermental or territorial.  While it may seem fun at the time, I doubt an indictment will provide the same satisfaction.

So his ex-gf calls the cops on him and basically says she is the straw purchaser of the gun.  In gun lingo, a straw purchaser is someone that can legally buy a gun.  You can’t buy a gun if you have a felony conviction, but a straw purchaser is a way to sort of…circumvent it.  It’s a big risk, because it is potentially a federal charge.  Anyway, this guy has a felony failure to pay child support.  Hardly seems like a felony to me, but hey, I’m not a law maker.

I don’t think he ever bought a gun for her…I think she’s just pyscho.  But my blog on nut case women who get their men arrested will have to wait another day.  Nonetheless, the detectives began investigating.  Investigation in their terms is: call the poor guy, threaten to issue a felony warrant for weapons under disability unless he hands over the gun. [On a legal note, WUD charge means you are either a mental person or a felon who has a weapon.  Those people aren’t supposed to, and it’s a very serious felony charge.]  Then, allegedly, they won’t go after him.

Yah fricking right.  A cop who won’t go after someone..good one.  All they have is a case [lack thereof]

          1. completely lacking in evidence except a crazy ex’s statement;

           2. that would be extremely difficult for the state to prove BRD.

Which, in lay terms, means: the cops want to arrest this dude, but knowing they have a extremely poor case evidentially, they decide to lie and threaten in hopes he will confess.

And with the elusive promise of leniency, the gentle persuasion that “if you aren’t guilty, then why can’t you talk to us?” and the feigned “I understand your situation and want to help you,” cops earn their living.

Yet as my former boss and top defense attorney always said, there is never anything good that can come from talking to police.  And as far as people’s desire to talk so as to “clear my name,” do you think that pretty little felony indictment that comes as a result will earn you a People’s Choice Award?

No, you see, that award is reserved for lying heros.

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Update: I am no different than a murder

A week ago, I posted the following blog: https://lawyergal.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/i-am-no-different-than-an-alleged-murder-either-are-you/

He was found guilty, even though no DNA from the victim was found on his feet. [Yet the prosecution claims he stomped the decedent. Odd].

http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/local_news/akron_canton_news/ksu-fatal-beating-trial-wrapping-up

That is Ron.

I feel for all families involved, because 3 sons have been taken basically.

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

I am no different than an alleged murder. Either are you.

We, as people, are inherently fallible.  Mistakes, embarrassment and hurtful actions abound in our lives, often translating into intimacy with the criminal justice system.

Indeed, the criminal justice system connotes failure, poverty, alcoholism, dysfunction and any other negative sentiment associated with crime.  I firmly opine that many of these notions stem from popular rhetoric espousing the compartmentalization of offenders.  A criminal conviction, in society’s mind, equates to a lower status.  Felons are often deprived of many rights, including the right to a concealed carry, the right to vote, and the right to participate in many jobs.

Yet in my experience, most “crimes” lack violence.  Very rarely are they committed against a complete stranger.  I find that as a criminal defense attorney, I can feel sympathetic because I know the facts, and oddly, most situations precipitating crimes are exactly that – situational.  I could rattle off countless cases that would make you seriously second-guess your perceptions of offenders, as the circumstances surrounding those acts are ones that you and I face.  Love, fear, rejection, greed, recklessness, passion, carelessness – the very same characteristics that induce crime permeate our lives.

This theme of this blog comes at an eve when I could not feel stronger about the wrongness of society’s blanket ignorance to its own fallibility.  Tomorrow, a case I worked on closely will come to a close, as the jury deliberates and seals the fate of a 20-year-old boy.  His earnestness and good-nature is almost palpable.  He speaks with the grace and respect that comes from being raised by conservative, church-going grandparents.  A multi-sport letterman, he exemplifies many of the talents gifted to an elite athlete, as well as the virtues imbued by strict coaches.  As a student at Akron U, he celebrated his youth as only a college kid can: alcohol, parties, class, girls and crappy cars.  A brief jaunt around a college campus on a Friday night will show the pervasiveness of these activities.

This young man is indicted for murder, felonious assault and tampering with evidence in connection with the death of a Kent State student in November.  From the onset, the news media jumped on the story: 2 black thugs killed a beautiful, former all-american white athlete by stomping him!  Completely unprovoked, like savages, they beat him until he was lifeless.  The first time I heard the news, I was enraged that this would happen at my alma mater.  How could two boys be so heartless, I asked? My feelings were strong: these kids were demons.

Then, the attorney for whom I worked was retained by one of the boy’s family, and I was thrust into a case that I never wanted to be a part of.

You see, my job at the firm was quite unique.  I interviewed people, mostly witnesses and complainants [often termed “victim”].  In this capacity, I found a niche and a knack to decipher lies from truth.  It is a fairly simple skill: one need only ask collateral details about a story.  Unless a person is extremely clever, it is unlikely he thought of every possible angle from which I will question.  But the truest indicator has always been my instinct and “read” on people.   Meeting many people from all sectors of society, with an open mind and sensitivity, has offered me a lot of practice in determining the truly nasty from the merely fallible.

And I unequivocally state that Ron was truthful in his testimony.  Yes, he was drunk. Yes, he let his emotions, hormones and inebriation take over when  he got in a late night brawl with other drunk students.  But I don’t think he killed someone or did anything that you or me have ever done or contemplated.  Fierce questioning by us always led to the same story – that his friend Adrian inflicted the blow that killed Chris; that he never stomped Chris. [DNA evidence was no where on his shoes.]  I just don’t believe the 20-year-old, sheltered, soft-spoken rube that Ron is could exhibit the sophistication necessary to tell such an elaborate, flawless lie. But more than that, I just don’t feel like Ron is different from me and you, despite the outcry from the general public that he is.  No, Ron is nothing more than an fallible college kid, judged by a public blind to its own flaws.

I hope tomorrow will prove that last part wrong.

May 21, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Security Deposit: Can your Landlord keep it? College student 101.

I’ve had a few colleges students ask me about security deposits, especially since graduation often signals the end of a lease.   Slum-landlords prey on students because frankly, they can. [location location location!]

But the security deposit question isn’t limited to students, and is worth knowing.  The neat part: you really don’t need an attorney for security deposit disputes so long as you know these little tips.   So here they are:

-Fortunately, the legal nuances of security deposits are set forth in clear, concise statutory language.  This is why you don’t need an attorney – there is no reason for case-law research to “interpret” your situation, which often arises for vague statutes [and of course, criminal cases].  Rather, the statute, broken down, says:

1. Landlord must return to you the s.d within 30 days of the lease ending.  There is this silly little thing called the “mailbox rule,” which basically means in this context that so long as the landlord sends the deposit in 30 days, he is in compliance even if it arrives in 50 days [say, lost in mail].

2. If the landlord finds the rental in dirty condition or damaged, he may subtract damages from the s.d.  However, each subtraction must be clearly described and itemized, in writing.  He can’t just say “damage: $400.”  He must account for that money!  For example:

  1. carpet cleaning – $75 [this is very cheap!]
  2. wall repair in bedroom on bottom floor $55
  3. broken window in living room $150

etc.

3.  What happens if one of your drunk friends broke the door window.  Does that mean the landlord can charge you for a new door? Nope! Not if repair can sufficiently remedy the problem.  Watch out for this with appliances, like dryers, where a shady landlord might be tempted to replace the item.

4.  If landlord fails to comply with the aforementioned requirements, then you can recover the amount of money wrongfully withheld, plus attorney’s fees.  Again, I’m going to be honest and tell you: you don’t really need an attorney for this one, folks.  All you have to do is go to small claims court, which is fairly self-explanatory.  Just call the clerk or look on the municipal court website.

5. You must provide your forwarding address, in writing, to the landlord within 30 days of termination of lease/moving out.

6.  What about wear and tear?  This is okay, especially if you’ve lived there a while.  The landlord cannot use the s.d to fix ordinary wear and tear, such as worn carpets, faded paint, minor nicks in wall, etc.

What if your landlord just subtracts money without an explanation?  Send him a letter!  Threaten small claims…let him know you are serious.  Or, if you really want to game, call your cool attorney friend and maybe she’ll give you some pro bono work to send a letter. 🙂

May 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How knowing a little law got me a free case of Sam Adams

I have a remarkable, if not innate, ability to find bargains and get stuff for free. If I were to write a self-help booklet [ask yourself, if you could write a self-help book on something you are really adept at, what would it be?  It tells you a lot about yourself], it’d be something along the lines of “Money: I’d rather spend it on beer than bills.”   Beer can be replaced with whatever hedonistic activity in which you partake, obviously assuming it costs money on a legal free market. 

So my dearest readers, I shall impart upon you one of the tips in my future self-“improvement” [indeed, readily available beer often enhances oneself in the eyes of others] guide: How I snatched a free case of Sam Adams.

Along with my mad skills for frugality, I am also rather audacious [whether this is a virtue or a fault will be determined by my eulogy].  My theory has always been that it isn’t the “good” guys and gals who finish last, but the timid ones.  So, in order to get free beer, you need to engage a certain level of boldness/and or take a shot. 

*It should be noted that this ploy only worked for me because I was of age to actually buy beer. 

*I was dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and had my hair in a pony tail.  I’m quite confident the results would have come out differently had I been age-appropriate accoutrement.

*The set-up of the super market made the result feasible.  A costumer service desk sat directly next to the entrance and a few yards from the check out lines.

*I bought a pack of Sam Adams at the customer service desk, off-handedly threw the receipt away, and merrily strolled past the check out lines towards the exit.  After all, it was going to be a GOOD night.

*An overly vigilant store employee stopped me, accused me of stealing, and requested my receipt.  I, of course, did not have one.  So in her wisdom, she took me to a back room, sat me down, and brought in store security.  [Apparently, a 5’3, 125 lb gal in flip-flops poses a great risk that could lead to an imminent breach of security.]

*As I sat listening to these workers, I greatly wondered whether the store’s motto for customer service included locking young people – the very future of the beer industry- in small rooms.  I also wondered if the tort case I had read where an old guy was held in a room for allegedly stealing a scarf at a department store applied to my situation.  The old guy ended up suing the store because he had in fact worn the scarf into the store. So I, in my audacity, decided to sit around and let them figure out that I had bought the beer.

*I didn’t tell them where I had bought the beer [at customer service], as they never asked.  I just stared at them vapidly when they accused me of stealing.  Ladies, never be hesitant to employ the vapid look, if you can pull it off in the requisite situation.

*Somehow, they realized that the security tape might shed light on the underlying facts.  Upon review of the tape, they sheepishly admitted their foul, and Audacious Sarah came out.

*-Always ask for the manager.  Managers get flustered and are the last modicum of customer service.  And plus, it shows you are ready to game.

* “Mr. I-feel-bad-that-you-are-a-manager-and-have-to-deal-with-this-crap-but-I-want-free-beer, I am a student and I understand the meaning of false-imprisonment.  You arguably have done just that, and I am inclined to make a call to headquarters to put in a formal complaint.  Also, your employees actions have completely removed all of my loyalty to your store, as well as my family’s.  Until you can give me a token to restore this faith, I will never shop here again, and I will eventually blog about this incident when I am a lawyer [j/k].  What can you do to remedy this?”

*Well, the manager was a bit taken off guard.  Little girl apparently wasn’t so vapid after-all, and she had a big mouth to wit.  So he said “what do you think I should do?”

*”Give me a gift certificate for the value of the product I bought today.”

For about 20 minutes of my time, I ensured my night would not only be fun, but free. 

So I suppose in summary, I can say: be bold, be assertive, and drink good beer.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment