Sunday, August 23, 2009

GENERAL: The Wright Law Offices in Las Vegas, Nevada

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CIVIL: Nevada Supreme Court Sides with Cigarette Company--and I Agree with Them

A man named Joe lost his wife in 1999 to brain cancer. The wife, Pam, had smoked for thirty years, starting in 1969, until she got lung cancer, which lead to her brain cancer. Back when Pam started smoking, cancer-stick companies only had to put general health warnings on the packages. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the warning labels had to include the threat of cancer.

Joe then did the American thing; he sued the manufacturer of Pam’s particular brand of coffin nails, Phillip Morris, in a Nevada federal court. He, or his attorney, told the court that Phillip Morris is strictly liable for Pam’s death. Strict liability is a lawsuit claim used when a business sells a dangerous product. If Joe can prove that Phillip Morris caused Pam’s death, Phillip Morris will have to pay. But Joe did not want to have to prove his case. Instead, he wanted the Court to make Phillip Morris prove that they did not cause her death. Usually a Plaintiff has to prove his case, but here, Joe figured the wicked Phillip Morris must disprove its case without Joe having to prove the normally required element of causation.

Joe basically wanted the court to tell the jury that the jury could presume that if the cigarette packages had the cancer warning when Pam started smoking, she would not have started smoking. In other words, Joe wanted the jury to assume from the beginning that Phillip Morris is in the wrong and Phillip Morris then had to prove that it was not in the wrong. Somehow, Phillip Morris would have to provide evidence that Pam would have smoked their cigarettes even if the cancer warning label had been on the packages--clear back in the 1960s. Come on now, that was the 1960s, dude. Do you really think a lot of the young people back then would have listened to warnings? I mean, gosh, wasn’t that the time of experimental drug use. Also, wasn’t the military actually handing out packs of cigarettes to the soldiers?

Anyway, Phillip Morris did not want to have to try to prove to a jury that Pam would have ignored the warning labels. They told the federal judge that this “heeding presumption” should not apply in this case. A heeding presumption is what I’ve been talking about--a jury may presume that a person would have heeded a warning if a warning had been given and the defendant then has to try to prove that the person would not have heeded the warning. It’s almost like a religious person asking an atheist to prove that God does not exist.

Well, since this is a federal case in Nevada and the federal judge did not know what to do, the judge decided to ask the Nevada Supreme Court what it thought. Does Nevada condone “heeding presumptions” like some other States do? The Nevada Supreme Court answered, “No!” Phillip Morris therefore won this little skirmish. Joe would have to prove causation.

You might ask why the Nevada Supreme Court would side with the manufacturers of death on this issue. Well, our scholars in black robes said that a heeding presumption is contrary to Nevada law and public policy. The Nevada Supreme Court is correct on the law issue. Nevada has never allowed heeding presumptions. And, I believe their point about public policy is sound too.

Joe said that other States have heeding presumptions because it forces companies to better label their products, and therefore heeding presumptions are good for the public, so they are good public policy. If companies knew they could be sued for not properly labeling their dangerous goods, then they would label them better.

Nevada is smarter than those other States, though, because we tell the companies that sell stuff here to make sure the stuff isn’t dangerous in the first place. If it’s not dangerous, then why would you have to warn? In other words, the public is safer when companies can be sued for strict liability. Warning labels do not make us safer, safer products do. I’ll end this with a Supreme Court Justice’s quote from the case:

[…] we strongly adhere to the principle that a manufacturer must make products that are not unreasonably dangerous, no matter what instructions are given in the warning. Therefore, we conclude that it is better public policy not to encourage a reliance on warnings because this will help ensure that manufacturers continue to strive to make safe products.

If you still want to read this long, boring Nevada Supreme Court decision after I have taken all the trouble of explaining it, you may. The decision is called Rivera v. Phillip Morris, and it was decided in June 2009.

Copyright: August 23, 2009
By: Anthony M. Wright, Juris Doctor

Friday, August 21, 2009

CIVIL: Win Some, Lose Some—Suing Insurance Companies can be a Roller Coaster Ride

If your mother, we’ll call her Barbara, was involved in a car accident with another negligent driver, we’ll call him Bellville, and she later died from her injuries, you might want to sue for her wrongful death. Let's say you do sue and Bellville’s insurance company ponies up $1,000,000.00, which is the entirety of Bellville’s policy (or what we call the limit). Now, you are still upset and you think $1,000,000 is not enough for the life of your beloved mother—besides, your personal injury attorney received anywhere from a quarter to a half of it and medical bills also were deducted.

You quickly realize that you have your own insurance policy which has “under-insured motorist” coverage, abbreviated to “UM”. Hey—your mother was worth more than $1,000,000 and so clearly the other driver was under-insured because his policy limit was a measly one million. You, or your lawyer, cleverly decide to try to get your insurance company to pay more with the idea that your insurance company should pay you for the death of your mother.

Your mean-spirited insurance company then says, “No way! Your under-insured motorist coverage only pays you when someone hits you. It does not pay you if someone hits your mother. Your mother was not insured under your policy.”

But then you, or your brilliant attorney, argue that you ought to still be entitled and so you sue your insurance company under that theory. And, voila, your local elected judge agrees with you! Magic! You are entitled to more compensation! Did you see that coming? Well, many lawyers might see that coming since elected judges answer to citizens who vote and also gossip with other citizens about a judge’s merit, but insurance companies are not citizens who vote (but let us not get too carried away with local politics because insurance companies lobby congress and probably buy legislative votes on laws that favor them on a much larger scale than locally).

So, you have won another financial victory in honor of your dead mother. Or have you? Don’t celebrate too quickly. The insurance company appeals the district court judge’s ruling in your favor and the mean-spirited Nevada Supreme Court actually agrees with your mean-spirited insurance company. Mean-spirited people often think alike, don’t they? Therefore, the moral of this story is that your UM coverage is for you and others that are listed as insureds in your policy, but do not cover people who are not listed, no matter how near and dear they are to you.

This scenario is more boringly but fully described in the case Allstate Insurance Company v. Fackett.

Copyright: August 22, 2009
By: Anthony M. Wright, JD


CRIMINAL: Unloaded Toy Pellet Guns are Considered Deadly Weapons by the Nevada Supreme Court

If you rob a bank with an unloaded toy gun, you will be charged and likely convicted of burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon and robbery with use of a deadly weapon. The Nevada Supreme Court recently decided this very issue in the case of Berry v. State. This dumb defendant stuck a toy gun to a bank employee’s head while she walked to her car during closing time. He made her unlock the safe, which took ten minutes. During the wait, the dude felt her up and made lewd comments about her body being sexy, causing her to feel like he might rape her or something. Along with being charged with burglary with a deadly weapon and robbery with use of a deadly weapon, the freak was also charged with one count of open and gross lewdness. And well he should be. He was gross.

Anyway, he ran from the cops who waited for him to exit the bank, and they finally caught him in an apartment complex hiding behind a washing machine. The cops saw the stolen loot and toy gun. He was convicted of the three crimes and decided to appeal while rotting in prison. The Supreme Court took one look at this scumbag’s argument, and disagreed with him. Berry thought that he was being clever by using a toy gun. His limited intellect told him that maybe he wouldn’t get hard time if he used a toy instead of a real weapon. Surely a judge would think he wasn’t so bad since he could not have killed with an unloaded toy.

Well, the unloaded toy was still considered a deadly weapon, partly because it could potentially be adapted for such since it had a spring mechanism, trigger, and the potential to shoot a pellet or perhaps .22 bullet. Also, he intended for his victim to believe it was a deadly weapon in order to effectuate his crime. The victim, if she had been allowed to have a handgun on her while working at the bank, could have shot him in “apparent” self-defense because she would have reasonably believed her life was in danger.

The moral of this tale--don’t be stupid.

Copyright: August 21, 2009
By: Anthony M. Wright, J.D.

CRIMINAL: Criminal Defendants Better Hope Witnesses Against Them Live to Testify at Trial

The Nevada Supreme Court has recently decided the case of Chavez v. State. Chavez was convicted for “digitally, vaginally, and anally penetrat[ing] [his daughter] during a five-year span”. The daughter is referred to as “D.C.” and died before Chavez’s trial and therefore could not testify at his trial. Instead of having her corpse miraculously testify, the prosecutor convinced the court that her prior testimony at the preliminary hearing”, which had been videotaped, should be shown to the jury. Chavez’s attorney had cross-examined D.C. at the preliminary hearing, so the judge decided it was ok to let the prosecutor present the video to the jury. Chavez objected based on the Confrontation Clause in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution which says that a defendant should be allowed to face his accusers. The judge said that Chavez did face, and cross-examine, his accuser at the preliminary hearing and did not have to again at trial. Chavez was then convicted and sentenced to four consecutive life sentences with a possibility of parole after 20 years.

Now, there was other evidence against this Chavez person—such as the vibrators and socks with D.C.’s saliva and Chavez’s semen on them and the testimony of D.C.’s siblings who claim to have witnessed strange behavior between D.C. and her loving daddy. My point is, I think Chavez was justly convicted—the jury probably got it right. Chavez and his attorneys thought something was wrong, however, because they appealed the conviction to the Nevada Supreme Court, focusing on the fact that Chavez could not again cross-examine his accuser at trial because he already did at the preliminary hearing. Chavez is grasping at straws probably because he does not enjoy the digital and anal penetration he is enduring in the big house.

The Supreme Court sided with the lower court and said that the video tape was admissible evidence and therefore Chavez’s conviction stands. But, is this really the most just, the most fair, decision our black-robed scholars could reach? They say it is. They said that Chavez had the right to confront his accuser once, at the preliminary hearing, and because she was unavailable (dead) at the time of trial, her testimony should get in and Chavez therefore would not have another crack at cross-examination. The Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right to face your accuser, but it does not say how many times a defendant has that right.

The Judges who wrote the decision looked at a former case known as “Crawford” to help them arrive at their rationale in this case and stated:

We have applied Crawford to cases before us, stating that the testimonial hearsay of an unavailable witness requires a prior opportunity to cross-examine the witness concerning the statement for it to be admissible. Flores v. State, 121 Nev. 706, 714, 120 P.3d 1170, 1175 (2005). Further, we have observed that “‘the Confrontation Clause guarantees an opportunity for effective cross-examination, not cross-examination that is effective in whatever way, and to whatever extent, the defense might wish.’” Pantano v. State, 122 Nev. 782, 790, 138 P.3d 477, 482 (2006) (quoting Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 679 (1986)). And we have explained that discovery is a component of an effective cross-examination. See Estes v. State, 122 Nev. 1123, 1140, 146 P.3d 1114, 1126 (2006).

Today, we further clarify our post-Crawford decisions by holding that a preliminary hearing can afford a defendant an opportunity for effective cross-examination. We will determine the adequacy of the opportunity on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration such factors as the extent of discovery that was available to the defendant at the time of cross-examination and whether the magistrate judge allowed the defendant a thorough opportunity to cross-examine the witness. We first address the standard of review for such a claim and then address each of Chavez’s claims in turn.

In other words, the Court wants to keep its discretion and judge each situation on a case by case basis. Big surprise. Of course the court wants to retain discretion, that is how it retains its power over our lives. So, after “clarifying” its prior holdings, the Supreme Court then looked at this Chavez case using the factors and of course concluded that the factors meant, in this situation, the damning video testimony was allowed into evidence and Chavez will continue to rape or be raped in prison.

Ok, so let me ask the reader of my blog whether they think the Supreme Court of Nevada made a correct ruling. I’ll use the wonderful “Socratic Method” that we attorneys learned in law school by asking you a lot of leading questions so that you can consider this case from the view that I, and other lawyers, may view it. I’m not saying the jury was wrong in convicting this human offal, but I want to paint a picture of why the Supreme Court may be wrong in allowing preliminary hearing video tape testimony into evidence at trial.

Suppose you are the defendant and you are living with your ex-wife, with whom you have many arguments. You have children together and, when they are out of line, you punish them by spanking them or making them do pushups—as Chavez claims to have done. The mother then asks the kids one day as they are driving if they don’t like it when she and daddy fight. This too was in the evidence of the case. Suppose that one of the kids really hates your guts, maybe because you are the disciplinarian, and sets about to frame you for a crime to put you away. I’m not saying this happened in the Chavez case, but it could happen in some cases. Could a girl frame a father by planting evidence and then lying about sexual encounters that didn’t occur? Could a girl find her fathers porn magazines and get ideas? Could a girl get samples of her father’s semen and rub them on a vibrator and sock and then spit on the vibrator and sock? Could a girl then tell the police that she was raped when she was not?

Ok, I’m sure many of you paused at some of those questions and thought that there is no way a young girl could do that to her father. Think again. Young girls do do these things and it is not always clear cut who the real victim is. More often then not, the child is the victim, but in rare instances, the victim is the innocent parent figure. Now, let’s say the girl continues to tell her story and even testifies at a preliminary hearing. She holds up under all the questioning and maintains her story. Let’s assume she is a devil child and is lying. Again, I do not believe that is the case in Chavez, but I’m trying to make a point and hope you stay with me until I get it across. This deceptive girl even lies when her father’s lawyer asks her questions and she has to look over at her father. Maybe she didn’t get the toy she wanted. Maybe her father called her a “spoiled piggy little brat” and she is mad. Maybe her father hits her mother and this is the only way she can think to protect her mother. Who knows? There are two avenues that I want to next explore so that you can understand my problem with the Chavez decision.

First avenue, lets assume this evil girl lives and is able to testify at trial against her father, but has somehow seen the light and changes her testimony. Yes, she would get in trouble for perjury, but she is a kid and probably won’t get into too much trouble. Maybe she had a spiritual or religious conversion—maybe she realizes just how horrible her accusations are. Well, she can recant at trial and explain how she tried to frame her father. The trial is the last possible time she could do this. Guess what. Reasonable doubt! Papa goes free.

Second avenue, let’s assume that the girl continues to be evil and lies every chance she gets. You know what they say about liars—they can seldom remember all their lies and may get caught. So, she must testify under oath again, this time at trial. She continues to lie, however her answers to questions are now glaringly different from the answers she gave at the preliminary hearing. Papa’s attorney can see these discrepancies and bring them to the jury’s attention to raise reasonable doubt. The more times you can question a lying witness, the better your chances to expose them—it’s called impeachment. Did you know that prosecutors do this all the time? If they get to cross-examine a defendant at trial, they will try to find inconsistencies between current answers and prior answers so that jurors will believe that the defendant is a liar who ought to be locked up. If a prosecutor can bite at the apple more than once, don’t you think a defense attorney ought to too? After this Chavez ruling, a defense attorney loses that second bite at the apple with the potentially lying accuser if the accuser dies before trial but her prior testimony can still be shown to the jury.

Perhaps you hate child-rapists and want to disagree with me because you think defense attorneys should not get the second bite at the apple of truth, which we like to call cross-examination. Do you know that this Supreme Court ruling will not only apply to child rape cases, but to all criminal cases from now on? That means adult rape cases, domestic violence, murder cases, burglary cases, arson cases, etc. So, even if you believe a child would not lie about being raped, can’t you see that other witnesses who may have it in for a defendant could lie under oath during preliminary hearings in other scenarios, then die before they can recant at trial?

I hope this makes sense to you. Our scholars in black robes can have good intentions when they write their decisions. I’m sure they were upset about the child rape and did not want to see Chavez go free on a “technicality”, however, is the death of the key witness really a “technicality”? At least they are leaving room for doubt by stating that this must be decided on a case by case basis, which means that different judges with different biases will decide the same set of facts differently. This is what we call justice in America—or at least in Nevada.

Ok, I’ve complained about the Supreme Court decision. You may ask how I would decide differently under the same fact scenario. Well, that is a hard one because I don’t want to see Chavez go free either although I’d battle with the thought that maybe he was not guilty and he was only convicted because of video testimony from a preliminary hearing. I would also be troubled with how this ruling will affect future criminal cases. After this ruling, defense counsel may not wish to cross-examine star witnesses extensively at a preliminary hearings if there is a chance that the star-witness will be unavailable at trial. However, a good attorney would want to because of the impeachment tactic I mentioned earlier. This kind of ruling will confuse defense attorneys and detract from justice. I simply could not allow the video evidence in since it is a key witness and the defense attorney should be afforded the same rights that the prosecutor has, a second chance to cross-examine, impeach, and explore new defense theories.

And then, supposed the defendant had a bad attorney at the preliminary hearing and asked all the wrong questions during the cross-examination. Should a new defense attorney at trial have to deal with this video testimony of a dead witness when the old defense attorney was so rotten at his or her job?

On the other hand, and there always is an alternate argument, if the video evidence from a preliminary hearing is not allowed in, then the criminal defendant can knock off the key witness prior to trial, just like the mob used to do, and the prosecutor will have a much more difficult time convicting the s.o.b. I still must stand by my original sense of justice, though. If a star witness should be in that much fear for his or her life, then that witness can go into protective custody, arm themselves, or whatever until after the trial.

Copyright: August 20, 2009
By: Anthony M. Wright, J.D.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

CRIMINAL: Were you lying then or are you lying now?

Whether you committed a crime or not, you have the right to remain silent when being questioned by an authority figure. The right against self-incrimination is a constitutionally protected fundamental right. This article will point out a few of the reasons you should keep your mouth shut.

Reason 1.

The police are not there to help you. They are there to gather evidence against you. Officers will play the good cop by acting like they want to understand you and will be on your side. Then, if you are less than forthcoming, the same cop or another one will become angry and attempt to threaten you into confessing. Do not fall into these traps.

The officers might act like they are just conversing with you. The fact is that they want to gather sufficient evidence so that they have probable cause to arrest you, at which point they will read you your rights-but it could be too late already if you confessed. The officers will say that you confessed voluntarily, even if they manipulated you long before they arrested you. Who are you to then stand up in court and call our fine peacekeepers liars?

Reason 2.

Officers can purposefully or negligently miss-write on their reports what you told them. Police reports are considered to be pretty good evidence in court. When you take the stand and recount under oath the events leading up to your arrest and what you say does not match up with the police report, the District Attorney can then ask you the damning rhetorical question of, "Were you lying then or are you lying now?"

Reason 3.

If you told the police anything, whether you are innocent or not, you have just made it much more difficult for your attorney later on to present a theory of the case that could show you are not guilty. By speaking to the officers, you are reducing your possible defenses.


A wise man once said something to the effect of "a person is not condemned by what is put in the mouth but by what comes out of." Therefore, when approached by an officer, be polite, courteous, and quiet.



CRIMINAL: Cruel and Unusual: How Prosecutors Punish Criminals

Our United States Constitution tells us that we citizens cannot be tried for the same crime twice. For example, if we are charged with murder and a jury finds us not guilty, we cannot again be brought to trial for the same murder later. Double jeopardy is against the law of the land.

We can, however, be sued. For those who remember the OJ Simpson trials, you will recall that he was first tried for the crime of Murder and was acquitted because the glove did not fit. The murder victims' families later sued OJ for "wrongful death" and he lost millions of dollars. This is not an example of double jeopardy because one trial was for crimes and the other was a civil lawsuit. The constitution only applies to criminal cases.

However, lawyers who become legislatures have created laws, which are interpreted by other lawyers called District Attorneys, which can cause a person to be punished more than once for the same crime. These laws include "enhancement" statutes and "strikes" laws. Oftentimes the enhancement statutes are interpreted together with the strikes laws to really punish a person. Punishment twice for the same crime is not double jeopardy and does not offend the constitution.

Case in point, Mr. Leandro Andrade of California, was tried and convicted on two counts of shoplifting from K-mart some years ago. Shortly before Christmas, this father with a drug habit, went to K-Mart and stuffed several children's videos down his pants but was caught when leaving the store. He was given a written citation to appear in court. Two weeks later he attempted the same petit larceny at another K-mart and was again caught and cited.

Mr. Andrade had prior convictions for minor non-violent offenses and had served time behind bars for them. Most of his offenses were petty and involved his addiction to drugs.

What Mr. Andrade did not know and what most of California did not know, was that the new three strikes law would be applied to Andrade's case and Mr. Andrade would spend the rest of his life in prison. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, right? Who knew that two laws in different parts of the criminal code would come together for this result. District Attorneys, that's who.

You see, California had enhancement statutes, which say that if a person has had prior convictions and commits a new crime, the prior convictions are upgraded to felonies, and so are the new crimes. Thus, in the case of Mr. Andrade, who had had misdemeanors in his past and his newest crimes were also misdemeanors, the enhancement statutes upgraded his prior misdemeanors and his current ones to felony status.

Next, the District Attorney decided to apply the new Three Strikes Law. Under this law, once a person has a third felony conviction, the person will receive a minimum stay in prison of 25 years and a maximum stay of life. Do-gooder legislatures and angry parents created the Three Strikes Law which was intended to put away violent repeat offenders. By violent, the angry parents of dead children meant killers and rapists.

Nevertheless, Leandro Andrade, a Veteran of the Armed Forces, a father, and a non-violent drug addict suffered the Three Strikes Law because the District Attorney, Judge, and even the Supreme Court of the United States believed that although his offenses were not violent, they could have been. They declared that the act of shoplifting could have become violent because any crime shows a disregard for the common welfare and has the potential of becoming dangerous. Besides, an example should be made of Andrade to deter other recidivist from continuing to thumb their noses at the law.

Thus, Mr. Andrade's last two unsuccessful attempts at shoplifting constituted his third and forth felony which became his third and fourth strikes. Now you must be thinking that he received a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of life in prison. Not so.

The District Attorney and Judge declared that each count deserved its own sentence and that the sentences should run consecutively, not concurrently. Therefore, Andrade received a minimum of fifty years in prison and will not be eligible for parole until he is in his late 80s. His children will grow up, go to college, get married, have children of their own and will only get to visit their father occasionally for limited time periods at a prison. No grandpa Leo visiting on Holidays.

Several parents who lost children to murders were outraged when they learned that their efforts were being used to put away people like Andrade. It was a slap in the face to folks who had lost children to killers. They worked so hard for a law that would prevent killers and rapist from committing sixth, seventh, eight, and more crimes, and now the "justice" system was putting away a father who tried to steal less than $500.00 worth of children's videos shortly before Christmas.

This application of an otherwise well-intended law in California should tell us why California went bankrupt. California shelters and feeds petty offenders for the rest of their natural lives. Meanwhile, real murderers and rapists will be out of prison long before Mr. Andrade so long as their crimes were only the first or second offense.

The Constitution of the United States guarantees that we Americans shall not suffer "cruel and unusual" punishment. Some of the Supreme Court Justices had said in the past that even prison terms could be cruel and unusual if the time given was excessive when compared to the offense. However, the very same Justices who had said this in the past declared that Mr. Andrade's punishment fit his crime.

Noteworthy for you readers is that if you are accused of a crime you did not commit but you accept a plea bargain because you cannot afford to take a chance at trial, you will be a convicted criminal in the eyes of our "justice" system. Later on this conviction could be used against you when you are charged with another crime and your punishment can be much more severe.

And if you think that you will not be charged again with another crime in the future, remember that your prior crime is on the books and any police officer who thinks you are a suspicious person can access your record. If you committed a crime in the past, it is likely that you committed this one too, right?

Innocent people on death row have been exonerated after spending decades behind bars because new DNA evidence proved that they did not commit the crime.

Why were they found guilty? A combination of prior arrests and convictions, overzealous cops, tainted witnesses and evidence, overburdened public defenders, bored sleeping judges, apathetic juries, and mean-spirited or power hungry district attorneys contributed to the convictions.

The best thing to do is to never get a conviction, ever! This means you should plead not guilty if you are innocent and you should have an attorney go to the bat for you. If you have been arrested or convicted, at your earliest possible time, work to have the record sealed or expunged.


CRIMINAL: Traffic Tickets in the Las Vegas Valley

The Las Vegas Valley has four jurisdictions within which to get a moving violation: Clark County (Justice Court Jurisdiction), Las Vegas (Las Vegas Municipal Court Jurisdiction), Henderson (Henderson Municipal Court Jurisdiction), and North Las Vegas (North Las Vegas Municipal Court Jurisdiction).

Thus, our little metropolis has four parts patrolled by police that belong to each jurisdiction. Las Vegas Metro cruises around Las Vegas and Clark County, however the cops in Henderson stick to Henderson and the cops in North Las Vegas stick to North Las Vegas.

When you get a citation, one of the first things to look for on the citation is which jurisdiction you are in. It is possible that the cop cited you outside of his jurisdiction. If so, do not argue with the "peace" officer because it could ruin your day, if not your life. Instead, smile warmly, thank him for protecting public safety, and take the ticket to an attorney who will argue the jurisdiction issue before a judge or district attorney who will likely dismiss the citation or greatly reduce the severity--say reducing it from speeding 25 mph over the limit to a parking ticket.

You should consider a few things when you receive a ticket. Yes, you are probably guilty. If you are guilty, you committed a crime. The crime is a misdemeanor, which is the least severe crime to be charged with. Even though a fine is usually the punishment, jail time and community service are also at the Judge's disposal, along with requiring traffic school, and points on your driving record--which can result increased insurance premiums.

If it makes you feel better, consider it not a punishment but a user tax. If you use your vehicle a certain way, expect to pay a tax for doing so. The jurisdictions raise revenue through these user taxes. We live in a state that has no personal income tax, so be grateful about that. However, do not ignore the court appearance date or you could be faced with a "bench warrant" for your arrest. This is not fun because you will likely go to jail if stopped again. In addition, an attorney will charge extra to quash the warrant.

Please note, the worst thing you can do is act upset with the police officer who stopped you. They may treat you very poorly, they may search your person (it's called a "Terry Pat Down Search") to look for a weapon or drugs...likewise they may search the passenger compartment of your car all in the name of officer safety. They may do these things on their own initiative, but if they ask to search, politely refuse to consent. If they have to ask, then they probably do not have the requisite reasonable suspicion or probable cause to do it without your consent. It is not wise to consent to a search because cops can literally tear your car apart as part of the search. And then there is the possibility that someone left contraband in your car that you were never aware of-try denying it is yours-I dare you. Cops, district attorneys, and judges have heard that argument a hundred billion times. The best thing to do is to not consent to a search no matter how innocent you believe you are.

Officers are sometimes known to violate Civil Rights and the law, but they have the guns and their buddies in blue to back them up, therefore it is in your interest to be on their best side. The best revenge for a traffic ticket is to hire a lawyer to represent your interest at the courthouse.

Usually lawyers can settle the ticket and you'll end up only having to pay a fine. If you are the type of person to get tickets all over the valley, you should note that some jurisdictions have much heftier fines than others do. I will not tell you which because I want you to be on your best behavior while driving at all times, but just know that a ticket in one part of town may be 5 times more expensive than in another part of town--even after the ticket has been reduced.

My public service message to you is to treat the ticket like a user tax, smile at the officer politely so that you can live to pay the fine. Most importantly, hire my firm to represent you for your traffic citation. By doing so, you will not have to appear in court-which could be an all day affair for you and I think you probably have better things to do. Call me and ask us what we charge, I firmly believe that when you know what you get from an attorney for the money you pay, you will deem it worthwhile to hire an attorney for your tickets.

Attorney Anthony M. Wright is a traffic ticket attorney with The Wright Law Offices, PC located in Las Vegas, Nevada, near Green Valley Henderson. Attorney Wright represents clients in Clark County, NV in all jurisdictions in which a person gets a traffic citation. Attorney Wright represents clients from the Las Vegas Valley, across the United States, and all over the world. Call us at 702-809-6904 if you want affordable representation for your traffic ticket. 

CRIMINAL: Riding Your Bicycle and Other Arrestable Offences

Crimes in the United States are generally classified as misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, and felonies. Misdemeanors generally are crimes that are not very serious such as speeding. Gross misdemeanors are crimes that we consider more dangerous or more serious, and felonies are the crimes that generally involve evil intent and victims.

The Supreme Court of the United States has held that police officers may arrest any person if there is probable cause of a crime. It is within the cops' discretion to arrest you if you were speeding in your car, throwing a cigarette on the ground, loitering, and riding your bicycle without using proper hand signals. The probable cause comes from the officer witnessing you committing the crime.

Some cops will arrest you and justify the arrest in the police report by claiming you were belligerent and they did not believe you would sign the citation in which you promise that you will show up in court. This could be a lie on the part of the officer, but without video footage of the arrest, it is your word against the police.

Law-abiding citizens are often arrested on minor offenses because they are shocked by the attitude they are given by police who stop them. Surprised at being stopped and at the condescension of the officer, the misdemeanant will say something to the effect of "I know my rights."

If you argue with the cop or offer an excuse for you behavior, you could be doing yourself a grave disservice. I can tell you of a cop who stopped this fellow for speeding. The fellow said that he had not seen the speed limit sign, hoping the cop would understand and let him go with a warning. Instead, the cop wrote him the citation for speeding and added another citation for inattentive driving.

Cops do not like to hear any lip and can arrest you. Cops do not care that you already feel humiliated that you are being charged with a crime when you believed you were adhering to the law. They do not care that you are a law-abiding taxpayer and you pay for their salary.

Some of the slickest criminals are ex-felons. They understand the cop psychology and act with the utmost respect toward the officer, saying "Yes sir" and "No sir" and "thank you for informing sir". Even though these ex-felons probably do not pay much by way of taxes and are not responsible for contributing to police salaries, police treat them much nicer sometimes.

If you act like the boot-kissing sycophant with a cop, the Cop may think you are a convicted criminal, however generally the cop will treat you better than if you act like a law-abiding citizen who knows his rights.


Be calm, courteous, and quiet with police officers when stopped. If they harass you, keep your cool or you will fuel their adrenaline and make them more apt to treat you worse.

FAMILY: Removing Your Child From Nevada

If you have primary custody of your child and wish to move out of Nevada, you must first give notice to the other parent of your intention to move. If the other parent consents, then you may move without court intervention.

However, if the other parent does not consent, Nevada law requires the moving parent to file a "Petition for Removal". The non-moving parent can then file an answer arguing the moving is not in the best interest of the child and a difficult court battle will ensue.

The moving parent will have to prove that there is a "good faith reason" for the move. Nevada Supreme Court cases have declared that moving to pursue a romantic relationship is a good faith reason, so is moving to better one's occupation. The moving parent should also present evidence to show the following:

(1) The extent to which the move is likely to improve the quality of life for both the child and the custodial parent;

(2) Whether the custodial parent's motives are honorable, and designed to frustrate or defeat visitation rights accorded to the non-custodial parent;

(3) whether, if permission to remove is granted, the custodial parent will comply with any substitute visitation orders issued by the court;

(4) whether the noncustodian's motives are honorable in resisting the motion for permission to remove, or to what extent, if any, the opposition is intended to secure a financial advantage in the form of ongoing support obligations or otherwise;

(5) whether, if removal is allowed, there will be a realistic opportunity for the noncustodial parent to maintain a visitation schedule that will adequately foster and preserve the parental relationship with the noncustodial parent. Schwartz v. Schwartz, 107 Nev.378, 383 (1991).

Once the moving parent has proven a good faith reason to move, the objecting parent must prove that the move is not in the best interest of the child, otherwise the court will grant the move.


It is advised that a contested removal should be handled by an attorney because if the petition is not completed correctly and the evidence not presented adequately, the constitutionally protected right to move can be hampered when balanced against the other parent's constitution right to raise his or her child.

FAMILY: Parental Alienation

Some parents are just crazy. They are unreasonable and will use their children to further their venomous attacks on the other parent. They will accuse the other parent of child abuse. They may even manufacture evidence to hurt the other parent. The scary thing is, these hostile parents often come off as credible in the courtroom.

They can be believable by keeping journals of fictional accounts where they claim the other parent yelled at them in front of the child, or threatened them, etc. They will have family members vouch for them in court and lie on the stand.

This all being said, the court is faced with a serious dilemma, whom to believe. It is therefore recommended that both parents keep journals detailing the raising of the children so that memories cannot fade. One reason people appear to lie on the stand is that they have forgotten something from the past. I also strongly encourage parents to video tape all exchanges and activities.

Parental alienation, however, is even more insidious than accusations of abuse or neglect. It is a form of conscious or unconscious mental and emotional coercion where one parent will cause the child to believe certain things about the other parent, causing the child not to want to be with the other parent.

A few examples include:

--Spoiling the child with material possessions with full knowledge that the other parent does not wish to spoil the child. The child will then favor the parent who gives in to all the material demands of the child and will dislike the parent who is trying to teach patience and humility.

--Speaking badly of the other parent. Suggesting the other parent does not really love the child or that the other parent is very immoral or evil human being.

--Undermining the other parent's efforts to teach morality by teaching a counter-morality.


A parent who has to deal with another parent who alienates their child should take steps early on to prepare for court battle. The more evidence presented at court by one parent will cause the court to believe the presenting parent. A child should not be a pawn in a battle for vengeance and the parent who clearly has the child's best interest at heart should win with the proper presentation.

CRIMINAL: Sealing or Expunging a Federal Criminal Record

You want to be an upright citizen with opportunities for a good career, however you have a criminal record which you feel will bar you from advancement in life. In State courts you can often seal a State record after a certain length of time and depending on the crime. An attorney can aid you through the procedure.

However, if your crime happened to be a federal offense, be prepared to spend enormous amounts of money just at the chance to seal your record. The odds are against you because the federal courts have ruled that only in rare situations will the court seal a record-and I mean rare.

Your crime could have been minor, it does not matter. A less expensive and perhaps even better gamble would be to write a personal letter to the President of the United States asking for a presidential pardon.

Sorry folks. Once you are branded by the federal system it is likely a lifetime stain. It reminds me of the novel Les Miserable in which the hero was thrown into prison for many years for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family. Once he served his time, no one wanted to help an ex-convict and the police were always suspicious of him. He eventually changed his identity in order to get some semblance of a good life. However, even then he eventually ended up dying at the hands of an overzealous cop.

My advice to you is to fight any federal charges from the beginning and not to plead guilty, unless you truly believe that the deal offered by the US Attorney's office is good and your chance of a conviction and severe punishment is high.

If you find yourself in the unenviable position of having a federal criminal record, all I can suggest would be to do your best to explain the circumstances in a light favorable to you when a nosy employer asks. Write a summary of the incident explaining it from your point of view and attach it to your job application. If it is well written, it may even improve your chances of getting the job.

As our government churns out more and more criminals with its arbitrary enforcement of arbitrary laws, more and more employers will become more and more understanding of your plight. Good luck.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

GENERAL: Arguing in the Alternative: Spirit vs. Letter of the Law

In law, judges often face the issue of whether to follow the letter of the law or to follow the spirit. This issue is by no means a new one and has probably been around since humankind first learned to write. It is one of the major reasons to have lawyers.

Judges are supposed to interpret laws; this is their primary function. Judges generally are not supposed to create law; that is the job of the legislature. However, sometimes legislatures draft laws without really thinking about all of the potential problems with interpretation. Savvy lawyers will use these loopholes created by confusing language to influence a judge's decision.

Lawyers who say that a law is black and white do not want judges to interpret beyond the "four corners" of the statute. They will argue that if the legislature wanted the law to be different, then they should revise the wording. Until then, the judge should apply the law in the strictest sense.

Lawyers who want the spirit enforced wish to make the judge consider why the law was enacted in the first place. They argue that the motivation for the law is more important than the actual language.

By way of example, let us say a statute declares, "Any person caught drinking and driving is guilty of a misdemeanor, for a first offence, punishable of up to a year in jail, or for a second offense, is guilty of a felony, punishable of not less than one year and not more than 5 years."

Willy is pulled over by a police officer and is cited for drinking while driving. Willy was in fact drinking water out of a plastic bottle while stopped at a red light.

Willy hires me because the prosecutor wants to make an example out of him and send a message that violators will be punished. I read the statute and laugh at how stupid the legislators were in drafting the statute.

I decide that I want to influence the judge by making the judge consider the spirit of the law. The legislature wanted to punish people for drinking alcoholic beverages while driving the vehicle, but the legislature neglected to clarify this in the statute.

The prosecutor does not care about the motive. He wants a conviction because he believes that drinking anything while driving is dangerous. He tells the judge that if the legislature meant "alcoholic" beverage then it should revise the law, in the meantime Willy must go to jail.

The judge appears to believe the prosecutor's viewpoint. I can see it in the glint of his eye. The judge has been embarrassed in the past because he did not follow the statutory language to the letter and a higher judge overturned his decision. Now, I am beginning to feel like I am losing.

So I might say, "Your honor, I fully understand that the letter of the law should be applied even if the intent was to curtail alcohol consumption while driving. If we are going to look at the plain meaning of the statute and not consider the motivations of the legislature, then it is important to consider that Willy was not in fact driving when he drank. The statute clearly states that a person must be driving, however Willy was stopped at a stop light. Thus, by the very language of the statute, he is not guilty of violating the law."

The judge's grimace lightens, his face softens. He never wanted to agree with the prosecutor but felt he had to because the statute seemed clear. My argument, however weak, would be enough to get Willy off.

The prosecutor might argue that Willy simply being in the car with the motor running was "driving" but because the statute did not define the word "driving" the judge is free to interpret the word. The judge could say "driving" meant only the condition of being in motion.

So, in this example, I might have lost on the strong argument that the spirit of the law was more important than the letter of the law, however I won on a much weaker argument. This is sometimes the case.

There was a time about 2000 years ago when a group of legal interpreters focused so much on the letter of the law that challengers were killed. These scholars went through hundreds of scenarios to determine if people were guilty of violating the word of the law. Now, the really interesting thing about the words of these laws were that they were considered holy, direct from the mouth of God. Thus, the scholars wanted to make sure that they interpreted correctly. How better to make sure the word of God was followed than to strictly construe the meanings of the words?

Therefore, according to their interpretation, a person who saved his work camel from drowning in pouring rain on Saturday was guilty of working on the Sabbath and punishable.

Then came a guy who said that the spirit of the laws was more important then the literal meaning of the writing. He explained that the motive behind the laws was to create a happy life for the adherents and give believers hope and joy. The scholarly interpreters (aka "the Pharisees") did not like this obnoxious trouble maker who thought he understood better than they, so they called the police and had him arrested. Then they told the judge that he was causing too many problems with his ideas. If the government wanted peace, they would have to silence this interloper. So they did. They killed him.

Whether this story about Jesus and the Pharisees is literally true does not matter. The spirit of the story tells us that lawyers, like Jesus, can get in a lot of trouble for upsetting the time-honored ways of doing things.

Lawyers know that whether you argue for letter or for spirit, you must be prepared to suffer the consequences, so, they argue for both. You will note that in my example about drinking and driving, I explained how I would use both tactics. I argued spirit first and word second because my goal in this one instance was not to change the stupidly drafted law. Nope--my goal was to free Willy.

Lawyers are often accused of speaking out of both sides of their mouths. Incidentally, most politicians are lawyers too. There is a reason for it. We want to cover all of our bases. If one argument won't win, try another even if it seems contradictory. Its called, "arguing in the alternative". Have a nice day!

Copyright: May 2007