Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve Post

Happy New Year. Drive safely and wisely - especially over the next 48 hours. We will be open 24/7 for the next 48 hours, so call us at 800-529-1966 if you or someone you know makes a mistake or otherwise needs us. Print off the 800 phone number and keep it with you.

The number: 800-529-1966

Michael J. O'Shea, Esq.
O'Shea & Associates Co., L.P.A.
Beachcliff Market Square
19300 Detroit Road - Suite 202
Rocky River, Ohio 44116
(440) 356-2700 - office
(216) 470-8098 - cell
(440) 331-5401 - fax

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Ohio Supreme Court Gun Rights Decision

The Ohio Supreme Court issued a somewhat controversial gun rights decision today. In the case of City of Cleveland. v. State of Ohio. the Ohio Supreme Court held that Ohio cities were barred from enforcing any city gun "ordinances" which conflicted with any "statutes" which have been passed by the State of Ohio. In this particular case, the following City of Cleveland ordinances were in alleged conflict with the guns laws passed in Columbus: Cleveland Codified Ordinance 627.08 (possession of firearms by minors), 627.09 (possessing deadly weapons on private property), 627.10 (possessing certain weapons at or about public places), 627A.02 (access to firearms, prohibiting children access to firearms), 628.03 (unlawful conduct, prohibiting possession and sale of assault weapons), and 674.05 (registration of handguns). Essentially this decision is a further pronouncement by the Ohio Supreme Court (as they have done in other cases in the last few years) that the laws passed in Columbus trump the laws passed by individual city councils. Many legal observers see this decision not so much as a victory for gun rights advocates but as a further eroding of what is commonly referred to as "home rule" - the power of individual cities to police themselves.

See the Plain Dealer article about this decision for more background.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New York Appeals Court says Golfer Had No Duty to Yell 'Fore'

The New York Law Journal is carrying a story about whether a golfer needs to yell "fore" when he/she hits a ball into an other golfer's direction. A Court of Appeals in New York says no - and that all golfer's "assume the risk" of being hit by another person's golf ball when playing. Or suggestion: always stand behind someone hitting the ball. In this case, the offending golfer was a doctor, and we all assume those folks are good at golf . . . .

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Violent Crime Down 6.2% in the US - so says the FBI.

Violent Crime Down 6.2% in the US - so says the FBI. See the CNN article. Hopefully the same is true in 2011. By the way, only the Northeast part of the US showed an increase in homicides (vs. the South, the West and the Midwest). So they may not assault you - they will just kill you in the Northeast. Be careful.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Is this a new era for Big Business in the Courts?

A recent New York Times article spent some time discussing whether or not the current US Supreme Court is much more big business friendly that in decades past. Lawyers who litigate in Ohio know that the Ohio Supreme Court (all elected judges/justices) will all be Republicans come January of 2011, and that many pro-big-business-insurance-company issues will be pressed by those groups in the years to come.

In the meantime, drive, bike, fly, walk, work and play more carefully that you ever have, and choose your lawyers and doctors even more carefully.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The dangers of social networks while you are in litigation or a business deal

There have been a number of recent discussions about the "dangers" of over-participating in social networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, My Space) while you are a participant in a legal claim or actual litigation - or even a business deal. This is because, obviously, almost anyone can monitor your social activities to the extent that you (or even your "friends") post those activities on social media. There have been incidents in domestic relations cases (let your imagination run wild here) or personal injury claims/lawsuits (e.g. a photo of an alleged injured person jet skiing or playing football) that have revealed information that one did not want revealed. So if you are involved in a divorce case, a personal injury case, or even a business deal/lawsuit where your "social" life can be relevant, be VERY careful about what you or someone else posts about you in social media platforms. Your adversaries can get free private investigation info on your from their desktops or laptops.

So if you have some of these issues in your life, be careful of what you or your buddies post about you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What is an "Underage Consumption" OVI Charge?

Under Ohio law, anyone under the age of 21 can (and most likely will) be charged with what is know as an "underage consumption" charge when that person also is arrested for a standard OVI charge. Under Ohio law, anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited from driving with a blood alcohol content level in excess of .02 (vs. .08 for a person over the age of 21). The underage consumption section of the DUI statute is found in subsection "(B)" of that statute, and the ticket issued by the arresting officer can read/charge on the ticket that the offender has violated both subsection "(A)" of the statute (the regular OVI violation for all persons) as well as subsection "(B)" of the statute (reserved for persons under the age of 21). There are some sentencing/penalty differences for a violation of the underage consumption section of the statute vs. the regular OVI subsection of the statute. An underage consumption conviction is a 4th degree misdemeanor (maximum jail time 30 days - maximum fine $250.00) vs. a regular OVI charge being a 1st degree misdemeanor (maximum 180 days in jail - maximum fine up to $2750 [depending on how many priors]). Further, an underage consumption conviction requires that the court wait 60 days in order to grant the defendant limited driving privileges vs. 15 days for a first time OVI defendant. Further, an underage consumption charge also carries only 4 points where a regular OVI conviction carries 6 points. An underage consumption conviction will require the young offender to complete a remedial driving course, obtain an expensive driving insurance bond and retake the driving test in order to get that offender's driver's license back from the Ohio BMV.

Almost always the prosecutor will offer a good defense lawyer a choice between the two charges.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The "Commerce Clause" and how it applies to the Federal Court rulings on the Obama healthcare law.

You may have read or heard about the recent ruling by a federal judge in Virginia who struck down a portion of what is commonly called the "ObamaCare" health reform bill. The Judge declared that the provision of the reform bill that required all Americans to have some sort of health insurance violated the "Commerce Clause" of the US Constitution. The Commerce Clause of the US Constitution gives the federal government legislative powers to regulate matters that affect interstate commerce. The Judge ruled, however, that a person who simply fails to act (i.e. refuses to buy health insurance) cannot be said to have actually engaged in commerce. This war of semantics is nothing new when it comes to constitutional challenges, and almost all legal scholars agree that the United States Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide the matter - but this may take at least a few years. In the meantime, only those citizens of Virginia who do not want to buy health insurance will be affected by this ruling. All other state challenges to the health insurance reform law have failed for the time being - including another federal ruling by another federal judge in Virgina. Stay tuned for this one - Ohio has a new Governor and Attorney General coming into office next year - both of whom are not fans of the health insurance reform law.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Texting While Driving

Check out this article about the dangers and liability of "texting while driving." While many cities in Ohio do not (yet) have an outright ban on texting-while-driving, Ohio law does have some statutes (e.g. RC 4511.202 and 4511.33) that prohibit not being in complete control of your vehicle (or weaving out of your lane) while driving. We assume more and more cities will soon adopt a municipal code ordinance that direclty deals with texting-while-driving. Stay tuned and be careful about this activity - many police officers are looking to make examples of how some of these new laws work.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's the Difference Between "FST's" and a "BAC" test in DUI cases?

People who come and see us for DUI representation often tell us that they "refused" "THE TEST" - meaning that they refused to submit to the blood alcohol machine (aka the "BAC" machine) at the station AFTER they were arrested. However, what they almost always fail to understand (at least until we tell them) is that the BAC test is only one part of the whole testing process. Prior to their arrest, the officer almost always obtained other important evidence of their guilt - including their general observations of the defendant (including how the defendant smelled, looked and spoke) as well as what are called "Field Sobriety Tests" ("FSTs"). The FSTs must be given to the suspect (on the side of the road for the most part) in a somewhat specific fashion, and that fashion is controlled by a manual put out by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (the "NHTSA Manual"). These FSTs are often very helpful to police officers in establishing evidence of driving under the influence. Contrary to what some lawyers and non-lawyers might tell you, refusing to take the FSTs or the BAC may or may not be a good idea. Sometimes the refusal to take the BAC test is something a prosecutor is allowed to strongly comment upon at trial, and the refusal to take the BAC test results (in itself) in an automatic licenses suspension. Further, if you have one or more prior DUIs in the last 20 years, refusing the BAC test results in a separate charge that is more serious (from a jail standpoint) than the DUI itself. It is always a good idea to try to talk to an experienced lawyer before taking any tests in a DUI pullover - but good luck getting an experienced DUI lawyer on the phone at 3:00am. That's why we have a 24/7 DUI hot line at 800-LAW-1966.

Please drink and drive responsibly - especially this time of year.

Judges and Social Media - What are They Allowed to Do?

This week the Ohio Supreme Court issued some guidelines to Ohio judges on how judges are allowed to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and who (and how) they are allowed to inneract with on social media. Essentially Judges are not permitted to discuss any of their cases or general legal matters on these sites - and that if they are too closed to any of their Facebook "friends" or Twitter "followers" they should step down from any case which involves them. Further, all of their communications must remain "dignified." See the Columbus Dispatch story on this event - and if you are really bored, you can read the opinion from the Ohio Supreme Court.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Eyewitness Testimony - Not Always What We Assume

The Cuyahoga Court of Appeals did something recently that Courts generally do not do - toss out eyewitness testimony as being "unreliable." Courts almost always leave it to the jury (and the jury alone) as to whether an eyewitness could have perceived the perpetrator at the scene of the crime and then later identify a perpetrator at trial. However, under Ohio law, there are some rules/guidelines that Courts must evaluate before permitting just any type of witness identification at trial (e.g. how long the witness had to view the guy, the witness's degree of attention at the scene of the crime, the witness's description of the guy to the police at the scene of the crime, and the witness's confidence on the identification). The Court must also assess how the police set up the line-up where the witness identifies the guy to make sure that the line-up process was not unduly suggestive. In State v. Farrow, the Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's exclusion of eyewitness testimony. This is very rare.