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Reasons why a multiple DUI offender should hire the best DUI attorney they can.

Hint: All DUI lawyers are not created equal.

Most multiple DUI offenders believe that the judge is going to throw the book at them no matter what they do in preparation for their DUI trial. That is to say, they know things do not look good and many presume nothing can be done to fix or mitigate the situation. This is not true and is fatalistic to your case. Yes, judges are not looking to give a defendant with multiple prior DUIs a break, but with aggressive and knowledgeable defense counsel, sometimes things can work out far better then expected.

When it comes to hiring an attorney who can actually litigate a DUI case, most attorneys will tell or imply to you that they can try a serious DUI case. However, the reality is that there are only a handful of attorneys in Maryland who are qualified to effectively try a DUI case and those are the ones that will try your case; the rest of the pack is mainly interested in pleading your case out and getting back to the office. That is, any attorney can walk into court and attempt to litigate a case (although most choose to just plead) but attorneys who specifically focus on DUI defense will tend to deliver much higher success for their clients. The attorneys at Robinson and Associates are DUI trial lawyers. When we accept a case for representation, we do it with the intent of litigating the case.

Often when facing a case where the client has multiple priors there is no option but to try the case. As indicated, the court and the state are not in the business of offering a good deal to a defendant with 3 prior DUIs. If the state is demanding serious jail and your attorney knows the Judge will do it, then you have to be ready to try the case because “rolling over” is not an option.

Case in point, I was in court the other day, this was my client’s 4th DUI offense in Maryland. The state said that all of their witnesses were on call and offered my client one year in jail. I told them that offer is rejected and that we would be litigating the case. I could see the panic on the prosecutor’s face. My client and I waited the entire docket and when my case was called there were still two state witnesses missing. The state then offered my client the lower DUI charge (21-902B) and said he would defer to the judge instead of asking for a year in jail. I suggested to the client we should not accept that deal either because the state was going to have trouble proving their case.

I realized that I had been lied to by the state. He told me that all of his witnesses would be there and it was now several hours into the docket and no word from them. The prosecutor then asked the judge for a postponement. I objected and argued that the prosecutor lied and told me they were on the way. To the judge’s credit he denied the postponement because even though my client had multiple offenses, the state had not only neglected to get his witnesses to court but he lied about their availability. The case was dismissed and the client walked away from a 4th offense, all because we stood our ground and we were “ready for trial!” Too few DUI attorneys will stand their ground and force a trial.

This is just one case. There are many like this where simply being prepared and not afraid to say “ready for trial” will result in favorable results. The future may seem bleak with no light at the end of the tunnel, but the mantra must be “ready to fight” until the end because good things can happen. Conversely, if one is not ready to fight, then nothing good can possibly happen. The system is set up for a defendant to have every fair opportunity to win their case if the state drops the ball or if we force a fumble. Call Robinson and Associates for seasoned DUI litigation experience and a free consultation.

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Will you be considered a first offender in Maryland if it has been 10 years since your prior DUI conviction or PBJ? Well, it is much like your virginity, once you lose it-you lost it!

What do I mean by that? Once you have received a DUI or DWI and received some form of probation or guilty verdict, that can never be undone and you will never be considered a “first offender” again; in point of fact, you are not a first offender, you will be a second offender, even 10+ years later.  Now, if you go to court on your first offense and you are found Not Guilty by the judge or jury, well then that is NOT a first offense because you were not found guilty and you did not receive a probation before judgment.  A not guilty means you were not guilty of the charge and is therefore not considered a first offense.  In this instance, a “second violation” irrespective of when it occurs (1 year or 5 years) is indeed a first offense (because you beat the earlier offense) and you are entitled to first offense status.  Ie. eligible for a PBJ.

Now, what is this business about 10 years? That time period is the new limit in which a “second offender” is not even legally eligible for a probationary disposition such as  a PBJ.  Therefore, if in your first DUI offense you received the benefit of probation before judgment and therefore were able to keep your record clean and void of any points, that would mean you are not even eligible for a PBJ within 10 years of receiving your first PBJ. You can however retain the best lawyer you can find and fight your case in court and try to obtain a not guilty in the second offense.

Finding the best lawyer you can find is not quite as easy as it sounds.  There are many attorneys out there so how do you possibly know who to select? Well, aside from their reputation in the community or online, one indicator is the fee that you are quoted for representation.  DUI fees that sound too low simply mean that the attorney is not going to try your case in court, rather they are just going to show up on the day of court and plead you out.  Remember, you essentially get what you pay for in this world.  Thus, if winning your case or staying out of jail is important, you must secure a DUI law firm that is not afraid to try your case and one that knows how to do that.  If you (or your lawyer) is not prepared to try your case you cannot win your case!  I can’t tell you the number of times we  have said “ready for trial your honor” and the state is either not ready or doesn’t know how to try the case or their witnesses mess up or something favorable happens in the case and we win a case that did not appear to be winnable.

Just the other day we were in front of one of Baltimore County’s most difficult judges who nobody tries anything in front of, it’s always either a postponement or a jury trial demand.  Our highly experienced DUI attorney announced he was ready for trial and it turns out the cop involved in the case was being investigated for a crime and the case ended up being dropped.  This was a second offense that our client walked away from- not guilty as the case was dismissed.

This is very important because if your attorney isn’t prepared to say “ready for trial” you don’t find these things out and you just roll over.  At Robinson and Associates we try DUI cases. Call us if you have questions you would like to discuss.

 

 

 

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Zero Tolerance for DUI in Maryland: .08 breath alcohol is NOT the limit

A common misconception is that the legal alcohol limit for a DUI in Maryland is a .08 BAC. Most people believe that if you blow below a .08 then you are home free. Maryland is actually a zero tolerance state. This means that any amount of alcohol in your system can and will trigger DUI and DWI charges. Unfortunately, Maryland continues to broadcast this misinformation to the public and our clients continue to be amazed when we explain a .03-.05 is enough, under certain circumstances, to result in a driving while impaired charge.

This misconception has been an issue for years. Maryland, along with most states continues to run campaigns saying .08 is the limit, however it isn’t. A lower BAC number is just as damming as a .08. The only difference is that if you did spectacularly on the field sobriety tests you can attack the notion of impairment unlike a .08. .08 is Per Se impairment, this means that the defense cannot argue (or will be completely ineffective if they do) that the driver was not impaired by the .08. At a .07 the presumption is that the driver is impaired. The defense will have to overcome this presumption through evidence and through testimony.

An alcohol breath resulting in .06 bears no legal presumption you can and will still be charged with DUI as the police will not miss an opportunity to meet their monthly quota. The Judge or jury will decide when looking at the totality of the circumstances whether the driver was actually impaired. So a guilty finding is still fairly easy for the state to obtain with a .06 BAC (breath alcohol content).

The tide doesn’t turn for a person charged with a DUI until the number is at or below a .05. The presumption is that if someone blows a .05 they are not impaired. A person can be charged with and found guilty of a dui even at a .05 if the state can prove that the defendant was “impaired to the slightest degree.” They would do this by using the defendant’s own admissions to drinking and the field sobriety tests to overcome the favorable presumption.

You can still be charged with a dui from .04 on down as well. The Defendant may enjoy the benefit of a favorable legal presumption but the state may attempt to overcome that if there are bad facts such as an accident or a poor acting defendant. Unfortunately, trials is this grey area can be risky depending on who the judge is. Many judges are fair in their consideration of the facts, but some judges are completely one sided and are largely unable to utter the words “not guilty.”

As a matter of fact just yesterday I tried a .02 DUI. They knew my client blew a .02 and still booked and charged him. The prosecutor tried the case knowing my client blew a .02. She attempted to argue that my client’s fields were bad and his admission to drinking earlier in the night were proof that he was guilty of DWI. We won at trial on the DUI counts but he still had to hire an attorney and fight the charges.

Knowing the law can save you a lot of money and time. It isn’t a good idea to drink anything and drive because even blowing a low number can have you not only in court but possibly being found guilty. If you find yourself in this difficult position, then call an experienced DUI attorney who is not afraid to try the case. The experienced trial attorneys at Robinson and Associates will be able to help you through the process.

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Understand the Strict Law that applies to lawfully “sleeping it off” and avoiding a DUI in Maryland

Have you ever made the intelligent decision after leaving a bar or a friends place that you may have had too many drinks to drive safely? What to do next? The intelligent thought would be to find a place to park and sleep it off.

However, despite the good thinking, from a legal perspective you must be careful. Maryland law is unfortunately strict about what counts as legally “sleeping it off” v. what counts as “physical control” and thereby exposing you to a DUI/DWI. The controlling case in Maryland speaking to the shelter doctrine is Atkinson. The Court in Atkinson determined they did not desire to punish a Maryland driver who knew he should not be driving and made the safe choice to sleep it off.

The problem is that the Court implemented so many requirements in order to be on right side of the law that most people do not do it correctly and therefore wind up getting prosecuted for DUI despite trying to do the right thing.

Atkinson Factors to be considered at your DUI trial:

  • Are the keys in the ignition?
  • Is the car on?
  • Is the driver asleep?
  • Is the hood warm?
  • Is the driver in the driver’s seat?
  • Is the driver’s seat reclined?
  • Is the car in a defined/legal parking space?
  • Is the car in park?

These are just a few of the factors that a trial Judge will consider when deciding if you were in physical control of your car and therefore possibly guilty DUI or whether you were lawfully seeking shelter. Not one or all of these factors must be answered true in order to find that you fit in this exception. The Judge will look at all of these factors when determining whether you complied with the law.

You will see experienced law enforcement officers focusing on these specific factors in their police report. They know the law and will try to write their report to exclude this defense. What the Judge has to decide is whether you actually had “legal” physical control over the vehicle. If the judge finds that you were in “legal control of the vehicle” then you have the same exposure as any regular DUI.

Therefore, the answer to the question of “Can I be arrested and Charged with DUI if they didn’t see me drive?” is yes, you can be charged with and go to jail for a DUI even if you are not seen driving the vehicle. If you find yourself driving and you determine that you shouldn’t be driving, then these are the factors for you to know. Mainly it is important to find a lawful parking space off the roadway and turn the car off, remove the keys. The safest thing to do would be to move to the passenger side or back seat and sleep it off. If you do all that, you are probably in a good position in the eyes of the law.

 

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DUIs and Troubling Trends in Carroll County, Maryland

The new State’s Attorneys regime in Carroll County is acting with little respect towards the legal process and the bench, at present, is letting them get away with it. We were in Court for trial last week for what was a rather innocuous DUI case. We were there to try the case as there were several triable issues.   When I approached the prosecutor she made an offer on the case. I told her it is a trial and to let me know when her officers arrive. The prosecutor agreed and we all waited.

Later on the prosecutor approached me and offered the lower DWI count as a plea deal. I asked her why she was doing that; she said her officer is unavailable. She then said that if we do not take her offer that she will just drop the charges and re-file. I told her to do what she needs to do but that she is setting a dangerous precedent by handling the case this way.

The dirty pool that the prosecutor is doing here is they are dropping the charges solely with the intent to re-file at a later point when the officer is available. They are circumventing the Judge’s authority to deny a postponement by simply dropping the charges such that the Judge has no say in the matter. In any other jurisdiction the prosecutor would ask the Judge for a postponement. If the Judge denies that postponement request then the state is forced to drop their case. The state prosecutor is attempting to work around that by dropping the charges here.

In my opinion and that of many other defense lawyers, this is a very dirty and dangerous practice. It shows a true lack of respect for the process. It also shows that they have no care for those charged with crimes, whether wrongfully or not. Many lawyers have argued multiple times in this jurisdiction to dismiss the charges with prejudice such they cannot be brought back. The Judges in Carroll County unfortunately are condoning this dubious behavior by the State.

The precedent being set is that no matter the reason, if the State cannot make their case they can just drop the charges and get another day in court. This causes people out on bond to possibly post a new bond. It causes the Defendants to have to deal with being served again and to prolong the anticipation of another court date. All because the prosecutor was not prepared. Happily, in the Circuit Court there is case law that forbids this behavior but until the case makes it to the Circuit Court, it is up to the Judges of the District Court to control this poor behavior.

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How to get arrested for DUI in Maryland when not driving a car:

After an accident the police show up to sort out the details; but what if the cops smell alcohol on somebody’s breath and charge them with DUI without carefully determining who was actually driving the car? That is what happened on our case this week. Our client was involved in an auto accident and the police somehow surmised that our client was driving when in reality he was not the driver. Then the case becomes a matter of the State trying to prove the Defendant was the driver and the defense proving it was somebody else.

Sometimes the actual driver of the vehicle blames the other person for driving and the officer then makes a judgment call as to who was driving. Generally when a client tells me that they weren’t driving they continue with a “friend” was driving. I proceed to tell them that I need to speak with the friend. It is at this point that the client decides his friend is unavailable or the friend simply never shows at the DUI trial. I set up a case review with this client a month before trial and strangely the “friend” actually showed up.

Today, at the trial of the case in Anne Arundel County, Maryland I actually found myself advancing the “I was not the driver defense.” The Defendant testified at his DUI trial that his friend was the driver and the friend actually testified and corroborated that statement. Naturally the police and State did not want to hear any part of that because their case would fall apart and there would be no conviction. Even after hearing the testimony of the driver, the prosecutor thought he could still make his case. We continued the fight and won on all charges!

The moral of this story as we so often write is to find a trial attorney that is not afraid to take the case to the mat. So few attorneys are interested or prepared to try a case that when DUI cases are actually tried, surprisingly good things can happen. Conversely, if a case is not tried, you cannot win.

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No DUI or criminal case is a slam dunk for the prosecution. Trial work is always fluid and anything can happen when you tell the Judge “Ready for trial.”  Have you ever noticed how many people never say that and just plead cases away? At Bruce Robinson & Associates we are a trial firm, we try DUI cases and we don’t hesitate to say “Ready for Trial.”

A recent example of this happened today in a DUI case in Cecil County, Maryland.  This Defendant was a multiple DUI offender with 2 DUIs within the past 5 years.  Two DUIs inside of a ten year period of time is a bad thing because the defendant is unable to get a probation before judgment and therefore must flat out win his case or he will suffer the consequences of a DUI conviction. In addition to being a multiple offender, this client also had a very high breath result. The State’s Attorney was demanding jail in front of a tough District Court Judge who would have loved nothing more than to oblige the State in it’s demand.

The Prosecutor asked me if  she needed all of her officers for this case. I was thinking, what a strange request, of course you do; evidently sh was used to too many lawyers who just roll plead their clients out. I told the prosecutor that not only did she need all her officers,  but they needed to be in the court room (not just generally available).  After half of the docket went by I began to see a glimmer of hope in the case that the State may not be able to prove its case because the arresting officers may not be available for trial. Ironically, the prosecutor never even checked in with her officers the day before as she is supposed to in order to obtain their presence in court.

Sure enough a case that was once considered such a slam dunk for the State and a significant problem for my client, such that the prosecutor didn’t even bother to contact the arresting officers the day before court ended up being placed on the Stet Docket.  The Stet docket is an inactive docket which in most cases means the State is dropping the charges.  However, some counties like Carroll County will bring the case back for trial, even after a flat out dropping of the charges.  The point of this blog being, do not give up simply because you have been charged with a multiple DUI in Maryland.  Anything can happen in ware-fare (the court room) and many times, good things can come from the willingness to try the case.  This is why when some attorney tells you that your case is unwinnable you shouldn’t hire them. No case is unwinnable. The burden is on the State to prove you guilt and often perseverance and experience will win out.

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More states are legalizing marijuana, either for medical use or recreational use. As of 2014, only two states fully legalized it for all users – Colorado and Washington – but 18 states allow it for medical reasons. Even if you don’t partake of it, it can still affect you.

It’s important to understand its effects on the insurance and banking industries, since more states are likely to begin the legalization process in the coming years.

Auto Insurance

Overall, car insurance rates may actually drop as marijuana becomes legal in more states. A recent study by professor Daniel Rees found that states with legal medical marijuana actually experienced a 12 percent decrease in alcohol-related car accidents. These states also had decreased alcohol sales, which indicates fewer drunk drivers. At the same time, marijuana related accidents did not increase, perhaps because marijuana doesn’t impair judgment to the extent of alcohol.

This doesn’t mean you are safe from an insurance increase. Driving under the influence of marijuana still results in a DUI citation and higher insurance rates and, in the words of NY Attorney Isaac Abraham, “a DWI/DUI conviction stays on your record forever”.

States like Washington are actively working to implement a reliable method for measuring the amount of THC in the blood during traffic stops.

Life and Health Coverage

Life and health coverage hasn’t been as positive towards the changes. Many insurance companies are giving marijuana users the higher “smoker’s rate,” even though most medical and some recreational marijuana is ingested and not smoked. A single positive marijuana test on your record can result in these increased rates.

Even those insurance companies not assigning a smoker’s rate may up the premium or result in a drop of coverage if tested THC levels in the policy holder are higher than what the insurance deems appropriate.

The Banking and Real Estate Industry

Financial institutions and landlords are dealing with the most curious of the marijuana dilemmas – can they lend money, provide banking services, or rent property to a business that is technically illegal on the federal level? Currently, the feds are taking a watch-and-see approach to state legalization, but something as simple as a new president can change that quickly.

Even though this currently is affecting the average consumer, it will eventually lead to new industry regulations in banking and real estate which could affect you.

Conclusion

Overall, the move to legalize marijuana has gone smoothly in most states that have implemented it. Time is necessary to understand the full implications, and whether it is something that will have a major impact on your life.

 

This is a guest blog from New York Attorney: Isaac Abraham.

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This week Marijuana becomes legal in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., kinda.

A person is allowed to grow up to three plants in their house and they are allowed to smoke Marijuana in their house- not on the street. Unlike liberal and intelligent Colorado, D.C. residents will not be able to go on the street and legally purchase grass fro licensed stores; rather they are allowed to have a small amount for personal use which can be imbibed in the privacy and comfort of their own home. This is why folks are allowed to have up to three mature plants in the home- since they cannot legally buy it.

No everybody is a fan of the new law. Congress is not happy with the new law that is now effective as a public referendum. Evidently Congress is threatening to take whatever measures they can to eliminate the nefarious evils promulgated by the wacky green weed, but since Congress is completely unable to pass any meaningful and useful legislation it would be a stretch to think they could 1) find the time to put their mind to such meaningless legislation and 2) be able to find a consensus between the parties since they cannot remotely agree on anything else, such as say, funding for Homeland Security and other meaningful and necessary government programs. They are more or less useless in every dimension and will remain such until the next election.
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The issue of DUI by Marijuana (driving under the influence) has never been more relevant than now when states are beginning to jump onto the pot bandwagon, legalizing Marijuana for recreational and or medical use while many more states have put the issue on their 2016 ballot.
The number of drivers charged with operating under the influence of Marijuana is likely to grow dramatically and it behooves us to study the laws we currently have in place and see whether they are adequate to protect the community and the driver. We will also look at the financial gain v. loss to the state from the legalization of Marijuana.
Is driving legal after ingesting Marijuana?
Generally there are three approaches taken by states regarding driving after ingesting weed; the majority of states will charge a driver after obtaining sufficient evidence to prove his or her impairment based on erratic driving factors, a failed field sobriety test and blood work.
A minority of states, including NY, has zero tolerance laws with regard to Marijuana use and will arrest for DUI for any amount of THC or metabolites found in the driver’s system. THC, the psychoactive component of Marijuana can remain in the urine for many days, while metabolites can be detected for several weeks or more for regular users; long after the driving impairment has worn off.
The remainder of the states institute thresholds similar to BAC levels used for DUI alcohol. 5 nano-grams of THC metabolite per milliliter of blood is the legal limit used by many of these states. Colorado is one of the states that have instituted this limit after legalizing Marijuana for recreational use.
Whatever the individual state guidelines are, make sure you understand and adhere to them. In the words of Attorney Zev Goldstein, “Your good record is arguably the most valuable thing you own, protect it from criminal drug/ or operating under the influence of drugs convictions”.
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