Monday, April 24, 2017

How Not To Get Arrested

I’ve been practicing criminal defense law for almost 25 years. The most important step I’ve discovered in avoiding arrest is to avoid encountering the police in the first place.

Recently, a client called the police about a domestic disturbance with his wife. This is usually a bad idea, because police usually have orders to arrest someone for any potential domestic callout. Whenever you call the police, it is also standard for them to check arrest warrants on everyone.

In this case, it was a particularly bad idea. There were outstanding bench warrants for my client. 

I do not know how he thought this would play out.

One of the things we discuss in just about every criminal case is how the person made contact with the police.  I usually get answers like, “The police were harassing me.”  When it comes down to it, the real question is usually, “What did you do that got the attention of the cops in the first place?”  In other words, with millions of people out there, what did you have to do to draw the attention of law enforcement?

I have had dozens of people stopped for traffic tickets by officers intending to do nothing more than write a speeding ticket and move on.  Prolonged argument with the police over the fairness of the ticket can elevate the situation to an arrest for charges like DWI and even resisting arrest for a refusal to sign the ticket.

Another popular way to get arrested is sticking around after being told to leave.  Let’s say you do not like the quality of the delicious hamburger you ordered and start arguing with the manager.  At some point, he may ask you to leave and threaten to call the police.  It is probably a good idea to do just that before the cops arrive.  If you decide to stick around to stand your ground, the likely charge will be “Remaining After Being Forbidden”—a misdemeanor that usually comes with a free ride in a squad car.

In my defense experience, the most memorable charge for this was a client who did not like a sandwich at a local poboy restaurant.  The manager told him to leave.  My client upped the ante by calling the cops himself.

He was then picked up, not only for his outstanding bench warrant, but also for not leaving when he had the chance.

Remember Your Manners
Police generally think they can arrest anyone for just about anything.  The cops have a special phrase for it: an attitude arrest.  You may be able to beat the charge in court, but you cannot beat the ride to jail and everything that comes with it.

Sometimes, it is just a lack of politeness that gets you chauffeured to jail.  A bad attitude directed toward the cop can make a situation worse than it needs to be. I cannot tell you how many people have spent time in our court system who thought that yelling something like, “Don’t you know who I am?!” at the officer at 2am on the side of the road would impress them.

Oh, it impresses them, all right.

Written by Greg Gouner

Do Traffic Tickets Expire?

We get lots of calls from people asking this question.  There really is not a good answer for it.  Here is how it all plays out:

The DMV will place a hold on your driver’s license when it receives a notice of an unpaid ticket.

At some point, the ticket times out. In Louisiana, however, there is no definitive point when it expires. 

Getting a traffic ticket is like a two-way street--You have an obligation to show up, or otherwise, deal with the ticket. The municipality has some obligation to find you, if you do not show for court.  In other words, if the town does not do anything, the ticket basically times out at some point.

There is no fixed time period for a town to automatically throw out old tickets.  Most towns do not usually actively look for people who missed court dates on speeding charges and minor traffic offenses. If you do not resolve your ticket, the municipality basically leaves you alone, but asks the DMV to suspend your license.

That does not mean the next police officer that stops you for a charge will not also give you a ticket for driving under suspension.  Most people are motivated to take care of old tickets to avoid the one-year mandatory suspension.  There is also the possibility that your next traffic stop will mean an arrest. This can happen, but usually it does not until the person has at least two or three other bench warrants.

I have seen prosecutors argue that the ticket never expires and not showing up in court makes someone a fugitive from justice.  Despite that, I have gotten stacks of tickets thrown out that were a decade or more old. Most judges I have appeared before seem to throw out anything more than around 10 years old.

In reality, the town usually needs the police officer to show up in court to prove the ticket.  People retire, lose their jobs, and move away.  With an old ticket, it is often impossible for the town to carry their burden to trial.  That still does not stop the DMV from continuing a hold on your license.  The hold will usually stay in place until they get some paperwork saying the ticket is resolved.

If you have an old ticket and the DMV has your license suspended, you will have to deal with the municipality to get it resolved. It could take a court appearance to avoid hundreds of dollars in fines the town probably added, due to an old bench warrant.

In summary--

Regardless of how old it is...the burden is on you to deal with it quickly.

Written By: Greg Gouner

Monday, December 5, 2016

Get with Us ASAP After an Accident

Louisiana provides one year to make a claim for auto accident and other injury cases.  This is less time than most states, but is long enough for many people to postpone deciding what to do until near the end of the year. 

The Gouner Law Office handles wrecks and other injury cases.  The time to meet with an attorney is immediately following the accident.  Waiting until several months pass is not a good idea.  Witnesses can disappear.  Police may not prepare accident reports without prompting.  Delaying taking action can cost you money. 

Medical treatment is a key part of personal injury cases. Getting a lawyer usually means getting prompt treatment. Insurance adjusters will often urge people to wait to get treatment to see how they feel.  This is the same adjuster who will “ding” you for not getting prompt treatment and suggest any injury was small, because treatment was delayed.

Likewise, waiting to get appraisals on your vehicle damage and delaying making a claim for property loss is a mistake. After as little as a few weeks, the vehicle can start to rust, and a fresh dent will start to look old. Insurance companies will take advantage of that, saying the damage was pre-existing.

If you get in a wreck, act quickly. Call the Gouner Law Office to get your claim started.

(225) 293-6200 or Toll Free: (800) 404-1921

By Greg Gouner

Bankruptcy Guilt: Why You Should NOT Be Ashamed

The guilt associated with bankruptcy often begins with the negative feelings that come with the word. When filing bankruptcy is your best or only option, you can feel you have hit “rock-bottom,” the lowest point in your life. While financial instability may sometimes be avoided, it is usually out of your control. Those who resort to filing bankruptcy have often lost their jobs, suffered from a serious medical injury or condition, or experienced a life-changing event, like divorce or a death in the family. These reasons are why bankruptcy is an available remedy. Life is never certain. As the saying goes, “Bad things happen to good people.” That is why the government has allowed for bankruptcy relief.

Bankruptcy can bring a fresh start, but people often feel guilt for discharging their unsecured debt and not paying their creditors. The fact is creditors are allowed to charge astronomical interest rates on your payday loans, credit card debt, lines of credit, etc. By the time you discharge these debts in bankruptcy, you have already paid double the amount you borrowed. Yes, you signed the note and agreed to the interest rate and terms of the loan, but people often take out loans during tough times to pay their living expenses and feed their families. As a consumer, you are being taken advantage of day-to-day, and you should not feel guilt for discharging your debt to put you and your family in a better financial position.

Let's not forget, you are not the only person to file bankruptcy. While there is a stigma that people who file bankruptcy are poor, financially irresponsible, and uneducated--many bankruptcy filers are business owners, prominent members of our community, and celebrities. (Mike Tyson, 50 cent, Francis Ford Coppola, Marvin Gaye, Kim Basinger, Meat Loaf, Cyndi Lauper, MC Hammer, and Larry King have all made the bankruptcy filers list.)

The best way to think about bankruptcy is to see it in terms of a “life reset.” Either a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 consumer bankruptcy allows a person or family a second chance. It can remove that constant state of stress that comes with living paycheck to paycheck--essentially working to pay creditors. Although guilt is a normal reaction instilled in us by the society we live in, it is that same society that pushes us to spend more, keep up with our neighbors and friends, and live above our means. From the countless credit card applications in the mail, to checks from finance companies just waiting to be cashed—the opportunity to “buy more” can result in insurmountable bills and expenses.

If you have gotten in over your head, don’t feel ashamed. Give you and your family a fresh start toward a better life.  Contact the bankruptcy relief professionals at the Gouner Law Office.

You’ll be glad you did.

By Alyssa Collara

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Renters, Landlords and Flooded Property

Louisiana law provides...

If there are necessary repairs to a thing (such as a home) that cannot be postponed until the end of the lease, the landlord may make the repair, even if it causes inconvenience to, or displacement of the renter.

In real world language, this means anyone who is in a flooded rented home or business should anticipate the possibility of being displaced while repairs are being made. I recently  heard a tenant state to another landlord that she would not let him into the home...that she had to leave everything in its place "for FEMA."

It's important to understand that we are about to be in a major housing crisis. We need to get these homes repaired and inhabitable as soon as humanly possible.

Tenants and landlords should be taking photos of all damaged property and the surrounding areas--preferably with a cell phone for the time and GPS stamp. As soon as it is safe to do so, begin getting as many belongings out of these homes as possible.

Tenants, contact your landlords as soon as possible. Landlords, do the same.

Are You Flooded and May Miss Your Mortgage Payment?

You may have water damage to your home or business. If mortgage payments will be missed, please take steps to reach out to your lender.

Contact your mortgage company directly to work out a deferment plan for the monthly payments. This is a federally declared disaster, and lenders are being encouraged by the government to accommodate borrowers. They may do it with little or no penalties or late fees.

During Katrina, most of the lenders did this for their customers affected by the flood.

Please note: Any deferment of payments will be added to the balance of the loan.  We suggest you do this before the first missed payment to avoid a history of delinquency.

A final option may be a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If all other efforts fail, you may still be able to stop foreclosure with a bankruptcy filing. This is not the first option to try. We expect most mortgage holders will be reasonably helpful.  If other options do not work, it is always something to consider.

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