Jamahl Kersey May 5, 2016 No Comments

What’s Involved in a Protection Order and How It Can Be Changed or Dropped

People who feel unsafe and threatened from others often get protection orders. In simple terms, a protection order, also called an OP or order of protection, is a legal paper that a judge issues, involving rules, preventing contact between a restrained person and a protected person.

The restrained party is the defendant, while the protected party is the individual who is seeking protection. In many cases, protection orders are waived or modified. Here’s how a protection order can be changed or dropped, along with some other important considerations and warnings.

Types of Protection Orders

The two main kinds of protection orders include no-contact orders and peaceful contact orders.

  • In a no-contact order, a defendant is unable to have any contact at all with the protected person.
  • There’s also a peaceful contact order. This is when a judge makes needed adjustments that address specific conditions. In other words, there may be some form of limited contact.

Getting a Protective Order Modified or Dropped

Victims who are named in protection orders can ask a court to modify or drop a protection order. This entails the removal of some conditions or all of them. Because it’s a complex procedure, it’s best to use a qualified criminal defense lawyer.

Plaintiffs who have asked for the protective order can’t change the terms in a protection order just by giving defendants permission to have contact privileges, again. They must ask for changes by addressing a judge or an Assistant DA (District Attorney.)

They’ll need to explain why they want to make changes to a protection order. Furthermore, they need to state that they have willingly made their decision on their own free will and weren’t coerced into doing so.

After plaintiffs are asked if they’ve discussed their decision with a victim specialist, they need to sign a petition. The court clerk sets up a court hearing, at least 10 days later, in which both parties must attend.

It’s at this hearing that a judge determines whether or not to grant the requested changes. A judge may fully change the protection order, make partial changes or deny modifications.

Is a Protective Order the Same Thing as a Restraining Order?

Many people think a protection order is the same thing as a restraining order, but they’re somewhat different. Both of them are used for restraint purposes.

The main difference is that protection orders entail much more extreme court rulings that are used in preventing family violence and are designed to protect the life, emotional welfare and limb of victims of domestic violence.

How to Protect Yourself and Prevent Problems

If you’re a defendant, you’ll need to protect yourself because violating a protection order can result in new charges being filed against you, besides getting arrested. For example:

  • In addition to avoiding the plaintiff’s place of residence, be sure to stay away from areas where he or she frequently goes, such as a workplace or school.
  • If you’re in a public place, such as a store or restaurant and see the protected party, leave immediately.
  • Avoid any disagreements with friends or family members of the protected person, and never send emails, letters or faxes to this plaintiff.
  • If you receive an email from the plaintiff, hand it over directly to your attorney.
  • If the protected person tries to call you, hang up promptly and inform your lawyer of the call. Don’t even try to patch up differences.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Both the defendant and the plaintiff need to understand that filing a petition doesn’t change an order’s terms.
  • A protective order isn’t a requirement for calling 911. On the other hand, police officers tend to respond faster when callers say that they have a protective order.
  • Protective orders can be increased, as well as decreased.

Being served with a protection order can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to face this problem alone. If you’ve been issued a protection order, call us. Our qualified, experienced criminal defense team serves the greater San Diego area. Please contact us, and let us explain how we can help you.

Jamahl Kersey April 28, 2016 No Comments

What to Do if You Missed a Court Date or Have a Bench Warrant

When you’re scheduled to appear in court–whether it’s for something as minor as a traffic violation that you’re fighting or something as major as a felony charge–it’s imperative that you show up on your court date. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people to forget about a court date or face extenuating circumstances that prevent them from attending. If this is a situation that you’re currently in, then you might be wondering, “what do I do if I missed a court date or have a bench warrant?

What is a Bench Warrant?

If you’ve already missed your court date, there’s a good chance that the judge as issued what’s known as a bench warrant. When you have a bench warrant, this means that police officers are legally able to arrest you and hold you in jail until you take care of your missed court appearance. A bench warrant is similar to a traditional arrest warrant with the exception that bench warrants are almost explicitly issued as a result of a missed court appearance.

Simply put, if you missed your court date and now have a bench warrant out, the next time you get pulled over or have any other police encounter, there’s a good chance you’ll be going to jail.

Potential Consequences of Missing a Court Date

Nothing good typically comes out of missing a court date. At the very least, you will have a bench warrant issued for your arrest. However, there are a number of other circumstances you could face as a result.

For starters, failure to appear in court can result in the addition of more charges and fines. You may also be required to pay a higher bond or forfeit any bond you posted to get out of jail in the first place. In serious circumstances, your ability to post bond could be revoked entirely and you could be forced to stay in jail until your case in heard in court.

In some states, your driver’s license can even be suspended or revoked upon failing to appear in court.

The Importance of Acting Quickly

If you’ve missed a scheduled court date for any reason, it’s imperative that you act quickly in getting the situation taken care of. Don’t wait until the next time you’re pulled over when you may be on your way to work or even have children in the car. Instead, be proactive in taking care of your bench warrant and the judge will likely be more understanding than if you were to ignore the situation altogether.

In most cases, you can call your local court office and arrange to have the matter taken care of. This may mean scheduling a time to come in a pay your bail so as to avoid being arrested again and have your warrant recalled.

Why Hire an Attorney?

Before you call the court, however, it’s a good idea to begin working with a reputable defense attorney. With the proper legal guidance, you may be able to appear directly at an arrangement as opposed to being arrested on your bench warrant. Furthermore, an experienced attorney may be able to get an arraignment scheduled right away, rather than you having to be arrested and wait for another trial. Of course, this can all vary greatly on a case-to-case basis.

Missing a court date is never beneficial, but what’s done is done. Your next step is being proactive in getting the situation handled properly. For assistance with taking care of your bench warrant for a missed court date, please contact us today. Our hard-working and experienced attorneys are here to help.

Jamahl Kersey April 8, 2016 No Comments

What Happens During a Jail Booking?

If you’ve never been arrested, you may not understand what occurs after a person has been arrested for a crime. Suspects aren’t just thrown into jail immediately after they’ve been arrested. Before people who are arrested for crimes are placed in jail cells, several procedures have to occur. Here are the steps involved in what happens during a jail booking.

Processing Paperwork

The first step, which is also known as a “processing”, involves processing paperwork. This involves recording a suspect’s personal information, including a full name, date of birth (DOB), his or her of employment, address, social security number and medical data. While this used to be done manually, most booking records today are computerized.

Mug Shots

Next, photos or “mug shots” are taken of a suspect or defendant. These photos are used to physically document defendants at the time when they’re arrested. Photos also are useful in showing the physical condition of defendants. This is important because these photos can show proof of if a defendant was in a physical altercation prior to the arrest.

Also, mug shots are used for protection against mistaken identity. For example, sometimes there are people in jail who have identical names. Several mug shots are taken of each defendant. After the mug shots are taken, they’re printed out and then used for various purposes, including name tag identification, cell tags and files.

Fingerprinting

Suspects are fingerprinted, and the fingerprints are entered into a federal database. This is needed for identifying prisoners, as well as for comparing crime scene evidence. Even suspects with prior arrests, who already have their fingerprints on file, have be fingerprinted. Information on suspects is checked for criminal backgrounds against a nationwide database to see if there have been other histories of arrests.

Full-Body Search and Personal Property Confiscation

Suspects must undergo full-body searches to ensure that they aren’t bringing any smuggled goods or weapons with them into jail. Also called a “strip search,” a full-body search is extremely humiliating but is necessary. However, they’re done by jail employees who are of the same sex as the suspect. 

Personal property confiscation is the next step. This entails taking away car keys, wallets and other personal items. Prisoners don’t get back their personal belongings until they’re released from jail.

Considerations and Cautions

  • How long does a booking take? The slowest bookings can entail hours. The length of time it takes for a booking procedure can depend on several factors, such as how many police officers are working and the number of people have been arrested during the same time period.
  • Suspects must have health screenings to protect other prisoners and the prison staff. This involves taking blood test for checking for communicable diseases as AIDS and gonorrhea. X-rays, for detecting tuberculosis, are also done before prisoners can associate with the general prison population.
  • Shoe laces and belts may be removed for suspects who are considered to be self-destructive or a threat to others.
  • Even suspects arrested for seemingly minor crimes, such as unpaid traffic tickets, may have to go through full-body strip searches.
  • Bail hearings are also conducted to decide if a suspect can be released while awaiting his or her pending trail. They’re also done to set the amount of bail. After bail has been posted, by either a bail bond agent or the defendant, the suspect is released.
  • Suspects who have pending arrest warrants generally aren’t released on bail.

It’s only until the police begin questioning suspects, regarding what occurred at arrest scenes, or when they’ve been placed in a lineup with other defendants, that a criminal defense lawyer is needed. At this time, it’s important that they consult a qualified criminal defense attorney and not take part in answering any more questions. If you, or someone you know, has been arrested and needs help, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Jamahl Kersey March 29, 2016 No Comments

Tips on Finding a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are faced with a criminal charge, your best option is to seek a good criminal defense lawyer to consult and possibly represent you in court. Criminal charges are serious and understanding the justice system is imperative if you are facing a court trial. You will need to ensure that you have the best legal defense that you can financially afford.

Here are several tips on how you can find a good criminal defense lawyer.

1.  Research — Research the lawyer you are considering online to make sure they an expert in the criminal defense that you seek. Look for articles, FAQ’s, or other informational pieces about the lawyer or his firm. Also, check to see if he is a member of any reputable associations in the specific area of criminal defense that may be beneficial to your circumstances. You should contact the state bar association to make sure the lawyer is in good standing.

2.  Types — You will need to understand what type of defense lawyer your case requires. If you have been charged with breaking a state law, such as traffic violations, broken contracts, robberies or a family dispute, then you will need a lawyer who specializes in state laws. Federal cases involve the violation of the US Constitution or are cases in which the United States is a party, such as bankruptcy issues, patent problems, and copyright cases.

Ideally, any defense lawyer you retain should specialize in the specific crime that you are being charged with and have at least a few years of specialized experience. He should also have a good track record of winning the cases he has previously represented.

3.  Qualities — You should be able to communicate well with your criminal defense attorney and understand exactly what he is explaining to you. An attorney with excellent communication skills will undoubtedly argue your case well. He should also have adequate negotiation skills. With superior negotiation skills, the odds are good that he can perhaps negotiate a deal so your case does not have to go to a jury trial. It is not uncommon for a wide majority of criminal cases to be resolved via a plea agreement. Be sure to ask the lawyer if he has a good working relationship with the prosecuting attorney, which might prove beneficial to your case and help him be successful at perhaps getting an acceptable plea bargain.

A good criminal defense lawyer also works frequently in the jurisdiction holding your case and in the particular county where you are charged. The experience gives him the upper hand in knowing the local legal system and the key players that he will be dealing with on a professional level.

4.  References —  Prior to retaining the attorney, don’t be afraid to ask him for references. Remember, your very freedom is on the line, so you will want to make the best decision you can make when it comes to retaining a lawyer. After the lawyer provides you with references, call them to verify his history and previous case success.

5.  Retainer — Ask for a copy of the attorney’s retainer and take the time to read it. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask the lawyer. Prior to signing the retainer, you should always understand exactly what services will be provided and what you are paying for before going forward with the contract.

Finding a good criminal defense lawyer who will effectively represent you is imperative to a positive outcome for your case. Sometimes, you simply have to follow your gut instincts. If you clash with your lawyer’s personality, then you might want to consider retaining a different attorney to represent you. You will want to make sure you have a good working relationship with each other so you can build a strong defense for your criminal case.

Please contact us to learn more about our criminal defense services.

Jamahl Kersey March 24, 2016 No Comments

When Can the Police Search My Car? Understanding Your Rights During a Traffic Stop

Most people have been pulled over by the police at least once in their lives. In many cases, a traffic stop simply ends with a warning or a citation–but in some situations, a traffic stop could very well lead to an arrest. Regardless of whether you believe you’ve done anything wrong or not, there are some basic things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’ll pulled over by the police. For example, many people wonder, “when can the police search my car?

A Note About Traffic Stops

First of all, understand that traffic stops are the single most dangerous aspect of any police officer’s job. More police officers are injured and killed during traffic stops than in any other call, so it’s important that you take steps to show the officer that you’re not a threat.

Upon realizing you’re being pulled over, turn on your hazard lights and pull off to the side of the road immediately. If it’s dark out, turn on your vehicle dome light so the officer can see who’s in the car. Then, wait for the officer to approach before reaching for your driver’s license, registration, or anything else. Making sudden movements could lead the officer to believe you’re a threat.

Warrants Versus Probable Cause

It’s also helpful here to understand the difference between a search warrant and having probable cause. Contrary to what many misinformed citizens believe, a police officer doesn’t need a search warrant to search your car; this only applies to stationary property (such as your house).

Instead, an officer only needs probable cause to search your car. In other words, if the officer has even a small amount of evidence (not just a hunch) that you’ve committed a crime, he or she is legally allowed to conduct the search.

What Constitutes Probable Cause in a Traffic Stop?

During a traffic stop, there are numerous things that could constitute probable cause. If the officer smells alcohol coming from your vehicle, he or she may have probable cause to suspect that you’re drinking while driving, just the same as the smell of marijuana coming from the car may give an officer probable cause to believe you’ve been using illegal substances.

Verbally Refusing Your Consent to Search

If an officer has probable cause to search your vehicle, you’ll likely still be asked for your consent. You have every right to refuse consent for any reason, but keep in mind that this won’t stop the officer from searching the car if he or she has probable cause.

Unfortunately, even in situations where an officer doesn’t have probable cause, many unsuspecting drivers are led to believe they have no choice but to consent to the search. Instead of asking for consent to search, the officers might say something along the lines of, “if you haven’t done anything wrong, then you won’t mind if we search your vehicle, right?”

Exercising Your Right to Remain Silent

If an officer searches your vehicle, regardless of whether you have something to hide or not, remember that you can exercise your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. In fact, it’s recommended that you elect not to answer any questions (especially if you’re being detained) and that you request a lawyer before speaking to police officers. After all, anything you say can and will be used against you.

Getting pulled over and asked for consent to search your car can be an intimidating and unsettling experience for anybody. If you’re in need of legal guidance following a traffic stop, feel free to contact us today. Our team would be happy to assist you.