Criminal Defense Blog

DUI and Football Season

2August
2017

In Alabama we take our football very seriously. Alabama and Auburn fans spend a lot of time tailgating and watching their team’s game on the television at local bars. Because of this we generally see an uptick in DUI arrests across Alabama during footballs season. If you or someone you know is faced with a DUI arrest then you need Ketcham Law to defend you.

Penalties for DUI in Alabama

There are different possible sentences for a DUI conviction in Alabama depending on your criminal record.  On the first conviction you can face up to one year in a county or municipal jail, however, there is no minimum mandatory jail sentence.  For a second conviction you could face a minimum of 48 hours and up to one year in jail, plus community service.  After four or more convictions, within a 5 year period, you can be charged with a Class C Felony with a sentence of 1 to 10 years. Fines and court costs are also generally high when it comes to DUI offenses.

Your driver’s license is effected as well. Points will be added to your driving record and your license will be suspended or revoked, if you convicted of DUI. The number of points assessed, depends on the severity of the offense and the number of prior convictions.

Take Your DUI Charge Seriously

I generally remind people that while someone normally does not spend much time in jail for a DUI, a DUI conviction carries with it lifelong consequences. When you are charged with a DUI you immediately face issues of whether or not your employment will be effected and if you will be able to drive. Your license could be suspended, your car insurance could increase, and your employer may have employment rules that prohibit having an employee that has a criminal record. Do not let a DUI arrest be the reason you lose your job or prohibit you from getting the job you desire.

If you have questions regarding a DUI or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Spring Break Arrests

4April
2017

Alabama Spring Break Arrests 

Unfortunately many college students find themselves handcuffed and in the back of a police cruiser during spring break. In Alabama though the number of arrests over spring break appears to be down from the past few years.   The numbers would indicate that fewer arrests have been made in popular spring break destinations such as Orange Beach and Gulf Shores in 2017.

Common Spring Break Arrests

The majority of Alabama spring break arrests that occur in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores involve alcohol consumption and under age possession of alcohol. Minor in possession of alcohol is usually the most common arrest that occurs over the spring break season on the coast.  Public intoxication, DUI, open container violations, and drug possession are also common arrests that get made over the month or so long spring break season in the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores areas.

Alabama Law and Spring Break

Getting arrested is never a pleasant experience and it can cause consequences that are life changing.  While a lot of arrests that occur during spring break are for minor offenses, it is always wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.  Underage college students sometimes have options available to them under the law that can protect their future and their permanent record.  Make sure to contact a criminal defense lawyer in Alabama if you have been arrested over spring break.  Call Ketcham Law at 205-296-4233 if you have any questions regarding an arrest or a criminal law issue.

Posted in Drug Possession, DUI, Underage Drinking |

Alabama Domestic Violence

30January
2017

Understanding the Law in Alabama Regarding Domestic Violence

In Alabama, depending on the severity of the alleged action, domestic violence charges are generally misdemeanor charges.  Regardless, Alabama courts take domestic violence charges seriously and a conviction can have a substantial impact.  One thing to consider is that you can lose your right to own or possess a gun if one is found guilty of a domestic violence charge.  In most cases, evidence surrounding a domestic violence charge will come from the victim and the suspect, both of which telling their own version of what happened.  There may be other witnesses or past evidence of a history of violence or abuse that will be considered. If you are facing a domestic violence charge in Alabama, here is what you should know.

Classifications of domestic violence charges in Alabama

There are basically three classifications of domestic violence charges in Alabama, based on the severity of the alleged actions committed.  The purpose of Alabama’s domestic violence law is to protect a specific class of people: spouses (current or former), parents, children, household members and people with which the suspect has a romantic relationship.  The three categories are First, Second and Third Degree Domestic Violence.

First Degree Domestic Violence

As with other crimes in Alabama that are ranked by degree, a First Degree charge is the most serious.  A First Degree Domestic Violence charge involves a first degree assault charge.  This would include actions where “a person intends to cause serious physical injury to another person and does so using a dangerous or deadly object or weapon; when someone intends to disfigure another in a serious and permanent matter or attempts to destroy a physical aspect of another person; or commits any of these acts in the course of committing another serious crime such as arson and/or kidnapping.”

Second and Third Degree Domestic Violence

Similarly, a Second Degree Domestic Violence charge involves a second degree assault. This charge is considered a felony charge, bringing with it a possible sentence of a minimum of six months in jail with no early release. A Third Degree Domestic Violence charge is a misdemeanor offense, which is generally the most common domestic violence charge. Third Degree involves a person is found to have committed a third degree assault.

If you have questions regarding domestic violence, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation either online or by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Domestic Violence |

Drug Cases And The Use of A Informant

16January
2017

Confidential Informants in Drug Cases

It is not uncommon in drug cases for prosecutors to use evidence from a “controlled buy” to support the charges.  Although these types of cases can be difficult to defend, there are several ways to fight evidence gathered from a confidential informant.  If you need help defending yourself from these cases, our criminal defense firm can help.

What is meant by a “controlled buy?”

A controlled buy is basically a situation setup by law enforcement where a confidential informant is sent in to buy drugs from a suspect.  In many cases, the confidential informant is facing some type of criminal charges themselves, so their cooperation is motivated by the possibility of lessening their own charges.  Typically, the process requires that the confidential informant be thoroughly searched before going into the controlled buy to ensure they are not already in possession of any drugs.

The informant is given money from the police department, with the serial numbers recorded, to ensure that the money is actually given to the suspect.  Law enforcement monitors the controlled buy through audio and/or video surveillance, which is usually recorded.

How credible is the confidential informant?

It is important for law enforcement to protect the credibility of the informant as much as possible.  By searching the informant, surveilling the buy, and taking other similar measures, the goal is to eliminate the possibility that the informant could plant the drugs on the suspect in order to fulfill the deal with the police.  The fact that the confidential informant is often a convicted felon, their credibility is already at issue. On the other hand, when law enforcement fails to follow proper procedures, then credibility becomes an issue that can be used to defend against these charges.

What type of defense could I have?

From a defense perspective, there are many different strategies that can be used to defend against drug charges based on evidence from a confidential informant.  For example, if it can be shown that the confidential informant had the opportunity to obtain drugs and plant them, the evidence obtained in the controlled buy would be useless.

If you have questions regarding drugs charges, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Drug Possession, Drug Trafficking |

DUI In Alabama

4January
2017

Buzzed Driving is Still Drunk Driving

We all know there is a legal limit for blood alcohol, when it comes to drunk driving laws.  But many people do not realize that, even if your blood alcohol level is below the legal limit of .08%, you could still be charged with a DUI in Alabama. An officer can arrest you for DUI and cite you for being “under the influence” without a record of your actual blood alcohol content.

What is “buzzed” driving?

In Alabama, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for being charged with a DUI depends on your age.  If you are under age 21, then the limit is .02%.  For everyone over age 21, the limit is .08%.  If you are a commercial driver, meaning you have a CDL, then the limit is .04%.  Generally speaking, buzzed driving is classified as any blood alcohol level between .01% to .07%.  Remember, regardless of whether you are under the legal limit, you can still be charged with a DUI in Alabama.

$3.8 million verdict in a “buzzed” driving case

A teenager in Geneva County was driving while buzzed when he ran a stop sign and crashed into another vehicle.  The two passengers in the car he hit were seriously injured, as well as the other teenage passenger in his car. Although his blood alcohol level at the tie was only .059%, he was still sued in civil court by each of the victims.  The jury ultimately awarded $3.8 million in damages to the three victims. The lesson that should be taken from that incident is that, even if you do not feel as though you are intoxicated, you may still be held liable if you cause an accident while buzzed.

If you have questions regarding DUI in Alabama, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation either online or by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

 

Posted in DUI |

Domestic Violence In Alabama

19December
2016

Understanding the Law in Alabama Regarding Domestic Violence

In Alabama, depending on the severity of the alleged action, domestic violence charges are generally misdemeanor charges.  Regardless, Alabama courts take domestic violence charges seriously and a conviction can have a substantial impact.  In most cases, evidence surrounding a domestic violence charge will come from the victim and the suspect, both of which telling their own version of what happened.  There may be other witnesses or past evidence of a history of violence or abuse that will be considered. If you are facing a domestic violence charge in Alabama, here is what you should know.

Classifications In Alabama

There are basically three classifications of domestic violence charges in Alabama, based on the severity of the alleged actions committed.  The purpose of Alabama’s domestic violence law is to protect a specific class of people: spouses (current or former), parents, children, household members and people with which the suspect has a romantic relationship.  The three categories are First, Second and Third Degree Domestic Violence.

First Degree Charge

As with other crimes in Alabama that are ranked by degree, a First Degree charge is the most serious.  A First Degree Domestic Violence charge involves a first degree assault charge.  This would include actions where “a person intends to cause serious physical injury to another person and does so using a dangerous or deadly object or weapon; when someone intends to disfigure another in a serious and permanent matter or attempts to destroy a physical aspect of another person; or commits any of these acts in the course of committing another serious crime such as arson and/or kidnapping.”

Second and Third Degree Charges

Similarly, a Second Degree Domestic Violence charge involves a second degree assault. This charge is considered a felony charge, bringing with it a possible sentence of a minimum of six months in jail with no early release. A Third Degree Domestic Violence charge is a misdemeanor offense, which is generally the most common domestic violence charge. Third Degree involves a person is found to have committed a third degree assault.

If you have questions regarding domestic violence, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation either online or by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Domestic Violence |

Entrapment

5December
2016

When Does an Entrapment Defense Apply?

Entrapment is a term used frequently in movies and crime novels, but what does it really mean and how can it be used as a defense to a crime?  Entrapment is a real defense that can be raised in criminal cases where the suspect alleges he was persuaded by law enforcement officers to commit the crime with which he is charged. However, in order for an entrapment defense to be successful, the suspect must be able to prove that he did not have any previous intention or predisposition to commit that particular crime.  In other words, you must be able to show that you only committed the crime because of the encouragement of law enforcement or some other government officer.  This can be a hard defense to prove.  Here is what you need to know.

Determining predisposition to commit a crime

Determining whether a criminal defendant had a predisposition to commit a crime can be very tricky. Some of the common factors that are considered including the defendant’s character and reputation, whether the officer was responsible for initially introducing the defendant to the criminal activity, whether the alleged crime was committed for profit, whether the defendant was reluctant to commit the crime or be involved in some way, and the exact nature of the officer’s inducement.

Proving entrapment can be tough

It can be difficult to prove an innocent mind before the officer’s alleged introduction of the idea to commit a crime.  The defendant must be able to show that he was not already willing and able to commit the crime on his own.  Establishing the officer’s inducement is not always easy, either.  The fact that an officer solicits a defendant to do something illegal is not enough.  For example, just because an undercover officer asks if you can supply him with some cocaine, does not alone constitute entrapment.  There needs to be evidence of aggressive pressuring or coercion to commit a crime, or negotiating or blackmailing a defendant into committing a crime.

If you have questions regarding the entrapment defenses, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Uncategorized |

When a Judge’s Articulated Personal Bias Leads to Resentencing

30November
2016

As a vital component of the criminal trial process, sentencing requires fairness, impartiality and sound reasoning by the judge who imposes the sentence.  When that process is impeded by personal bias, the result is often unsettling.  As one recent case demonstrates, a judge’s apparent personal bias may require resentencing, even when the sentence falls within the sentencing guidelines.

A case involving federal judge Rudolph T. Randa

In a recent federal case out of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, a convicted drug dealer received an 84 month sentence, which was ultimately vacated, requiring him to be resentenced.  The defendant, Billy J. Robinson, Jr. pled guilty to charges that he was part of heroin trafficking ring transporting drugs from Illinois to Wisconsin.  U.S. District Court Judge Randa accepted his guilty plea and sentenced him to 84 months on Robinson.  Even when a federal judges imposes a sentence within the federal sentencing guidelines, they are still required to explain reasoning for the sentence they impose.

In this particular case, the judge’s explanation demonstrated a strong personal bias, which led him to berate the defendant and essentially blame him for problems the judge perceived to exist in the community as a whole.  Unfortunate for the defendant, Judge Randa was from the same neighborhood in Milwaukee in which Robinson admitted to distributing heroin. Before imposing the sentence on Robinson, Judge Randa began discussing the “old neighborhood” and how it had become ravaged by drugs.  In his discussion, however, the judge demonstrated an apparent grudge he personally held against the Defendant.

The Seventh Circuit was troubled by the Judge’s rant

The Seventh Circuit found the judge’s comments “troubling because they could be ‘understood as a personal grudge that the judge bore against [Robinson] for dealing drugs in his old neighborhood. They appear to attribute ‘issues of broad local [and] national … scope’—changing crime rates—to Robinson’s crime, when these issues at best ‘only tangentially relate to his underlying conduct. Robinson was not charged with a violent crime or a crime involving a firearm, nor did his criminal history include any such crimes.”  It appeared that the judge inserted a personal bias into the sentencing proceedings, thereby destroying even an appearance of impartiality.  Ultimately, the Seventh Circuit vacated Robinson’s sentence and sent the case back to Judge Randa for resentencing.

If you have questions regarding sentencing, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Immigration Status and An Arrest

22November
2016

How an Immigration Hold may Affect your Criminal Case

The number of criminal defense matters that now involve some type of immigration issue have seen an increase in recent years.  If you have a criminal matter and need legal assistance, and you also anticipate immigration issues arising as well, it is important to discuss those issues with your criminal defense attorney early on.  Here are some things to consider.

What it means to be placed on an Immigration Hold

A common issue that arises in state law criminal defense matters involving foreign nationals is the immigration hold.  An immigration hold is placed on those who have been accused of a crime and held in jail.  When a foreign national is being held in state or federal custody, they will likely be placed on so-called “immigration hold.”  This hold instructs the jail to not release the person, but instead to transfer them to federal custody at the end of the jail term. When the Department of Homeland Security places this type of hold on someone, state law enforcement agencies are obligated to comply.

Return to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

If you have been placed on immigration hold that means, after you go through the state court criminal proceedings, you will be placed in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  This is true, regardless of whether you are convicted, acquitted, or the case is dismissed.  ICE is the part of the federal government which handles immigration enforcement. Once in their custody, you could be tried by an immigration court and involuntarily deported.  Depending on the circumstances, you could be voluntarily deported or permitted to stay in the United States.

The primary reasons for immigration holds

There are three common reasons foreign nationals who find themselves in jail might be placed on immigration hold. If you are undocumented (or suspected of being undocumented) or otherwise illegally present in the U.S. you may be placed on hold.  If you have committed a crime that would make you deportable from the United States you may be placed on hold, even if you have a visa.  Another common reason is having a prior or pending order of removal on your immigration record.

If you have questions regarding immigration holds, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296

Posted in Uncategorized |

Police Searching Cell Phones: Legal or Not?

31October
2016

Before a police officer can search a suspect’s cell phone, they typically need a search warrant or probable cause.  Since most people use their phones to document and communicate various aspects of their daily activities, and their lives in general, privacy becomes an issue.  A common legal issue that arises, especially when someone is suspected of a crime, is whether the police officer automatically has probable cause to search a cell phone for evidence of the crime, or whether there must a more specific connection between the suspected crime and the phone.

State laws widely differ on this issue

As with nearly all criminal laws, each state has its own statutory laws, as well as its court-established case law that governs searches and seizures and probable cause.  On the specific issue of when a cell phone can be searched without a prior search warrant being obtained, the law varies as well.

A specific “nexus” may be required

For example, in Massachusetts, a specific “nexus” is required. Specifically, the Massachusetts Supreme Court determined that even in cases where there is probable cause to suspect someone of a crime, police are not allowed to seize or search his or her cellular telephone to look for evidence unless they have information establishing that specific evidence is likely to be found there.  Many other courts have ruled that the mere fact that a suspect owns a cell phone doesn’t provide probable cause to search the phone.

But what constituted a sufficient “nexus?”

An Arkansas court found a sufficient nexus between a suspect’s cell phone and a homicide based on the fact that the suspect was in possession of the phone on the day of the shooting; he was “working with at least one other person when the homicide was committed”; and a confidential informant provided information suggesting the defendant’s involvement in the homicide on the day it was committed. Through this evidence, the court inferred that the phone had been used to communicate with others regarding the shooting.

The state of the law in Alabama

In Gracie v. State, the Court of Criminal held that the State is not required to first obtain a search warrant before conducting a search of a cell phone seized pursuant to a warrantless search. The Court reasoned that, because the cell phone was immediately associated with the arrestee’s person, police officers have the authority to search its contents.

If you have questions regarding warrants, probable cause, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Uncategorized |