Wheeling Criminal Law Blog

Defense request to move trial denied

When people in West Virginia read or watch news reports, it can be all too easy to draw conclusions about a person who is charged with a crime. This, however, can lead to many problems in part due to the fact that these reports generally include very few of the details and facts of a case. In fact, many of the facts not reported may well lead a person to a conclusion other than the one they originally made based upon the news report.

A related problem to public reports about criminal cases is that it may make finding an impartial jury difficult. Public opinion can become very strong and emotionally charged. One woman whose case is currently slated for trial in Lewis County next month knows how challenging it can be when strong public sentiment kicks in during a criminal process. The woman reported her young daughter missing in 2011 and to date the girl's body has not been found.

The complex issue of shoplifting

Sometimes, small habits can lead to unexpected and damaging consequences. Although shoplifting is a serious crime in most states, including West Virginia, it is often a complex problem with which individuals may struggle internally -- therefore masking the issue to others. For some, it can become simply another aspect of life.

Despite what many might assume, the drive to shoplift is not always to fulfill a material greed, either; financial problems and other life obstacles can lead to pressing situations. With the harsh penalties that come with theft charges, it is understandable that West Virginians facing court procedures may express confusion over future legal complications. There are many ways, however, to get to the bottom of the issue to best move on with life.

What is drug court?

As someone facing drug charges in West Virginia, Scott C. Brown Law Office can help guide you through the different legal options that are available to you. For example, going to drug court might be worth looking into. But what is drug court, exactly?

The first thing to know is that drug court is an option that's only available to first time offenders. If you've never faced a drug-related conviction prior to your current case, you are eligible.

Understanding plea bargains

West Virginia residents charged with one or more crimes may find a plea bargain to be a practical mechanism for reducing their charges or minimizing their prison sentence. Before entering into such a bargain, however, defendants should thoroughly understand what they are agreeing to and how it will impact their future.

The American Bar Association defines a plea bargain as an agreement between the defense and the prosecution regarding one or more specific things. Often a defendant’s attorney initiates plea bargain negotiations with the prosecutor so as to derive favorable treatment for the client.

DUI arrest even if BAC is less than 0.08

There are a number of factors that can affect the punishment for a DUI charge in West Virginia. Your age, BAC level and any prior convictions can all alter the potential penalties on the table. 

The legal blood alcohol content level in West Virginia is 0.08, which is the standard in most states. If a police officer catches a person driving with a BAC of at least 0.08, then the police will automatically arrest that person. However, it is completely possible for someone to have a BAC less than 0.08 and still face DUI charges. There have to be certain circumstances in place for that to happen, but drivers should simply avoid driving if they have had anything to drink that evening. 

Have you been arrested or detained?

Turn on any police drama and you are likely to hear the familiar refrain of "You have the right to remain silent," along with "Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law," and so forth. These are known as Miranda Rights. They stem from a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that mandated law enforcement officials inform you of your right to have legal representation present before being interrogated. Yet does that mean that you must be informed of these rights any time you are stopped by police? 

The definition of Miranda Rights (as shared by The Legal Information Insitute) states that they must be given before law enforcement authorities proceed with a custodial interrogation. What that means is that you must first be in police custody in order for them to apply. It is generally accepted that being in police custody means that you have been arrested. You have been arrested when your freedoms have been deprived in any significant way. The use of handcuffs or other restraints may not be necessary, but generally, you will be informed that you are indeed under arrest. 

Navigating the law after a cocaine charge

With prescription drugs and marijuana taking the front seat in regards to drug concerns in the country, cocaine is nevertheless a prominent matter. West Virginia is not exempt from this concern -- in fact, it is among one of the states with the highest number of drug-related problems. Despite other drugs having moved under the spotlight in recent years, individuals have a right to protect themselves when caught possessing or manufacturing cocaine in any amount. There are always other sides to a story. Drug possession and manufacturing penalties can bring years of damaged personal reputations, struggle with professions and compromised wellbeing.

In the case of a St. Albans resident, this drug charge became a reality. In April of last year, The Charleston Gazette-Mail shared the story of a West Virginia man who was subject to police monitoring when law enforcement suspected him of manufacturing cocaine in his home. In addition to his drug trafficking charge, the man was also found guilty of possessing illegal firearms. The 47-year-old developer, business and bar owner admitted to having coca leaves shipped to his home through the U.S. Mail. As for the man's specific plea deal, his advisory sentence alone called for 60 months in prison.

Are field sobriety tests accurate?

With the holiday season well underway, residents in West Virginia will want you pay special attention to the choices they make when it comes to how they get to and from holiday celebrations. Law enforcement agencies often increase patrol efforts to identify and arrested suspected drunk drivers at this time of year. If you are ever one of these people that is stopped and eventually asked by an officer to perform certain tests, you should know that these tests are not completely accurate.

According to FieldSobrietyTests.org, of the three standardized tests approved for use by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the most accurate test is the one that measures an involuntary jerking motion of your eye. This test is at best said to be accurate in 77 percent of cases. The walk-and-turn test has an accuracy rate of 68 percent while the test that requires you to balance perfectly on one leg while counting out loud has an accuracy rate of only 65 percent.

Calling an expert witness in your case

When defending yourself against criminal charges in a Wheeling courtroom, it is easy to feel as though the cards are stacked against you. Several of the clients that we here at The Scott C. Brown Law Office have worked with in the past can attest to the fact the prosecutors often have extensive resources to utilize when arguing cases. Among these resources are experts in various scientific fields related to criminology. Their testimonies can often carry a lot of weight. To counter them, however, you are permitted to call expert witnesses of your own. 

According to the West Virginia Rules of Evidence, expert witnesses can be called upon to offer an opinion if that opinion will help to understand evidence that has been presented or to help clarify a fact at issue. A witness may be qualified as an expert based on any of the following five elements: 

  • Knowledge
  • Skill
  • Experience
  • Training
  • Education

Underage drunk driving has West Virginia residents concerned

The residents of Wheeling and surrounding areas such as Moundsville and Glen Dale include young people who attend the local high schools and colleges. Many also drive, and law officers arrest some for driving under the influence of alcohol.

One of the penalties for underage DUI in the state of West Virginia is license revocation for up to 60 days. Parents may not be aware that in order to get the license back, their son or daughter must also complete a safety and treatment program at his or her own expense.

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