Were You Charged With A Coronavirus-Related Crime?

Coronavirus is the novel infection that is spreading across the globe at a rapid rate, causing the dangerous disease COVID-19 along the way. It has devastated our economy and pushed millions of Americans out of work, and government-issued checks for individuals and small businesses are too far away to help many of us. The bailout legislation might be signed later today.

Because poverty is the underlying cause of almost all crime, it stands to reason that many people will feel compelled to do wrong during this time of crisis. 

But authorities are taking these crimes very seriously — and so should you. More importantly, you should take any resulting criminal charges just as seriously, because they could follow you around the rest of your life.

Missouri resident Cody Pfister was recently arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat after a video surfaced online wherein he licked an array of Wal-Mart products while asking: “Who’s scared of coronavirus?”

The court said that Pfister “knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed.”

He was charged, but that does not mean he will accept a plea deal or be found guilty of the crime. Prosecutors will likely be fighting tooth and nail to discover whether or not he actually has the coronavirus infection. Or they could be avoiding that information altogether. If Pfister doesn’t have the virus, it’s difficult to assert that much of a threat was made or that charges were anything more than example-making on the part of police.

And Pfister’s criminal defense attorney has his own battle tactics already cooked up. He plans to suggest that the video was actually filmed before the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the coronavirus crisis as a pandemic, making Pfister’s obviously immature actions look quite different in light of new information. But should he be held accountable for that?

Whether or not the strategy works is up in the air. The point is this: if you were arrested and charged with a crime in any way related to the novel coronavirus, you need a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Don’t delay.

And those of you who haven’t found yourselves in trouble should take steps to prevent even the remotest possibility. Don’t need groceries or exercise? Then stay indoors. People who have never hiked a day in their lives are helping overcrowd parks and trails around the country, making almost no public area safe for common forms of recreation. Stick to walking around the block or even in your backyard! 

Everything You Need To Know Before Hiring A Criminal Defense Attorney

Being arrested and charged with a crime is a traumatic experience. Often, the experience is made that much worse by our personal financial situation. Those charged with crimes are much more likely to be riding below the poverty level than those who manage to stay free and clear of the system. And that’s kind of the point: the less money you have, the more likely you are to commit a crime. It benefits everyone in society to avoid emptying your pocket when you’ve been charged with a criminal offense.

Don’t talk to the police. You have the right to remain silent, and you should abuse that right. There’s no reason at all to say anything except “I want a lawyer.” Even when you’re not guilty, the investigators and prosecutors want their “win” and sometimes that means twisting your words or tricking you into saying something you shouldn’t be talking about at all.

Retain counsel. Lawyers will gather the relevant facts and decide what to share with police. They will work together with you to decide whether your case is best resolved in or out of court. When the facts work against you, it’s most likely the attorney will speak with the prosecutor in order to seek a plea deal that can result in reduced charges and a reduced sentence.

Before hiring a criminal defense lawyer, you want to know as much as you can about their relevant experience. How many cases have they argued? How many cases have they won? New lawyers won’t exactly want to share this information, while experienced lawyers will shout it out from the highest mountaintops. Check the website. The information therein will quickly alert you to whether or not the attorney or law firm is young or old. Find someone whose reputation precedes him (or her).

Questions to ask if you’re unsure:

“Who will be handling my case and what experience does this person have?”

“How often do you argue in court versus out of court?”

“How much do you charge on retainer or per hour?”

“Where does the majority of your criminal defense experience lie? Have you handled cases similar to mine?”

“Will there be additional fees in the future if the case drags on longer than expected?”

“I’m charged with a misdemeanor. Do I need a lawyer at all? Am I better off speaking for myself? If so, what should I say to the judge?”

“What are my next steps/obligations?”

“Do you need any other information from me?”

Lawyers have heard every conceivable question. Never be afraid to share what’s on your mind or ask for additional information if you find yourself confused about the process. It’s very complicated. We understand. There’s no need to be intimidated!

Are American Criminal Defense Attorneys Treated Fairly For Their Service?

The American justice system is based predominantly on the constitutional assumption that every person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty — but it doesn’t always feel that way in the courtroom of public opinion, and the public has a lot of opinions. High-profile cases can leave criminal defense lawyers as much in the spotlight as their clients. This is because talking heads and mainstream media generally favor one side of a case regardless of the information available, and the public often follows suit.

This is true even when clients aren’t guilty of the alleged crimes. 

Many of us, therefore, see criminal defense attorneys as slimeballs, even though every American citizen is guaranteed the right to a fair trial and professional defense, regardless of guilt. Someone needs to do the job — so why do we cast down the people who choose to do it? Not everyone who steps foot in a courtroom is guilty, after all. Shouldn’t we give them the benefit of the doubt? And shouldn’t we let their lawyers do the job?

Harvey Silverglate and Monika Greco write for WGBH: “If the most talented and in-demand criminal defense lawyers begin to hesitate before agreeing to represent the most unpopular accused, then those who are in the most trouble — those who need the most vigorous and effective defense — would have to suffer with mediocre representation (and, it must always be remembered, some of them will turn out to be innocent.”

The two believe, therefore, that the increasing polarization of public opinion could result in the greatly diminished effectiveness of the American legal system as a whole.

They write: “The fact that the evidence against a particular defendant might be — or at least seem to be — damning or overwhelming does not dilute the obligation cast upon the criminal defense bar. The fact that there are many who are either ignorant of or unsympathetic to this constitutional right does not alter the fact that lawyers have a special obligation to give vitality to the right.”

The disparity between the rights of American citizens and the courtroom of public opinion cannot be better described than by using the case of Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexually assaulting numerous women. When Harvard Law Professor Dean Ronald Sullivan opted to defend Weinstein’s Constitutional rights in court, Winthrop House, where he was a residential dean for a decade, was subsequently vandalized with messages like “Whose Side Are You On?”

Messages like that miss the point of our legal system and seek to diminish its credibility and effectiveness. Harvard then removed Sullivan — and his wife — from their deanships. When attorneys have to worry about their reputations and standing within institutions like Harvard Law — which should be held to a much higher standard than this — when taking on any client, there is something very wrong in the neighborhood. Clients innocent and guilty alike will have a lot to be worried about if this continues.

What Happens When A Criminal Defense Attorney Breaks The Law?

A Milwaukee resident has been arrested and charged with threatening and stalking an ex-girlfriend who had finally told him she was ending their relationship for good. Matthew Meyer is a 34-year old criminal defense attorney — or at least he was — who claimed that he recently hit his ex-girlfriend in self-defense. His victim, however, claimed that he had routinely stalked her to the point where she was in a constant state of fear for her life.

Meyer was charged with substantial battery, threatening to communicate derogatory information, felony intimidation, and stalking. The evidence was overwhelming.

According to prosecutors on the case: “[Meyer] has engaged in a pattern of conduct with the intent to cause the victim to believe that he will ruin her life, commit acts of violence against her and her friends/family, damage her property, prevent any future relationships, and leave her without money or a job.”

If his actions weren’t disturbing enough — as an attorney he should obviously know better than to blatantly break laws — he actually used his job as a criminal defense attorney to threaten the victim, saying: “Criminals owe me favors…People who are exceptionally dangerous, and good at it, I’ve met plenty, keep in touch with plenty.”

In other words, if you don’t come back to me, I’ll call up a few of my criminal buddies. We cannot imagine this guy will get many clients in the future, and that’s assuming he even gets out of jail anytime soon. These criminal complaints extend from 2017 through 2019, and the criminal court system isn’t exactly lenient on those servants who would up-end its reputation by blatantly breaking the law themselves.

In one example of the mischief that he managed, Meyer punched his victim directly in the face, leaving her with a concussion. In another example, she was walking home from a night out on the town when he appeared behind her and her friend, yelling and screaming. Meyer physically assaulted her friend before they made it to safety.

Those weren’t the first — or the last — incidents involving stalking. In June of this year, Meyer actually showed up in her apartment’s parking garage, harassed her, argued that she couldn’t defend herself without being charged with felony assault and battery, and poured Red Bull on her vehicle. Police were called to the scene of the crime.

This type of behavior continued until October, when prosecutors say the victim woke up one morning to a number of texts. Meyer said: “You’re going to do irreparable harm to your car if you drive it or if it sits there…What’s wrong with your car, you can’t see. I’d suggest you talk to me before driving it.”

She found one of her tires slashed and there were also dents in the vehicle. She called the police, which led to Meyer’s arrest.

Creating Reasonable Doubt

Defense attorneys use a variety of defenses to ensure that they secure the most favorable outcome for their clients facing legal charges. In order to determine the best possible defense to use, the defense attorneys usually take into consideration the intentions of the prosecutor as well as information that was provided by their client, the defendant.

Generally speaking, the best defense makes it possible for the defense attorney to portray the defendant in the best light, hence earning them a lighter sentence, favorable plea bargain or a ruling of not guilty also known as an acquittal.

Creating Reasonable Doubt

It is possible to have two completely different stories based on the same set of facts. This, therefore, means that it is upon the defense attorney and their client to come up with their own version of the story, based on the facts of the case, which paints a positive picture of the defendant causing reasonable doubt.

For the defendant’s story to have any chance of success, when it comes to arguing against the prosecutor’s claims, it must have a few important characteristics.

For starters, it must be based on the truthful facts of the case as demonstrated by the facts on hand. Furthermore, it should comprehensively demonstrate why the prosecution’s claims are inaccurate by providing an alibi for instance or providing an alternate way the crime could have been committed therefore not being able to prove without a doubt that it was the defendant.

In order to be convicted of a crime, it is the burden of the prosecutor to prove without a shadow of a doubt that the defendant committed the crime. If any alternate versions can exist based on the facts, then the prosecutor has failed and the defendant may be found not guilty.

Is The American Criminal Defense System Socialist?

The election for district attorney in Queens, New York has been a battle for the 2.5 million people who live there, many of whom voted in the contest which is still too close to call. Tiffany Caban is a queer Latina public defender who has been described as an “insurgent” even by the progressives who backed her campaign. Why is it candidates like her are so widely supported by socialist causes?

Once upon a time the “right” to a legal defense even if one cannot afford a lawyer was actually more as a gift made by those who swim in a sea of cash. Now times are changing. The right to a legal defense regardless of status or class is seen as exactly what we’ve called it all this time: an actual right. 

Public defenders are notorious for organizing labor unions. Although it may not have been the goal to do so, these unions have inevitably resulted in the aligned interests of not only other public defenders, but also their clients. After all, it’s easier to defend someone to the best of your ability when you both want to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Caban and people like her want to transform the criminal justice system to serve everyone better, not just the people who have the most money. Right now the people most likely to commit — or be charged with — a crime are those who live below the poverty line.

The American right to legal counsel goes back to a 1963 Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainwright. But Americans are copycats and we always have been. The foundation of our country was built on our supposed understanding of what made Ancient Rome so great, which is why you see so many of their own political customs interspersed through our constitution — or even our architecture. 

Although variations of the right to free counsel have been seen globally for a long time, one of the first occurred in France after the adoption of the Napoleonic Code of Criminal Instruction in 1808. A defendant was guaranteed a lawyer when tried for a serious crime.

In England, the Prisoners’ Counsel Act of 1836 provided felony defendants with the right to counsel. Before then, it was assumed that a basic defense might even be inhibited by the presence of a lawyer.

Our own right to attorney was devised initially as a way to stand against the criminal injustice of racism, harkening back to the early 1900s at least. Because these movements were just that — by the people for the people — they do have socialist origins.

What Happens If I’m Charged With Failing To Obey A Police Officer?

When engaging with a police officer, always proceed with caution. With luck, the officer will be doing the same. Failing to obey a police officer is usually a misdemeanor offense, but it’s important to have a lawyer talk you through the exact situation that led to your arrest. The exact legal context for failing to obey a police officer’s command might be more complex than you think.

What is the law?

The ordinance stipulates that a person must not disobey a lawful order made by a police officer. The important part to remember is that the officer must have reasonable suspicion that you may have committed a crime. In order to make such a command, a police officer must have first identified himself as such. If you request identification, the officer must provide it.

In most jurisdictions, failure to comply with this law will land you a misdemeanor charge with potential fines and jail time.

Can I disobey an unlawful order?

A police officer has no legal right or reason to command you to stop or search your person without suspicion of a crime having been committed. If the officer is unable to provide you with an explanation for an order, then yes, you have the legal right to disobey an “unlawful” order. This is especially true if an officer requests that you do something illegal. You have the legal right to defend yourself from such illegal actions as well.

It is advisable that you cooperate with any reasonable command made by law enforcement whether or not they seem to suspect you of a crime. You won’t do yourself or anyone else any good if you end up in cuffs or injured due to an altercation with a police officer, whether that officer is in the right or not.

Can I run from an officer who has not made an order?

If an officer has not ordered you to stop or halt or has failed to identify himself as an officer of the law, then you have the legal justification to run. Once again: it is not advisable you do so unless you consider yourself to be in harm’s way. Don’t do anything to jeopardize yourself or anyone else.

What constitutes disorderly conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a broad term that refers to any behavior that is deemed disruptive, but not a serious danger to the public. Disorderly conduct is often referred to as disturbing the peace. Typically, a disorderly conduct charge is given when someone is drunk in public and thus “disrupting the peace.” Further, fighting with someone in public, or loitering in a particular area can also be grounds for disorderly conduct charges. However, disorderly conduct laws are frequently used as “catch-all” or “umbrella” laws, so a wide variety of behavior can fall under the title. As a result, it is not always clear what the exact charges are against you.

Since disorderly conduct laws are so broad, it is possible to be brought up on disorderly conduct charges for a wide variety of activities. This can be very confusing to the accused, as you may not even be entirely aware of why the charges have been brought against you. Thus, it is extremely helpful to contact a criminal defense attorney experienced in dealing with disorderly conduct cases. They can help to illuminate your charges and set up a successful defense.

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct

Most often, the charges are classified as a class 1 misdemeanor, which includes at max 6 months in jail and a $2,500 charge. However, the charges change if a firearm was involved in the disorderly conduct. In this case, under the Arizona law A.R.S. 13-2904, anyone who “recklessly handles, displays or discharges” a firearm may be charged with a felony. The penalties for a felony conviction are much more severe, potentially resulting in jail time or large fines. Those with prior felony offenses will likely receive more serious penalties.  

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, you should first contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Although disorderly conduct charges may seem like a minor offense, they can have a serious effect on your personal, legal, and financial future. Remember, you first must entirely understand your charges before deciding how to proceed. A criminal defense attorney can help you to do so, as well as determine the best plan of action. This will allow you to portray your case in the most positive light and ensure the best outcome.