Blog post written by Attorney Philip B. Adams
People often lie. We have all been lied to by someone at some point or another. Throughout my time in defending people charged with crimes in Louisiana, I have encountered many false accusation cases. Disappointingly, these false accusations are not uncovered by investigators in the beginning of the cases due to a failure to adequately investigate each case. Investigators in criminal cases have a duty to investigate whether a crime occurred and determine whether an accuser is telling the truth. Investigators must faithfully adhere to the presumption of innocence and seek to determine if guilt can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. An investigator should never just take someone’s word at face value. After all, the job of competent investigation does not end once an allegation is made but rather is just beginning. To ensure that only the guilty are apprehended, an investigator has a moral and professional duty to remain impartial and unbiased. Considering the possibility that an accuser may not be telling the truth is one way to ensure that an investigator conducts a competent investigation in the search for truth in every criminal case. Unfortunately, not every accuser in a criminal case is truthful, and investigators must always look for red flags that indicate that an accuser is lying or distorting the truth. The following are some red flags to look for when investigating a criminal case and indicate the possibility of untruthfulness:
Blog post written by Attorney Philip Adams
Bam! You’ve just been in a vehicle accident. Perhaps you were hit from behind or hit from the side. You are full of adrenaline. Your heart is racing; your breathing is heavy; and your eyes are big with fright. After a few tense moments of trying to figure out what just happened, if you are lucky, you are able to muster some strength to open your driver door and exit your vehicle. You stumble out of your vehicle and look around. You see your damaged car, and you see the other driver and his car. Through no fault of your own, you now find yourself in a serious situation wondering what to do next.
If you ever find yourself unfortunate enough to be involved in a vehicle accident, and you still have the physical capacity right after the accident to follow some crucial steps, you can help yourself have a potentially stronger legal case in the future. First, it may help if you contact law enforcement and/or emergency medical services as soon as possible. When you are full of adrenaline, you are in a physical state in which you may not yet fully realize the degree of any bodily damage that you may have sustained because of an accident. Trained and qualified personnel can help assess your physical damages, document the scene of the accident, question witnesses, and look for evidence. These personnel often have extensive experience in responding to vehicle accident scenes and will likely be more knowledgeable than you about how to properly assess the scene and deal with the situation.
Second, it may help if you also document as much of the accident scene as possible. Unfortunately, not all law enforcement officers and/or emergency medical personnel who respond to the scene of your accident will be as thorough as needed. These personnel are often overworked, and some of them may cut corners in what is documented and/or forget to record crucial information in connection with your case. They may forget to turn on body cameras, forget to turn on dash cameras, forget to take witness statements, forget to obtain insurance paperwork, forget to take photographs, etc. Fortunately, however, in an age of smart phones, if you have one, you can help mitigate the effects of any shortsightedness, laziness, or forgetfulness on the part of any responding personnel by taking action into your own hands. You may benefit your legal case down the road by taking photographs and/or video footage of the accident scene, including street signs, vehicles involved, license plates, insurance papers, driver licenses, and people involved. If you are lucky, you may even be able to get the other driver to give a witness statement that you can record with your cell phone and/or a voice recorder. Importantly, a few minutes of your time upfront right after the accident will help to objectively document what the scene of the accident is immediately like. This immediate documentation may prove significant because a tow truck and/or police may later get involved and change the scene. You should document as much information as possible and not solely rely on other people. Your case may later benefit from the evidence that you obtain.
Third, after you have contacted police and emergency medical personnel and documented as much of the accident scene as possible, you may benefit by contacting your automobile insurance carrier. In fact, most carriers require their insureds to notify them of an accident or risk possibly forfeiting coverage for a lack of notice. By contacting your insurance carrier, you help it to immediately start working on your behalf to assist in accident documentation, property damage appraisal of your vehicle, obtaining of a rental vehicle if your policy provides for one, assisting with medical payments, etc. However, it bears mentioning that because insurance companies have a strong incentive to minimize claim payouts to maximize their profits, even after you have fully cooperated with your insurer, you may benefit from the next recommendation.
Fourth, after notifying your insurance carrier of the accident, it may be a good idea to immediately contact a personal injury attorney to assist you in evaluating the legal merits of your case and in working on your behalf to secure compensation for your damages. A personal injury attorney can work to recover money on your behalf for multiple damages stemming from your accident, including past and future pain and suffering, past and future lost income, past and future medical bills, etc. An experienced attorney can help you maximize compensation and ensure that you walk away from your case with deserved and full compensation, as opposed to a lower amount that an insurance carrier may offer you to pacify you.
Fifth, after following all of the above steps, you may need to obtain medical treatment on a regular basis to assist you in recovering from your injuries. It is important to be diligent in following the advice of your healthcare providers, not only for your personal health and long-term recovery but also for your case settlement down the road. If you avoid healthcare meetings and/or ignore the advice of your healthcare providers, you may open up defenses that the other side can use against you to minimize the value of your claim. Even more importantly, if you shortchange yourself in medical treatment, no amount of money may make up for the diminished quality of life that you may find yourself in because of an exacerbated or unhealed injury.
In summary, you may help your car accident case by contacting law enforcement and medical personnel, by documenting as much of the accident scene as possible, by notifying your insurance carrier of the accident, by contacting a personal injury attorney, and by obtaining the medical treatment that you need. Diligence on your part may improve any eventual outcome in your case.
Blog post written by Attorney Philip Adams:
While an expungement does not destroy a record of arrest and/or conviction in a criminal case, an expungement does conceal such a record from public view by most people and entities. The concealing of a record benefits the person with the record in multiple ways, including by giving the person with the record peace of mind in knowing that fewer eyes will be able to see details about that person’s past, by opening potential job opportunities for the record holder who may have previously been unable to obtain a job due to having an easily accessible record, etc.
Some people who have committed certain serious offenses in their past may not be aware of recent legislative changes that may afford them the opportunity to obtain an expungement with respect to those offenses. One recent change in Louisiana’s expungement laws occurred under Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 978(E) and allows individuals with convictions for aggravated battery, second degree battery, aggravated criminal damage to property, simple robbery, purse snatching, or illegal use of weapons or dangerous instrumentalities to obtain an expungement if certain conditions are met. This type of expungement can only be obtained if a contradictory hearing occurs between the person seeking the expungement and the state’s attorney. At such a contradictory hearing, the person seeking an expungement, through his or her attorney, must prove the following conditions:
(a) More than ten years have elapsed since the person completed any sentence, deferred adjudication, or period of probation or parole based on the felony conviction.
(b) The person has not been convicted of any other criminal offense during the ten-year period.
(c) The person has no criminal charge pending against him.
(d) The person has been employed for a period of ten consecutive years.
Additionally, when filing the motion for an expungement for any of the previously mentioned offenses, the person must include a certification from the district attorney which verifies that, to his knowledge, the applicant has no convictions during the ten-year period and no pending charges under a bill of information or indictment. Finally, it bears mentioning that because all expungements are discretionary, trial court judges can deny a motion for expungement even if the above conditions are met, so there is never any guarantee that an expungement in such cases can ultimately be obtained. Despite such an uncertainty in outcome, expungements are still worth seeking for reasons previously mentioned.
The requirements above might seem onerous because they basically require ten years of good conduct by the person seeking to have the record cleared. However, these requirements serve to protect the general public and make sure that before society allows such a person to move past a serious offense and conceal such serious offenses from access by the public, the petitioner has to first demonstrate that he or she is worthy of being given a second chance. Article 978(E) clearly strikes a balance between giving some serious offenders an opportunity to move on with their lives and in protecting the public’s right to continue accessing records relating to such offenses if those serious offenders don’t demonstrate good conduct over an extended period of time.