“Justice Prevailed” Or “Appeal Immediately”

Many years ago, a junior partner in a firm was sent to a far-away state to represent a long-term client accused of robbery.

After days of trial, the case was won, the client acquitted and released.

Excited about his success, the attorney telegraphed the firm: “Justice prevailed.”

The senior partner replied in haste: “Appeal immediately.”

 

DEATH  BY  DMV – Should DMV Suspend Driver Licenses for Unpaid Tickets

Should the California Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) suspend Driver Licenses for unpaid tickets / citations ?

You are a responsible person.  We have all been there.  You get a ticket – for anything, ranging from an Expired Parking Meter, Overnight Parking (in Beverly Hills, for example), No Parking During Rush Hour, “Rolling through” a residential Stop Sign, Photographic Intersection, Expired Registration, or even Exceeding Posted Speed Limit or speeding, etc.

For whatever reason, you never knew you’d received a Citation, never got a Court Date, or missed a Court Date, or did not have the money to pay the ticket.  You did not pay the ticket in a timely manner.  Next, your unpaid ticket account is turned over to a Cunning Collection Agency, and your amount owed doubles, even triples overnight.

Now you are faced with a dilemma, since you get a notice of suspension of your Driver License from the DMV and/or a collection agency (GC Services in LA County).  After swearing loudly, you either have to pay the ticket amount, plus a fine for your failure to appear in Court, or have your Driver License suspended.  If the latter takes place, you may not even realize it, but you are now on the proverbial slippery slope, sliding into the “Alice in Wonderland” universe of California Criminal Law.

If you (foolishly) take the risk of driving with a Suspended Driver License, you risk the possibility of being arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, i.e., driving on a suspended License.  You are then facing probation, fines and a dizzying access to the criminal “justice system” on the wrong side of the case caption (People of the State of California versus YOU).

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 But if you do NOT (foolishly) take the risk of driving with a Suspended Driver License, how are you going to earn a living ?  How will you ever support yourself and your family, and how will you pay off the tickets ?

However, just when you’re about to dial your Star Trek Phone, and say, “Beam me Up, Scottie” …. there is hope on the horizon !

There is now pending California State Legislation that would strip the DMV of their power to Suspend Driver Licenses for such minor missteps.

The question then becomes, should we allow the DMV to issue these Driver License Suspensions without the benefit of a Court Hearing in the first instance?

What happened to due process and the right to be heard?

The courts are geared to be large collection agencies for traffic tickets and minor traffic offenses.  Each day large numbers of people are herded through the system and have to pay either that day or over time (with another fee tacked on) for various traffic offenses.

If you do not have money to pay the fine, you may never get out of debt and could lose your right to legally drive.  The DMV can use civil remedies once they obtain a judgment against a defendant (you) if they can prove that there was notice given to the Defendant, and an opportunity to be heard.  By the way, who among us has never had something mis-delivered or not delivered by the U.S. Post Office at some point in time?

Shouldn’t we use our Court System for better things?  

Shouldn’t we not be complicit in allowing the Courts to act as a collection agency against those who either cannot afford the ticket payment, or who never got notice of the ticket and/or suspension in the first place?

Right now, the California Civil Justice system is way, way overloaded.  There are simply not enough Judges or Courtrooms to go around.  Various judges from the Criminal Courts are getting additional training to preside over civil cases.  Civil cases are being delayed for longer and longer time periods.  Both the United States Constitution and the California State Constitution guarantee case priority to criminal defendants because they are dealing with life and liberty, not just money.

However, in the case of poor, unfortunate individuals, or of those who did not even get notice of their traffic ticket and/or court date, we are dealing with both.

What say you ?

HOMELESS NO MORE … LEGISLATING CO-HABITATION DURING DIVORCE

For many years, California Divorce Attorneys in Los Angeles have fought ferociously in Family Court over the issue of when – exactly – is the “Date of Separation” in a case where the divorcing spouses continue to dwell in the same house.

But now, finally, the California State Legislature has spoken.  If Husband and Wife both intend to get a divorce, and have ceased sleeping together and comingling funds as well as “fun,” then they can be legally “Separated,” even if they are living under the same roof.

In an acknowledgment of the weak California economy, and the consequent housing shortage, as well as the public policy of not unnecessarily causing one of the divorcing spouses to become “Homeless” … usually the Husband … Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation — SB 1255 — which will take effect in January 2017, allowing divorcing couples to be considered legally “Separated,” while still living in the same house.

Under prior California Case Law, the fact that the couple lived under the same roof was usually taken as an indication that they were not legally “Separated.”

The nuances of what the couple did  –  or did not do  –  while living under the same roof could alter the Family Court’s decision as to their legal status, e.g., the sharing of credit cards and bank accounts, the giving and receiving of gifts, and even the exchange of written thank you notes and greeting cards, could well have been determining factors.

The status of the couple in terms of sharing of debt may be of crucial importance as well.  Generally, the martial status of the couple will determine the character of the debt at the time it was incurred.

The status of the couple’s children will also need to be considered.

We welcome the new legislation by the State of California, because children generally do better if both parents are present in the home, unless the situation involves violence or abuse, or is totally untenable in other ways.  Divorce is not pleasant for anyone involved, whether parents or children.

Perhaps you’ve seen the 1989 movie, “War of the Roses,” in which a Divorce Attorney, played by Danny DeVito, and with the movie having also been Directed by Danny DeVito, recalls and describes to his new client – who is thinking of divorcing his wife – the sad story of Mr. and Mrs. Rose, whose horribly contentious Divorce ends very badly.  At the end, DeVito advises his potential new client, listen … why don’t you just go home, take your wife out to a nice restaurant for dinner, go back home, each of you going to a different room, on a different floor … and just don’t argue about anything … and … as Rodney King famously suggested, “just get along.”

And by the way, if you still think that the process of divorcing will be pleasant, definitely think again.  Because if you think you and your Attorney can have a private conversation outside the Family Court, then think again.  There may well be listening devices placed near the entrance, with various government entities tuning-in to your conversation.  A Federal Judge in Northern California has ruled that this practice was “unsettling,” but “not illegal.”  The Federal Court found that the eavesdropped individuals did not take steps to ensure their privacy.  This makes little sense.  It forces people to conduct audio sweeps prior to starting a conversation.

The Federal Court found that audible conversations in public areas could not provide the conversants with a reasonable expectation of privacy. The court felt that a person could hear the conversations and report back to prosecutors.

However, the one thing the Federal Court missed is that if a person sees someone near them listening, they can at least take heed, and perhaps move locations or change the volume of their conversation accordingly.

In the case of a concealed recording or transmitting device, no such protection is provided.

Let the lessons be clear … watch what you say, and where you say it; and, starting in January of 2017, you can live under the same roof with the spouse that you are divorcing, and still be considered as legally “Separated,” if, and only if, you do not sleep together, do not exchange holiday gifts or greeting cards, and … as at the Courthouse, always watch what you say !

Perhaps the best advice to a Divorcing Couple, both at home, and at the Courthouse … is … JUST  DON’T  SPEAK … AT  ALL !