We all love our dogs!  And most of us think the world loves our dog also.  Despite that fact, sometimes a gentle and friendly dog can turn protective and bite someone or another animal.

I am handling a case where the dog ran out of the house and bit a child.  The owner of the dog feels very bad and the child had to have stitches.  The owner has been charged with a Class E felony for letting his dog get loose and injure another.

As a dog owner, protect yourself.  Take your dog to obedience class.  This teaches the dog and you how to conduct yourselves in the outside world.  A good obedience teacher will be able to ‘read’ your dog for potentially dangerous behavior.  Plus, the classes are fun and your dog appreciates getting closer to you.

Second, don’t let your dog run loose.  Owners who do this are asking for trouble.  The dog may get run over by a car, it may be attacked by another dog or it may attack a child.  Keep your dog fenced or on a leash when he is outside.

And last, vaccine your dog.  If he does bite someone, you will need to prove he has had a rabies shot.  People tend to get upset after their child has been bitten and proving that you care enough about your animal to ensure he doesn’t have hydrophobia is good.  The animal shelter can tell you who does this for reduced cost if you do not have a veterinarian.

Take care of your dog!  She will love you in return.



Don’t lose your temper!

We have all experienced it. We lose our temper and we say things we really wished we hadn’t. Friendships are lost, marriages are destroyed and court cases are lost. We then have lots of time to think of what we should have said. Today’s blog is to help with primarily court cases.

When you come to court, your attorney has reminded you to tell the truth. It will set you free and, often, prevent you from looking foolish. Your attorney will warn you of losing your temper when you are being questioned by opposing counsel.  If you lose your temper, critical evidence is often never heard and serious damage done to your case.

Before you walk into the courtroom, remind yourself that no one can make you angry unless you let them.  You hold the power.  No matter how much an opponent may try to confuse and anger you, remember these rules: 1) count to 10.  I read an article on Navy Seals and they use counting as a way to clear their minds, 2) think about the question asked, 3) think what you are going to say, 4) answer in a calm voice.

Is keeping your temper easy?  No.  But the more times you keep your temper, the more wins that will be on your side.

DUI in Tennessee

What Are the Tennessee DUI Laws?

Drinking and driving, also known as “driving under the influence” (DUI), is illegal in Tennessee. The DUI laws in Tennessee have many components including blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for adults and minors, criminal sentences with jail time and fines, driver’s license revocations, and implied consent to alcohol testing for all drivers.

BAC Limits

Tennessee has a blood alcohol level at which the state presumes the driver is drunk. This is called a “per se” BAC and is set at .08 in Tennessee. In addition, having an extremely high BAC, in Tennessee of .20 or above, can result in enhanced penalties.

For children and adults under the drinking age of 21 years old in Tennessee, the state has a “zero tolerance” policy. If a person under 21 has a BAC of .02 while driving, even if not drunk, the person can be found to have committed a DUI. If a youth (16-20) is found guilty of impaired driving, their license will be revoked for one year, they’ll receive a $250 fine, and the court can impose community service.

Penalties and Sentences

Tennessee has mandatory jail time for first time DUI offenders. At a minimum, offenders will get 48 hours in jail, unless your BAC was .20 or higher, then the minimum is 7 days. However, a first time DUI can give you up to 11 months and 29 days in jail and a $350-$1,500 fine. Your license can be revoked for one year. You’ll have to attend an alcohol and drug treatment program.

A second DUI has a minimum of 45 days in jail (but same almost one year maximum), a mandatory fine of $600-$3,500, license revocation for two years, and once you do get your license back, it’s restricted to going to work, school, court-ordered alcohol programs or interlock device monitoring. Your vehicle can be confiscated starting at your second DUI.

A third DUI offense carries a minimum of 120 days in jail (maximum under one year), $1,100-$10,000 in mandatory fines, and license revocation for 6-10 years with no possibility of getting a restricted license even for necessities like work. Fourth and subsequent DUIs are felonies that will get you a minimum of 365 days in jail and a $3,000-$15,000 mandatory fine, and 8-year license revocation with no restricted license available.

Also, the judge can order restitution to any person you harmed, for any DUI. Additionally, getting a driver’s license after a DUI involves many fees, including a $100 reinstatement fee, $50 for a SR-22 insurance form, plus the usual licensing and vehicle registration fees.

Enhanced Penalties

Enhanced punishments are possible depending on the circumstances. First, “vehicular assault” or causing serious injury to another person due to your impaired driving is a Class D felony subject to 2-12 years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, and 1-5 years of license revocation (depending on prior DUIs). There’s also “vehicular homicide” or killing another person due to your drinking and driving is a Class B felony punishable by 8-30 years in prison and fine up to $25,000, plus license revocation for 3-10 years and no restricted driver’s license. Lastly, “aggravated vehicular homicide” or killing another while drunk driving with at least two prior DUIs, vehicular assaults, or a prior vehicular homicide or one prior DUI and a BAC of .20 is a Class A felony subject to 15-60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.

Getting a DUI with a child under 18 in the car also results in enhanced penalties. Even for a first time DUI where the child wasn’t injured, the minimum jail time is 30 days and minimum fine is $1,000. However, it’s a Class D felony if the child is injured seriously and a Class B felony if the child dies. Sentence length will depend on criminal history and other factors like injuries.

Ignition Interlock Device

A judge can order an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) for even a first-time DUI. Installed at the driver’s expense, IIDs require a sober person to breath into them to start the car. With two DUI convictions in a five-year period, the IID is required for six months after getting your license back.

Implied Consent

If you refuse to submit to a blood alcohol test when requested by a police officer, you can have your driver’s license revoked for one year for the first offense, two years for the second offense, and two years if the crash resulted in bodily injury, even if it’s your first offense. If the crash killed someone and you refused a blood alcohol test, you may have your license revoked for five years. Also, a police officer can testify as to other factors that indicate your intoxication, even if you refuse the test, such as the smell of your breath, visible alcohol containers, your pupils, your speech, etc.

Generally speaking, refusing a blood alcohol test won’t help you avoid the consequences of your drinking and driving. Only not drinking and driving can protect you from these penalties.  In Tennessee, the average spent on a DUI 1st conviction is $4,900.  A cab is a lot cheaper!

Taken from FindLaw.

Helping children when you are getting a divorce

Here is some good advise from WebMD.


Breaking up is hard to do, and it may be especially hard for kids. Kids of divorce can feel they’ve been hit the hardest by the end of their parents’ relationship. Some are asked to broker peace between warring exes, even as they are grieving the loss of a parent who has abruptly moved out. Others must deal with parents who suddenly can’t cope with everyday tasks, like making dinner or helping with homework.

Many children carry the battle scars of divorce well into adulthood. But broken-up spouses can help stop the damage by managing their own behavior before the ink dries on the divorce papers. Family and divorce expert M. Gary Neuman, LMHC, gives exes pointers on how to split up without emotionally destroying their kids long term.

1. Don’t make your child the messenger …

“Too many parents attempt to communicate through their children,” Neuman says, “which causes undue emotional stress on them and forces them to negotiate a situation their own parents could not handle. Email is an excellent tool nowadays to communicate with your ex-spouse. It allows you to specifically discuss the practicalities of raising your child without detouring into negative areas and opening old wounds. It also provides a recorded message, admissible into court, so parents tend to be more careful when using it.

“If you want or need to speak with your ex over the phone or in person, be focused and stay on task, and most important, don’t swallow the bait if he or she descends into anger. Simply say, ‘I appreciate your feelings, but I am here to discuss our child’s school assignment.’ Take the high road. Your child’s emotional health depends on it.”

2. … or your therapist.

“Teenagers like to feel in control, and divorce turns their world upside down,” Neuman says. “Don’t fall into the trap of sharing divorce details or your angry feelings about your ex with your older kids. Their own anxiety and need for control causes them to be ‘understanding’ of what you’re going through, but you need to be the parent. Get outside help for yourself, get therapy if necessary, and maintain those boundaries. Making your child your cohort is wrong and does them damage.”

3. Try to “get” your kid.

“Kids need to feel as if they are understood,” Neuman says, and after a divorce their feelings may be in turmoil. “Listen to them. Don’t tell them what to think. And it might be difficult, but never criticize your ex — it’s a criticism of your child, who, of course, is 50% of your ex-husband or wife. Respond specifically to what they are telling you. Say, ‘It sounds like you are feeling sad/mad/upset about meeting your dad’s new girlfriend, is that right?’ As a parent, you don’t have to have a solution. You just need to hear them.

“And don’t editorialize. You can suggest your child write down his feelings and share them with your ex, but only if the child wants to do so. Stay trained on your child’s feelings, not yours. Healing comes through a loving connection and from feeling understood.”

4. Avoid the third degree.

“I tell parents to treat their child’s weekend away with their ex-spouse as if the child has just visited an aunt or uncle,” Neuman says. “Saying nothing will leave your child stressed, as if he must compartmentalize both worlds and tiptoe around this other experience. On the other hand, grilling the child puts him squarely in the middle, which is an impossible position emotionally. So ask your kid fun and general questions, which diffuses tension. And then let it go.”

5. Repair the damage you’ve already done.

Many divorced parents reading these tips may recognize mistakes they’ve unintentionally made with their own kids. Is it ever too late to undo emotional fall-out from a nasty split? “No, children are remarkably forgiving,” Neuman says, “at least until they reach their later teen years, when anger may be more cemented. If you’ve made mistakes, it’s important to do the following:

  • Apologize for them. Saying you’re sorry goes a long way with your kids.
  • Explain in detail exactly what you’ve done wrong, and then commit to changing your behavior from that moment on.
  • Give your child a safe and specific signal — for example, tell your child to raise his or her hand when you begin criticizing your ex — which serves as a time-out for you, telling you in no uncertain terms you’re doing it again and need to stop immediately.”

Adapted from the cover story of WebMD the Magazine‘s February 2009 issue.

Extortion. Watch what you say!

A good article that I saw.  It comes from FreeAdvise staff.

What is extortion?

Extortion is a crime in which one person forces another person to do something against his will, generally to give up money or other property, by threat of violence, property damage, damage to the person’s reputation, or extreme financial hardship. Extortion involves the victim’s consent to the crime, but that consent is obtained illegally.

Examples of Extortion

A classic example of extortion is the “protection” scheme where figures with ties to organized crime demand that shop owners pay for their protection to prevent something bad (such as an assault on the shopkeeper or damage to his or her store or goods) from happening.  Many states also consider blackmail, where a victim is forced to pay someone to prevent them from releasing information that could damage their reputation or their business, to be a form of extortion.

Typically, as in those examples, extortion involves threats of future violence or harm rather than immediate violence or harm, but extortion can involve immediate violence.  For example, it would still be extortion if the offenders in the above example assaulted the shopkeeper to force him to pay them the required protection money instead of threatening to do so in the future. In such cases, extortion becomes very similar to robbery.

Differences Between Extortion and Robbery

One distinction between extortion and robbery is that extortion requires that the offender make a verbal or written threat, while robbery does not.  Since extortion rarely involves immediate harm, however, the crimes typically can be distinguished because a robber uses immediate threats and force to steal the victim’s property, while in extortion, the victim willingly hands over his money or personal property in order to avoid future damage or violence.

Understanding the Degrees of Extortion

All fifty states have varying laws regarding extortion, with most states classifying it as a felony. Some states charge the crime as a theft offense, while others call it “attempted extortion,” “extortion in the first degree,” or “extortion in the second degree.” In the few states that split extortion into degrees, extortion in the first degree usually involves threats of bodily harm or physical confinement, while extortion in the second degree applies to threatening to accuse a person of a crime or to expose a secret.

Penalties for Extortion

Penalties for extortion vary widely in different states and depend on the severity of the threats involved, but sentences generally range between 2 to 4 years. However, many states allow for sentences of 5, 10, or even 20 years. If any instrument of interstate commerce (such as the mail, a phone, or a computer) is used in commission of the crime, it also becomes a federal crime with a fine or sentence of up to 20 years.

Proving Extortion

The specific elements required to prove extortion differ between states, but the general requirements are that the offender maliciously (not mistakenly) make a verbal, written or printed threat with the intent to extort something from the victim or to compel the victim to do something against his or her will. Generally, it is irrelevant whether or not the offender actually succeeds in the attempted extortion. Once the threat is made, the offender has committed extortion. In some jurisdictions, and under the federal extortion definition, the victim does not even have to hear or receive the threat in order for the offender to be charged with extortion.

Extortion does not usually require that the offender threaten to commit a criminal act as long as the threat attempts to obtain money, property, or to force the victim to act against their will. For example, a threat to bring criminal charges or file a police report unless money is paid is still extortion, even though the offender may have every right to file a police report. By coupling the legal act with the illegal act of demanding payment to not act, the offender has committed extortion. Note, however, that a threat to file a civil lawsuit typically is not considered extortion even if that lawsuit is frivolous.

The threat also does not have to be directed at the victim. It is still extortion if the threat is directed towards the victim’s family or if it threatens to release information about some third party the victim seeks to protect.

Questions to ask an attorney

When it comes to retaining proper legal representation during a complicated family matter, it is important to ensure you find the right attorney to handle your type of case. Because there is a wide range of family law-related matters, such as divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support, parenting plan modifications, relocation, and more, it is crucial that you find a lawyer who has experience handling cases similar to yours.

For this reason, it is wise to ask your potential family lawyer the following questions:

1. “How long have you practiced family law?”

This is one of the most important questions to ask your family lawyer. You want to be sure that your divorce attorney is equipped with the experience and knowledge in family law that it takes to streamline your case. A lawyer who is not very experienced in family law, or who doesn’t focus their practice on family law, may not understand the intricacies involved with your case as thoroughly as a seasoned family lawyer may.

2. “How many cases like mine have you handled?”

When asked, many family lawyers will reply with a large number. However, it is important to ask your family lawyer how many cases they have handled which are similar to your specific circumstances. Although an attorney may have handled over 50 divorce cases, they may have only handled two cases involving complex spousal support matters. You should also ask how many cases like yours they’ve represented in a trial – especially if your case may be contentious or if the opposing party in your case is likely to be adversarial.

3. “Generally, how long does it take for you to respond to phone calls and emails?”

It is important to be aware of the time it may take between calling or emailing your attorney and receiving a response. For most people, it is most convenient to have a lawyer who can respond to their questions or concerns within a 24-hour period. It is best to understand your attorney’s policies before your case progresses. Also ask about how they prefer to communicate with their clients (email or phone, daily or weekly, or as needed, etc.). A good attorney will provide personalized attention, but also help you streamline your communications as to reduce your legal costs.

4. “Will anyone else be working on my case? Are they experienced?”

Many family lawyers will have a team when working on complex cases, such as support associates and paralegals. This can work in your benefit, as a team approach can save you money and be more responsive to the demands of your case.

They may also work with outside consultants. For example, your divorce lawyer may find it necessary hire a personal investigator, a financial advisor or accountant to assess how assets should be divided, and more. Again, this can be to your benefit, if these experts are needed. If your lawyer recommends involving other professionals, be sure to inquire how experienced the involved professionals are, how much they cost, what they will provide, and how familiar your lawyer is with their work.

5. “How do you charge clients? Can you provide me with an estimate for my case?”

During your consultation, ask how the attorney typically charges clients. Is there an hourly rate? Do they work on a retainer or a flat fee? What other costs will be involved in your case (court costs, outside consultants, travel expenses, etc.)? A good family lawyer will be upfront about the costs involved and how the billing process works.

If you are thinking of hiring a lawyer for a flat-fee arrangement, find out what services are included in the scope of the agreement, and what will happen if your legal needs expand outside that scope.

If the attorney charges an hourly rate, you should ask how much cases like yours typically cost. While most family lawyers can provide you with a ballpark estimate for your case, a good attorney will also explain the many factors that could potentially affect the cost of your case, such as the behavior of the opposing party and opposing counsel, facts of the case that are uncovered at a later date, and more.