Monday, February 18, 2013

Some Tips for Complying with Probation

I can't take credit for the below tips but I think they make a lot of sense. These are tips I would generally give but I found them in one place at a courthouse and I think that somebody on probation would do well to follow them. These tips apply if you are on probation for DWI or driving under the influence of alcohol or for criminal offense or what have you....

Read and understand your probation order. Do not lose it.
Keep a notebook.
A.    Keep a record of all phone calls, office visits, and appointments (medical,
drug treatment and counseling).
B.    Keep a record of everyone you speak to when visiting or calling (name,
title, date).
C.    Keep a copy of all documents you qive to agents (doctor slips, work slips.
and money order receipts).
Phone calls do not substitute for scheduled appointments.
Do not wait for you agent to contact you. If a month passes, contact the
Department of Parole and Probation.
If you are unable to fulfill a condition of probation, contact your agent before the
If you are experiencing any problems, contact [1] Agent [2] Agent's Supervisor [3]
Judge or [4] Attorney.
If you believe you have been violated or will be violated, continue to report.
Pay your cost, fines, or restitution on time. If you are unable to make complete
payments, pay as much as you can.
If you change your residence, notify your agent as soon as possible!
If you pick up new charges, notify your agent immediately. Do not discuss the new

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Drug Dealers Can Be Liable for Civil Damages in Maryland

Maryland provides statutory law allowing the families of victims who overdose and die from drugs to bring a civil action against the drug dealer. In Courts and Judicial Proceedings 3-1601 etc. the Gen. assembly provides that "a civil action for damages for the death of an individual caused by the individual's use of a controlled dangerous substance may be brought under this subtitle by a parent, legal guardian, child, spouse or sibling of the individual." The plaintiff must prove that the controlled dangerous substance was manufactured, distributed, dispensed, brought into or transported in the state by the defendant drug dealer and was actually used by and was the proximate cause of the death individual.

The Gen. assembly went further.  Under the common law the drug dealer normally could argue that the victim assumed the risk of their injuries or was contributorily negligent. Section 3-1607 specifically prohibits that.

Reduced Suspension at the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

My client stopped on Interstate 270 because he had a flat tire. The trooper came up from behind and investigated. The trooper testified that my client had an odor of alcohol and could not remember how my client did on the field sobriety tests. My client gave a breath test which indicated .08 blood alcohol content. The trooper confiscated my client's Maryland license but forgot to give him the temporary license (as is required by law).

At the motor vehicle administration hearing in front of the administrative law judge I argued that my client's due process rights to a hearing before the government confiscated his property had been violated. More specifically, the state of Maryland through the trooper took my client's license to drive (even though it was an oversight, he just forgot to give it to him) without a hearing.

I further argued that the trooper did not have reasonable grounds to believe that my client was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol based on merely an odor of alcohol and unknown field sobriety tests.

Unfortunately, the judge did not find that my client had been deprived of his property (interest in keeping his privilege to drive) without due process. The judge argued that my client's license was not suspended even though the officer never returned the license. I argued that his license may not have been suspended but for him to operate a motor vehicle without a license is a crime in Maryland and he therefore suffered prejudice and no action should be taken. The judge rejected that argument claiming that my client was only prejudiced for one day and consequently she would give him credit towards his suspension.

As to the lack of reasonable grounds the judge found that at least a moderate odor of alcohol is sufficient for there to be reasonable grounds for the officer to request that a breath test be taken.

Based on the judge's findings the maximum suspension my client could have would be 45 days. I argued to the judge that if she was willing to let one of the days go let 30 of the days go and only impose a 15 day suspension. Based on my client's excellent driving record, the fact that he had completed an alcohol education course and because the state of Maryland did make a mistake by confiscating his permanent license and not handing him a temporary license the judge reduced the suspension for 30 days to include work purposes, medical purposes, education purposes, and alcohol treatment purposes.

Even something as mundane and everyday as drinking and driving involves principles of constitutional law, statutory law, case law and even regulations. Through hard work and persistence I was able to at least reduce the sting of the suspended license for my client.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ignition Interlock and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

Some months ago my client accepted the ignition interlock alcohol detection device as an alternative to out right suspension of his driving license. He had an old car in not particularly good condition and other problems.

Ignition interlock is a device you put on to your car which requires you to submit a breath sample prior to starting the car and often will ask for a test while the car is running. When you accept ignition interlock you further accept a substantial list of rules which you must follow or you will be found in violation. In the state of Maryland, if you have more than one violation per month over at least four months you will be terminated from the program. My understanding is that if you have several violations in one month that will only count as one violation in that month. The point is, even one violation per month for more than three months will terminate you and your license will be suspended.

In my case my client was alleged to have committed the following violations:

Power disconnect
breath test in excess of .02 blood alcohol content
rolling test refusal

The motor vehicle administration claimed that he had four months where he had violations and they were attempting to suspend his license for six months.

We went to the hearing armed with facts to challenge some of those allegations.

At the motor vehicle administration we were able to refute the rolling test refusal claim. A rolling test refusal is when you are driving along and the ignition interlock alerts you that you need to provide a breath sample. He had three such violations. They give you the date and the time of the violation.

On one of violations we were able to establish that it was a single violation and my client had the radio on so loud he could not hear the ignition interlock requesting that he provide a sample. We argued that there was only one such request and he just could not hear it.

On the second rolling test refusal we were able to establish through auto shop records that the client's car was in the auto shop at the time of the rolling test refusal. We had an invoice from the repair shop stating the date and the time that the car was with them.

On the third rolling test refusal we were able to establish that the client had locked himself out of the car and had summoned AAA. We had a letter from AAA indicating the date and time that they were providing the service.

As to the power disconnect we had evidence from a car mechanic which stated that a low battery and a bad battery connection can interfere with proper functioning of the ignition interlock.

We were not able to refute the breath test findings.

Nonetheless, because the motor vehicle administration was not able to prove more than three allegations the judge found in our favor and declined to suspend my clients license.

If you are having trouble with the ignition interlock and the motor vehicle administration wants to suspend your license, contact me and I'll be happy to help you.

Obtaining an Order of Protection in the District Of Columbia

domestic violence is a serious problem and it crosses all barriers of age and gender and socioeconomic status. Relief is available in Washington DC.

If you are in fear you should obtain an order of protection. A civil protection order is a Court order by a judge which can last up to one year which usually prohibits the abuser from contacting the victim. The civil protection order is delivered by an officer to the abuser. This is a court order. If the abuser violates the court order he can be incarcerated and charged separately with additional crimes. In the District of Columbia you can obtain a civil protection order at the Domestic Violence Intake Center located as follows:

DC Superior Court
Domestic Violence Intake Center
room 4235
500 Indiana Ave. NW.
Washington DC
also normal business hours

Domestic Violence Intake Center
Suite 311
1328 Southern Ave. SE.
Washington DC
hours of operation are 8:30 AM through 3:30 PM

If the situation requires immediate attention you need to contact the police at their emergency number 911

If you need to get out the following provide shelter, outlines and counseling:

House of Ruth 202-347-2777

My Sister's Place 202-529-5991