Monday, November 28, 2011


We routinely represent individuals charged with moving violations or traffic infractions in Oregon and Washington.  Often, our clients will be so angry at the overzealous police officer, the amount of the fine, or a combination of the two, that they decide “I don’t care how much it costs, I want my day in court!”

Our firm has been successful in negotiating these cases with either the citing police officer or the attorney for the jurisdiction who can make decisions regarding dismissal, reduced charge, diversion, etc. 

Here’s what you should know in dealing with a moving violation charge and evaluating whether it’s worth it to “lawyer-up”:

  • ·         Moving violations such as running a red light; speeding; failing to signal, etc are NOT crimes which means that the penalty cannot be jail.  HOWEVER, if you ignore the information on the citation in terms of responding within the designated time frame, a bench warrant will likely be issued and you could be held in jail on the warrant.  So read the citation carefully and if you are handling things on your own, make sure to respond within the designated response time. 
  • When the officer pulls you over, you are obligated to cooperate, provide your driver’s license and proof of insurance/registration but you ARE NOT obligated to provide statements which help the officer’s case.  So if he or she says something like “do you know why I pulled you over?”, the answer should be “no” – the end.  Don’t go in to a long sob story acknowledging that you messed up but…our experience has sadly been that unless you’re a very attractive woman, the sob story angle never works.  Seriously.  Ask one of your very attractive female friends if they’ve ever gotten out of a ticket and they will unanimously say yes. 
  • If you are one of the said very attractive women, good for you for escaping the wrath of “the man”.
  • ·         If you decide to hire a lawyer, do your homework:  these cases are tricky and you should find someone who routinely handles traffic matters, is familiar with the traffic code and understands the tactical complexities of the jurisdiction bringing the citation against you.  In other words, don’t hire Uncle Ralph, bankruptcy lawyer extraordinaire, to represent you in a traffic trial.  Hire a lawyer who knows what they’re doing: an experienced defense attorney. 
  • ·         Every city/county has their own rules regarding traffic offenses.  Some jurisdiction’s have diversion programs that will result in dismissal of the violation at the conclusion of a time period (usually one year).  Other jurisdictions don’t have such programs so you or your attorney need to try to resolve the matter pretrial or go to trial, cross examine the police officer and fight.  The other side has the burden of proof – not you.  With weak cases, sometimes the best option is to challenge the citation in court and let the judge decide.
  • ·         The rules are often different for individuals with commercial driver’s licenses.  So if you have one, let your lawyer know right away
  • ·         Finally, in Oregon if you get too many tickets within a certain period of time, the DMV will suspend your license.  Really. They Will.

Whether or not to hire a lawyer to defend a moving violation is really case specific: 

·         Do you have a good case?
·         What are the implications of a conviction?
·         Do you have prior convictions?
·         Does the jurisdiction have a history of negotiating/working things out with defense attorneys?
·         Are you willing to spend the money on a lawyer with the understanding that you may end up getting convicted and being forced to also pay a substantial fine?

As we approach the holiday season, I will close by saying please do not drink and drive.  But if you do, and you get charged with a DUI, give us a call…we can help.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Portland Trial Lawyers Blog: WILL THERE BE RIOTS IN DOWNTOWN PORTLAND?: In a few, short hours, the Portland Police Bureau will likely forcibly remove those individuals who have been camping at two parks in dow...


In a few, short hours, the Portland Police Bureau will likely forcibly remove those individuals who have been camping at two parks in downtown Portland for more than a month. If protestors refuse to leave, police officers likely will arrest them on charges such as: criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, interfering with a police officer, resisting arrest and unlawful camping, to name a few. 

If media reports are accurate, some of the protesters intendto stay put and will resist their eviction. We know that several area civil rights attorneys plan on being present downtown when the eviction starts to advocate on behalf of the protestors, advise them of their rights and assist them with representation if necessary. 

As a criminal defense attorney who greatly values fundamental constitutional rights such as the rights to assemble and speak freely, I must confess that I’m torn on this one. 

I definitely support the concept of the Occupy Movement. Like so many others, I too am fed up with an unmanageable student loan debt, crazy-high property taxes, and the requirement that I pay for my daughter’s full-day kindergarten at a PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

 And the list goes on.

While corporations, banks and big business continue to get break after break, exemption after exemption. 

I get it. 

So here are my questions:

·         If overnight camping in Portland parks is illegal, why has there been an exception here?
  • ·         Why did the city publicly sanction these activities by providing services to the campers? 
  • ·         Why do the rest of us bear the burden of paying what it will take to repair these beautiful public parks and pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime to city employees?
  • ·         If the campers have been warned and warned for days about the forced eviction,  if representatives from homeless and social service agencies have taken the time to provide the campers with alternative resources, and if the police have taken every possible measure to avoid conflict, and the campers still resist/fight/commit crimes, should I have any empathy?

And no.  I’m not a Republican.  I’m a grown-up.  And yes, there is a difference.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Penn State University Controversy

In regards to the terrible tragedy for the alleged victims should these allegations prove to be true, not much can be said - it is a catastrophe of epic proportions; lives were forever marred by the abuse at the hands of a figure of trust. Coach Sandusky should be punished to the fullest extent of the law for what he allegedly did to these young boys - and that comes from this writer who is both a father of a young boy, and a criminal defense attorney. For those that are interested, you can read the full grand jury report of the horrific allegations here.

What is of interest and the purpose of this post is what people think should happen to those that knew of what had occurred and didn't do what was either morally or legally required of them as witnesses to these atrocities. And, is what was morally required of those with knowledge of what had or was occurring the same as what their legal obligations were or should be?

I can tell you that as an attorney, at least here in Oregon, we are what is called "mandatory reporters" of child abuse. This is a responsibility that must be taken seriously but, thankfully, is not one that I have had the unfortunate circumstance of having to participate in as of now. However, as a mandatory reporter, we can be held liable for abrogating our duty in this regard. While I have had my questions about how I feel about this responsibility being forced upon me by my local legislature and profession, this is a case that clearly illustrates why. How many children's lives, now forever scarred, could have been saved by someone stepping up and reporting Coach Sandusky? And then ensuring that that report was followed up on halting the abuse by either incarcerating Coach Sandusky and/or treating his illness. So, where do those who were aware of what had or was occurring stand now? Should they be criminally prosecuted? Civilly sued? What is the appropriate sanction, if any? And where does that line get drawn depending on their level of knowledge, ie, whether they witnessed it themselves, were told about it by others, etc etc. While some of this case is black and white (should Sandusky get prosecuted for example), a lot of is not? Or is it? What should happen, for example, to the legendary Jo Pa?

Another interesting wrinkle for us attorneys or, more importantly, criminal defense attorneys, occurs when we become aware of allegations of abuse or potential abuse, especially ongoing abuse, when we have a duty to our clients of confidentiality. The law, and more importantly, the attorneys involved have a difficult time reconciling this for obvious reasons.

And, what about when the "abuse" is less clear than what Coach Sandusky has now sort of admitted to doing. As a parent and a mandatory reporter, what are we supposed to do with the situation when you see a parent "disciplining" their child in the grocery store? Where is that line drawn with discipline, pulling, squeezing, slapping, spanking, or other physical contact between a parent and their child - as you can see, these are not easy questions to answer. I do not look forward to the day where I am faced with having to make such a judgment call. I know from my years of work in criminal defense that I have seen first-hand how these allegations can ruin the lives of the accused in immeasurable ways regardless of the veracity of the allegations.

In addition, I am not a perfect parent. I get mad at my kids when they misbehave. Who is to judge what I do in anger or discipline of my children? Do we all agree at where that line is between discipline and abuse? Obviously, we are not talking about sexual abuse like what occurred here, but we attorneys are mandatory reporters of any "abuse". If I drag my misbehaving child out of of the grocery store by their ear (WARNING: purely hypothetical situation, this has never actually happened to my children), should someone report me if they witness this and are mandatory reporters? And, who should these mandatory reporters be? Everyone? If not, why not? Why are some of us charged with this duty while others are not?

What say you?