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I am a criminal defense lawyer practicing in Rhode Island.  I handle all types of criminal cases, including, DUI, domestic violence cases, drug case, sex cases just to name a view. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Police dogs, probable cause, and the decriminalizing of marijuana.

Police dogs have been helping the police and other law enforcement agencies for decades in the government's criminal prosecution of the war on drugs.  Police dogs are trained to use their sense of smell to detect many different types of drugs including but not limited to marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.  A hit by these dogs often leads to the probable cause needed to conduct a search in a criminal matter.   A dog can smell the smallest trace of a drug. Once the dog has made a hit, the police will often have the right to search a person's car, house, bags or whatever the dog hit on.  The government has used these trained dogs in the investigation of numerous criminal cases which has lead to thousands and thousands of searches.

On April 1, 2013,  legislation in Rhode Island took effect that decriminalizes minor marijuana possession offenses to a non-criminal offense.  This new law will have great implications not only in marijuana cases, but in many other criminal cases where a police dog was used to gain probable cause leading to a search.  The police dogs are trained to hit for many different drugs, including marijuana. Now that minor marijuana possession is no longer a criminal offense in Rhode Island, the probable cause gained by police dogs becomes very questionable.  Without probable cause, the police cannot legally search your car, your house or your person.  These police dogs lead to the probable cause in many cases but now their use might be troublesome for the police.  The dilemma for the government is that many of their police dogs are trained to find marijuana.  The police dogs do not have the ability to communicate to the dog handler what specific drugs it has scented.   Without the ability to determine what drug the dog scented, the probable cause no longer exists. For instance, a police officer stops a car driving on a highway and the dog scent leads to the indication that drugs are in the car.  Normally, this would lead to probable cause that there was a crime taking place. Now that is just not true.  The owner of the car may have a small amount of marijuana and now that marijuana has been decriminalized and there is no longer probable cause. Therefore, the police dog hit for drugs is no longer reliable.

Often a drug dog’s reliability record must  be considered to determine probable cause but it can no longer be deemed reliable if the dog has not been retrained to not hit for marijuana. Consequently, a person who has been charged with any drug charge and who's proable cause was based on a police drug sniffing dog, may be in a positition to have the criminal charge dismissed.  The courts will be under great pressure to suppress evidence based on a lack of proable cause.

A lawyer that practices criminal defense should be ready to argue this in all cases where the probable cause was based on a police drug detecting dog,   A good criminal defense lawyer can make a huge impact on what happens to your criminal case.  Do not take chances on you future!  Hire a criminal defense lawyer with a great amount of criminal defense experience and a proven track record of success.

If you have been arrested for a crime in Rhode Island please call me at 401-523-5271 or visit my websites at www.rhodeislanddefenselawyer.com or  www.ridrunkdrivingattorney.com..



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Criminal defense lawyers are and easy target, until you or a loved one need one.

Ever since I began practicing criminal defense law over 20 years ago, I have frequently been asked, “How can you represent people that have committed a crime?”, or “How can you do what you do?”.  I can confidently answer these questions with the fact that I love what I do and I love protecting people's Constitutional Rights!

It amazes me how many people do not understand the importance of criminal defense lawyers in society.  When someone is charged with a crime, it can feel like it is the world versus the defendant. Although that statement is not one hundred percent accurate, it is not far off.  A defendant who has been arrested for a crime can often feel the weight of the State and all the State’s resources against them.  The Attorney General's office is well equipped with the use of many seasoned criminal defense lawyers, investigators, paralegals, secretaries, toxicology labs, police departments in addition to other agents.  By contrast,  the defendant stands before the Court  alone.  Often in criminal cases, the press is provided all their information from the Attorney General’s office and the prosecuting police department, making it impossible for the defendant to successfully fight his battle in the court of public opinion.  Who stands up for this little man? The press, the police, the politicians, the judge?  No, the only person who will stand beside this defendant is his criminal defense attorney.  Whether the charge is a drunk driving charge or a murder charge, the defendant has his back against the wall and his only ally is his criminal defense lawyer.

Historically, the need for a  criminal defense lawyer was considered so important that our Founding Fathers included the right to counsel in the Bill of Rights.  A defense lawyer’s job is to zealously defend his client. However, in defending his client the criminal defense lawyer does so much more.  Criminal defense lawyers often lead to justice, since without a criminal attorney people would not be able to competently defend themselves.  Without criminal defense lawyers, there would be masses of innocent people being convicted without proper legal representation. Also by doing their job, criminal lawyers prevent unlimited searches and seizures by the police, racial profiling at traffic stops as well as other societal goods.  

When a defense lawyer fights to defend one person’s rights, the defense lawyer is actually not only standing up for these people rights but standing up for everyone's Constitutional rights. Everyone deserves a vigorous defense! The day we say that they do not, is the day we let the police and politicians decide who is guilty.  
Many people often forget that without defense lawyers, punishment would often not be just.  Too often, I see a defendant go before the court pro-se and get taken advantage of by the prosecution.  The pro-se defendant will get a punishment that is unjust and unfair.  Should people go to jail for smoking marijuana? Should they lose their diver's license for 6 months for a couple of speeding tickets? The fact is that good people often get arrested and that arrest record should not dictate their life's story. Often I see judges and prosecutors acting too hastily to give a sentence that will have a long lasting negative implication on someone’s life. I remember instances when I first started practicing law, that a certain judge would always want to give one year probation to a defendant for a first offense marijuana charge as opposed to a filing.   The result of this harsh sentence was that some college student would be stuck with a drug charge on his record for at least 6 years making for a bleak future. The students often would incorrectly think that if they hired a lawyer the judge would get mad at them and the consequences would be worse.   They would think that "If i just go up and admit it I will be better off."  The fact is that they could not be further from the truth.  When you represent yourself in court, more often than not you get taken advantage of by the criminal justice system.

My role as a criminal defense attorney is to ensure that the defendant's Constitutional Rights are protected and that they get an even playing field to confront the prosecution in the courtroom thereby making sure they receive a just outcome.