Barb Jacobson is a private investigator – and a really fine one at that. She can get answers from witnesses that others just can’t get. I’m not sure how she does it but she does it well!

So one day in 1997 or so she came to see me about a guy in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Other lawyers told her that there wasn’t any way to get him out. She was convinced that her guy was innocent. 

Crazy thing here – he was innocent. As in, didn’t do it innocent. As in wrong man convicted. Innocent!

So we built a case on her work, her investigation and her guts. The Judge (now a Supreme Court Justice) let us put on our evidence and the prosecutor didn’t back down. But in the end Barbara Jacobson’s fine work saved this kid from prison.

You can read here account of the case here.

Thanks Barb for your kind words. Reputations get built on the work we do and often that work was the result of hard work by others associated with a case. 

Now the take away – we lawyers need to be good listeners. As I listened to Barb’s story and realized that her client was in fact innocent, we were able to come up with a plan to win his freedom. Lawyers who can’t see an opportunity to win are like that kid digging in the manure, looking for the pony. He’s in there alright, but you’ve got to be willing to move a little dirty to find him.

And lawyers are not investigators. Often it is the investigator who breaks the case, not the lawyer. 


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 The news tonight declares that Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel has won a new trial because his criminal defense lawyer did not do enough to provide an effective defense. Robert F. Kennedy was his uncle. Mr. Skakel was convicted of the murder of Martha Moxley in 1975. She was beaten to death with a golf club after she and friends attended


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 So I took a little break from blogging about criminal defense, DUI defense, civil trials and matters of wrongful death. And then things just started "popping up." A new case or twelve. A kid in jail who just could not get it together. A former Marine facing life changing decisions. The mentally ill – fearing life and death as they


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"ACT IMMEDIATELY TO PROTECT YOUR DRIVING PRIVILEGES"

In Boise, Idaho, if you are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, two things are certain: First – your mugshot photo will show-up online for all to see, and second – you will receive a "letter" advertising the services of a lawyer who wants to represent you.

I am writing this today after meeting with a potential DUI client who told me that he had been "scared" into hiring a young, inexperienced lawyer with a slick website and an even slicker solicitation letter. After a couple weeks of trying to get a return call, he was ready to change lawyers. His initial fear – the main factor that had driven the client to hire his lawyer – had been replaced by a feeling of dissatisfaction over how the case was being handled.

I have written about this before, but I had not recently seen the letters some lawyers are sending to potential clients. Some of the solicitations I have seen are overly frightening and deceptive. At a recent DUI seminar the speaker said that one of her clients had received over 25 of these solicitations.

Here’s what I hate about these solicitations – they are solely intended to convert you from "charged" to CLIENT. The lawyers behind them prey on the fear that is inherent within the legal system – fear of big fines, jail time, lost driving privileges and lost jobs.

All of these ARE potential consequences of a DUI, but the idea that you should "decide now" to call a direct mail lawyer because "your time is running out and you must act immediately" is erroneous.

Stop. Breathe deep and get the facts about DUI before you jump at that "mailbox lawyer."

Yes, DUI is a very serious charge. The penalties are enough to keep most of us sleepless for nights if charged with this crime. The answer to the fear caused by your arrest, is information.  You do not have to choose a lawyer without first learning as much as you can about the charges you face.

Do not have to be scared into hiring a lawyer who sent you a "legal" looking come-on by mail.

Take some time.

Talk to some friends and get lawyer referrals.

Talk to some lawyers.

Then make an informed decision, not a decision based on fear!

Start your research on driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol by checking out the DUI posts in this blog under the Topics section to the right of this post. There, you will find information about drunk driving arrests, physical control of the vehicle, the politics of a DUI charge and why winning is so difficult, 5 questions you must ask before hiring a DUI lawyer, the truth about penalties for DUI in Idaho, whether you should take the breathalyzer in Idaho and a follow-up on that same issue, whether you should take the field sobriety tests in Idaho, and when your car can be stopped by an Idaho law enforcement officer. And there is so much more – under the DUI topic in this blog. 

So get informed BEFORE you choose a lawyer.

And if you want to learn more about your case, simply give us a call.

 


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Just how would I find the best criminal defense lawyer to help me with a misdemeanor or felony case in Boise Idaho?

This weekend I tried an experiment. I "googled" the words "best Idaho criminal defense lawyer"to see what would happen. The result was not what I expected. Google relies on algorithms and formulas to decide which lawyers they will


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 A couple mornings ago I heard financial Guru Jim Cramer talking about the Feds – in particular, he was talking about potential criminal charges against stock traders or sellers:

"The most frightening thing in the world is to go up against the US Attorney. They have unlimited resources and you don’t!"

He is absolutely correct. 

The United States Attorney’s office prosecutes federal cases and they do in fact have unlimited money and perhaps, more importantly, power. Every time I’m involved in the criminal case against the United States, it is clear that they are months or sometimes years ahead of me. By that I mean that they have already spent tons of money and hours investigating the allegations. By the time charges are filed, federal investigators have combed through documents, and built a case against my client that may be virtually impossible to crack.

So, should you fear the feds? Yes!

If you have to do battle with the federal government, you better strap it on and be ready for the fight of your life. They play for keeps. There is no federal probation and parole to provide an easy out for an innocent person caught in their web. And as George Washington said over 200 years ago, "government is not reason, it is power."

If you are facing a federal investigation, here are 3 steps you must take immediately:

Number 1. Don’t talk. Federal investigators are trained to get everybody in a case talking. They play nice. They sit you down in a room and offer you a drink, and then they get you to pour your heart out. Everybody in America has heard that he or she has a "right to remain silent," but nobody ever remains silent. So don’t talk. Don’t tell them your story. Sit tight and zip your lips.

You cannot talk your way out of a criminal charge when it comes to the feds.

It will not happen, despite the inner voice that tells you if you would only explain your side of the story the nice federal special agents would understand that you are really not guilty. Life does not work that way.

Number 2. Get the best lawyer you can afford, immediately.  You have the right to counsel to assist you with respect to a potential criminal investigation. From my experience, the people who do the best when it comes to the feds are those who have had counsel and remained silent. An experienced criminal defense lawyer is going to be able to guide you through the process. But notice that I said experienced. I mean a criminal defense lawyer who has had experience with federal cases. Do not hire some young lawyer who has never had a federal case. You are not doing yourself any favors by doing so.

Number 3. Get ready for a long ride. The feds investigate, and investigate, and investigate some more, and at some moment in time years after they first considered your case, they indict. An indictment is a charging process for federal crimes. You have an absolute constitutional right to not face any federal felony offense unless there has been an indictment by grand jury. But a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if asked to by a federal prosecutor. So do not expect that a federal investigation will be "fast and furious," quite the opposite it will be slow, deliberate, and painstakingly done by investigators who are well-trained and analysts who examine each and every inch of each and every document or item at issue. The truth is the federal government has a huge head start by the time a person is indicted in federal court.

By the time you face a federal criminal charge, government and its agents have been working perhaps for years in building a case against you that they consider to be so solid you will have no choice but to admit your guilt, take your punishment, and provide them with a conviction statistic.

If all this sounds little cynical, perhaps it is. After 31 years facing federal authorities on behalf of clients in cases across the United States, I have tremendous respect for the attorneys, investigators, and agents who bring these matters before the court. But I also understand that federal charges can be so broad as to ensnare a perfectly innocent person. When you look at the statistics shall see that roughly 95% of persons charged with federal crimes ultimately either plead guilty or are found guilty. A person found guilty faces a federal sentencing guideline structure that makes it very difficult to stay out of jail or prison.

For all these reasons, if you are facing a criminal charge in federal court, you need to play the game carefully, and you need someone who has experience to guide you through the process.

If you are facing federal charges give us a call. Whether we can take your case or not, we can certainly point you in the right direction. You can learn more about this subject by checking on my prior post.

 

 


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 As any experienced Idaho criminal defense lawyer will tell you, the vast majority of cases are resolved with a plea bargain long before they ever reach a courtroom. Plea bargains are important to prosecutors because they help efficiently clear dockets and allow them to prosecute more cases. They can also be beneficial to defendants by allowing them to serve


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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently identified 149 potential sources of human error in the analysis of crime scene fingerprints.  In an article published by NIST, the results of a study by a working group of 34 scientists, NIST recommends changes to reduce human error and make conclusions more reliable.  You can download the report at this site.

Fingerprint evidence is difficult to deal with in trial because the examiner offers his or her "opinion" as if it were indisputable fact. In truth, the examiner identifies a number of points of comparison and then, if similar to the known sample (for example, from our client), declares that the prints "match."  He or she may use fewer than 7 points of comparison in many jurisdictions and still declare the "match."

How do you handle this type of evidence at trial?  Start with NIST article and think about the issue as if it was any other opinion, subject to attack on that basis. Expert opinions are conclusions based on a review of facts (like points of comparison on fingerprints), and are subject to human error. Opinion testimony is also subject to cross-examination for bias (testimony that favors a position) and prejudice (testimony that opposes a position).  For example, an examiner may be part of the "prosecution team," with an agenda to obtain a conviction.  He or she may acknowledge that there are no real standards with respect to how many points of comparison are required to state the opinion. Perhaps he or she has been retained in a case and has been paid for the opinion.  

My point is simple – treat this witness just like any other "expert" and cut away at credibility, in part by focussing some of your cross-examination on human error.

But recognize that jurors love "scientific" evidence.  Science has certainty, or at least the appearance of certainty, for that moment in time. Turns out the earth is not flat – regardless of the opinions offered to the contrary. And maybe that "matching" fingerprint is a match only because the analysts are subject to human error. Jurors will need a reason (or 149) to not believe the conclusion that the prints match, so go slow and go broad. The more potential doubt the expert can concede, the better you will do. 

 


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Have you noticed how many attorney websites are all about the lawyer and pay no attention to the information that people charged with criminal matters are looking for? Most lawyer websites scream: "Hire me! Do it now! You might go to prison if you don’t act within the next hour! Call me now!"

I hate those websites! Instead of providing information, the lawyers using the sites try to scare you into hiring them based on emotion, not information. The truth is you might not even need an attorney to handle your case. So before you sign that retainer agreement, get informed!

This blog is different. There is a ton of free information here for you to review based on your needs. Have a DUI case? Check out the DUI section of the Topics. Have a question about how to value a personal injury or wrongful death case? Look at the Civil Practice section.

The Topics section can lead you to information that you can use to help you become informed on whatever area of law you are interested in. Well, not every area – this blog is really about criminal defense, civil rights and civil trials. With over thirty years of experience in those areas, my goal is to help you become better informed!

And what if the issue you have is not listed in the Topics? Send me a question and I will get back to you. We promise to get you information – then you can make a great decision about whether you need a lawyer and which lawyer you want to hire.

 


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 I am currently captivated by The Pacific, an HBO mini-series airing on Sunday nights. Even on Easter Sunday I am watching as the men of the 1st Marine Division are moving through the jungle on New Britain. The jungle is everyone’s enemy. I cannot remember enough about the history of America’s time in that part of the world and I


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