Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Civil Seizures

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the last few days about civil asset seizures. This involves police often taking cars, money, and property found in connection with traffic stops and other arrests, which usually involve some narcotics.  For the last 25+ years, municipalities around the country have been on an "asset grab" of valuable items when people are arrested in connection to drug use and other criminal activity.  
This means that local cops are making extra money taking the property of alleged criminals. If you are accused, the process of getting your stuff back is very complicated. It is subject to strict time deadlines.  If you do not do everything just right, you lose your property at a hearing, where the judge basically rubber stamps the action of the police.
It gets somewhat more interesting, because the police actually get to keep 60% of anything they can grab.  This creates a huge incentive for some towns to actually have an Asset Interdiction Division staffed by local cops, whose job it is to figure out a way to grab vehicles, money, and other items they find in the process of doing the job.
I have always had a moral issue with incentivizing the cops to basically steal.  It looks like the U.S. Supreme Court may have similar concerns.  They took an Indiana case under consideration, but they are expected to issue a decision in the next several months.
Want to know more? Here are articles from two different publications, giving a more in-depth view of the civil seizure process:

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.

Camera Tickets

We receive a number of calls every month about the automatic red light tickets generated when people run through a number of intersections in the Baton Rouge area.  

Our general position is that you can pretty safely ignore the tickets.  
A recent article in the Advocate said that fewer and fewer people are actually paying these tickets.  The City of Baton Rouge recently renegotiated a contract with the company servicing the cameras around town.  They are hoping to make over $500,000 more in revenue monthly. About 6,900 tickets are issued every month around town; yet, only about 38% of people actually pay their tickets.  The numbers have been steadily dropping for several years with a lack of enforcement.
The city does not have the power to suspend your drivers license or registration on your vehicle.  They can boot vehicles they find on the street.  Still, they have not done that, and there are probably no plans to take any action.  One local resident owes over $26,000 in unpaid tickets and is driving around without consequences.
With the exception of New Orleans, which actively boots cars, no city in the state has taken aggressive measures to collect unpaid tickets.
My advice remains the same...If you want to give your money to the city, go ahead and pay the ticket.  Until there are consequences, I cannot recommend my clients pay fines and fees that are otherwise uncollectible.

Written By: Greg Gouner

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Live Longer—Boost Your Credit Score!

The single biggest predictor of how long you will live is your credit score.  This is not a joke. Insurance companies were the original pioneers of big data and always used hundreds of different metrics to figure out how long people who apply for life insurance will live. Today, access to your credit score is one of the factors used in making that call.  More goes into it than just your credit score, but that is the single biggest predictor.

We have done bankruptcy law for nearly 25 years and have raised credit scores for thousands of people.  I had no idea that we were saving lives, but I suppose the lowered stress that comes with less debt and a higher credit score might actually contribute to a longer life.

The average bankruptcy filing often has 100+ point boost in credit score rating. Many people find this hard to believe, but wiping out tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt results in an increase for the majority of people who have to file.

I do not necessarily recommend bankruptcy filing as a means to extend life. Then again, it may free up a lot of time and life energy that could be used to work second, and in some case, third jobs.  I can also say that every one of my clients who successfully completed a bankruptcy seemed much happier being debt-free.

As an added bonus, please check out this link for the longevity test.  If you have been turned down on application for insurance, you may want to get a free copy of the medical history the insurance company likely used to evaluate you.

Written by: Greg Gouner

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Why "Big Box" Attorneys Might Not Be Your Best

You’ve seen the billboards on the interstate and the ads on television, making grand promises of hundred thousand dollar settlements. (Even their jingles are catchy!) When you need someone in your corner to fight for you and defend your interests, however, are the TV lawyers in it for you? What really matters is the outcome and services that are provided to you.
Service is key. At the Gouner Law Office, we get to know each and every person we represent. People who go to the big brand named lawyer from TV are not always sure exactly who is representing them. It certainly isn’t going to be the attorney on the commercial or the one whose name is on the building. Although each case is different, many of the large firms apply a cookie cutter approach, rather than a tailormade strategy to your case.
You are not just a number at the Gouner Law Office. We are able to communicate easily, effectively, and directly with you. Our staff will provide you with reasonable expectations about your case, based on information specific to you and your treatment. With this information, you can make the best decisions regarding your settlement. 
The so-called “big box" attorneys do not even evaluate their own cases.  There is usually a paralegal or intake person going off a checklist to figure out if they even want to look at your case.  They will stop listening the moment they figure out you are calling about something other than a rear-end car accident.
I have collected major recoveries for people over the years after a TV lawyer told them they didn’t wanted to touch the case. I guess if you have millions of dollars to spend on advertising, you can afford to throw away most of your potential clients.
The Gouner Law Office is a full-service firm. We represent people for accident/injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and family law.  When you have a problem, give us a call.  We are always ready to help.  Even if we do not do what you need, we can always make a personal recommendation for someone who best fits the service.
Don’t buy into the hype of the commercials and ads. Know who is representing you and how they will work with you to get your case resolved. 
Written By: Katherine Gouner

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.

Good Job, Voters!

I do not normally mention politics, but I am happy that the jury reform bill passed.  What this means is that Louisiana joined the rest of the nation in requiring unanimous jury verdicts for felony trials.  Before this, our state allowed for split jury verdicts--meaning, it only took 10 of 12 jurors to send someone to prison...possibly for the rest of his or her life.  Lesser felonies required 5 out of 6.  Now, the jury verdict must be unanimous. 

Louisiana voters overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment. Somewhat surprising was that the Louisiana District Attorney’s Association and many law enforcement organizations were behind the change.  I cannot say that the new amendment will make a difference in the majority of jury decisions. They are usually unanimous anyway, or at least have more than just one or two dissenting jurors. Still, if it were my future on the line, I would feel much better with the requirement of a unanimous jury.

This recent article from the Advocate contains more details.

Written by: Greg Gouner

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Time Shares and Bankruptcy

Consider this a public service announcement: Do not buy a timeshare.  

In bankruptcy, we run across dozens of people every year who bought a timeshare.  In 25 years of handling bankruptcies, I cannot remember a single person who did anything other than give up the timeshare as part of the bankruptcy filing.  The bankruptcy trustees are always on the lookout for assets they can sell.  I cannot remember a single instance when any of those trustees took an interest in selling a timeshare.

The way most people come to own timeshares is on vacation. They get caught up in the moment, seduced by an impressive resort tour and slick presentation about the benefits of buying a timeshare. Sometimes, it is a promise of an open bar or a cash payment for sitting through that presentation.

The resort will usually pair up a salesman with each couple listening to the presentation.  For the minimum two-hour presentation, you have your new best friend hanging out with you, telling you what a good deal you are about to get! The immediate downside of the presentation is that you lose between a few hours and an entire afternoon of your vacation time, listening to information about one of the single worst investments you could possibly make.

The salesman will usually tell you the timeshare is an investment and will go up in value.  They will pitch the idea that you can rent your luxury condominium to other vacationers, if you are not able to use it yourself.  They will tell you that the points are transferable to another vacation resort, if you do not want to take your vacation to this same place every year.

Timeshares almost never go up in value.  When you try to sell it, you will not have the benefit of a team of salesmen individually working prospective purchasers for the sale. The points are transferable, but they usually leave out the fact that you will have to pay a fee to use the time at a different resort.  They play down the cost of maintenance fees at the facility (or don’t mention them at all). They neglect to point out the fact you will be paying interest on this expensive investment at a rate higher than some automobile loans…andyou will pay property taxes on this condominium as well.

Once all the units are sold, it is not uncommon for the maintenance on the properties to be neglected and the entire complex to fall into disrepair.  After all, they do not have any more prospects to tour the resort, and the salesmen have moved down the beach to the next hot property.

If you figure out the cost of ownership, which includes the interest and other fees, you will almost certainly come out cheaper renting the very unit they are pitching you, instead of owning it. 

While they are usually not the main reason people file for bankruptcy, timeshares always something brought up at the consultation, because almost everyone wants out.

Written by: Greg Gouner

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.

Divorce Doesn’t Need to be the Worst Thing to Happen to You

Divorce is hard. For most people, it is one of life’s most difficult events, but the pain a divorce causes can be minimized. Louisiana allows for a no-fault divorce option. If your marriage is over, there really is no point in making this process any more difficult than it already is. The Gouner Law Office is here to make your divorce as painless as possible, and to give you all the tools you need to begin the next chapter of your life.

Why Time Matters
There are certain time delays which will affect any no-fault divorce (A “fault based” divorce is a different story). If you and your spouse have minor children, you must be separated for 365 days, before a judge will grant your divorce. If there are no minor children between the parties, a 180-day separation is required. If you have already lived separate and apart for the requisite time period, it is a quick process. If not, you will have to wait to be separated for the applicable time period. 

Two Types of Divorce
A divorce can be filed under Louisiana Civil Code Article 102 or Article 103. Under Article 102, the divorce petition is filed, and you then live separate and apart. Article 103 is used when you have already lived separate and apart for the requisite time period. A special note: If you have been living apart from your spouse, but have not reached the entire time period required by law, your divorce can be filed under Article 102, then simply amended when you hit that date. You can also ask the court for the granting of your divorce at that time.

When Fees Can Be Waivered
The divorce procedure can also be easier and cost you and your spouse less money. As you may know, almost every single legal document filed in any case costs you a filing fee. You then have to pay additional money for service of that document upon the other party. You and your spouse can avoidpaying those extra funds by waiving service of process and visit our office together,to make the process move faster and more smoothly. 

Consent Judgment
Some of the most painful and expensive parts of the divorce process are child support, child custody, spousal support, etc. Instead of appearing in front of a judge and dredging up any and all bad things you can think of about your spouse, you can come to an agreement on the above listed items and have them included in a consent judgment.Our office has assisted in forging many agreements between parties regarding child support, custody, and other incidentals--without the need for a lengthy court hearing. You also save money on hefty legal fees, since most attorneys will bill you hourly for their time. If you decide at a later date that the agreement needs to be modified, this can be done by a judge, after a showing a good reason to do so.

The attorneys the Gouner Law Office understand that going through a divorce is one of the most difficult hurdles you will likely face in your life. It is our job to make sure it is less painful. At the end of the day, the best thing for all parties is to come to an agreement, and peacefully move on with your lives. We do understand that parties are sometimes unable to come to an agreement. In those cases, we are here to fight for you, to get you everything you deserve. We welcome you to contact us to schedule a consultation.

By: Alyssa L. Collara-Wineski 

May we help you with a legal situation? To schedule a private consultation, call the Gouner Law Office at (225) 293-6200 or toll free (800) 404-1921. You can also fill out our contact form.