How to Choose the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case

How to Choose the Right Criminal Defense Lawyer for Your Case

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, it’s in your best interest to seek legal counsel immediately. Even seemingly minor crimes can still result in a criminal record and harsh sentences, and having a record can haunt you for years, limiting your life, from where you work to where you live.

The reality is, when it comes to criminal defense, not all lawyers are created equal. The outcome of your case is largely dependent on having the right lawyer fighting for you. A Google search turns up thousands of results. All claiming to be the right attorney for you. So, how do you know who to choose?

Although the nature and severity of the alleged crime will factor heavily into how your case is handled, any person who is charged with a crime should ensure that their lawyer meets all of the following criteria.

1. Experience with the Charges You are Facing

Hiring an attorney who specializes in white collar crimes may not be the best choice to fight your sexual assault charge. Criminal law is complex and ever evolving, so it’s essential to work with a lawyer who has extensive experience in the specific crime with which you’ve been charged.

Do your homework and hire a lawyer who has a deep understanding of exactly what you’re going through.

2. Comfortability

Most law firms offer a free initial consultation. I recommend taking advantage of it. This will give you the opportunity to ask questions and see how you interact together. Personal chemistry is an underrated, yet very important factor when choosing legal representation. If you don’t feel comfortable with your lawyer, the legal process is going to be unnecessarily long and painful, and the outcome is less likely to be favorable.

The best lawyer-client relationships are collaborative. When you trust your lawyer, the relationship becomes more of a partnership, and the chances of a successful outcome increase dramatically.

Use these questions as a guide to determine if the lawyer you’re interviewing is right for you.

  • Am I comfortable talking openly to them?
  • Does my lawyer explain things in a way that I can understand?
  • Does my lawyer seem genuinely concerned about me and the outcome of my case?
  • Does my lawyer seem trustworthy?
  • Does my lawyer appear confident?

3. Word of Mouth and Online Reviews

One of the best ways to find a good defense lawyer is word of mouth. If you know someone who has been in a similar situation, ask who they used for legal counsel and if they were happy with their results. However, just because a lawyer was a good fit for someone else, doesn’t make them a good fit for you. So, don’t just take a name and run with it. Make sure you have the consultation, then do some online digging. With the wealth of information available on the internet, there is no excuse to not do your homework.

Choosing the right defense lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Check the state bar association website to see if the lawyer has a record of formal discipline, and search for reviews on Facebook and Google.

IMPORTANT TIP: Although reviews can assist in guiding you, they should not be taken as the deciding factor in your end decision.

One bad review shouldn’t necessarily keep you from working with a particular lawyer, but several bad reviews should be a clear red flag. The same goes for good reviews. Just because a lawyer has 2,000 good reviews and another has 200, doesn’t mean one lawyer is better than the other. A criminal case is a personal and private matter that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable sharing with the world. So, don’t let a lack of reviews stop you from scheduling a consultation either.

4. Courtroom Confidence

If your case moves to trial, you want to know that your lawyer has confidence in the courtroom. In addition to specifically asking about courtroom experience, a lawyer’s appearance and demeanor can give big clues as to how they will perform in a courtroom. If they are neatly dressed, well spoken, and confident, these characteristics will bode well in a courtroom setting.

On the other hand, if a lawyer appears nervous or disheveled, their arguments may be less convincing to a judge and jury. As with most things, exceptions exist, but confidence is generally the hallmark of any successful trial lawyer.

It is also important that your lawyer can take direction from you. Although they will control certain aspects of your case, like filing motions and calling witnesses, the big decisions, like whether to plead guilty or go to trial, or whether to try to make a deal, are YOUR call. Look for an attorney who takes the time to get to know you and your goals, and who actively integrates your input into the legal strategy.

5. Listen to Your Gut

At the end of the day, trust your instincts. If something feels off, don’t be afraid to walk away. Remember, you are interviewing the defense lawyer, not the other way around. Ultimately, this is your battle to fight, and you need the right lawyer by your side if you’re going to win.

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges and in need of an experienced criminal lawyer, please contact Nathan Akamine.

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DUI: 8 Vital Things to Remember

DUI: 8 Vital Things to Remember

Memorial Day is upon us. The unofficial “official” start of summer. This time of year sees a dramatic increase in DUI arrests. Between backyard barbecues and pool parties, many people are less vigilant about staying sober when they know they’ll be driving, or refusing to drive at all when they have been drinking.

Of course, the best way to avoid a DUI is to avoid drinking at all, but if you find yourself facing a DUI charge, here are some things you’ll want to know.

1.You can get a DUI even if you don’t feel drunk.

There is no scale that tips when your blood alcohol content goes from 0.07 percent to 0.09 percent. You don’t suddenly feel drunk or start falling over. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the difference between a BAC of 0.05 and 0.08 includes effects like:

  • Difficulty detecting danger
  • Impaired self-control
  • Diminished muscle coordination
  • Problems controlling speed

These are hardly measurable effects, and there may still be no outward or visible indication of intoxication, even at 0.08 percent. Because of this, people might feel completely comfortable having another drink. In the eyes of the law, someone who is just barely over the legal limit can face the same penalties as someone who is clearly displaying signs of intoxication. However, breath and blood tests can be wrong. Read more about their possible inaccuracies here.

2. Be Polite

If you’re pulled over by a police officer under suspicion of driving under the influence, it is imperative that you be polite with him or her at all times. Even if you are severely intoxicated, you should do your best to comply with the officer’s requests. Do not argue with a police officer under any circumstances. Remember that poor behavior can affect you adversely later in court.

3. Your car might be towed

If you’re charged with a DUI, the officer will transport you to the police station in a patrol car. Your vehicle will probably be towed at your expense, and you’ll be notified as to which company has towed your vehicle and will be given the contact information to retrieve it. Contact the towing company that impounded your vehicle as soon as possible and arrange for it to be picked up and pay all towing costs.

4. Booked, processed, contact your lawyer.

After you arrive at the police station, you can expect to wait for up to several hours before being processed. If this is your first offense, the process will take longer. Your fingerprints and mugshot will be taken and an investigator or other police officer may ask you questions about the circumstances of your driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. You will be given the opportunity to contact your attorney if you feel you are being wrongly accused. This is extremely important…ask for a lawyer. Contact DUI Defense Attorney Nathan Akamine.

5. You may be incarcerated, you may be released.

The length of time you stay at the police station depends on several factors, including the location of your DUI, your age, criminal record, the severity of your intoxication, as well as other factors. If you’re to be released on bond, you will be given the opportunity to contact a bondsman, friend, or relative to arrange for the amount to be paid and for someone to pick you up from the police station. In some cases, you will be incarcerated immediately. Nevertheless, be prepared to remain at the police station for a minimum of several hours before the logistics of your DUI charge are settled.

6. You’ll go before a Judge.

If charged with a DUI, you will likely have to appear in court to receive your sentencing. You will have the option of using your own attorney or being appointed one by the court. Remain calm and respectful during the court proceedings at all costs. Answer any questions truthfully and make sure you do so with your attorney by your side. If you fail to appear in court the judge will most likely issue a warrant for your arrest.

7. Community service and/or fines.

Some drivers who are convicted with DUI are required to complete community service or court referral programs. If you’re one of them, complete these programs as soon as possible so that it can be reported back to the court that you have fulfilled your sentencing. Remember to pay any fines in full as soon as you are able. Typically, there are payment plan options available.

8. Long-term consequences.

If you get a DUI, the charge will likely stay on your record for several years, if not permanently. Potential employers will be able to view these records before they hire you, so if you’re planning to look for a new job in the near future, be upfront and honest about your DUI charge. It’s better to explain the situation beforehand than appear to be covering it up.

Of course, be careful this summer. Use Uber, Lyft, or a designated driver. However, should the worst happen and you do get arrested for a DUI, contact DUI attorney Nathan Akamine as soon as possible for legal help.

 

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Common Mistakes After DUI Arrest

Common Mistakes After DUI Arrest

A DUI arrest can be terrifying. You’re removed from your vehicle and humiliated on the side of the road. An arrest for suspected drunk driving can have severe consequences and is a much more serious matter than getting a simple traffic ticket, so you need to respond assertively and aggressively. It’s important to develop an appropriate response to try to protect yourself from any consequences like the loss of your driver’s license, more expensive insurance premiums, or even jail time.

Unfortunately, most people aren’t sure how to respond after a DUI arrest, which can lead to mistakes that make conviction far more likely. Here are the top mistakes people make after being arrested for a DUI.

Avoid Making These Mistakes After A DUI Arrest:

  1. Failure to request a hearing within 30 days following your arrest.
    Refusal to take a blood-alcohol concentration or BAC test, as well as failing a BAC test showing results above .08 will result in an automatic license suspension. What most people don’t know is that you have a 30 days period immediately following the arrest to request an Administrative Hearing to try to protect your license.

2. Assuming a failed BAC test means a conviction is inevitable.
If you undergo a chemical test and are found to have drugs or alcohol in your system, it’s easy to assume that there isn’t much you can do and that you’ll be convicted. This isn’t always the case. The prosecutor still has to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and there are ways to introduce doubt about whether a chemical test was accurate. It’s also a possibility that you may be able to prevent the evidence from the failed test from being used against you, like if your Constitutional rights were violated during evidence collection.

3. Providing police with evidence.
It may seem obvious, you don’t want to provide police with evidence to use against you, but it happens more often than you think. You should always refrain from answering questions or volunteering information. Exercise your right to remain silent. Ask for a lawyer before answering questions. following your arrest, it’s always a good idea to be careful what you post on social media. Don’t assume anything you say online will be private and definitely don’t ever comment on being under the influence at the time of your arrest.

4. Not immediately retaining a lawyer.
Not all attorneys have the experience and knowledge necessary to effectively represent clients in DUI and OVI cases. You need to contact a qualified and experienced attorney with a good reputation to assist you. The amount of time you wait before hiring a DUI Defense lawyer could be critical when it comes to the outcome of your case.

These are just a few of the possible mistakes that defendants could make. Make smart and informed choices and ensure that you do everything possible to try to avoid a conviction. Your best option is to talk with an experienced DUI Defense Attorney. Akamine Law has helped thousands of clients in Columbus and throughout the surrounding area. Give us a call as soon as possible following your arrest.

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Can a social media post result in criminal charges?

Can a social media post result in criminal charges?

If you’ve spent any time on social media, it’s likely that you read abusive and oftentimes offensive statements posted or left as comments. Most people are under the assumption the things said online are without repercussions. However, that may not be the case.

Perhaps you remember hearing about Justin Olsen, an 18-year-old Ohio man who was arrested last year on federal charges after investigators claimed that he made multiple entries online posting his support of mass shootings, and cited a target of Planned Parenthood.

Regardless of Olsen telling the FBI that his posts were “only a joke”, he was booked on state charges of telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing, and the federal charge of threatening a federal law enforcement officer.

Although Olsen’s charges are considered to be severe for online behavior, a malicious or threatening post may qualify as defamation. Defamation is the publication of a statement about someone that hurts their reputation in the eyes of members of society.

Online actions can have severe consequences.

You may remember a case where social media played a major part in a case against two football players who were eventually found guilty of raping an intoxicated 16-year-old girl.

The victim says she doesn’t remember much of what happened the night when Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, assaulted her at a friend’s party, and that she only became aware of it after a video surfaced on social media. A key piece of evidence was an Instagram photo of the boys carrying the girl out of the house by her arms and legs.

That being said, photos and videos, whether posted publicly or obtained by police, have to meet certain criteria:

  • They must be authenticated, meaning the prosecutors have to prove the images are what they seem and have not been altered or staged;
  • they can not be shown out of context

Additional charges were later brought against two teenage girls in the same case after police were shown twitter posts threatening the physical harm to the victim if she didn’t drop the charges.

Can I be arrested for posting a video?

Richard Godbehere uploaded a 5-minute video of himself driving, cracking open a beer, then proceeding to take a drink. He then stated “We all know drinking and driving is against the law. You’re not supposed to do that. But they didn’t say anything about driving and then drinking.”

A joke, maybe. Against the law, definitely. He was surprised when the police showed up at his house prepared to arrest him on charges of consuming alcohol while operating a vehicle.

He stated the video was meant as a parody and claimed there wasn’t actually beer in the bottle, to which Police Chief Darryl Perry stated: “Our traffic laws are in place for a reason, and Mr. Godbehere’s blatant disregard for those laws is the type of behavior that won’t be tolerated.”

The moral of the story, be careful what you say online. It can, and will be used against you in a court of law.

If you or someone you love is in need of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, call Nathan Akamine.

Should Vehicle Searches Based on Odor Be Allowed?

Should Vehicle Searches Based on Odor Be Allowed?

We all had a scratch and sniff book growing up. We would marvel at how accurately the artificial scent matched the real thing. But there are legal consequences to an officer detecting an odor of marijuana. If an officer smells cannabis coming from your car, everything and everyone in your vehicle can be searched.

This is because the odor of cannabis supposedly provides an officer probable cause that there is illegal marijuana in the car. Probable cause tends to be a touchy subject. When the law says that a police officer has “probable cause,” what it means is that the officer has reason to believe there is “a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.”

But, times are changing. There’s legal marijuana now, hemp, CBD infused everything.

Well, legal hemp and legal marijuana smell exactly like illegal marijuana. So, should the odor of cannabis still provide “probable cause” to search a vehicle? It seems that this position needs to give a little.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a hypothetical. Let’s say you’re stopped for not having your headlights on. When the officer comes to your window, he claims that he smells the odor of cannabis. Based on this, he searches both you and the car. Nothing is found on you, but inside your car, he finds a bag of weed and a pill bottle with some other illegal drug. You end up facing drug charges, or even marijuana dui charges.

Related article: Can someone get a DUI for using CBD oil?

In theory, we could file a Motion to Suppress all the evidence found in the car, arguing that the officer didn’t have probable cause to search because the scent of marijuana could have been from a perfectly legal substance.

Effective July 30, 2019, Senate Bill 1020 (the “Hemp” Bill) makes the cannabis plant legal in the State of Ohio. This creates a problem for law enforcement because the plant is exactly the same as a marijuana plant, however, it is used for the THC content only. So not only does it smell like fresh illegal cannabis, it looks exactly like illegal marijuana. In fact, it takes a lab test to sort out the difference.

So the question remains, is there still “a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found?”

Most states have made medical marijuana legal, but still permit a search of a vehicle based upon the odor of cannabis, but I’m not convinced that the odor of cannabis will always provide probable cause for a search.

For another hypothetical, let’s say you have a bunch of cars parked outside of a legal medical marijuana dispensary. Let’s say law enforcement waits until a patient pulls out of the dispensary parking lot, then pulls the car over. The officer searches the car based upon the odor of fresh cannabis. Does this still qualify a legal search?

A change in the probable cause policy is sure to be re-evaluated in the future, but till then, if you’ve been charged with possession of illegal drugs, I’m here to help.

Call Nathan Akamine.

Can someone get a DUI for using CBD oil?

Can someone get a DUI for using CBD oil?

Although CBD products are advertised as being very low in THC (the compound in marijuana that gets you high), when it comes to regulation things get complicated. That means the CBD oil you bought could contain more THC than you expect. In fact, it may be enough to be detectable in a blood test, urine test, or enough to impair you.

In Ohio, you can be convicted of operating a vehicle impaired (OVI) for having any detectable amount of THC in your system. The State doesn’t have to prove that you were actually impaired by the drug, only that you had a prohibited amount in your system while driving.

That means it’s extremely important to choose CBD products that contain very little THC. Unfortunately, that is a difficult task.

CBD products vary greatly in potency.

A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that over two-thirds of CBD products tested were mislabeled. Many contained a different amount of CBD than was listed on the label, and some, none at all. In fact, 18 of 84 samples tested had a great deal more THC than the federal limit of 0.3%. Others contained contaminants ranging from synthetic marijuana, cough medicine, and dangerous synthetics.

The FDA has sent warning letters to companies whose CBD products were found to contain different levels than claimed. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission has been sanctioning companies for making unproven health claims about CBD, but other than that, there is not much in the way of regulation.

Quest Diagnostics is the U.S.’s largest administrator of drug tests. According to the Senior Director of Science and Technology at Quest, most drug tests are not designed to catch CBD users. Instead, the tests are looking for a compound that the body produces when metabolizing THC.

However, the problem may be bigger than mislabeling. Even if you’re using CBD products that do fall under the 0.3% THC limit, metabolites can gradually build up in your body until it becomes detectable via a drug test.

This is why it’s important to only buy CBD products from manufacturers who can provide a certificate of analysis (COA) for their products. The COA should list results of a company test for THC, CBD, and contaminants.

What can you do if you are charged with an OVI?

If you’re arrested for OVI due to CBD use, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. At Akamine Law, we will fight to protect the rights of people who are facing OVI charges.

Contact our Columbus office now to schedule your free consultation.