Caffeine defense in a murder case


Americans love their caffeine.  With Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks scattered all across the US, people can get their fill of caffeine at anytime.  Additionally, products such as energy drinks and 5 hour energy are flying off the shelves. 

Recently, lawyers have begun to use the caffeine as a legal defense in criminal cases.  Lawyers have begun to argue that caffeine has affected the intent of the criminal, their knowledge and their confessions.  It is a novel defense and young defense and it will be interesting to see how the situation works out. 

 The most recent use of this defense is by Woody Sill Smith who is accused of killing his wife by strangulation.  The defense plans to argue that the large amount of caffeine ingested by the defendant resulted in an altered state of mind.  As a result of this temporary altered state of mind, the defendant should be found not guilty of the crime.

 The strategy of this case will be closely examined by both prosecutors and defense attorneys.  Seeing that the defense is so new, it will be interesting to see its development over time.  In the mean time, it may look as though a person should limit their caffeine consumption.   

 For more information

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100920/ap_on_re_us/us_caffeine_defense

http://www.semissourian.com/story/1666443.html

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/man-caffeinated-psychosis-defense-hit-run/story?id=9306666

http://news.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978533466

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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Jurors please wait to tweet or be prepared to pay


Jury duty is something that most people don’t look forward to attending.  However, there are certain cases that may receive a lot of press and jurors actually are interested to be apart of the process.  If you are ever chosen to be on a jury, make sure that you follow the rules of the court. 

One of the most important rules the judge will require is for jurors to not talk about the case until it is over.  If a case takes more than one day, most juries are allowed to go home for the night.  In limited situations, juries are kept away from the public and housed in a hotel until the case is over.  Regardless of where the jurors stay, the rule remains the same.  Don’t talk about the case until the case is over.  This includes not talking to fellow members of the jury until it is time for deliberations. 

With technology, it is much easier to make contact with others than ever before. Most people own cell phones, and smart phones allow people to post messages on the web through Facebook and Twitter to thousands of people at a time.  With these conveniences, it takes more of an effort on a juror’s part to not be tempted to talk about the case he or she is currently apart. 

In Detroit, a juror posted a Facebook message talking about the trial.  When the court discovered this, the juror was fined $250 and was required to write an essay on the constitutional rights to a fair trial.  A fair trial, this is what the rule is trying to protect.  If the fine is not enough to deter you from talking to about the case, then imagine it was you on trial and how it would feel to not receive a fair trial.  It is okay to talk to others while the case is pending, just make sure the trial doesn’t enter the conversation.    

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For more information:

http://wwj.cbslocal.com/2010/09/02/juror-who-made-facebook-post-due-in-court/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/24/jurors-using-twitter-jeop_n_332648.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/4998004/Juror-tweeted-on-Twitter-during-trial.html

The Very Serious Crime of Mayhem


Mayhem isn’t a charge that you hear about a lot, but it could be considered one of the most serious charges. Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 265, section 14 defines mayhem as:

Whoever, with malicious intent to maim or disfigure, cuts out or maims the tongue, puts out or destroys an eye, cuts or tears off an ear, cuts, slits or mutilates the nose or lip, or cuts off or disables a limb or member, of another person, [and whoever is privy to such intent, or is present and aids in the commission of such crime,] . . . shall be punished . . . .

The key to the charge is the intentional maiming of the human body. The punishment can be severe. If a person is found guilty of mayhem the person could serve up to twenty years in state prison. The incidents in which people are charged with mayhem usually have victims that have serious bodily injuries. People who are victims of real mayhems often have a body part severed from their body or really bad scars from purposeful disfigurement.

Sometimes, this charge is incorrectly placed on defendants. You will often see a person charged with this crime when a defendant bites another during a fight. Police often charge a person with mayhem if the bite leads to some type of disfigurement of the victim, i.e. scarring. However, for the most part it is difficult to prove that a defendant had the intention of maiming a person with his teeth during a fight. The prosecution can usually prove that the defendant meant to hurt the victim, but usually has a difficult to prove the defendant had to intent to permanently disfigure the victim in the heat of battle. Perhaps one of the most famous incidents to highlight was when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear during a fight.

Mayhem is crime not commonly heard, but has serious consequences for all of those involved. A defendant can face up to 20 years in prison, while the victim can spend the rest of their life disfigured.

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For more information: Massachusetts General Laws: http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/265-14.htm

Teen charged with mayhem: http://www.wickedlocal.com/stoneham/news/x1291578314/Police-arrest-18-year-old-in-Montvale-Ave-stabbing-incident

DSS head: Agency failed abused Middleboro boy: http://www.enterprisenews.com/news/cops_and_courts/x961922702

Video of Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4636589883868559869&ei=kbGNS8G7HJKClgfy8oTFBg&q=mike+tyson+bites+evander+holyfield&hl=en#

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What can happen if I skip jury duty?


There are very few things that this great country requires a citizen to do. All males must sign up for the draft at the age of 18, people must pay taxes if they are working and everyone is required to serve on a jury. There are very few exceptions to the rule. People who are above a certain age are able to stop going to jury duty, but for the most part you are required to go. It doesn’t matter what you do for work because even judges are required to go to jury duty. As most of people already know, jurors are selected randomly through a computer system. Selected jurors get notified by mail and can be sent to any court that is within the county of the person’s residence.

If for some reason you can’t serve on the day that is given, you usually defer to another date. If you don’t attend jury duty, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. A person who doesn’t attend jury duty can be fined up to $2,000. When a person is charged the court will usually send a summons to the person’s last known address. If the person doesn’t show up on the date that they were summoned, then the judge could put a warrant for the person’s arrest. Through this process, a person that has never been in trouble with the law before, can be arrested and brought to court.

What usually happens with these types of cases is that the court will have the person sign up for jury duty and hold over the criminal case. After the person performs jury duty, the charges are usually dismissed. However, the best thing to do is to make sure that you go to jury duty or get the court to allow you move the date. The last thing you want to happen is to be arrested for not going to jury duty.

Interes9ted twitter followers please visit- twitter: http://twitter.com/AttorneyChan

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Attorney-Jason-Chan/101494423854?ref=sgm Massachusetts General Laws regarding jury duty http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/gl-234-toc.htm

Mass Juror Service Website https://juryduty.majury.gov/ojcweb/public/start.aspx

Boston Globe Article about courts cracking down on people who skipped jury duty http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/10/05/massachusetts_cracks_down_on_jury_duty_shirkers/?page=1

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Self Defense, in a bar fight or fighting for your life in a dark alley, when can you claim self defense.


When can you claim self defense? The answer is it depends.  There is no real answer to the question because there are many factors that go into the determination of self defense.  If you believe you may have a self defense claim, you should talk to your lawyer about your case.  Self defense is an affirmative defense and could have negative impact on your case.  So that being said let’s look at two hypothetical scenarios.  Please don’t rely on this as advice, it is merely two scenarios to highlight some aspects of self defense. 

 Under Massachusetts law, one can defend him or herself with no more force than necessary and has a duty to retreat if it is safe to do so.  Scenario number one, you are in a bar and someone is talking to your girlfriend, you get pushed, and you punch them in the face.  Scenario two, you are in a dark alley, someone pulls out a knife and you punch them in the face. 

 First, in the two scenarios let’s consider if the amount of force is reasonable.  In the bar scenario a push doesn’t seem like a lot of force at all and a punch may be considered unreasonable.  In the second scenario, a punch in response to a knife seems much more reasonable.  Also, one must keep in mind that it is much more difficult if not impossible to claim self defense if you are the first aggressor.   The first aggressor usually means the person who started the physical contact.  In short, if you hit the other person first, it makes it very hard to claim self defense. 

Second, let’s look at duty to retreat.  Under Massachusetts law, a person has the duty to retreat if it is safe to do so prior to using physical force.  In the bar scenario it seems more likely that the person failed to satisfy his duty to retreat from the fight.  It seems like the bar fight could have been avoided if the person walked away.  In the dark alley scenario it seems like the person fulfilled his duty to retreat because it is much more difficult to run away from a person with a knife.  Also, seeing that you are in a dark alley where are you going to run to?  Besides, running may not be safe because it may end up with a knife in your back. 

Some other things to consider are that a person has no duty to retreat if they are in their own home.   That makes sense because the court believes that you should feel safe in your own home and shouldn’t be required to retreat from an intruder.  Deadly force can only be used when faced with the deadly force.  Meaning you can’t shoot and kill someone, even in your own house if that person isn’t using deadly force against you.  Deadly force can also be used to defend oneself against being raped. 

Finally, the thing to remember is that if you are charged with a crime, it is up to the jury to find self defense.  If you raise self defense as an issue, the burden is on the prosecution to prove that it wasn’t self defense.  However, self defense has its drawbacks and could hurt your chances in winning a case if used incorrectly.  In the end, this post is not a license to get into fights and then claim self defense.  Instead, this post is a warning to those who get into fights because claiming self defense may not help your case. 

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For more information:

MA Laws about self defense: http://www.lawlib.state.ma.us/subject/about/criminal.html

Pepper Spray for self defense: http://www.pepper-spray-store.com/relatedinfo/massachusetts-laws.shtml

http://www.massachusettscriminaldefenseattorneyblog.com/self-defense/

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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Could dogs be used in a MA court room soon?


Dogs make great pets and there are many Americans that have these great companions at home. For many years now, dogs have also been used for helping the visually impaired to get around to helping police officers solve crime.

There has been a movement across the country to use dogs in the courtroom. The belief is that a dog can ease the tension there is in a trial or even in a plea setting. Some believe that it can ease the tensions of the adversarial process for everyone. Perhaps  a dog can ease the stress for judges, lawyers, witnesses and jurors.

 There are some aspects that the MA courts will need to deal with prior to adopting the system. One possible issues dealing with allergies. We know that certain people are allergic to dogs and the court would need to ask anyone that would be in the court room if they are allergic to dogs. Another potential hold up is the funding. Someone would need to take care of the dogs and the funding would need to come from somewhere. As we already know, the current fiscal has deeply affected the judicial budget.

Finally, dogs are wonderful and having them in the court room is a wonderful idea. People are uneasy about the court process and tend to be very stressed out during trials. What would be better than to have a friendly pooch to pet and look at? Having dogs in the court room is a great idea, but I wouldn’t count on petting one in a Massachusetts court room any time soon.

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For More information:

Promoting justice through the use of well-trained dogs to provide emotional support for everyone in our criminal justice system http://www.courthousedogs.com/courtroom.html

A comforting canine presence provides victims with a safe harbor By Rebecca Wallick http://www.thebark.com/content/dogscourtroom

Assistance dogs’ use for kids in courtrooms urged http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S1250476.shtml Judge’s dog is friend of the court http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/110756

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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License effects for breathalyzer refusal


 In a previous post I talked about the breathalyzer process, but how does your license actually get suspended. Remember the more you understand the process, the better you will be able to protect yourself.

During the DUI booking process the police will ask if you want to take a breathalyzer. Then the police will show you a form. On the form you can sign that you want to accept the breathalyzer or you choose to refuse the breathalyzer. Not signing the breathalyzer form is considered a refusal. Asking for a lawyer prior to signing the breathalyzer form is considered a refusal. Failing to properly administering breath samples during a breathalyzer test could be considered a refusal. Agreeing to give breathalyzer samples and later refusing  to give breathalyzer samples is also considered a refusal.

First DUI offense. Okay, so say if this is the first time you were ever arrested for suspicion of DUI. You decide not to the breathalyzer, what happens to your license? Well if you decide to refuse the breathalyzer and this if your first DUI, your license will be suspended for 180 days. If you are under the age of 21 and you refuse a breathalyzer, your license will be suspended for 3 years.

Second offense DUI. The analysis for a second offense DUI gets trickier for the purpose of license suspension for breathalyzer refusal. If it is your second DUI offense and you refuse the breathalyzer, your license will be suspended for 3 years for the most part. However, there are different situations that can change the amount of time your license is suspended. If a person was charged with DUI with serious bodily injury for their first DUI offense and then charged with an DUI second offense, then their license will be suspended for 10 years. If a person was charged with DUI manslaughter by motor vehicle, or vehicle homicide, then their license will be suspended for life.

Third DUI offense. If you have two DUIs on your record already and refuse a breathalyzer then your license will be suspended for five years.

Fourth DUI offense. If you have three prior DUIs on your record and refuse a breathalyzer, then your license will suspended for life.

That is a basic summary of license suspension, but the actual analysis is more complicated. It is not uncommon that the DMV or the police incorrectly categorize the refusal. There may also be different ways for you to get license relief. DUIs are serious and you should talk to an attorney right away if you have refused a breathalyzer.

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Interested in becoming a Facebook fan please visit http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Boston-MA/Law-offices-of-Attorney-Jason-Chan/101494423854?ref=sgm

Check out the following sites for more information: Registry of Motor Vehicles http://www.mass.gov/rmv/suspend/index.htm http://www.madrunkdrivingdefense.com/drunk-driving.htm

http://www.delsignoredefense.com/lawyer-attorney-1394684.html

http://www.massdui.com/breathtestmachine.htm

http://www.dwilawoffice.com/massachusettsbreathtestrefusal.html

http://www.lawworcester.com/PracticeAreas/OUI-Statutes.asp http://www.dui.com/massachusetts

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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Do you really know what a jury trial is about?


Unless you were chosen to serve as a juror, most people don’t know what jury trials are really about.  Sure, court room dramas are nice, but movies seldom explain the process.  Here are a few points about one of your most important consitutional rights. 

 The number of jurors: Depending on what court you are being tried, the number of jurors will vary.  The district court requires a unanimous decision by 6 jurors.  The superior court requires a unanimous decision by 12 jurors.  In short, the superior court requires twice as many jurors to return a verdict.  One reason for this difference is that the penalties are much more severe in superior court.  The stakes being higher, the amount of jurors are also higher. 

 Alternates: Most judges will sit more jurors than is required.  In both the district court and the superior court it is very common for the judge to impanel more jurors than required.  Judges will sit alternate jurors in case people have emergencies that arise.  If a judge empanels the minimum amount of jurors and a juror is unable to perform his or her duties, then the judge will most likley have to declare a mistrial.  To avoid this problem, judges will sit additional jurors. 

 Impaneling a jury:  The amount of time it takes to impanel a jury can very significantly.  Essentially, the court wants to impanel an impartial jury and for certain cases this can be difficult.  If you have jury duty, I am sure this isn’t something that you want to hear.  Cases that particularly take a long time to impanel a jury are cases involving sex offenses.  It can take days if not weeks to impanel a jury for a child molestation or rape case.  So if you are serving jury duty and find yourself as a potential jury in a sex offense case prepare for a long process. 

 Decision: As I have mentioned before, a jury decision in Massachusetts needs to be unanimous.  This means that the entire jury needs to agree with the decision of guilty or not guilty.  As you can imagine, this can make for long jury deliberations. 

 This post gives you a little background on jury trials.  Jury trials are complicated and it is never a good idea to represent yourself in a trial.  In the end, it is important to remember that it is not a perfect system.  However, it is bar far the best one ever created.

 Interested twitter followers please visit- twitter: http://twitter.com/AttorneyChan

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 For more information:

 About the Massachusetts Jury System

http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury/introduc.htm

 Preparing for a jury trial

http://articles.directorym.com/Preparing_for_a_Jury_Trial_Agawam_MA-r935226-Agawam_MA.html

Glossary of trial terms

http://guides.gottrouble.com/Glossary_of_Jury_Trial_Terms_Massachusetts-r1204930-Massachusetts.html

Defense of Massachusetts Jury Service System

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1289579/defense_of_massachusetts_jury_service.html?cat=17

Anatomy of a jury trial

http://www.america.gov/media/pdf/ejs/0709.pdf#popup

Vanishing Civil Jury Trials

http://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/boston-bar/2009/04/the-vanishing-civil-jury-trial/

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