What to Do If You Have Already Hired a BAD Attorney

The person representing you is vital to your case, but sometimes your initial decision was the wrong move.  What do you do now?  The next step is a decision only you can make, but this article will walk you through sound reasoning that will assist you in making the right choice.  Know that you are not alone.  If you are questioning whether you need to hire someone else, don’t hesitate to set up a consultation with the attorney you have in mind as a replacement and get his or her opinion on the situation.  

Is your attorney making mistakes that are prejudicing your case? – Is your attorney doing things or NOT doing things that are going impact you long-term and hurt you in some way?  Serious mistakes on your attorney’s part can affect you forever.  Here are some of the serious ones to watch out for:

  • Missing deadlines for filing motions.
  • Forgetting court appearances.
  • Completely ignoring communications with you.
  • Not having sufficient knowledge or experience to adequately represent you.
  • Being dishonest or encouraging you to make misrepresentations to the court either verbally or in writing.

Possible courses of actions with prejudicial mistakes:

  • Terminate your relationship with your attorney and find alternative representation.
  • In some cases, it may be appropriate to ask for a reduction or refund on your fees.
    • If the attorney’s mistakes are particularly egregious, you may feel it is appropriate to report those to the Bar of the State you live in.  
    • If the attorney you are dissatisfied with is a public defender and not someone you have hired, you can request a different attorney or represent yourself.  Be prepared to share with the judge the exact reasons why you are dissatisfied because a bare assertion that the attorney isn’t doing a good job will probably not be specific or factual enough to sway the judge to your point of view.

Are you dissatisfied with your attorney for reasons that may be fixable with communication? – Is your attorney doing things that annoy, bother or frustrate you?  

  • You don’t feel respected by your attorney.
  • You don’t feel that your attorney has thoroughly evaluated the information or evidence you or others have provided.
  • You don’t feel your attorney has the right tone with a judge/opposing counsel/prosecutor, and you would like a different tone?  (i.e. more or less adversarial, more confident, etc.)

Possible courses of actions where you feel the problems may be fixable with communication:  

  • Many attorneys respond to facts.  Give specific examples of what is bothering you and recommendations on what you feel would be an appropriate resolution.
  • In some cases, it may be appropriate for you to request a partial refund on your bill.
  • Many attorneys appreciate organized, written communications.  Summarize your concerns with your attorney’s performance in writing.  Not only does this step help the attorney understand you, but it can also document the problems.

You deserve to have an attorney that you feel confident in and who represents you well.  The practice of law is a service business where you are the client, so take charge of the relationship.  Work it out if you can or find someone different, but don’t sit back without making informed and thoughtful decisions about your future.

HELP!  I Need to Hire an Attorney and I’m Broke!

If you are not in a position to afford to pay for an attorney, you are not alone.  Many people struggle just to make ends meet, so it’s not unusual if legal fees may put a strain on your budget.  This article will provide some ideas of resources to help you.  

  • Criminal Case – Do you qualify for a public defender?  If you do not have the means to hire an attorney to represent you in a criminal case, the judge can appoint an attorney to defend you. When you go to court for your first appearance, you can request an attorney.  Judges may ask different questions about your income, but in general come with prepared with information on:

Your income

Your debts, including student loans, credit card debts, etc.

Your assets.  For example, you may be asked whether you own or rent your home, whether you own or make payments on your car

  • Family Law Case – Have you checked into free community resources?  For example, if you live in Solano County, the Solano Legal Access Center might be a helpful resource to you.

http://solano.courts.ca.gov/Courts/SolanoLegalAccessCenterSLACandFamilyLawFacilitator.html

The website above is a resource for California forms.

This website also has a repository of self-help information, videos and documents.

  • Domestic Violence – Have you looked into a Victim’s Advocate Office in your community?  Many communities have teams of professionals dedicated to assisting in protecting you from domestic violence.

For example, the Solano Advocates for Victims of Violence https://www.savvcenter.org/

Another resource for those in the Vacaville area is the Advocate Against Domestic Violence in the African – American Community, http://www.aadvac.org/

  • Pro Bono for Other Types of Cases – There are instances where an attorney may assist you without charge.  The term for this is “Pro Bono.” It isn’t the norm for an attorney to represent you for free or for a reduced fee, but there are instances where a lawyer may be willing to help you.  Use your resources.  Ask people in your network if they have a friend who is an attorney.  Meet with a lawyer and explain your problem.  Don’t expect free services, but you may be able to work out payment plans or other billing options that can make the representation affordable for you.   

3 Essential Steps to Best Resolve a DUI Conviction

If you entered a guilty plea to a DUI or lost your case at trial, this article is for you.  It discusses what to do next once you have a DUI conviction.  Following these steps will help you succeed in completing your probation successfully and putting this conviction behind you.

Set Yourself Up for Probation Success

  • Know.  Make sure you find out what the terms are of your probation and how long it lasts.  Typically, you will at minimum be ordered to stay drug free and not have any other criminal offenses.    
  • Do.  Confirm that you have your paperwork and call the court for a copy if you have lost it.  This will list what you need to accomplish and when.  Typically you will need a counseling evaluation and a certain amount of counseling sessions. You may have community service obligations.  Following through with the Court’s orders is essential.
  • Report.  Ensure that anything you complete is reported, because you want to “get credit” for the counseling, etc. that you finish.  If you don’t know whether the court has a record of what you’ve done, be proactive to call and find out.

Do Not Drive with a Suspend Driver’s License 

  • Don’t drive while your license is suspended.  Typically, your license will be suspended.  Make sure that you do not drive during the suspension period.
  • Complete the DUI Program.   You will likely need to complete a DUI program prior to reinstatement of your license.    
  • More information about Suspended Driver’s License.  For more information about a suspended driver’s license in California go to http://www.dmv.org/ca-california/suspended-license.php

Compliant Driving after a DUI – Interlock and Insurance

  • Interlock.  An ignition interlock device prevents you from driving with a level of blood alcohol above the setting.  You will typically be ordered to utilize this device for a certain amount of time following your DUI, and you shouldn’t do anything to try to bypass the system.    
  • Insurance.  You need a special type of automobile insurance following a DUI.  It is often called high-risk or SR-22 insurance.  Make sure that you obtain the right kind of insurance and keep your payments current.

If you take the time to know and obey the terms of your probation, you can successfully overcome a DUI conviction.  Make sure that you find out what you need to accomplish, avoid driving while your license is suspended, and take the steps necessary once your driving privileges are restored.

How to Know When to Strike a Plea Bargain and When to Go to Trial

Deciding what to do when you are facing a criminal charge can be challenging, but taking a step back to analyze your case will help you decide the best course of action for you.  Since each case is different, there are many facts and factors play into a decision this important, but this article will help you think them through.   

  • Do you need to decide yet?

If you were just arrested, you do not need to decide immediately whether to enter a plea or go to trial.  You will have the opportunity to attend hearings prior to trial.  If you qualify, you can request that an attorney be appointed for you.  If you want to hire a private attorney, you will have time to follow through with that.  It is possible obtain a continuance to have additional pre-trial hearings if there is an appropriate reason.  The bottom line is that you shouldn’t feel pressured to decide your case strategy right up front.

  • What are your odds of winning at trial?

You need to look at your odds of winning at trial to decide whether to risk it.  Is there a witness that may recant or may not be available?  Is there a credibility issue that a jury is likely to believe or disbelieve witnesses at trial?  How much technology was involved in creating the evidence against you?  Is a common person likely to find the evidence reliable?  Is the evidence extremely strong, or is there room for doubt?

  • Is the plea bargain really to your advantage?

Remember that the prosecutor is your adversary in this situation.  Look carefully at the deal that is presented.  Is it really valuable to you?  For example, a typical offer the prosecutor may make to every defendant with a DUI charge is that the traffic violation will be dismissed with prejudice.  Is this really a benefit to you?  Can you get more out of a bargain if you wait?

  • What are the policies at play?

A prosecutor is likely under the direction of his or her supervisor, and it is helpful to have the advice of an attorney who knows the prosecutor or the office politics.  Is the prosecutor reluctant or eager to go to trial?  This could determine whether the plea offer gets better or worse as you go along.  Are there restrictions to the prosecutor’s ability to offer you a plea?

  • What sentence is likely under either scenario?

When you are considering a plea vs. trial, you need to know what punishments are likely with each choice.  Make sure you find out all aspects of the prosecutor’s plea.  Don’t just focus on the amount of jail time that will be involved, but also find out what counseling, probation and fines will be included.  Is there a significant difference between the sentence likely under the plea bargain and the sentence likely if you lose for trial?

These are just a few of the many factors that need to be weighed when choosing between a plea bargain and a trial.  Consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney will typically be helpful to you in making the choice because they can assist in determining the strength of the evidence against you, the extent of advantage the plea bargain really is to you, and the various possibilities for sentencing of the charge if a plea is entered vs. a trial.   

3 Ways You Know You Need to Find a New Lawyer

Did you hire an attorney to represent you, and now you are having second thoughts?  Are you wondering how to know if you hired the wrong person?  Here are things to look for when deciding whether you should break ties and find someone new to represent you.  Before you switch attorneys, however, you should always inquire into the retainer and billing and how that change may impact the cost of your case.

1. You Are Not A Priority to This Attorney.  We all know that attorneys have a roster of clients, but every case should be handled with diligence and care.  Take a look at how serious the problem is.  If your attorney is missing hearings or deadlines, then you probably need someone new.  If he or she is consistently late to court, then that is something also to look at.  If your calls or emails are not being returned, then your attorney is not fulfilling their responsibility to communicate with you.  If your attorney talks down to you or pressures you to make a decision you aren’t comfortable with, then those are also signs that you and your attorney may not be a good team.  

2. Your Attorney Doesn’t Know What He or She Is Doing. Even if you were referred to your attorney by a friend or if they are an acquaintance, the relationship is a business one. You have to look out for yourself and make sure that you are being represented by someone who is competent to represent you in this type of case.  Signs to look for:

  • Does your attorney seem to know the system?

Can he or she give you an overview of each step or hearing in your case and what will take place?

  • Does your attorney appear confident?  

Trust your instincts about the level of confidence your attorney displays.   Confidence doesn’t equal competence, but it is one indicator of whether this is your attorney’s first case of this type or 10000th.

  • Does your attorney answer questions?

If your attorney is knowledgeable, he or she will not shy away from questions, but rather, encourage you to ask about anything you don’t know or understand.

Does your attorney know the people?  

Does your attorney seem familiar with other attorneys, court staff, counselors, etc. Professional affiliations are another clue to experience.

3. You can’t Afford Your Attorney. This is a tricky one because the value you get from an attorney is difficult to quantify.  Any attorney is going to be a strain on your budget because divorce, adoption, criminal defense, and so forth are expenses that are unusual and will seem high.  So, the financial discomfort of any attorney is a given and you want someone who is good, which doesn’t come free.  However, some attorneys are better salesmen than lawyers.  Some bill for things that may not be necessary.  Here are some things to look for when deciding if the cost is prohibitive:

  • Are you comfortable with the billing approach?  Would you prefer a flat fee for your case?  Do you prefer hourly?
  • Do you understand the fees and do you understand how to maximize your value? For example, if your attorney bills you a flat fee for every email they read from you, then you may want to consolidate all questions into a short email.  As another example, is your attorney “chatty” such that a phone call will cost you a lot more than email exchanges or is your attorney a bit of a slow writer, such that a call will resolve issues faster than email.  
  • At the end of the day, do you feel like you are getting the full value out of your representation?

Your decision on legal representation should not be taken lightly, as the outcome of your case will impact your life for years to come.  There is no easy answer to whether you should make a change, but the factors to be considered certainly include whether your counsel is giving you the attention you deserve, whether they are competent to represent you in this type of case, and whether you will be able to pay the bill when it’s all said and done.

5 Telltale Signs You Need A New Lawyer

A great attorney can make all the difference in your case, but a bad one can ruin you.   If you keep your eyes peeled to your attorney’s behavior and work, you will know quickly whether you have found someone amazing to represent you or whether you are stuck with a lemon of an attorney.  Watch for these 5 telltale signs, and if you see any of these exhibited, you’ll know you need to find a new attorney.   

  1. Misses Hearings or Is Tardy.  If your attorney is late for court appearances or misses them altogether, his or her behavior is not only unprofessional, but could likely impact your case.  One of your attorney’s main responsibilities is to calendar the dates, keep track of deadlines, file documents on time, and be in court punctually to represent you.  Failure on your attorney’s part to follow through may be grounds for a Bar Complaint, but at the very least, you should look for someone more dependable.
  2. Treats You With Disrespect.  Your attorney will hopefully be very knowledgeable and experiences, and you should give him or her your respect.  However, your counsel should also treat you with courtesy and professionalism.  If your attorney ever calls you names, dismisses your input, or makes you feel badly about yourself, you should look into hiring someone new.
  3. Offends the Judge or Court Staff.  If you notice that the judge or the judge’s staff is bristling at your attorney’s demeanor or if it is obvious that the judge just doesn’t like your attorney, you may want to find someone with better people skills. The judge’s perspective on your attorney may influence his or her decision on your case.  You may think that the way your attorney treats the staff is not important, but often the staff will tattle to the judge behind closed doors if your attorney acts out of line with them.  You want an attorney who is aggressive enough to go to bat for you, but not one who burns bridges with those who decide your fate.
  4. Ignores Your Phone Calls or Fails to Answer Emails.  A common complaint among clients is that that their attorney either fails to respond via phone or writing to their inquiries.  If you have questions that are going unanswered or important communications that your attorney is ignoring, you may want to look elsewhere.  Failure to give you attention can be for many reasons, from too large a client load to just general disinterest.  Whatever the reason, the result is that the proper communication channels have broken down, which gives you grounds to find someone who is a more effective communicator.
  5. Is Out of His/Her League.  Some cases require more sophistication than others.  A felony is often more difficult to defend than a misdemeanor.  Some divorce cases are more complex or involve more assets than others.  If your attorney tells you he or she is not experienced enough or does not have time for a case of your complexity, then you should find someone with the requisite experience.  If you can see from your counsel’s representation of you that he or she is really in too deep of water, you should find someone else.  Your liberty, money, assets, children, or whatever the case is about is your first priority, and you should not be concerned with firing an attorney who isn’t the best for you and your case.

Don’t Do These 3 Things When Looking for a Divorce Attorney

The stakes are high in a divorce, since it involves your children and your assets.  For many people, it is their first experience with the legal system, and they aren’t sure where to start.  Good representation is essential for navigating the system, and avoiding these three mistakes when looking for a divorce attorney will help you have the best outcome:

  • Hiring an Attorney Who Is Not Experienced in Divorce. 

If you have an acquaintance or relative who is an attorney, you might think that he or she would be your best pick since you know and trust them.  While that relationship is valuable, you need to also consider the attorney’s knowledge and experience.  The practice of law can be very broad, and while one attorney may be a wiz at contracts and another at patents, you want to find someone who really knows the in’s and out’s of divorce.  You want someone who knows the judges and mediators in your area and who is comfortable helping you understand and thrive in the system.  One mistake some people make is assuming that all lawyers are about the same in handling a divorce, when in reality, an experienced attorney with years of practice in divorce specifically will give you an edge in your case.

  • Failing to Consider Whether Billing is Flat Rate or Hourly.

Money matters and should be one of your most important up-front considerations.  Your attorney will typically charge you either a flat fee or an hourly billing rate.  There are pros and cons to either option.  With a flat fee, you have the certainty of knowing up front how much your case will cost.  Typically, an attorney comes up with the flat fee price by taking about the average cost of various divorce cases, so by nature, some clients who choose the flat fee option will be overpaying and some who take the flat fee option will be underpaying.  The incentive in a flat fee case for your attorney will be to resolve it quickly and simply, which may impact your attorney’s enthusiasm for litigation or for responding to communications. Alternatively, with an hourly billing rate your pay for the time your attorney works on the case, which typically includes any time reading or answering emails, drafting documents, communicating with staff about your case, or appearing on your behalf. The upside of this billing system is that your attorney is incentivized to go the extra mile because you are paying for each step. The downside is that the bills can add up quickly, and you may end up paying more than you had budgeted.  You should discuss the billing method up front with your attorney, and you should share your thoughts and concerns openly with your attorney to decide the best billing method for your case.

  • Forgetting to Consider Your Attorney’s Negotiating Style

There is no single cookie-cutter style that will be effective for all situations.  Some attorneys are very aggressive, intimidating, and loud-spoken, and these “bull-dog” style attorneys can be effective if you are looking for an attorney who will send a strong message to the other side.  Other attorneys are more conciliatory, and can use their negotiating tactics to facilitate excellent settlements that the mroe aggressive attorneys may find challenging to broker. Another type of attorney may be less impressive in person, but may be extremely well-versed in the system or have excellent writing skills which make them very useful in a case where those skills are needed. You are in the best position to know yourself and your ex-spouse.  Don’t just assume that the loudest attorney on the block is the best. Consider whether your case will be more adversarial or more cooperative, think about your personal preferences, and choose the attorney whose skills are the right fit for you.

In Summary

Have confidence that you can find the right attorney for you and your case. You just need to find someone with the right kind of experience, figure out the most economical and effective billing strategy, and connect with the attorney who has the best skill-set for your particular personality and circumstances, and you will be in a good place to make the divorce process as successful as possible.

 

5 Signs You Picked The Wrong Attorney

Whether you are facing criminal charges or a party to a civil case, you need a good lawyer by your side to help you navigate the legal proceedings. If things are not going well at court, you may have hired the wrong lawyer. Here are five signs that indicate that you might need to find new legal representation.

1. Your Attorney Does Not Pick Up the Phone

An attorney who doesn’t answer your phone calls or emails is simply not paying attention. Frankly speaking, if getting hold of your attorney is getting increasingly difficult, this indicates that your case may not at the top of your attorney’s priority list, or that he/she may be avoiding you or possibly uncertain how to handle your case. Whether your case is large or small, you deserve to have an attorney who is responsive to you.

2. Your Attorney is Usually Late

“Justice delayed is justice denied.” This is a common slogan competent lawyers live by. If your lawyer is missing court deadlines, this will damage your case, and by the time your case is decided, it might be too late. The legal system takes time to reach a verdict as the judge has to consider each and every aspect of the case to ensure that everyone’s rights are upheld. If your lawyer misses deadlines or hearings, your case will be decided in a much longer time span. This will also increase your over-all litigation costs.

3. Your Attorney is Difficult to Work With

If your lawyer is difficult to work with due to a negative attitude, this is a major red flag, as your case depends on how well you communicate your situation to your attorney. If your attorney uses a condescending tone, you need to find new legal representation.

4. You Hear Negative Feedback from Previous Clients

Ask people if they have ever heard about your attorney, as this will give you an idea about his or her reputation. Also check you can check online resources such as the BBB.org to see whether your attorney has any negative reviews.    

5. You’re Attorney’s Promises Seem Too Good To Be True

Your attorney should advise you of the pros and cons of your case, and the risks and benefits of decisions.  If your attorney is telling you things that don’t seem to line up with what is actually happening in the case, then you should question what you are being told. A professional attorney will welcome the opportunity to explain considerations to you and to obtain your feedback on important strategy decisions for your case.

 

5 Tips on What To Do and Say When Stopped By Police

With the recent Garner (police chokehold case) and Ferguson cases, many are asking how to interact with police in a safe way. This article gives some general advice on best practices for police interactions, but keep in mind that circumstances may vary. For a personal consultation with an attorney who is experienced in criminal defense, contact David Knecht at davidknechtlaw.com.

1. Remain calm, polite, and non-confrontational.

You must anticipate that a police officer’s first concern will be safety. Remain calm, without making sudden or threatening movements. Comply with the officer’s directions. Even if you assert your rights verbally, you should never physically resist a police officer. Also, as you explain yourself to the officer remain as non-confrontational as possible.

2. You can exercise your right to remain silent in a non-threatening manner.

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution protects you from self-incrimination. You have the right to remain silent, and you must anticipate that anything you say or do can be used against you. If you are being accused of committing a crime, you can respond, “Officer, I am exercising my 5th right to remain silent.” Or, “I’d like to help you out and I know you are just doing your job, but I’ve
been told that the best thing to do is to remain silent when police ask questions. I’m not trying to be uncooperative.”

3. You can verbally (never physically) refuse to consent to search.

An officer must have probable cause to search a vehicle, but he can do a quick frisk of your person with just reasonable suspicion. You should never resist an officer from physically searching you or your vehicle. You can, however, verbally refuse. When an officer say, “Do you mind if I search your vehicle?” you could respond with something such as, “Officer, I’m sorry but I do not consent to your search of my car, but I won’t do anything to prevent you from doing your job.” An officer will often search your vehicle anyway, but your verbal refusal could help your attorney defend you should evidence against you be found.

4. You can ask if you are free to go.

One fact that is very important, but often obscure, is whether the police are detaining you or whether you are free to go. It may be helpful to ask the officer directly, “Am I being detained, or am I
free to go?” This may help your attorney defend you if evidence of a crime is subsequently discovered.

5. You can ask for an attorney.

If the officer responds that he is detaining you, you have the right to refuse to answer questions and request an attorney. One of the most important aspects of your right to remain silent is that you have to stick with it. Sometime people will invoke their right and then volunteer statements to the police without police even questioning. Remember that anything you say can be used against you, so say as little as possible when you are being detained.

Most police interactions are safe and pleasant. However, where an officer believes he is confronting a potentially dangerous situation, you can help by remaining calm and politely exercising
your rights verbally and never physically resisting the police. For advice, call David Knecht at davidknechtlaw.com.

What is Probate?

When someone close to you passes away, the responsibility to distribute the property of the deceased can be a daunting and unwelcome task. Many people don’t even know where to begin. This article will discuss some steps to consider when approaching the probate process.
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