General Alabama DUI Advice

Helena’s annual Buck Creek Festival was, as always, a lot of fun this year.  I’d like to thank everyone who came by the Davidson Law Firm “Official Sponsor” booth to visit as well as all the very hard working volunteers who make this event a success.  Helena’s festival has quickly become a highlight for Shelby County and just keeps getting better each year.

 Just before the frog strangling rain came Saturday evening it dawned on me that perhaps some advice on drunk driving laws was in order.  I’m not sure but perhaps our close proximity to the well stocked and popular beer booth was the inspiration for this week’s article.  Obviously, the first bit of advice is to not drive drunk!  I would go so far as to say don’t drive after having more than a few drinks as that very well might earn you a .08 BAC on the good old breathalyzer and 12 hours as a guest of the city or county.  Simple enough yet around 15,000 Alabamians are arrested each year for DUI.

 DUI’s are also an enormous pain in the rear end.  By rear end I primarily mean your wallet although there are significant jail terms possible with every DUI conviction.  Here’s what you get for your good time:

 1st DUI – Up to 1 year in jail and/or $600 to $2,100 in fines and loss of license for 90 days.

2nd DUI – Five days to one year in jail and $1,100 to $5,100 in fines and loss of license for one year.  The mandatory 5 days can be replaced with 30 days of community service by the Judge.

3rd DUI – 60 days to 1 year in jail and $2,100 to $10,100 in fines and loss of license for three years.

4th DUI – This is a Class C Felony.  One year and one day to 10 years in prison and $4,100 to $10,100 in fines.

If you had a really good time and “blow” a .15 or more all of the minimum punishments are now doubled and you lose your license for one year.  If you have a child under the age of 14 in the car with you all of the minimum punishments are doubled.

 There will also be Court Costs, attorney fees and the costs of the mandatory court referral program that all add up to thousands of more dollars.  In the City of Helena the court costs for a DUI are currently $540.50 and for a first time DUI in Helena I charge $1,000.00.  You can see where this adds up very quickly.

 On September 1st the new ignition interlock device laws will go into effect in Alabama and those that are convicted of a second or subsequent DUI, “blow” over .15, or have someone under 14 with them they will get the fun privilege of periodically blowing into a tube to keep their car cranked and running.   I will write specifically on the new law in a later blog.

Lastly, there are a lot of myths out there about DUI’s.  They are almost all false.  You can get a DUI for alcohol, prescription medication, narcotics or even medicines such as cough syrup and Benadryl.  If you give a drunk person a lot of coffee and a cold shower you will only end up with a wired, clean, and cold drunk.  Pennies, mints, mouthwash, and all the other assorted things people put in their mouths to try and throw off the breathalyzer don’t work and could get swallowed (referring again to pain in the rear end).  The only thing that brings sobriety is time.

 The rule of thumb for an average person is to make sure you eat before consuming alcohol and only consume one beer or mixed drink per hour.  I strongly advise waiting at least one hour after your last drink before driving if someone else cannot drive.  There are few crimes that Courts and prosecutors have lower regard for than DUI.  You are not only endangering yourself but everyone man, woman and child on the road with you.  MADD’s slogan is simple and true … “Don’t Drink and Drive”.

Social Security Advice – The Steps

Question:  I suffer from severe, chronic back pain that keeps me from working a full-time job.  I have tried to work but can’t keep a job due to needing additional breaks or taking off when I have a bad day to deal with the pain.  Do I qualify for Social Security benefits and what is the process?

Answer PART 2:  In Answer Part 1, I addressed the overall process of filing a claim.  In Part 2, I will now address whether you qualify or not.  Without knowing the facts or your particular claim I cannot respond directly.  Each claim has its own merits but all claims are evaluated under the same rules.  The Social Security Administration and/or the Administrative Law Judge reviewing the claim at a hearing will apply a five-step process.  Your claim must pass each step, in order, to be successful.  In simple, lay terms, the steps are:

Step 1:  Do you work and earn less than $1,010.00 per month?  If yes, go to Step 2.

Step 2:  Do all of your diagnosed impairments combined cause you to be unable to perform basic work activities for at least twelve months or, alternatively, are your impairments going to kill you?  Yes, if you are going to die they are supposed to approve you.

Step 3:  Do your impairments meet the government’s rules as written in “the listings” to be considered disabling?  If yes, congratulations you qualify.  However, the criteria in “the listings” are so outrageous that few meet them.  So, we go on to the 4th Step.

Step 4:  Are you unable to do any of the work you have done in the past 15 years?  If yes, proceed to Step 5.

Step 5:  Are you unable to do any other kind of job?  By “any” job I mean any job.  If you can think of a job and you can do it you likely don’t qualify.

Of course, there are legal exceptions and a multitude of rules and regulations at each step affecting each claim.  It is important that you hire a knowledgeable attorney who can navigate these issues and prepare evidence to prove your claim at the hearing.  All attorneys must, by law, represent you on not more than a 25% contingency fee basis and the fee is capped at $5,300.00.  By law, if they lose they don’t get paid for their services.  This is not some grand favor they are doing for you as suggested by the “TV” lawyers.  If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at www. Davidsonlawoffice.com.

 

Social Security Disability Process Advice

Question:  I suffer from severe, chronic back pain that keeps me from working a full time job.  I have tried to work but can’t keep a job due to needing additional breaks or taking off when I have a bad day to deal with the pain.  Do I qualify for Social Security benefits and what is the process?

 Answer PART 1:  I will address this question in two separate posts due to the length.  I have been representing disabled individuals in claims for Social Security benefits for over fifteen years.  The process is time consuming for most claimants.  On average, you can expect a wait of two years from the time you first apply and the time you receive a favorable decision from an Administrative Law Judge.  You may be qualified to receive two kinds of Social Security benefits.  If you have worked and paid your Federal taxes for a sufficient period of time you will qualify for Disability benefits.  If you do not qualify for Disability but are disabled you may qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) if you meet certain asset criteria.  In some cases you may qualify to receive both Disability and SSI.

Here are the steps in a nutshell:

1.         Go to www. ssa.gov.  Complete the online application for Disability and/or SSI benefits.  The process is fairly simple.  A telephone appointment with SSA will be scheduled after your online application is filed.

2.         You will either be approved or denied usually within the next three months.  Expect to be contacted by Disability Determination Services (DDS).  They may even send you to a medical professional for a consultative examination.

3.         When you are denied, and close to 90% of applicants are denied, you only have sixty days from the decision to file an appeal.

4.         Retain an experienced Social Security lawyer immediately!

5.         File the appeal called a Request for Hearing Before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) and the other forms required.  This became an online process earlier this year.  In fact, all attorneys must file the appeal online.

6.         You will have a hearing usually within the next 12-17 months where you may present evidence and testimony to an ALJ.  It is the ALJ’s job to determine if the SSA’s denial was correct.

7.         If you lose, you can appeal to the Appeals Council located in Falls Church, Virginia.  It will take approximately two years for a decision.  If you lose this appeal you may then appeal by filing suit in Federal Court against the SSA.

 I hope this is very helpful.  The process is lengthy and I highly recommend that you retain legal counsel after your initial denial.  In my opinion, there is not a whole lot at the initial application stage that an attorney can effectively do to assist you.  However, as soon as you receive your denial you should immediately hire an attorney who practices this type of law.   If you have any questions, please do not hesitate contact the Davidson Law Firm.

Legal Thursdays – Child Support Advice

Here is the link to the No Sleep in Helena blog page for this article: http://helena-alabama.blogspot.com/2012/03/thursday-in-helena_15.html

I have received several questions regarding child support recently so I will address those this week.   My office handles all types of domestic law cases so give me a call if you need help or have question.

Question:  I am considering a divorce but my husband says he won’t pay me any child support.  Is this true?

Answer:   This is a pretty big issue that I see often in my practice and is something that many people do not understand.  A divorce is between you and your spouse.  Child support has nothing at all to do with the problems between you and your spouse.  Let me say that once more for those of you steaming mad at your ex or soon to be ex: child support has nothing to do with whatever is going on between you and your spouse.  Child support is about taking care of your children.  The law very clearly states that a non-custodial parent must take care of its obligations to support its children through the payment of child support.   A judge cannot let the non-custodial party not pay child support unless there is really, really, really good reason.   So, the short answer is no that is not true.  If you would like to know about how much you will receive just contact my office and I will be happy to calculate the number for you or you can look at the information at http://www.alacourt.gov/ChildSupportInfo.aspx for links to the guidelines.

Question:  My former spouse has not paid child support in over a year.  What do I do?

Answer:  The answer depends on which Court awarded child support.  Since you said former “spouse” I will assume it was the Circuit Court that rendered a judgment of divorce.  The Court that issued your divorce retains jurisdiction over the matters in the order, particularly child support.  My first recommendation is to hire an attorney immediately to represent you in the enforcement of the Order because you will need to file a Motion for Rule Nisi.  This is lawyer speak for asking the Court to hold the other side in contempt of court for failing to obey the order.  The court can hold a contemptuous (read, deadbeat) party in either civil or criminal contempt and force it to pay what it owes (called purging), award you attorney’s fees, and even throw them in the slammer (hooscow, pokey, clink) for up to five days per violation.  Yes, that’s five days in jail for each month he or she has not paid.  You would be surprised how money suddenly becomes available when they are looking at two months as a guest of the County.

Send your legal questions to Brian Davidson at cbdavidson@davidsonlawoffice.com

 

Legal Thursday – Alabama Traffic Citations Advice

You can see the actual guest legal blog post and keep up with all the happenings in Helena, Alabama at No Sleep in Helena:

http://helena-alabama.blogspot.com/2012/02/weekend-in-helena_24.html

You can also subscribe to my RSS Feed and never miss a free, weekly legal advice blog post from the Davidson Law Firm.

Question:  I got a traffic ticket the other day.  What should I do?

Answer:  First, make sure you mark the date for your court appearance on your calendar so that you do not miss your court appearance.  A failure to appear can lead to the issuance of a warrant for your arrest and additional fines and court costs.  The citation will tell you the date, time and location of your court appearance.  Citations issued by State Troopers and Sheriff’s Deputies are heard in the District Court of the County of issuance.  Citations issued by police officers are heard in the Municipal Court of the city of issuance.  Do not miss your court appearance for any reason!

Almost all courts; including Helena, Pelham, Alabaster, and Hoover, allow first time traffic offenders the option to attend a defensive driving school class. The court upon completion of the class will dismiss the citation.  This means that you will not incur points on your license and your insurance provider will not raise your premiums.  Simply go to your court date and request defensive driving school or follow the Judge’s directions usually given at the beginning of the session.  The class is usually 2-4 hours long depending on the jurisdiction.

If it is not your first offense you can always elect to pay the traffic citation either by mail or in person.  This is an admission of guilt and will result in points added to your license and likely higher insurance premiums.  However, you will save the payment of court costs and the time involved with going to court.  This is your best option if you are going to plead guilty at court.

If it is not your first offense and you want to dispute your citation you may have a trial where you may offer evidence and witness testimony.  You should contact a local attorney familiar with that court to represent you for any court proceeding especially trials.

Send your legal questions to Brian Davidson at cbdavidson@davidsonlawoffice.com