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Keeping on Track with Drug Charge Probation

Alabama drug possession laws are strict, but the court has options for first offenses and minor charges, including probation. Under probation, you agree to follow specific terms for the length of the probation period instead of serving jail time. A judge can only offer probation to a defendant who is likely to make a sincere attempt to turn over a new leaf and stop using drugs, so judges are unhappy when someone violates the terms of the deal.

Drug-related probation may include the following:

  • Regular appointments with a probation officer (PO)
  • Attending a drug abuse program
  • Community service
  • No additional criminal offenses
  • Random drug screening

Meeting your responsibilities under the probation agreement is your best chance to get the legal consequences of your arrest reduced. In some cases, we have been successful in getting the original charges dismissed when the probation is completed. If you violate your probation, your PO may hand your case back to a judge, who can reinstate your original prison sentence. However, under Alabama law, the court cannot revoke probation without a revocation hearing.

At this hearing, your PO presents evidence, for instance, a record of missed appointments or results from a failed drug test. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows that lab results are not always accurate and there might be mitigating circumstances to explain other parole infractions. Even if it is clear that you have violated your probation terms, we can attempt to persuade the judge to extend your probation instead of requiring jail time.

Everyone deserves a second chance, but there can be several bumps along the path to turning a life around. At McPhillips, Shinbaum, LLP, we do our best to help clients get through the stressful period following a drug-related arrest so they can move forward towards a better future.


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Increase Rest, Decrease Truck Accidents

As a personal injury firm, we represent clients hurt in motor vehicle and truck accidents. A contributing factor of those accidents is often fatigue, an issue recently addressed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

In Alabama, accidents with trucks including utility, pick-up and semi-trucks took the lives of more than 300 people in 2011. That same year, FMSCA lowered the allowable hours of service (HOS) for drivers of rigs weighing more than 10,000 pounds. While the rule went into effect in 2012, the final compliance date was July 1 of 2013.

Reducing the situational and long-term fatigue experienced by truck drivers is a primary concern of FMSCA in lowering the HOS. Some key points about the rule change include:

  • The maximum allowable work week for a truck driver is now 72 hours, a 15 percent reduction in hours from the previous 82 hour maximum.
  • Within or after eight hours of drive time, truck operators must take a 30 minute break.
  • The new rule does not alter the 11 hour maximum driving limit per day.

While most trucking companies and drivers will follow the new HOS rule, penalties for lack of compliance with the new regulations include the following:

  • Drivers who exceed HOS rules must remain roadside until needed rest is obtained.
  • The driver and his or her trucking company may be assessed fines by the state and by FMSCA.
  • The safety rating of the trucking company could be reduced following repeated violations.
  • Federal criminal charges can be sought and brought against the trucking company in the presence of repeated violations of the rule.

Driving on any road can be hazardous. Driving near an 18-wheeler with a sleepy driver can be deadly. Get experienced legal help if you are injured in a trucking accident in Alabama.


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Alabama Domestic Violence Laws

We tend to think that acts of violence are committed by strangers, but many involve people who know each other intimately through a family or personal relationship. In Alabama, domestic violence laws apply to current or former spouses, housemates or dating partners, as well as parents and children or co-parents. Domestic violence includes physical or sexual assault as well as stalking, threats, emotional or psychological abuse, intimidation and destruction of personal property. No one should live in fear that they might be harmed by someone they know. However, the volatile, emotional nature of these incidents often makes it difficult to ensure that the legal rights of the two parties in the dispute are protected.

Domestic violence charges fall into the following categories:

  • First degree, Class A felony for first-degree assault
  • Second degree, Class B felony for second-degree assault
  • Strangulation or suffocation, Class B felony for assault with an intent to harm
  • Third degree, Class A misdemeanor for third-degree assault, reckless endangerment, coercion or harassment

Penalties for a domestic violence conviction can include jail time, fines, community service, loss of child custody and the right to possess a firearm. Jail sentences are mandatory following a subsequent domestic violence conviction and stricter penalties may be imposed if there was an order of protection in place when the action occurred or a weapon was used.

Alabama law enforcement officers can make a domestic violence arrest if they judge that there is probable cause, but they may not take both sides of the story into account before doing so. If you are arrested for domestic violence, contact McPhillips, Shinbaum as soon as possible. We provide aggressive representation for all our clients to make sure they avoid false accusations and get a fair hearing in court.

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A New App — About Your Car

We are used to new apps. One will tell you when to water your plants, another will tell you how many calories you just consumed — or burned off. But a new app from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) promises to deliver timely information and hot headlines about car safety right to your own phone.

The Safer Car app is available free from iTunes for the iPhone or iPod Touch. An Android version is under development. Released along with the NHTSA Application Programming Interface (API), these products are designed to provide fast public access to safety information specific to their own model vehicles.

With the Safer Car app, you can expect the following:

  • Ratings. Access to collision test ratings across models and brands helps you make smart choices about cars you are interested in for purchase or for lease.
  • Car seats. An improperly installed car seat can prove dangerous to the youngest members of your family. The app provides information about your seat and the nearest location for help with installation.
  • Safety alerts. Register your model car and receive important safety and recall information about your car as soon as NHTSA makes it available.
  • Register a complaint. Now you can quickly alert NHTSA to problems with your car that can help identify systemic problems with the model that could affect others.

As an open source application, Safer Car can be integrated by developers into other products to provide up-to-date safety and other information.

Along with the NHTSA, we hope the SaferCar app will help clients make good choices for themselves and their family. But accidents happen. If staying safe is not possible and injury in a motor vehicle accident occurs, seek experienced legal advice.

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Two-Wheeled Fun — Two-Wheeled Danger

Riding a bicycle is not just for kids. Adults, parents and families enjoy the outdoor life through non-motorized pedal power. Unfortunately, the unguarded nature of a bicycle can lead to the injury of young and old alike.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 677 pedalcyclists were killed and another 48,000 injured in accidents with motor vehicles in 2011. That fatality figure represents a nine percent increase from the year before. What can you do about it?

Like motorcycles, bicyclists are too often struck because other vehicles don’t see them. While being on a bicycle gives a rider the freedom to experience the environment, that same freedom can lead to deadly injuries when a rider is struck by a car and thrown to the road.

Keep yourself and your family safe by considering these suggestions for maintaining safety on your bike this year:

  • Wear a helmet. In Alabama, children under 16 are required by law to wear a helmet. Adult bicyclists and motorcyclists can help protect themselves from head and brain injury by wearing a properly fitted helmet.
  • Most bicycle accidents with cars occur at areas of intersection like driveways, entrance and exits from venues and in actual roadway intersections. Stay alert when traffic patterns change and where cars — or cyclists — could be turning.
  • Heads up and ahead. Stay alert for traffic that does not see you and watch the road for holes, debris and roadway defects that might trip you up or tip you off your bike.
  • Be seen. Wear bright colors. Affix reflective strips to clothes, shoes and bike and use a headlight.

Bicycles are a great way to get to work or see the sights. If you are injured on your way, get good legal advice.


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Both Sides of the Aisle: Civil and Criminal Matters

Our law firm is a unique legal practice. We offer experienced, seasoned representation to individuals and families facing hardship from personal injury and criminal accusation. How do these areas of practice diverge and how are they similar?

Most people have little idea of the law and what type of representation they need when faced with trouble. Oftentimes we speak with clients who do not understand the need for an attorney experienced with the type of issue they are facing. Here are some basic differences:

  • Personal injury. When you are injured in a car or other accident, you need the advice of a personal injury lawyer. Experienced with the legal factors needed to prove negligence, a good injury attorney negotiates and works with an insurance company or other party to obtain compensation for your losses and injury caused by others. A legal action arising from personal injury is a civil matter.
  • Criminal defense. If you are arrested on any criminal charge, you need a well-established criminal defense attorney. Your defense lawyer is familiar with the language of the criminal justice system and knows how to protect your rights. There may be negotiations concerning plea arrangements, or a reduction or dismissal of charges. A legal action arising from arrest is a criminal matter that could affect your liberty.

While seemingly different areas of law, personal injury and criminal defense both require a strong knowledge of the law and educated advocacy to protect your rights, regardless of the problem you face.

Whether you are injured or arrested, be sure your legal counsel has experience — your financial or personal liberty depends upon it.

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Tis’ the Season for Pool Safety

Staying safe is important all year long, but with summer comes special concerns for safety around backyard and community pools. While you may think you have pool safety covered, taking a moment to consider the real danger posed by even wading pools is important.

For decades, our firm has represented families of children injured and killed in accidents. These tragedies can usually be avoided. Make sure you do your best to keep your children and friends safe by considering these points about pool safety:

  • The youngest children are the most vulnerable. A report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found 75 percent of pool and spa drowning deaths occur with children under age five. While pool gates are essential to keep children away from pool areas, keeping a close eye on all children under age 15 in backyard pools is the best way to ensure a safe summer.
  • Do not assume a wading pool or even a bucket of water is safe. A human can drown in just a few inches of water. A toddler who falls into a backyard pond can drown if unable to turn over or get out of the water. Death from drowning comes quickly and often quietly.
  • Teach your children to swim and understand water safety from a young age. Of children who died at pools, 73 percent occurred in residential backyard settings.

Watch your child and their friends when playing in an in-ground, above-ground or wading pool. Know where the pump shut-off is and always have a charged cell phone with you on the pool deck in case of emergency.

It could be a perfect day for a swim. Make sure the day brings only fun and leaves only good memories. If you need good legal advice after an injury or accident, our consultation is free.


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What Kind of Defense?

When the state accuses you of a crime, you are entitled to the protection of the law. One such protection is the presumption of innocence: To get a conviction, the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed the crime. It is never the responsibility of defendants to prove that they didn’t do it.

Nevertheless, the prosecution often has evidence, and in these cases, a good defense is important. There are various types of defenses that are available to defendants, regardless of the nature of the crime. Some examples include:

Using exculpatory evidence

The defense may have evidence that indicates, or even proves, that the defendant did not commit the crime. If this evidence shows that the defendant was not present at the time and place of the alleged crime, it is called an alibi.

Weakening the prosecution’s case

Television court cases often show riveting scenes of cross examination when a witnesses are broken and their stories discredited. In real life, cross-examination is rarely so overtly dramatic. But it often does succeed in exposing the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case, and therefore serves as an important tool for the defense.

Self-defense or defense of others

You may use a reasonable degree of force to defend yourself or a third person from a harmful attack by another.


A person who commits a crime under duress is not responsible for the crime. A person acts under duress if “compelled to do so by the threat of imminent death or serious physical injury to himself/herself or another.”

Being prosecuted for a crime is serious, and it is important to establish the best possible defense for your unique situation. Contact our criminal defense attorneys to find out how we can put our extensive expertise to work for you.

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Beware of Trucking Company Adjusters After a Crash with an 18-Wheeler

A serious accident can happen to anyone at any time. This past summer, a sedan driving along Alabama 79 in northeast Birmingham collided with a flatbed 18-wheeler and caught fire, resulting in immediate death for the passenger of the car.  Collisions between cars and tractor trailer trucks often result in serious or fatal crashes.  Statistics compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration indicate that fatal accidents on U.S. roads involving large trucks increased by 8.7 percent from 2010 to 2011 while all other kinds of vehicle accident fatalities decreased.

If you are involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler, beware. Major trucking carriers have dedicated insurance adjusters whose main objective is to protect drivers and their employers from large injury lawsuits. One of their tactics is to show up on the scene of an accident or shortly thereafter and make on-the-spot settlement offers to injury victims. Trucking company lawyers and their insurance adjusters count on the victims’ lack of understanding regarding how much injuries may cost over time and the victims’ worries over short-term medical bills. Do not fall for these tactics. Once you have accepted such an offer, you may not reopen your claim. Check with a lawyer before signing anything after an accident.

Truck accident cases are often far more complex than those involving only passenger vehicles, so it is important to involve an attorney. There may be several parties liable for the accident:

  • The truck driver
  • The driver’s employer
  • The owner of the truck
  • The manufacturer of the truck or of any of its parts (including the wheels)
  • The company responsible for maintaining the truck

A loading company may be found primarily responsible for the accident if improperly secured cargo shifted during transit and fell into the road damaging other vehicles or causing the entire truck to fall off balance.

Although a car is no match for a big commercial truck on the road, this is not the case in court — that is, if you hire an experienced lawyer with knowledge of the trucking industry.  Call our office today for a consultation.