Chances of Upcoming Changes to the Legal Limit



blood alcohol content legal limit If you aren’t familiar with the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), they are an independent federal agency which investigates major accidents. According to the NTSB, alcohol-related accidents account for approximately 10,000 deaths each year.

 

Recently, the NTSB has recommended nation-wide changes be made to DUI/DWI laws. Included in these changes- the legal limit would be lowered from 0.08 to 0.05.

 

Besides lowering the blood alcohol content limit, other changes include: requiring an ignition interlock for every drunk driving charge (first time offenders included), establishing additional DUI checkpoints, and creating and using DUI-specific courts.

 

Typically when the NTSB makes suggestions, agencies and state governments listen with open minds. Although the NTSB doesn’t hold the authority to implement these changes themselves, recommendations like these usually hold a lot of weight. Meaning, it’s somewhat likely we’ll see some of or all of these changes to the current DUI/DWI laws.

 

The problem of impaired driving across the U.S. is still very much an issue. The NTSB’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths caused by drunk driving is certainly what’s pushing these changes and they likely won’t stop until some type of change is made.

We do know one thing for sure- plenty of cops are very willing to pull people over now. With a lower BAC limit of .05, we may begin seeing a lot more arrests.

The Top Ten All Time Corporate Criminal Fines



In his blog, Conflict of Interest, corporate compliance and ethics attorney, Jeff Kaplan, has a list of the ten biggest U.S. corporate criminal fines in history. They total up to a staggering $6.75 billion dollars.

According to the blog the list is based solely on federal corporate criminal fines, which means other penalties such as federal or criminal forfeitures, regulatory or civil judgments or other fines from countries outside the U.S. weren’t included in the total. In some instances the amount of these other costs substantially exceeded the criminal fine amounts.corporate-criminal-fines

The list also leaves out SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) civil penalties and included only Department of Justice criminal fines. Two cases from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are included, KBR/Halliburton and Siemans.

So take a look and shake a stern finger at the following:

1.  BP – $1.256 billion (environmental and related offenses) (2012)

2.  Pfizer – $1.2 billion (marketing offenses) (2009)

3.  GlaxoSmithKline – $956 million (marketing offenses) (2012)

4.  Eli Lilly – $515 million (marketing offenses) (2009)

5.  AU Optronics – $500 million (antitrust) (2012)

6.  Abbott Laboratories – $500 million (marketing offenses) (2012)

7.  Hoffman-LaRoche – $500 million (antitrust) (1999)

8.  Yakazi – $470 million (antitrust) (2012)

9.  Siemens – $450 million (FCPA) (2009)

10. Halliburton/KBR – $402 million (FCPA) (2008)

That’s a lot of money for some pretty underhanded dealings. What’s really striking about this list is that half of the ten largest corporate criminal fines were handed out just in 2012. Half in a single year.

Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine is happy not to be involved in any of these cases. What makes us come to work each day is helping individuals who need the best representation possible. We all make mistakes and sometimes we are held up to the court system to own up. Other times we find ourselves accused of a crime for which we are innocent. Both of these circumstances will have the best resolution if given the best counsel. So call us today at 913-712-0242 so we can discuss your options.

Marijuana Legalization Raises Health Issues



Over a dozen states in the United States have decriminalized marijuana possession in small amounts, Massachusetts recently approved medicinal use and Colorado and Washington recently legalized recreational use.

And while you may hear cheers from the counter culture (and old hippies) as well as a yawn from the federal government there are still some health issues to examine.marijuana-legalization-medicine

Proponents of recreational use have long argued that marijuana is safer than alcohol, with less chance of becoming dependent and virtually no incidents of overdose. In fact most of the scientific community agrees that fewer than 10 percent of pot smokers become dependent which is lower than the 15 percent for alcohol, 23 percent for heroin, and 32 percent tobacco.

But there is some evidence that relaxed marijuana laws put the public into some unknown frontiers with regards to their health when consuming it.

So just what does is all this reefer doing to us?

Most people who experimented with marijuana did so with whatever they could find, either on their college campus or “friend of a friend of a friend”. Now that it’s legal and cultivation is more involved than a hidden field in Arkansas, the THC levels (the psychoactive element) of this pot are very different. In fact the levels of THC in cannabis more than doubled from 1993 to 2008.

This increased concentration means a more intense effect on the brain. This may go beyond enjoying a Lord of The Rings marathon and a bag of Cheetos and into real medical issues. Addiction rates may actually increase because of the way the brain reacts to higher THC levels. The “high” may last longer than before and the effects are still unknown.

This is especially concerning for young users of marijuana. Teenagers may be more at risk for addiction as well as developmental problems from early marijuana use. Young users may actually consume more than those who start using at an older age.

Legalization may also be sending a message that marijuana is “safe” and without stigma.

“When people can go to a ‘clinic’ or ‘cafe’ and buy pot, that creates the perception that it’s safe,” said Dr. A. Eden Evins, director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said in an article in The New York Times. “Before we unleash the powers of the marketplace to woo people to use this addictive substance, we need to better understand who is at risk.”

The legal age to use recreational marijuana is 21 in both Washington and Colorado but as with alcohol in years past it may not be hard to acquire at a younger age. Studies have shown that teenagers who actively use marijuana perform poorer in school and on standardized tests, including tests for abstract thinking, understanding rules and executive function. And because brain development continues into early adulthood the ramifications of both availability and increased potency raise a number of issues.

Other health issues are more frequent acute chest illnesses and increased risk of lung infections. Researchers have found that users’ risk for a heart attack is four times higher within the first hour after smoking marijuana, compared to their general risk of heart attack when not smoking. Marijuana smoke also contains three times the amount of tar found in tobacco smoke and 50 percent more carcinogens. There is even some evidence of a link between heavy marijuana use and development of schizophrenia.

Whether or not the legalization of marijuana increases among states the medical questions will continue to be asked. This will undoubtedly also raise legal issues, from drugged driving, reduced capacity crimes, quality control matters and others which will undoubtedly break new ground. Time will tell if this is just the beginning.

 

At Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine we can take on criminal drug cases and can help you if you find yourself on the wrong end of a bad decision. For a confidential consultation with a competent and experienced Kansas criminal defense attorney from Fletcher, Rohrbaugh & Chahine, LLP, simply call us at (913) 712-0242, or learn more about other resources a criminal defense attorney can provide on our website.

A New Kansas City Alliance To Fight Violence



Back in May of 2012 a group of police, prosecutors and Kansas City, MO city leaders were given a grant by the Greater Kansas City LISC to launch the KC No Violence Alliance or KC NoVA. It’s an effort to understand and reduce crime in urban core neighborhoods.

The KC No Violence Alliance hopes to reduce violent crime.

The KC No Violence Alliance hopes to reduce violent crime.

This month the alliance announced its launch just as the debate over gun violence is garnering national attention.

Kansas City Missouri Police Capt. Joe McHale knows violence is an issue here, especially involving guns.

“Most of the homicides that occur in Kansas City are the result of handguns, absolutely,” Capt. McHale said in an interview on local TV station Fox 4 KC,  “Handguns are easily available, they’re readily available.”

By developing models that examine the instance of violent crime, the relationships and connections between location and known violent offenders, the alliance hopes to discover methods to counter and reduce violence in KC’s most vulnerable areas.

“In our pilot model, we have been very successful in forecasting where violence will occur in this city,” McHale explained.

In depressed neighborhoods violent crime may occur over the most minor circumstances; an argument, a perceived instance of disrespect, or even being in the wrong neighborhood. KC NoVA hopes to reduce the instances of violence being the response.

According to Police Chief Darryl Forte, guns were used in 83-percent of all homicides last year. But the alliance hopes to go beyond gun violence and into opportunities for less violent offenders. From job training to anger management to increased education of the long-term effects of violence on a neighborhood, the goal is not just apprehension but social change.

It’s a big task but KC NoVA is hoping that by involving so many different organizations that a real impact is possible. Currently the group includes the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; the Kansas City Police Department; the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole.

Violent crime is never the answer but sometimes a simple mistake or lack of judgment can lead to life-long consequences. If you’re facing criminal charges from a violent offense you need good representation. Call the attorneys at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine for help. We can advise you on your rights, your possible penalties, and work toward the best case scenario possible.

Does Privacy Override Public Safety?



Missouri is the only state in the US to refuse to adopt legislation that would create a prescription drug tracking program. In May of this year legislation died in the Missouri Senate after an extended filibuster spearheaded by Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph and other Republican lawmakers.

Privacy issues may stop a prescription database meant to track improper use.

This action prompted a visit by the White House drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, who appeared in St. Louis to publicly advocate for the legislation to pass.

“The number of deaths as a result of prescription drug use and abuse are greater than heroin and cocaine overdose deaths combined,” Kerlikowske said.

The monitoring program would put Missouri prescription drug transactions into a government database to discourage “doctor shopping” in which individuals see multiple doctors or clinics and receive multiple prescriptions. They are then filled to support an addiction or to be sold.

Privacy Issues May Stop Implementation Of Database

Privacy is the issue most commonly brought up by opponents of the program. Sen. Schaaf who is a family doctor as well as a senator sees the database as an infringement on personal liberty.

“Most people are very opposed to turning all their sensitive medical information over to a state-run database,” Schaaf said.

In an article in the Kansas City Star, Schaaf was quoted as saying, “(Kerlikowske) would be more than happy to have people give up their liberty to keep drug addicts from obtaining drugs. But I’m not willing to do that, and I don’t think most people are willing to do that. If I have anything to say about it, that bill will never pass.

The legislation in Missouri would not only include the patient’s identities but also the doctors who prescribe the drugs. All information would be submitted by pharmacies. The information would be provided to doctors and pharmacists but not to law enforcement without a subpoena.

Similar legislation in Kansas created K-TRACS, the Kansas Tracking and Reporting of Controlled Substances program. The K-TRACS database contains information regarding prescriptions for Schedule II, III or IV drugs. Pharmicists and doctors can access the database for patient history to check for possible drug abuse situations.

According to the Star shortly after K-TRACS started a patient was identified who had gone to 56 prescribers and more than 13 pharmacies.

Approximately 21,000 deaths in the U.S. were attributed to prescription drug overdoses in 2009, according to the Associated Press. The Office of National Drug Control Policy has stated that this is a fourfold increase over the past decade. If Missouri is the last hold out for the monitoring database it could become a “pill mill” where addicts and dealers come to take advantage of doctors and pharmacies that can’t track their access to drugs.

What do you think? Is the issue of privacy more important than tracking the potentially hazardous consumption and distribution of addictive medication? We’re interested in your opinions.

Should The Missouri Sex Crime Offender List Be Shortened?



In an effort to protect the public, Missouri instituted its sex offender registry in 1995 and it covers a wide range of offenses including rape, lewd conduct or child pornography. The list became quite liberal in its inclusions and has swelled to 12,000 names currently.

Should having sex with your high school girlfriend ruin your life forever?

Under a bill passed in March of this year some sex offenders would be removed from the list. Republican state Rep. Rodney Schad sponsored the measure, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that only about 5% of sex offenders commit new sex crimes and those found guilty of small offenses such as public urination end up in the same category (with the same assumptions about them) as pedophiles and child rapists.

Many of them are simply guilty of little more than being “young, dumb, and stupid.” And we all know that if people were convicted of that our jails would contain more people on the inside than outside.

“So when we get on the [Missouri sex offender] website, we look and we see all these offenders living around us,” Schad said. “It has desensitized us to who the true dangers of society are. We want to go back to the original intent of this bill.”

The bill would remove offenders listed on the registry for crimes such as consensual sex with minors, public exposure or furnishing pornography to minors. Supporters say changes to the law could help current offenders listed for lesser crimes who have encountered harassment or lack of employment due to inclusion.

The bill would also ease the burden on law enforcement officials charged with keeping track of the 12,000 offenders as it could be reduced by up to 5,000 people. Staying abreast of the whereabouts of a pedophile is much more important than knowing the address of a guy caught urinating behind a bar.

It’s a positive change for a list that has become bloated and almost meaningless as anyone doing a search sex offenders in Missouri might find a young man convicted of nothing more than having sex with a girlfriend who was a year younger but on the minor side of legal sex. Young love is sweet but this now 24 year old man is still stamped with “sex offender” as his scarlet letter.

Finding yourself on the end of a sex offense charge will be devastating regardless of your guilt or innocence. It could spell the end of your career, your family life, your contact with your children and even your place in society. Your best defense is an attorney with the experience to handle all aspects of sex crimes charges. That’s us. Call Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine immediately so we can step in and be your advocate.

Shelters Moving Toward Accepting Pets



In 2011 a woman came to the door of the Rose Brooks Center in Kansas City seeking refuge from her boyfriend, a man who repeatedly beat and terrorized her. Earlier in the evening the man had beaten her with a hammer and may have killed her but her Great Dane put himself between the woman and her attacker. The man then threw both the woman and the dog out a second story window to the ground below.

J. Matthew, the dog that sparked a policy change.

The woman, who remains unidentified, had finally realized she needed protection for herself and her four-legged savior, named J. Matthew. But while there was room for her at the shelter there was no place for her companion.

“I told her thanks but I was going to a rest stop,” the woman said. She refused to stay at the shelter without her dog, fearing for his life.

So with the woman about to spend the night in an untenable situation Susan Miller, the executive director of the Rose Brooks Center relented and allowed both the woman and her rescuer.

“She was not going to leave her pet alone with him,” Miller said. “He saved her life.”

The dog was seriously injured with a broken hip, ribs and other broken bones and the woman was not about to leave him alone and vulnerable.

As many forty percent of abused women will not leave their pets and so will live in their cars, with friends or simply endure the violent situation. Abusive husbands and boyfriends will often use the pets as leverage, threatening harm if the woman leaves or speaks about her suffering.

Realizing how much a difference it makes in the lives of abuse-escapees, now the Rose Brooks Center is now in the process of adding seven kennels, and expanding the shelter to accommodate another 25 beds. The new kennel is dedicated to the woman and her dog and now will be a haven for both families and the animals that they love.

“To know that a woman will no longer have to make that choice, that they will either have to get safe or they will have to abandon their pet, is worth everything,” Miller says.

Staying with an abusive partner for the sake of children or pets is a difficult and sometimes even deadly choice. If you face domestic abuse there are solutions. Finding safe shelter is paramount and thankfully now there are more resources for you, your children and your family pet. Once you’re safe it’s time to remove yourself from the situation permanently. The attorneys at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine can help to protect you and your family from a violent living situation. We can secure an order of protection, begin divorce proceedings and initiate child custody or need of care protection. Don’t wait. If you feel you are in danger, the time to act is now.

The Dangers Of Distracted Driving For Teens



In August of 2010, nineteen-year-old Daniel Schatz was driving on Missouri Interstate 44 when he hit a truck tractor that had slowed for construction. This set off a chain reaction that killed Schatz and a fifteen-year-old girl in a school bus that hit his truck. Schatz had sent or received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes before the crash.

In Kansas City in September of 2011, sixteen-year-old Jessica Gannon lost control of her car while texting and hit another car driven by a great-grandmother, killing her, and injuring her 10-year-old granddaughter.

Teen drivers are especially vulnerable to distracted driving.

The CDC recently released a study in which 58% of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month and 43% percent of high-school juniors said the same thing. Results were higher than estimated which is cause for alarm.

Studies have shown that texting while driving is more dangerous than talking on the phone while driving, talking to a passenger or eating while driving and twice as dangerous as driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08. Currently texting while driving is illegal in 39 states and rapidly climbing.

Teenagers have always believed in their own invincibility but with the rise of technology their distractions have multiplied.

What can a parent do?

Talk to your teenage driver. Ask them to look at you, their siblings or their friends and think of them being killed or injured in a car accident by someone who was distracted by texting. Jessica Gannon will live the rest of her life knowing she took away a beloved member of someone’s family. Don’t just lecture, ask them for their thoughts and opinions.

Set up non-negotiable rules for driving and enforce them.  Consider implementing driving privileges in stages. That means limiting nighttime driving, restricting teen passengers and making sure teens get lots of supervised practice.  You won’t win any parent popularity contests but that’s not why you’re here.

Practice with your teen driver. For some parents practice stops when their teen driver gets their license. Stick with it, practice during busy traffic times, at night and on the highway. Sure you’ll have permanent grip marks on your dashboard but it will be worth it.

Make no bones about it-no texting or using their cell phones while driving. Even if they receive a call from you wondering where they heck they are tell them its ok to wait and pull over to return the call. Contact their friend’s parents to see how they also communicate with their kids. A lax parent has a lax child who will have influence over yours.

Be an example. It’s pretty hard to get your teenager to stop using her cellphone when you’re using yours while driving. The “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” rule didn’t work for you when your father told you not to smoke while he lit up did it? Being a hypocrite isn’t the best way to reach your kids. The other reason is that adults are just as susceptible to distracted driving as their teens.

The National Safety Council has some excellent resources for teen drivers and their parents including tips on the Graduated Driver’s License program.

Distracted driving isn’t just a teen problem. It’s everyone’s problem. You can see it anytime you want to, adults and teens using cellphones while driving, eating or putting on make-up. Until we realize that none of us can successfully multi-task in the car we will continue to lose our loved ones on a daily basis. Please don’t be a part of a tragic story simply because you felt compelled to LOL.

At Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine we understand that a simple mistake can have lasting and irreparable consequences. If you find yourself in trouble and you need legal help give us a call. Our attorneys will treat you with compassion and understanding and can help you find resolution.

The Myth Of 60 Minute Justice



Crime investigations on television are presented as neatly solvable by good-looking people with the right tools, the right mood lighting and a really good montage. The abundance of procedural dramas such as “CSI”, “NCIS” or “Bones” have been cited as causing bumps in actual criminal prosecutions as jurors have begun to expect conclusive and irrefutable physical evidence at trials. It’s been called “The CSI Effect” and may or may not be influencing how jurors treat evidence, make decisions and ultimately bring judgments on criminal defendants. Evan Durnal of the University of Central Missouri, Criminal Justice Department, has compiled a few erroneous assumptions for the Journal of Forensic Science International.

Crimes are seldom solved in 60 minutes.

He details how much of what is seen on television can be misleading or inaccurate stating, “With this new style of ‘infotainment’, comes an increasingly blurred line between the hard facts of reality and the soft, quick solutions of entertainment.”

Much of the science shown in these shows doesn’t exist or is greatly exaggerated. There is no one miraculous database that can immediately identify soil or paint samples, hair dye or just what goes into Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are huge databases for DNA and fingerprints but other examples of such universal databases are rare. DNA or other biological or physical evidence is delicate, must be prepared before analysis and results are rarely as conclusive as on TV.

On TV, forensic scientists have multiple roles including chasing suspects and driving really fast. They also seem to have knowledge on all aspects of evidence analysis from ballistics to DNA to how long a fly will sit on a corpse until it gets tired. In our real world they specialize in a single discipline and most always stick around the lab. They don’t visit crime scenes, arrest suspects and most of all do not carry guns.

Unfortunately jurors these days expect to hear about buckets of evidence, analysis and inescapable conclusions. The perpetrator always leaves an evidence trail and it’s only a matter of following it to the literal smoking gun. The reality is that sometimes there just isn’t enough physical evidence to solve the case alone. Rarely does a case rest solely on physical evidence, there will be a combination of old fashioned detective work, good legal skills and forensic information.

Wouldn’t it be nice to solve a crime in 60 minutes? Think of all the extra time law enforcement would have to stop speeders, jaywalkers or rude people. In TV land DNA or other evidence results are delivered literally overnight or by the time the detectives return from the crime scene. They’re always incontrovertible, done right the first time and detailed. “Mrs. Peacock in the conservatory with the candlestick” is heard in the precinct. Most law enforcement departments are understaffed, overworked and rarely does evidence materialize by the next commercial.

There may or may not be a “CSI Effect” but its always in your best interest to have an experienced attorney on your side if you’re involved in any sort of criminal activity. Guilt or innocence aside, the attorneys at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine can advise you of your rights, explain your options and help your comprehend the legal system and how it affects you. We’ll help you make the best choices and represent you in the best possible fashion.

 

 

 

Crime Doesn’t Pay Unless You Want Doughnuts



If you’re a movie fan you’ve probably seen the “heist” movie. Slick criminals, high tech devices and a fast getaway car combine for the perfect crime.  The criminals, one of whom is usually George Clooney, get away clean and spend their days on the beach in the lap of luxury.

Amazingly enough that almost never happens. No one really looks like George Clooney and if you had that kind of high tech equipment you probably don’t need to rob anything and the fast getaway car is usually a 1998 Honda Civic. Nor are the crooks as smart or smooth as our boy George. The vast majority are confused, unprepared and just plain dumb.

Like these people:

Convicted of receiving stolen property, James Wombles, 37, had to wear an ankle bracelet as part of his parole. The bracelet came complete with a GPS monitoring system that let cops track his every move. Over the course of a few weeks, the Riverside, Ohio, man allegedly broke into six homes. You know where this is going — just as the cops knew where Wombles was going. Following the signals from his bracelet, they tracked him to his car, where they found him sitting on the stolen booty.

Some criminals just aren't suited to it.

Timothy Chapek, 25, allegedly broke into a home in Portland, Oregon to take a shower. When he heard the owner come home, he got scared. And yes, called 911. The homeowner called into the bathroom to inquire as to what Timothy was doing and he informed her had broken in and was in the shower. When she offered to call 911 he said he was already on the phone with them.

Clint Messina and an associate stole a Krispy Kreme doughnuts delivery truck in Slidell, Louisiana. The Krispy Kreme deliveryman had left the engine of the truck running and its rear doors open while he went into a convenience store to make a delivery. Upon returning to find the truck and the hundreds of doughnuts inside missing, the deliveryman called police, who pursued and caught up to the vehicle. Messina then led police on a 15-mile chase, leaving a trail of doughnuts behind them.

One night at a corner store, a man entered with a shotgun and demanded money from the clerk. The clerk put money into the bag for the criminal. The robber then noticed a bottle of scotch behind the counter and demanded that the clerk put the scotch in the bag. The clerk refused to do so saying that he didn’t believe that the perpetrator was over the age of 21. The frustrated criminal showed the cashier his driver’s license indeed proving that he was over 21. The clerk then agreed to give him the alcohol. When the thief left, the clerk called the police and gave them the thief’s name and address that he obtained from the driver’s license.

In Oklahoma City, Dennis Newton was put on trial with the suspicion of armed robbery. He apparently entered a convenience store and raised a gun to the store manager’s head and demanded money. However, during his trial, Newton decided to fire his lawyer and defend himself. When the store manager came up to the stand to testify that Newton was the robber he accused her of lying and then yelled,  “I should have blown your head off!” He paused and then quickly added “-if I’d been the one who was there.” The jury took twenty minutes to convict Newton and recommended a 30-year sentence.

Don’t let this be you. If you find yourself at the wrong end of a criminal charge the smartest thing you can do is find a good lawyer. Of course, that’s assuming you’re smarter than these guys. Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine should be your first call if you need a criminal defense attorney. We have the expertise and the resources to help you whether you’re a criminal mastermind or just someone who made the wrong decision so let us go to work for you and make the best of a bad situation.