January 30, 2008

Baltimore Case: Miranda Rights Need Not Be Verbatim To Count

State attorneys are celebrating after the Maryland Supreme Court ruled that a detective who told a murder suspect she could “get a lawyer at some point” if she could not afford one now did not misstate her Miranda rights. Just because the detective did not state the Miranda warning verbatim does not mean that he violated the rights of the suspect, according to the Supreme Court. They cited a California ruling that an officer need not “incant” the Miranda warning verbatim.

What does this mean for people who are pulled over and read a non-verbatim version of the Miranda warning? Essentially, if the content of the Miranda rights is intact, the form does not matter in the eyes of the law. But do the Miranda rights really protect you against statements you make to incriminate yourself? Unfortunately, they do not always do so. Even if you confess or incriminate yourself prior to a police officer’s reading your rights, that evidence may be presented at trial if the officer can prove that they would have been able to discover it without your help.

Ultimately, “polite but silent” is a good rule of thumb when you are under police custody. It may make you appear guilty or suspicious, but in order to avoid incriminating yourself, it is best to have an attorney present during all police interrogations. A good criminal defense attorney can make sure you are protected against self-incrimination, and can reassure you during intimidating interrogations.

Under arrest? In need of a competent and caring California criminal defense attorney? Look no further. Neil Shouse & Associates has a track record of strong criminal defense and the resources it takes to win at trial. Do you have a criminal defense case? Call today for a free, confidential consultation and more information on our services.

January 28, 2008

Murder Witnesses Called Into Question

Prosecutors thought the father and son who witnessed a California Highway Patrol officer’s murder could be the key to a guilty verdict for suspect Columbus Allen, but credibility issues are calling their testimony into question. The Modesto Bee reports that Christopher Hicks and his son Dujuane both have “credibility issues”; Dujuane faces his own charges of murder in a recent arrest, and Hicks was known to have possessed weapons and drugs in his home.

A discovery dispute is raging between the District Attorney and Allen’s legal defense, who have requested additional information on registration papers held by the defendant at the time of the murder and other documents. The DA is saying that this information has either already been transmitted or is not appropriate for the defense’s review; Allen’s defense team is accusing the DA of withholding vital evidence for its own purposes.

These issues only underscore the importance of having the right witnesses and effectively fighting for appropriate documentation in a criminal defense case. The discovery battle might seem dry and laden with procedural issues, but evidence is at the heart of every criminal case. The right documentation could make or break a defensive strategy, and it’s up to the savvy criminal defense attorney to fight for documents that are being withheld by the District Attorney and other offices with a strategic eye for detail and a “never-give-up” attitude.

The California criminal defense lawyers of Neil Shouse & Associates are experts in discovery issues, witness selection and other fine points of criminal defense. We fight for our clients – and we win. And our track record, resources and experience aren’t our only asset – after all, we offer compassion and exemplary customer service to each and every client. Looking for a criminal defense attorney? Call Neil Shouse & Associates today to find out if our hard-hitting services are right for you.

January 26, 2008

“Atonement” And Criminal Defense

The romantic epic film “Atonement” is sweeping the box office and the awards ceremonies, recently picking up a Golden Globe Award for Best Drama. What does this have to do with criminal defense? A lot, since the story behind “Atonement” highlights the damning power of words.

The story at the center of “Atonement” deals with a young girl who, misunderstanding what she sees at a family party, accuses a young man of raping a houseguest. Her accusation sets in action a chain of events that leads to the defendant serving time in prison, leaving only to be killed during World War II. The girl’s accusation makes sense at the time and is an accurate statement of her understanding of events. But the defendant’s inferior place in the family and the social stigma of rape force him into jail for a crime he didn’t commit, tearing apart a family and ultimately costing him his life.

All too often, a single accusation, whether out of malice or just misunderstanding, can set a criminal case into motion. Police must have an accusation to work off of, and “he said” versus “she said” can be pitted against one another in criminal court. Because of the many ins and outs of evidence, testimony, hearsay and criminal claims, it’s vital that a defendant who is accusing himself against false claims hire the best possible criminal defense attorney to help stay out of jail and keep his good name unsullied. Often, a good criminal defense lawyer can use legal procedure to his or her advantage, bargain down a plea, or get a case dismissed outright when outlandish and unsubstantiated claims are involved.

The attorneys of Neil Shouse & Associates are committed to each and every client. We offer a compassionate ear, unfailing customer service, and a track record that shows our ability to fight and win criminal defense cases. Have you been falsely accused of a crime? Don’t hesitate – call our offices today to find out how we can help.

January 24, 2008

Marion Jones Convicted – Why You Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer Every Step Of The Way

Marion Jones’ recent conviction and sentencing to six months in prison for lying to investigators about her use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs highlights yet another reason why people who run into criminal situations need a competent and skillful criminal defense attorney to partner with them every step of the way. Jones, who is a five-time medal winner and world-class track and field athlete, has had her career devastated and her reputation destroyed by revelations that she lied to New York and California federal law enforcement agents about her use of performance-enhancing drugs.

While a criminal defense lawyer of course could never have undone Jones’ history with steroids and other drugs, he or she could have advised Jones through her testimony, overseen her participation and helped her to avoid self-incrimination. Though Jones would doubtless have faced charges anyway due to her use of drugs, she could have avoided her current harsh sentence by telling the truth and cooperating with authorities, even brokering some kind of plea deal through her lawyer in order to keep her out of jail. Instead, Jones will spend six months in prison, away from her two young children.

The right criminal defense lawyer can’t undo the past. What they can do, however, is help you through every step of the criminal process. Criminal proceedings can be intimidating and complex. You owe it to yourself to seek a lawyer who can conduct a thorough investigation of all charges, bring in appropriate expert witnesses to defend your innocence, and who knows enough about the system to be able to navigate it with ease and skill. A defendant and his or her criminal defense attorney are truly partners as they seek to uphold the defendant’s personal liberty. Are you looking for your partner in criminal defense? Call Neil Shouse & Associates today for a free telephone consultation to review your criminal case.

January 22, 2008

San Francisco Zoo Highlights Question of Criminal Negligence

After the tiger attack that left a 17-year-old zoo patron dead and injured two of his friends, the San Francisco Zoo will have an uphill legal battle to face if lawsuits are in fact filed in connection with the attack. Though it’s likely the legal battle will be fought entirely in civil court, the question of responsibility for the tiger attack brings to light relevant questions of criminal negligence that are faced by California criminal defense lawyers on a regular basis.

What is criminal negligence? In essence, criminal negligence occurs when a property owner or responsible person fails to uphold a standard of care to a person to whom they owe a duty of care, causing that person harm or death. The breach of standard of care must generally be extreme for the negligent action to constitute criminal negligence. The person must fail to see that a person in reasonable circumstances would act with a higher standard of care and must act in a way which causes harm to another person. Criminal negligence is usually expressed in charges such as manslaughter, in which there does not exist an intention to kill per se, but where death occurs due to a person’s gross negligence. If a zookeeper at the San Francisco Zoo were accused of criminally negligent manslaughter, the prosecution must be able to prove without a doubt that the injury occurred due to the zookeeper’s failure to act to protect the patron to whom he had a standard of care.

The many complications of criminal negligence are too lengthy for any blog entry, but suffice it to say that a charge of manslaughter or other criminal negligence is extremely serious and carries with it dire consequences such as imprisonment, hefty fines, the possibility of a civil lawsuit, and long-lasting effects on the defendant’s life and reputation. That’s why it’s so important to find a California criminal defense attorney with the skills and resources it takes to investigate your case and represent you at trial. The lawyers of Neil Shouse & Associates have years of experience in criminal defense. Have you been accused of a crime? Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation to find out if our criminal defense services are a good match for your case.

January 16, 2008

Pretext Calls – What You Need To Know

News that United Kingdom law enforcement officials are set to begin trying to make rape suspects incriminate themselves via telephone or text message means there’s no time like the present to review pretext calls. This self-incriminatory tactic is often used by California police early on in rape cases, and you need to know how to protect yourself against the dreaded pretext call.

What is a pretext call? It may be from a friend, stranger, child, adult, or old acquaintance. Generally, the person will call and start asking questions about old accusations or events in an attempt to get you to say something self-incriminating. For example, the person might be an old girlfriend who brings up a situation that could be construed as date rape. If you apologize or acknowledge the incident on tape, even if it’s an incident you did not feel guilty of or involved in, the tape could be used as evidence at trial. Pretext calls are an extremely controversial police tactic, but uninformed people are often sitting ducks for this form of self-incrimination.

If you receive a suspicious phone call you believe may be a pretext call, be polite but firm. Refuse to answer questions or engage the caller in a conversation. Hang up as soon as possible and call your criminal defense attorney. The right criminal defense lawyer can help defend you against self-incriminatory statements recorded during pretext phone calls.

The lawyers at Neil Shouse & Associates are experienced in the field of criminal defense. We have what it takes to fight your battle and keep you out of jail. Have you received a pretext phone call? Are you accused of a crime? Don’t act alone. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help protect your rights and freedoms. Act now – call Neil Shouse & Associates today for more information and a free phone consultation.