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.

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.

Don’t Let DUI Charges Ruin Your Holiday Season



This is the time of the year when we may be going out more than usual. We attend company parties, visit with family and friends arriving in town and celebrate all manner of holidays.

But as with anything moderation is the key. Overindulgence in cookies and stuffing may give you an upset stomach. But overindulgence in alcohol may result in something much, much worse.

Drinking and driving don't mix.

Drinking and driving don’t mix.

Over 1.41 million drivers were arrested in 2010 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.

Among persons aged 12 or older, males were more likely than females (15.1 vs. 7.9 percent) to drive under the influence of alcohol in the past year.

Driving under the influence of alcohol was associated with age in 2010. The rate was highest among persons aged 21 to 25 (23.4 percent). An estimated 5.8 percent of 16 or 17 year olds and 15.1 percent of 18 to 20 year olds reported driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year. Beyond age 25, these rates showed a general decline with increasing age.

Almost every 90 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash.

The average person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of about one drink per hour. Only time will sober a person up. Drinking strong coffee, exercising or taking a cold shower will not help.

A standard drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 72-proof distilled spirits, all of which contain the same amount of alcohol – about .54 ounces.

In 2010, 211 children were killed in drunk driving crashes. Of those 211 deaths, 131 were riding in the car with the drunk driver.

About one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of driving while intoxicated or driving under the influence of alcohol are repeat offenders. But the rest may just have been guilty of poor judgment. Either the way the results can be heartbreaking. If you’ve been arrested for a drunk driving offense in the KC Metro area call us at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine. A drunk driving charge can ruin more than your holidays so securing an experienced team to defend you should be your first priority.

 

DUI statistics from MADD.

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.

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.

Chapter 13 Or Chapter 7-Which Is Right For You?



As the recession of 2008 made its way across the country and more and more people encountered financial difficulties the number of personal bankruptcies rose as a result. The numbers are frightening; in 2009 the number of filings rose 32% from 2008 and another 8% in 2010 and experts say it’s not over yet. The larger states such as California had the most filings but the smaller states had the greater percentage increase.

If you're considering bankruptcy consider all options.

If you find yourself out of work or underemployed, faced with unexpected healthcare debt or just can’t manage your financial obligations you may be thinking of bankruptcy as a solution. But there are things to know before you file and consulting an attorney is the first thing you should do. You should also educate yourself on how bankruptcy works as well as the different types, Chapter 13 vs. Chapter 7.

Chapter 13

A chapter 13 bankruptcy is also called a “wage earner’s plan”. It allows someone with a regular income to repay all or part of their debts. A primary benefit of a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy filing is that it can prevent foreclosure of your home or repossession of your car. Filing Chapter 13 allows the debtor to prevent collection action by both secured and unsecured creditors by creating a repayment plan. The duration of the bankruptcy repayment plans range from 36 to 60 months.

This plan allows the debtor to spread out payments to get caught up over time and prevents the debtor from having to come up with large sums of money money immediately. Along with a principle benefit of stopping a home foreclosure or the repossession of other types of secured collateral such as a car, a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can also help eliminate some or even most of your unsecured debt depending on your debt structure and your ability to pay into a plan.

Chapter 7

The primary benefit of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the elimination of most or all your unsecured debt. Unsecured debt is debt that is not secured, or attached, to any property. This includes credit card debt, medical bills, payday loans or other similar obligations. Chapter 7 eliminates all of this debt.

Another benefit of Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is that you can obtain relief from your debts in a shorter period of time. It typically takes three to four months from the date you file your Chapter 7 Bankruptcy case with the court until you receive your discharge. Chapter 7 may be a good idea if you can’t pay your debts and face legal action from creditors.

A Chapter 7 is a viable option if your necessary living expenses exceed your ‘take-home’ income.  If you have some disposable income left at the end of each month, then Chapter 13 may be the best choice.

Both of these bankruptcy options are complicated and require careful consideration before any action is taken. It may also be the most difficult decision of your life.  Most people who face this dilemma are honest, hard-working people who never thought this would happen to them. The attorneys at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine understand this and can provide the necessary tools to help you make your decision.  We will represent you to ensure your rights are protected and the best outcome is achieved.

Why You Should Write A Will Now



It’s not the most enjoyable thing you’ll ever do but it could be the most responsible. Creating a will is an act of love, of consideration and of faith.  It ensures that your family is safe if the unthinkable happens and they are left without you. But it’s also one of the last things on your mind as you try and keep up with daily life and its challenges.

So let’s go over a few reasons why you should consider writing a will as soon as possible.

Everybody dies. That’s reason number one. You may think you’re too young, too healthy, too responsible or too careful but the truth is that everybody dies. And unfortunately we don’t get to pick when.

If you have kids you need a will. Designate a guardian so that the courts won’t have to choose one. It may not even be someone your children know so don’t assume they will go to your family.  This is especially critical if both you and your spouse are killed. You run a real risk of your children going into the foster care system and that would be a tragedy.

Where will your money go if you die suddenly? You might think it would just go to a spouse or child but you might be surprised to know that they may only receive half and that half may not come for months or years. The remainder may go to other relatives or possibly your debtors.  You money may even end up going to the government if you die intestate. It sounds crazy but it happens all the time.

If you own a business with large assets and do not have a will at the time of your death, your family may not see the benefits due them. If there are business partners they may be entitled to a portion of your estate due to existing partnership agreements that will take precedence. Don’t let the benefit of your life’s work go elsewhere.

Minor children may also not be entitled to assets until they reach a certain age. Designate a trusted friend, family member or better yet a financial manager to handle the money and provide a living until they reach majority.

If you are living with a partner but are not legally married a will is imperative if you want that partner to receive your assets after you die. This can be very important if you are in a same-sex relationship in a state that doesn’t recognize your relationship. A long-term partnership may end with your loved one shut out of your home or without the assets you worked for together.

Stop procrastinating and realize that you have to resolve to write a will. Don’t leave your family, friends or other loved ones out in the cold if you pass away suddenly. Think of a will as your last act of love and kindness and don’t put your nearest and dearest into a difficult situation at a time when they also must mourn your loss.  At Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine we can help your prepare a will, designate guardianship or manage your assets so that when you pass away your family will be safe and secure.

 

Are Red Light Cameras Really Helping?



In an effort to increase safety on roads and intersection many municipalities have installed red light cameras to record and ultimately issue traffic tickets to offenders. Since 2009 they’ve been used in Missouri with varying degrees of success. Whether you believe in their validity is how you read the resulting statistics.

According to the Kansas City Star an analysis of more than 2,500 wrecks showed that overall wrecks, rear-end wrecks and injury wrecks actually increased in the two years after the cameras were installed at 17 intersections. The analysis also revealed that right-angle crashes, known as T-bone wrecks, decreased at those intersections.

There is some evidence that red light cameras aren't as effective as predicted.

Another study suggests that the cameras may actually increase rear-end collisions as drivers slam on their brakes after noticing or remembering the cameras are there.

There have also been issues involving due process and who is actually responsible for the violation if the registered driver isn’t behind the wheel. Last fall the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a ruling stating that the city of Creve Coeur, outside of St. Louis, is not required to prove that the car owner is the driver of the vehicle at the time of the violation because Missouri law provides that a municipal ordinance can impose liability on a vehicle owner if another person operates the vehicle in violation of the ordinance.

The National Motorists Association contends that red light cameras aren’t the cure for accidents but that better design of traffic lights may be the solution. It contends, “their greatest practical harm (the cameras) is that they reward and perpetuate improper installation, maintenance and operation of traffic lights.” Citing studies that found accidents were reduced when yellow light durations were extended it recommends more study of each intersection traffic lights settings.

Do you change your driving habits when you know you’re approaching a red light camera in an intersection? If you’ve ever sat out a light cycle you’ve probably seen the flashes of light indicating a driver who’s been nabbed.  If you received one would you simply pay it or would you contest? If you have traffic law questions or find yourself needing a traffic attorney call us at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine, 913-712-0242. Our attorneys are experienced in all forms of traffic law and can assist you. Don’t go it alone when you have us to back you.