Posts

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

How to Find the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer

There were more than 190,000 crimes reported in Alabama in 2011, a seven percent increase from the previous year. In this state, a criminal conviction has severe consequences, permanently damaging a person’s reputation, career and life.  Whether you are seeking a lawyer for yourself or for a loved one, finding a good match can mean the difference between the accused spending time in jail or walking away with a not guilty verdict.

To find the right criminal defense lawyer for yourself or for a loved one, consider the following:

  • Don’t be fooled by marketing. A bigger ad doesn’t mean a better lawyer.  Some of the best criminal defense attorneys get much of their business through referrals and repeat offenders.  Don’t pick a lawyer just because of flashy ads. Select one with a solid reputation, high success rate and the time to listen to you.
  • Shop around.  You do not have to hire the first attorney you meet.  Take the time to meet with a few attorneys to see who best explains the criminal process to your understanding and with whom you are most comfortable.
  • Experience and qualifications.  Find a lawyer with at least 10 years experience handling criminal law cases. Ask prospective lawyers how many trials they have handled, particularly jury trials, which are far more complex. Even within the area of criminal defense, you will find that some lawyers have specialties. If you are dealing with a capital murder case or a felony that could result in significant jail time, don’t hire a lawyer who only has experience with petty theft.
  • You get what you pay for.  Even if the accused qualifies for a public defender, think about hiring an attorney. Keep in mind that even the best public defenders carry caseloads three times greater than recommended and don’t have the time and resources to provide the best defense.  It costs more to hire a top-notch private attorney, but freedom is worth the expense.

Although our office can certainly handle minor offenses, we focus on serious felonies including drug-related crimes and sex crimes. We have even helped save clients from execution in capital murder cases.  Your initial consultation is always free.  Call our office today to see if we are the best fit for you.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer If You Are Seriously Injured

Many people bristle at the idea of hiring a lawyer. “If I got hurt and the other person is at fault,” they reason, “why can’t I just tell the judge what happened?”  The answer is simple: A lawyer frames your case in the way that makes it most likely for you to receive a fair chance in court or full compensation in an insurance settlement agreement. And since most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis — they do not get paid unless you win monetary compensation — there is no need to be concerned about legal fees.

Some people count on their insurance agents to help them after a serious accident. What is sometimes not understood is that insurance companies are for-profit businesses. It’s in the best interests of the company to pay you as little compensation as possible. So in this case, your insurance company is not your friend.

In addition to empathizing with your situation and standing up for your rights, experienced Alabama personal injury lawyers work hard for you because you are in the case together. If you lose, they do not get paid for their work.

Attorneys offer seriously injured clients many services that are beneficial after an accident. They may:

  • Investigate and document your accident
  • Compile your medical bills, lost earnings and other expenses
  • Research your injuries to determine how your injury will affect your financial future
  • Communicate with all involved insurance companies
  • Create a settlement letter laying out your case to the insurance company and negotiating full and fair compensation based on all the facts of your case
  • If necessary, your attorney files a lawsuit against the those responsible for your injuries

For all these reasons, if you are seriously injured in an accident, do not hesitate to contact an Alabama personal injury law firm quickly.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

The Criminal Process in Alabama

This past September, police arrested Deon “D.J.” Johnson, one of our state’s top 15 high school football players, on rape charges.  Unfortunately, the talented athlete’s behavior landed him in the Alabama justice system rather than on the playing field.  D.J. now joins the infamous ranks of more than 190,000 people arrested in Alabama every year.

The criminal process can be terrifying, especially for a first-timer.  Knowing what to expect helps to relieve some of that anxiety, and may assist in assuring that your rights are preserved.  Alabama Code Title 15 sets forth the laws and procedures for processing those accused of crimes:

  • Booking.  Police take you to county or city jail, where your mug shot and fingerprints are taken.  You may also be strip searched and subjected to a medical examination.
  • Arraignment.  Your first court appearance at your arraignment, you are informed of the charges against you and your bail is set.  If you have been charged with a felony, you are advised of your right to request a preliminary hearing.
  • Preliminary hearing.  This hearing involves the examination and cross-examination of witnesses and determines whether or not there is probable cause for you to be indicted, or whether the case against you should be dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor charge.
  • Grand jury. If probable cause is shown, or if a preliminary hearing is not requested, the case is sent to a grand jury to determine if there is probable cause to issue an indictment.
  • Circuit court arraignment. If the grand jury issues an indictment, your case is sent to circuit court.  At this point, your attorney meets with the prosecutor to see if a plea bargain is available or if your case goes to trial.
  • Trial. The trial involves a jury, or if both sides agree, a bench trial is held with the judge deciding the verdict without a jury.
  • Sentencing.  If the court returns a guilty verdict, the judge determines the sentence.  Fines, probation, community service, jail time and/or restitution to victims may be imposed.
  • Appeal.  You have 14 or 42 days to appeal conviction, depending on whether you have been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony.

The assistance of an experienced attorney is crucial throughout the criminal process.  Our firm has represented clients for a wide variety of crimes in both federal and state court. If you or someone close to you has been arrested, call our office immediately.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Not So Easy Rider: Reducing the Risk of Injury for Alabama Motorcyclists

Motorcyclists know that the question is not if you will have an accident while riding a motorcycle but when? Automobile drivers often fail to see motorcyclists in traffic. The Alabama Department of Public Safety reports that nearly 40 percent of motorcycle accidents involve situations where a motor vehicle turns left into the path of a motorcycle.

A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that the most common non-fatal motorcycle injuries involve leg and foot injuries (30%) and head and neck injuries (22%), followed by damage to the upper body (20%) and arms and hands (18%).  Studies also show that when a motorcyclist takes appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet and bright protective clothing, the likelihood of injury and death is significantly reduced.

These laws and guidelines are important to motorcyclists in Alabama:

  • License required.  Riders must be at least 14 years old. The licensing requirement includes mopeds.
  • Protective gear. Alabama requires riders to wear a helmet, and studies have shown that helmets reduce the risk of death in a crash by more than 40 percent, and the risk of head injuries by nearly 70 percent.  Other protective gear is recommended, such as gloves and brightly colored jackets, to protect your skin from abrasions and to make you more visible to other drivers.
  • Take a safety course.  About one-third of those killed in motorcycle accidents each year have not received formal training.  Taking a refresher course from time to time can be beneficial for veteran riders as well.
  • Know your vehicle.  Choosing the right sized motorcycle and maintaining it in good working condition can prevent injuries.
  • Follow traffic laws.  A motorcycle’s easy maneuverability encourages some motorcyclists to speed, swerve and perform other risky behaviors on the road.  Resist the temptation and drive safely.
  • Don’t drink and drive. In 2010, nearly 30 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists got on their vehicles with blood alcohol content above the legal limit.

Our firm fights for the rights of motorcyclists and their loved ones to obtain the compensation they deserve following an accident.  If you require legal assistance, call our office today.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Do You Have a Wrongful Termination Case?

Getting fired is one of life’s most stressful experiences, especially when the firing is unjustified.  Although employment relationships in Alabama are at-will — employees may quit at any time and employers may lay off employees without reason — the law does not permit an employer to fire employees under certain circumstances:

  • Discrimination. Federal and state anti-discrimination laws prohibit an employer from firing someone on the basis of race, nationality, religion, sex – including pregnancy, color, age or disability.
  • Breach of contract.  An employer may not breach an employment contract or agreement, including an employer-union collective bargaining agreement. For example, last month a prison doctor under contract with the State of California — who had reduced his private practice to accommodate the growing inmate population and was abruptly fired from the prison without explanation — won a wrongful termination lawsuit and was awarded $3.3 million.
  • Violation of employer’s discharge policy. Where an employee handbook, company policy manual, or other similar document outlines job termination procedures, those procedures must be followed.
  • Retaliation.  Your employer cannot fire you for rejecting sexual advances, refusing to do something illegal, reporting (whistle blowing) the company’s illegal activities to the authorities, filing a complaint against employers for discrimination, or other claim for compensation. For example, this past October a court awarded an academic whistle-blower $819,000 after the University of Virginia fired him for reporting that his mentor had misappropriated grant funds.

Although difficult to prove, you may have a claim for constructive discharge if you felt pressured to resign because your employer made your working conditions so intolerable that any reasonable employee would also have quit under the same circumstances.

If you are having difficulties at work, it may be beneficial for you to consult with an employment law attorney to help you fully understand your rights. If you are fired, a lawyer can determine if your employer followed proper termination and post-employment procedures and assures your employer provides you with the best possible severance package.

If a violation has taken place, your lawyer can assist you with a wrongful termination lawsuit. Our office specializes in employment law and is at your service. Call our office today for a consultation.