The Legal Insider

November 2015

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer?Criminal defense lawyers specialize in helping clients navigate an adversarial and often confusing justice system. You should always consult with a criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with a crime or a violation of probation or parole.  If you have been arrested or detained by the police, you have the right to an attorney before and during any questioning. You also have the right to an attorney from the first time you appear in court, the "arraignment", all the way through the conclusion of the case.

I've Been Charged With a Crime: Should I Try to Represent Myself?

Anyone can represent themselves in court, often called pro se representation, but the old adage that "every man who represents himself has a fool for a client" is often accurate. In 2010, the American Bar Association conducted a survey among judges about the problems caused by pro se litigants in court. They reported: failure to present necessary evidence (94%), procedural errors (89%), ineffective witness examination (85%), failure to properly object to evidence (81%), and ineffective arguments (77%). It is important to remember that criminal cases may have high stakes: a misstep could result in a conviction or even cost you your freedom.

There are many advantages to retaining a criminal defense lawyer to handle your case. A lawyer can:

  • Navigate the local state or federal courts, knowing procedures and deadlines
  • Advise you about the objective strengths and weaknesses of your case
  • Use their legal writing, research, strategy, and courtroom skills to your advantage
  • Evaluate the legality/validity of warrants, interrogations, searches, seizures, or arrests
  • Assist you in the plea negotiation process to get a fair deal that meets your needs
  • Represent you all the way through a jury trial  
  • Help you preserve the ability to appeal your case if convicted

How Should I Work With a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

As a client, there are many areas of your case that you have ultimate control over even if you retain a lawyer. For example, you must ultimately make decisions about whether or not you will testify or whether or not you should accept a plea bargain. However, attorneys have a lot of legal knowledge, experience, and strategy to share. If you meet with a criminal defense lawyer, you should be prepared to share your goals on the case and cooperate by providing useful information. Ideally, you should leave the meeting with more information about the charges, an idea of the lawyer’s approach to your case, and realistic expectations about your next court date.

How to Sue a Home Contractor

How to Sue a Home ContractorWhen a homeowner sues a contractor, the agreement is usually governed by the written contract that the homeowner(s) have with the contractor(s). This contract is usually created between the two parties before any work has been done and any payment has been made. If there is no contract made between the contractor and the homeowner, then state law controls the actions and rights of the parties.

The written contract controls the commitments owed to the homeowner by the licensed contractor and the commitments owed to the contractor by the homeowner as to the scope of work to be performed, agreed upon materials to be installed, and whether any product installed has a manufacturer’s warranty. The issues and claims the homeowner can bring against the contractor depends upon work delays, defective construction, invalid mechanic’s liens, improper charges, and failure to obtain required permits, inspections, and certificates of improvement.

Do I Have a Good Case?

To figure out whether as a homeowner you have a strong case, the legal elements for this type of lawsuit are as follows:

Contract formation. The homeowner must show that there was a legally binding contract with the contractor. If there was a written agreement, this element is especially easy to prove. Without a written contract, the homeowner must prove that there was an oral agreement.

Substantial Performance. The homeowner must prove that the contractor was required to do something under the contract – use certain materials, finish by a certain deadline, complete the project to the homeowner’s satisfaction, etc.

Breach of Contract. The homeowner must show the contractor failed to perform his or her contract. This is usually the heart of the case -- you'll need to prove that the contractor failed to do agreed-on work or did work of unacceptably poor quality.

Damages. Homeowner must show that they suffered an economic loss as a result of the other party's breach of contract. Assuming the work must be redone or finished, this element should also could be somewhat easy to prove.

So, the question comes down to whether you should sue? It’s a question only you can answer.

If the contractor has assets and you’re ready and capable to do what you need to in order to be made whole, a lawsuit may be the best thing to do.

Things to Consider Before Becoming an Airbnb Host

Things to Consider Before Becoming an Airbnb HostIn recent trends, many people have used businesses, like Airbnb, to rent their homes for short-periods of time to guests. Most people want to host because it can generate a great deal of money. Before you make the decision, you should consider the following before renting your home or becoming a host.

General regulations: Some city regulations place restrictions on renting practices and may even require permits or registrations. You should also make sure you pay all the proper taxes and fees associated with renting.

Getting permission: You should notify the proper parties if you plan on being a host. This may mean notifying your roommates, landlord, or neighbors.

Safety tips: Have emergency procedures in places, such as a contact list that your guests are aware of and can use. Minimize hazards by having occupancy limits, childproofing your home, and identify areas that may be hazardous or dangerous to your guests.

Be considerate of your neighbors: Alert your guests to common area rules or procedures. Consider smoking, parking, noise, pets, and any other house rules you may have for your guests.

Becoming a host or renting out your home means you may be legally liable for anything that can go wrong. If you’re a tenant that wants to rent out your apartment for a few days, look at your subletting clause in your lease. If you own you home and want to rent, then you may want to read about landlord-tenant liability. The best thing you can do is to do your research before you become a host.

Protecting the Elderly Against Fraud

Protecting the Elderly Against FraudEvery year, millions of elderly individuals and seniors have fell into major frauds and been a victim of scams by con artist either through mail, phone, or the Internet. This happens because seniors are retired and have a lot of time on their hands, making them targets for advertisements, unsolicited emails, unwelcomed phone calls, and direct mail. In addition, seniors are often lonely and many feel relieved from the loneliness when answering these fraudulent messages. Finally, seniors tend to be more trusting and understanding, even if they cannot see the person they are speaking with. According to the AARP, Americans 65 and older receive more telephone and mail solicitations than any other age group.

Fraud upon the elderly can come in many different forms, such as charitable solicitations, telemarketers trying to sell them something, and solicitation through email which sounds so believable that seniors who have no past run in with scam artists would fall for the fraudulent scheme.

>Seniors and their families need to pay particular attention to scams aimed at the elderly. Some tips that families should take in protecting their elderly family members from fraudulent schemes are:

  • Warn the elderly family member or friend that if the offer or solicitation seems too good to be true, it usually means that its fake or someone is trying to scam them.
  • Review their financial statements and monitor their expenses to see if they have been part of an ongoing scam or fraudulent scheme that they have joined or have been a part of.
  • If they want to donate to a charitable foundation, make sure to research the foundation and make sure it's a real charity. Get everything in writing for future reference.
  • Financial fraud against seniors is the fastest growing form of Most states now have laws against elder abuse and punish scammers severely. The best way to protect you and your elderly loved ones is educate yourself and your elderly loved one on the most common and popular scams that occur.

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