Wheeling Criminal Law Blog

Which age group has the highest rate of drunk driving?

You may have a certain picture in mind of a typical drunk driver. Perhaps it is an alcoholic repeat offender or a cold-hearted criminal who does not care about others. While these personas definitely exist, they do not capture the most important thing to remember about intoxicated driving: It can happen to anyone.

Even so, some people are more at risk than others. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes there are four times as many men who drive under the influence of alcohol than women. But gender is not the only significant factor; age is, too.

Plea bargaining and justice

Most residents in West Virginia have likely heard stories about someone who has been charged with a criminal offense and ended up agreeing to a plea deal instead of opting to allow their case to go to trial. This has become quite a common practice in today's criminal justice system. As explained by Flow Psychology, a plea agreement may reduce some of the unknown risk to a defendant as they will know the outcome versus going to trial, which can feel more like rolling the dice.

Expediency it seems may well be one factor that encourages more prosecutors and even defense counsel today to promote plea deals in criminal cases. According to The Atlantic, there are a few factors that may contribute to the need for this level of expediency. One of these factors is the large number of criminal cases on dockets all around the nation. More and more relatively minor offenses have resulted in criminal charges over the past few decades. Driving a vehicle without a valid license is one example.

Trucker's conviction after fatal crash overturned

People in West Virginia who find themselves accused of serious crimes can often feel like they are at a big disadvantage when it comes to defending themselves. While the road may be challenging at times, it is important for defendants to remain assured that they do have the right to prove their innocence and be heard. One truck driver who is from Illinois but was involved in a serious crash in West Virginia knows this very well.

As reported by WV Metro News, the accident occurred in the spring of 2017 when the trucker's brake system failed, preventing him from crossing a median and hitting another vehicle. The impact resulted in a fire and ultimately claimed the lives of two parents and their children and dog, all of whom were in the vehicle struck by the truck. At the beginning of 2018, the truck driver was arrested and earlier this year was convicted of four counts of negligent homicide and another criminal count of reckless driving.

The history of Miranda rights

If you are like most people in West Virginia, you have watched multiple television shows or movies in which a person has been stopped by a law enforcement officer and questioned. Before any questions are asked, however, the person playing the officer first recites the words of what are known to be part of the Miranda rights. In short, these rights allow a person to legally refuse to respond to any police questioning without penalty.

The history of these rights goes back to the early 1960s when a man was accused of kidnapping and raping a young woman in Arizona. The man's last name was Miranda. According to The History Channel, the woman who said she had been raped did not identify the defendant in a police lineup yet officers chose to interrogate the man. During the questioning, the man is said to have confessed to the crime, albeit with a different set of facts than what had been put forth by the alleged victim.

Robbery is a wobbler charge

As is the case in many states, for an individual to face the criminal charge of robbery in West Virginia, typically a victim is present. When no person is present, the offense is technically a burglary. However, several factors determine whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor.

In most jurisdictions, burglary is a felony, as it involves unlawful entry onto another person’s property as well as theft. According to FindLaw, robbery is a wobbler. This means it could be a felony or misdemeanor charge, depending on the following circumstances:

  • Whether force was used
  • If there are additional charges
  • The value of pilfered items
  • History of the robber

To beat a criminal charge, staying silent may be your best bet

If police officers suspect you have committed a crime, you can expect them to use a variety of techniques to elicit information from you. As you probably know, if you confess to a crime or otherwise incriminate yourself, avoiding a criminal conviction may become nearly impossible. 

For criminal defendants in the United States, the Fifth Amendment is tremendously important. That is, the amendment protects you from self-incrimination. Whether you are facing state or federal criminal charges, staying silent may be your best strategy for avoiding significant consequences. Here are six ways to exercise your right to remain silent. 

What is illegal search and seizure?

If you are under arrest for drug charges in West Virginia, it is important you understand your rights. A good defense attorney will examine facts around search and seizure to see if legal authorities violated your protections under the Fourth amendment.

According to the Civil American Liberties Union, the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution outlines that people and their property shall be free from intrusive and unwarranted searches. As a result, there are certain requirements and restrictions that law enforcement officers must follow, and these include having probable cause and a valid search warrant to conduct a search. ACLU indicates that it is more common for persons of color to be victims of unreasonable, or illegal, search and seizure.

How many teens drink and drive?

Drunk driving charges can be tough for anyone to deal with, but some people have an especially hard time after they are pulled over for driving under the influence. For example, those who are under the age of 21 may face tough penalties and they may also face challenges within their family and as they try to prepare for college and the workplace. Moreover, zero tolerance laws can mean that even small amounts of alcohol in an underage drinker’s system can result in DUI charges. It is important for parents and teens to be aware of just how many teens drive drunk and the consequences of these charges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one out of every 10 teenagers who are in high school drive under the influence of alcohol at some point. Although this reflects a significant decrease in the number of teen drunk drivers compared to previous years, this still means that many young people get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Moreover, when charges arise as a result of this behavior, a young person and their parents may have no idea how to move forward.

Authorities required to have warrant before pinging a cellphone

In a majority of crime shows, there are scenes depicting an onslaught of local authorities working to track down criminals by pinging their cell phone location. However, even though this has been true in the past, a recent change may now require authorities to do a bit more footwork before they are cleared to ping the location of any cell phone in West Virginia. 

Recently, the Supreme Judicial Court altered previous rules by stating that they are now requiring authorities to secure a search warrant before they can ping a suspect's cell phone. The only exception to this new law is "exigent circumstances" where an emergency situation takes precedence to the aforementioned law. A large part for altering the law at all is the concern of lawmakers that surveillance unbeknownst to cell phone users has exceeded what is lawful and is now invasive to privacy. Not much is required of authorities in order to access sensitive information from cell phone providers. In many cases, they need only know the user's phone number and that particular device needs to be powered on. 

What is the problem with forensic testing?

When a crime occurs, evidence is collected and ran through a series of forensic testing methods in hopes of linking a suspect to a case. The results of the testing are then presented to the judge and jury presiding over the case in hopes of providing a better picture of what happened at the crime scene. The problem lies in the fact that not all results provided through scientific testing methods are accurate and some are extremely unreliable. They are presented to the judge and jury, however, as if they are valid and the people who determine whether the defendant is innocent or guilty may base their decision off erroneous information.

All of the methods used to test evidence are not proven to be scientifically valid. That means that testing procedures, such as bite mark comparison, hair follicle analysis and shoe print analysis do not provide consistent and accurate results. Furthermore, the way in which the results are presented to the court may affect the outcome of the case as well. The analysts could exaggerate the results of the test, fail to tell the jury error rate of the methods used or use wording that may lead to misinterpretation of the results.

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