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

Like This!

Advertisements

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.    

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

Like This!

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

Lessen your chances of getting pulled over for DUI


It is Labor Day weekend and it is the last opportunity for most people to enjoy a long weekend before the winter.  People are going to pack the highways and the police are going to be out in full force and arresting people for DUI.  The last thing that you want is to be pulled over for DUI.  The best way to avoid a DUI is to not drink and drive.  However, there are other things that you can do to lessen your chances of being pulled over for a DUI. 

 There are obvious DUI signs that a police officer looks for in DUI situations.  Some DUI signs that may lead an officer to suspect a person of a DUI are: the car is weaving, inability to stay within lanes, car accident, failing to obey traffic lights and just driving poorly. 

 However, even if the DUI suspect is driving properly, the DUI suspect may still be pulled over for civil violations.  When the officer approaches the DUI suspect and smells alcohol, the officer may start their DUI investigation.  A person can be pulled over for many civil violations that may lead to a DUI investigation.  Some common violations are rejected inspection stickers, improper window tint and excessive sounds from the car or mufflers. 

In short, it is important not to draw any attention to yourself because your car is not in good working order.  Before you go out make sure that your car is not going to draw unwanted attention from the police.  If you have an expired inspection sticker then don’t drive the car.  Because if you been drinking and get pulled over for a civil violation, it could end up with you being charged with a DUI. 

 To find out more information regarding the different DUI offenses, you can visit the DUI index.  http://www.attorneychan.com/dui/index.html

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

Like This!

To plead or not to plead?


This is perhaps one of the most critical decisions on any criminal case. Last week, we talked about why a person would take a plea bargain. This week we aer going to talk about some factors one should consider in making the decision on whether to take a plea bargain.

First of all, a person should never agree to a plea bargain without the help of a defense attorney. This decision will remain with you for the rest of your life and it makes no sense to try to make it without a trained professional. It is fine to look information up on the web and read this blog to be better informed. However, if you need a new transmission for your car, would you do it yourself after reading information about it online?

Alright, so that being said, here is an incomplete list of things one should consider prior to pleading to a case. The potential penalties of the charges are one thing that should be considered by any defendant. One should be aware of what the maximum and potential consequences of the charges verses what the prosecution is offering for a plea bargain.

Another factor that people should consider is the evidence. People should look at what the prosecution has for evidence and how strength of that evidence. This isn’t something that is easy to assess. Most people believe certain aspects of a case are helpful when it isn’t, while others mistakenly believe other parts of a case are useless. This is where an experience attorney can shine and really be helpful to your case.

Finally, people should also consider the collateral consequences to a plea. Some of these consequences include license suspension, immigration issues, loss of financial aid, employment issues, providing DNA samples, GPS monitoring and needing to register as a sex offender. Today, plea bargains are becoming increasingly common, as fewer cases are going to trial. The decision to plead to a case verses demanding a trial is an important decision that shouldn’t be made alone.

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

Like This!

The deception of conviction rates


As humans we love to try to make sense of things that aren’t easily definable.  In the world of prosecution, conviction rates are a statistic that a lot of people like to point to as a measure success.  Essentially, the conviction rate is the percentage of cases that are won.  Unfortunately, such a simple number fares poorly in giving an accurate picture of the situation. 

 Most people love to bring up conviction rates because it is a simple metric that most people find easily understandable.  Most people like to point to the higher conviction rates and believe that those offices are doing a better job prosecuting the crimes. 

 However, the conviction rate is deceiving for a lot of reasons.  As much as we would like to be able to quantify the legal process, it is much more of an art form than a scientific process.  In order to garner a higher conviction rate, district attorney offices may only try the cases they know are absolute winners.  Now that doesn’t mean that the DA will definitely win those cases, but those are usually the cases that the DA has the most evidence. 

 If a district attorney’s office is only trying cases that it qualifies are absolute winners, this can lead to several issues.  For one, an office may be giving very lenient plea bargains on cases that may have strong evidence, but aren’t absolute winners.  Second, the DA may try to convincing the alleged victims that certain cases are weaker than they actually are in order to plead the case out.   

Finally, in order for justice to take place the people involved in the system need to make the responsible decisions.  The conviction rate doesn’t tell us if the right thing happened in a case.  Conversely, the conviction rate can actually hinder  the wheels of justice.  In the end, we don’t want our district attorneys to be motivated by any other metric other than doing what is right.   There are a lot of factors that go into determining the outcome of a case.  Conviction rates may have their place, but they are fare poorly in showing the true picture.  

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

Like This!

What are the lawyers and the judge whispering about over there?


If you have ever sat on a jury, you may notice that there are a lot of side bar conferences.  A side bar conference is essentially a conversation between the lawyers and the judge that is kept away from the jury.  For the most part, jurors hate side bar conferences because they feel as though useful information is being kept from them. 

Side bar conferences may also annoy jurors because it takes time and slows down the trial.  A judge may call a side bar conference at any point.  The lawyers may ask the judge for a side bar conference and it is up to the judge to grant that conference.  If a side bar conference is going to be conducted, both lawyers need to approach the judge’s bench.  If the conversation takes too long, the judge may opt to have a further hearing and ask the jury to step out of the room. 

So what is really going on during a side bar conference?  Well, there is really no one good answer.  Side bar conferences are used to go over a number of issues that are inappropriate to be discussed in front of the jury.  It could be something as simple as how certain evidence or items in the court room should be presented.  A lawyer could be asking the court room to be set up in a certain fashion.  More likely is that the judge is ruling on the rules of law and if certain evidence is allowed to be admitted. 

You may find side bar conferences very annoying.  After all, secrets are no fun, but it is important that you stay patient.  The point of side bar conferences is not to keep relevant information from the jury, but to keep irrelevant information from the jury.  If the jury hears evidence that violate the rules of evidence that can lead to an appeal or a mistrial.  If the court declares a mistrial it could make them restart the case in front of another jury.  Therefore, a little patience for side bar conferences can save the process a lot of time. 

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

Like This!

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.

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

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

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#

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

Like This!

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.

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

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

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

Like This!

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

 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

 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/

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

Like This!