Be careful of administrative hearings.  Two types of these hearings I’m familiar with are ALS hearings and CAR hearings.  ALS stands for Administrative License Suspension hearings and CAR stands for Child Abuse Registry Hearings.  Do not attend these hearings without competent counsel.  I have rarely felt that legal proceedings are stacked against the ordinary citizen, but when you are in front of an administrative law judge in the state of Georgia, you can expect to see your right to a thorough and fair hearing significantly challenged. The consequences of a loss at any such administrative hearing can be severe, and the burden of proof that the state must bear is only proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

Imagine the scales of justice, with both sides of the scale perfectly empty.  Then imagine a feather is placed on one side.  That side tilts the least bit and the case is won by whichever side dropped the feather. It has been my experience that the State, with the assistance of the administrative law judge, has very little  trouble producing evidence that wins the case by a preponderance of the evidence.  So, again, do not participate in these hearings without competent legal counsel.   You will get steamrolled if you do.

My advice to anyone who is arrested for Driving Under the Influence is to hire your DUI attorney as soon after your arrest for DUI as is possible.  There are several reasons.

First is the fact that you have ten days to request an administrative hearing if you have been issued a DPS (Department of Public Safety) Form 1205.  If you do not file this request in a timely manner you can lose your driver’s license without ever being convicted of DUI.

Second is the fact that the scene of the DUI arrest should be visited by your DUI attorney as soon as possible after the arrest.  The location where you performed field sobriety tests should be carefully examined and its nature and characteristics documented as soon after your arrest as is possible.  Let me give you an example to explain why.  What if you were asked by the arresting officer to take nine heel-to-toe steps on the fog line at the side of the road during the nine step walk and turn field sobriety test?  What if the officer says you failed it?  What if the video of the arrest shows that you, in fact, were unsteady as you walked this line?  An examination of this line just after your arrest might show that under the white paint stripe called the fog line there are numerous points at which different layers of past road resurfacing happen to end and overlap.  So, what looks like a smooth white line in the video of the arrest is, in reality, a rough area where different layers of asphalt make an uneven surface and it is, therefore, difficult to walk on this surface heel-to-toe, even when you are completely sober.

Rest assured, you will want professional photographs of that rough surface to show the jury to contradict the prosecutor’s argument that you were unsteady as you walked on a smooth, painted line at the edge of the road.  And, rest assured, Murphy’s law dictates that if you do not get those photographs just as soon after the arrest as you can, the city, county, or state will barricade that section of the road and widen it, or in some manner change the configuration of the fog line, before you can document its original condition.  If you wait too long and let the condition of the fog line get changed, you have lost the opportunity to acquire evidence that could very well have resulted in your acquittal.

This hypothetical about the fog line presents only one example of a reason to hire your DUI attorney as soon as you can after your arrest.  There are others.  But, the fact is that a DUI arrest can greatly impact your life if you are convicted and the sooner you hire a competent DUI attorney to represent you in the matter, the better off you will be.

In my family law practice I have noticed a disturbing trend. I have noticed that many mothers who get primary physical custody of their minor children through divorce will then set out to completely alienate those children from their father. It is done in sneaky ways. I’ll give a few examples.

Let’s say the mother has got primary physical child custody and the father has every-other-weekend visitation with the children. The mother might enroll the children in activities that take place on the father’s visitation weekend. So, does the father accomodate the plans made by the mother or does the father make plans contrary to those the mother has made? The children are caught in the middle and the father is in a difficult spot. The bottom line is that the mother is still exerting control of the children, even during the father’s weekend visitation, whichever choice the father makes. And, if the father does not allow the children to participate in the activities planned by the mother, then the mother will make him out to be the bad guy.

Or, the mother has primary physical child custody and she is obliged to notify the father of events that take place involving the children during her custody periods, the idea being the father can attend. School activities are a good example. The mother will fail to notify the father of these events. The mother then allows the children to believe the father just doesn’t care about their activities.

Or, the mother has primary physical child custody and the father has every other weekend visitation and a longer period of visitation during the children’s summer break from school. The father plans some super vacation for himself and the children during the summer visitation and the children are very enthusiastic.

Then, one week before they are all to leave on vacation, the children, in the custody of the mother, suddenly change their attitude and don’t want to go. The father ends up on the phone with the mother who is telling him the children don’t want to go on vacation with him. Does the father insist on the children going, or does he change his plans and scrap everything? Either way, the mother has control and, the father is either the bad guy or he loses out completely. (Most of the time when this happens, it turns out that the mother influenced the childrens’ attitude and changed their mind about going.)

Or, take this scenario. The father plans a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. He has a condominium for his children and himself during their summer vacation. The children go with him to Orlando. The children and the father are at the supper table in the condominium and beef stew is served. The children refuse to eat it and ask for something else. The father is old-school and insists that the children eat what they’ve been served. (The mother fixes whatever the children want while they are at her house and will not make them eat, or even try, food they don’t want.)

So the children throw a fit at the supper table and the father send them to their room. Spoiled daughter grabs her spoiled-daughter-cell-phone and calls her mother. Does the mother tell her to suck-it-up, obey her father, and eat the beef stew. Oh no, of course not. The mother clucks her tongue in sympathy and gets the father on the phone and chews him out for being so cruel. Then the mother DEMANDS that the father return the children to her, immediately.

Does the father tell her to leave him and the children alone? If so, rest assured that the mother will be on the spoiled-daughter-cell-phone with the spoiled daughter during the rest of the trip, undermining the father’s attempts at discipline and ruining any chance the father had of making the vacation work out.

Does the father take the spoiled-daughter-cell-phone away from the spoiled daugther. Oh, Hell No! If he does, there will be a knock on the condominium door and the Orlando Police Department will be doing a “wellness” check on the children at the behest of the mother. Then, when the father gets back to Georgia with the children, the mother will drag him into superior court alleging that he mistreated the spoiled daughter during the vacation.

So, the father responds to any of the above scenarios by taking the mother to superior court with a contempt action because she’s interfering with his visitation. Believe me when I say that a superior court judge is likely to see such a case as a nuisance, hardly anything more. It is difficult to get a superior court judge to understand that the mother really is evil enough to intentionally interfere with and, in fact, is seeking to destroy the father’s relationship with his children. Sometimes the father gets significant relief in court through a contempt action, but the mother will just keep on doing such stuff as time wears on and, in some instances, her manipulation of the children over time will ultimately destroy the father’s realtionship with them.

I have met these men. I have worked with these men in contempt actions after divorce, fighting to preserve their relationship with their children. It is heartbreaking to witness the cruelty and the evil of the mothers who want to prevent these men from participating as father to their own children.

My best advices is as follows. If you are a man married to a mean-spirited, vindictive woman; or if you believe that the woman will use your children as a weapon to hurt you in the future; or if you simply believe that you are the better parent for the children, fight like hell during the divorce to get primary physical custody of your children. Don’t just lightly decide to give the mother primary physical custody of your children. You might live to regret that decision more than any decision you’ve ever made in your life.

So, men, don’t assume that the mother should have custody of the children after divorce. It just isn’t always so. It might cost you some money, and it won’t be fun, but if you fight hard enough and if you have a good attorney at your side, you just might end up with primary physical custody of your children after divorce. It is worth the effort.

I have become wary of jury trials.  It seems that over the last couple of decades, Americans have collectively become a bunch of terribly ignorant, undereducated people.  I have noticed a complete degeneration of the ability of most Americans to assess information using an analytical thought process.  I personally believe that has to do with the degredation of our public educational system and the fact that expectations of academic achievement have been dumbed down to accommodate the lowest common denominator in our society.  In other words, excellence in academic achievement is not what it used to be because we are all compelled to accept poor performance as adequate so that we don’t hurt anyone’s feelings and so that underachievers can still perceive themselves as achievers.

I believe that the end result of this degradation of our educational system is that a majority of American people can no longer think anaytically and that has a devastating impact on our system of trial by jury.   When a jury is picked, the potential jurors always recite the platitudes…yes, I believe that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty..yes, I believe that guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But, actuallly applying those principles while analyzing the evidence and the law in their deliberations is another matter altogether.

When those jurors are presented with contradictory evidence of a detailed nature and when they are then instructed by the judge to consider that detailed evidence while applying it to the elements of complex criminal law statutes, those same jurors are simply not up to the task.  They do not know how to go about dissecting complex information and examining it critically.  So, they devolve into an emotional analysis of the evidence and the possilbe guilt of the defendant and are comfortable with themselves, believing they have given their best effort at analyzing all that was put before them.  But, they actually have failed miserably at acheiving any level of thoughtful, objective analysis of the evidence or the issues.  The problem is that they, the jurors, are too ignorant of their own limitations to recognize that they are unable to, and have failed to, indulge in thoughtful analysis.

There is a principle called the Dunning-Kruger effect.  It is the simple principle that ignorant people are too ignorant to know that they are ignorant, and, they, therefore, believe that they are capable when they seek to perform a given task. The fact of the matter is that they are failing miserably at their efforts, but they have no basis for making an objective assessment of their own efforts, so they, therefore, belive they are doing much better than they are.  It is called illusory superiority.

I personally believe that Americans generally, including trial jurors, suffer, in significant numbers, from illusory superiority.  Jurors, in particular, smugly believe they are working hard and successfully as they apply their brains while deliberating, but the sad truth is that they are simply incapable of a thorough, sifting analysis of complex information.  The end results of this deficiency are some bizarre outcomes in jury trials.  Just ask any seasoned litigator, prosecutor or defense counsel, and if they are truthful, you’ll find that most such litigators will tell you there is absolutely no method for predicting the outcome of jury deliberations.  We attorneys anticipate, in advance, the complete failure of a jury to reach a logical outcome.

So, if you can, do not trust your fate to a collection of middle Georgia citizens sitting in a jury box.  In a civil or a criminal case, you’re likely to be grievously disappointed with the result.

For those folks who want to know more about the Dunning-Kruger effect, let me give you the following quoted synopsis,

From the Wikipedia:

“The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor
decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the
metacognitive ability to realize their mistakes. The unskilled therefore suffer
from illusory superiority rating their own ability as above average, much
higher than it actually is……”

And, by the way….I’m not a politically correct sort of guy, so I really don’t care if I’ve offended someone with my opinions in this particular blog.

A lot of Georgia citizens do not know the following little piece of information.  Let’s say the cops are investigating a crime.  And, let’s say that they focus on you as a suspect.  If they call you to the police department for an interview….DON’T DO IT!  Here is why. What the cops in Georgia are allowed to do is to call you down to the police station for an interview if you are suspected of committing a crime.  Even if the cop believes you committed the crime and even if the cop intends to arrest you soon, if you voluntarily go to the police station and allow yourself to be interviewed, so long as you are not placed under formal arrest, then anything you say during that interview can be used against you in a court of law, even without Miranda warnings having been given to you.

That is the trick that is often used these days by cops when they are investigating crime.  To prevent you from “lawyering up”, the cop will pretend that he or she just wants to talk to you to further the investigation.  The interview may or may not be recorded and then the cop will let you leave.  However, just a day or so down the road, they’ll arrest you on an arrest warrant.  And, guess what they have now to prosecute you with?  Your own damn statement, often made without Miranda warnings.

A real problem with such law enforcement trickery is that the cop, during that interview might use a trick question or two.  A trick question is like, “Do you still beat your wife?”

Think about that question.  Can you answer it without incriminating yourself?  The answer is absolutely not.  If you answer “yes”, then you’ve admitted you still beat your wife.  If you answer “no”, then you’ve implicitly stated that you used to beat your wife, which may or may not be true.  Either way, you’ve just made a statement that incriminates you, when, in fact, you may have never beat your wife, which would be the truth.  But, try explaining the nuances of that sort of verbal trickery to a brainwashed, brain-dead Georgia jury that is inclined to convict a criminal defendant from start to finish of the trial.

Don’t get set up by the cops.  Don’t talk to the cops if you are a suspect in a crime.  The most powerful word in the English langauge is “no”.  Use it!  If the cops call you down to the station for an interview, it is time to talk to your attorney before you do anything.  In my experience, very few cops are trying to be objective at the point in time when they speak to a suspect during an investigation.  By the time they speak to the suspect, they’ve already made up their mind about the suspect’s guilt and they are only seeking information with which to convict the suspect.   You are being very foolish if you are a suspect and if you go in to speak to a cop and if you expect that officer to be objective and open-minded as he or she questions you about the crime and listens to your responses.

So, refuse to talk to the cops, but always be respectful when you are doing so.  The bottom line though is that you must protect your rights.  Don’t let the cops trick you.

Be aware, under Georgia law, it is okay for the cops to trick you into making incriminating statements while they interview you.   However, if you lie to the cops, it is a felony.  You are not in a good position any time that you are interacting with a law enforcement officer, so make use of a good defense attorney if you find yourself being asked for an interview by a law enforcement officer.

People need to be aware that you do not pick up the phone and dial 911 unless you mean it.  Be aware that if you are having a fuss with your spouse or significant other and you pick up the phone and dial 911, then hang up, without speaking to anyone, the police are still going to be at your door in minutes.  The law enforcement dispatcher locates the address of any 911 call and dispatches the law to that address whether or not he or she speaks to anyone calling in.  Hence, if you’re fussing and one of you calls 911, be ready for one of you to be hauled off to jail!  Don’t call 911 if you’re not serious.

If you are involved in a divorce, and if you decide you will let your spouse keep the house, here is an important consideration that many people don’t know.  Make sure you know whether your name is on the promissory note that financed the purchase of the home.  And, DO NOT, convey your interest in that property to your soon-to-be ex spouse without either he or she refinancing the promissory note to get your name off of it or some very tightly drafted, binding agreement that he or she will refinance that promissory note and get your name off of it in some definite period of time.

It is not enough for you to execute a quit claim deed and convey your interest in the house to your soon-to-be ex spouse.  All that does is vest the complete title to that property in your ex.  The creditor on the promissory note is unaffected by that conveyance and can enforce the obligations of that promissory note against you as a party to that contract (promissory note).  The creditor is a third party whose rights are unaffected by the conveyance between you and your ex.

If you do not get your name off of that promissory note, your ex spouse’s future payment perfomance on that note will end up on your credit report and it can destroy your credit rating if he or she does not make payments on time.  Also, your obligations under that promissory note will be included as a liability if and when you ever apply for a loan in the future.  In other words, your obligation on that promissory note will be a part of your debt to earnings ratio when you apply for credit in the future.  This can interfere with your ability to qualify for future loans.

These negative results can all be avoided by simply getting your name off of the promissory note.  Insist that your divorce attorney make this happen, or sell the house altogether and divide the proceeds.  But, whatever you do, get your name off of the promissory note if you don’t keep the house as a result of a divorce.

I have been made aware of attorneys in divorces who did not bother to advise their clients of the need to get their names off of the promissory note on the house.  The possible adverse impact can affect their former client for years and years.  This level of incompetence is really out there and you must protect yourself.  I hope this little bit of information might be helpful to someone.

A lot of citizens do not know that they can lose their right to purchase, carry, or own a gun if they are convicted of a crime that involves family violence.  That’s right, let’s say you get into a spat with your wife, you push her away while she’s in your face, and she falls down and gets scratched.  The police show up and arrest you.  Incidents like this happen every day.

Well, you end up in the State Court of Houston County, Ga., looking at a battery (family violence) charge.  You’re offered a plea bargain that involves a conviction for family violence battery, a minimal fine and a term of probation, no jail time.  You take it and you think it’s a fair disposition.

Then, you want to buy your next hunting rifle.  Forget it!  That conviction will be picked up by the feds upon your background check and under federal law you’ll be denied the right to buy that firearm.  In fact, that conviction just made it illegal for you to own or possess, or purchase any firearm for the rest of your life.  You can’t even be a law enforcement officer or a member of the military for the rest of your life.  Be very careful how you handle any criminal charge that is designated as involving family violence if you care about your Second Amendment rights.  Never forget that you can lose your Second Amendment rights if you are convicted for family violence battery.

Many citizens know that a man, through a paternity suit, can be obliged to pay child support for an illegitimate child he has fathered .  But, not so many people understand that even if a man is obliged to pay child support for an illegitimate child, he has no custodial rights to the child until and unless the child is legitimated.  The mother, on the other hand, has all the custody rights because she has the biological ability to give birth to the child.  Remember, the father must legitimate an illegitimate child before he has any custodial rights in the child.  That makes legitimation of an illegitimate child very important.

In the last decade or so, I’ve noticed that many more people are willing to lie about most anything more quickly than they used to. I’m not sure why this has happened, unless it is tied to the overall degeneration of our society and its loss of a moral foundation. I’m guessing that too many people attach too much significance to matters that mean a lot of nothing, like…who is most likely to win “American Idol”…instead of attending to matters that should be significant like…protecting and projecting personal honor, contributing to society, becoming better educated, establishing the family wealth, and such. In other words, I’m afraid that Americans have ceased doing the things that make people healthy physically, spiritually, and mentally and they’re wasting their lives on tripe and that is resulting in many lower quality individuals to whom being dishonest comes more easily.

All that having been said, go ahead and lie about anything you want to anyone you want, it doesn’t much matter to me….unless, you are lying to me in a personal capacity or in my professional capacity as your attorney. If you want to alter your reality by lying about it instead of actually adjusting it through your personal actions, that is your life-style choice. It is one that will most certainly bring disaster, but, hey, it’s your life to lead as you please. But, when you are seeking my help as an attorney, or the help of any other attorney for that matter, lying about anything is one of the dumbest things you can do.

An attorney is generally tasked with unravelling some very sticky situation you’ve gotten yourself into. The task is already difficult enough most times, but it is only made more difficult if you lie to your attorney about the facts. Ask yourself, how is your attorney supposed to affect your reality successfully for you, so as to acheive a positive outcome, when the reality which you are portraying through lies does not even exist? Common sense should dictate that it is impossible to alter a fictitous reality since any effort of the attorney exerted to modify that fictitious reality is bound to be misdirected or is bound to be applied to a situation which is substantially different from that which the attorney believes he or she is seeking to affect, thereby rendering your attorney’s efforts on your behalf ineffective.

All of the above seems logical enough when spelled out, but I can’t tell you how many clients have caused me to misdirect my energy and talent, and to waste their money, because I’ve been sent in the wrong direction by their lies. It makes no sense, but maybe this is just one more example of illusory superiority impacting the behavior of people. (For more on illusory superiority, see my blog on avoiding jury trials, if possible.) The people who lie to their attorney must think they are smarter than their attorney and those people must also think they are smarter than everyone else around them, like prosecutors and judges. But, the sad truth is that the people that liars seek to deceive are routinely much smarter than the liars and the liars’ efforts at distorting reality generally fail miserably.

You need to understand that your attorney can only be effective for you if he or she is given the truth. Consider the following as one probable outcome of lying to your attorney. If you feed your attorney a lie and your attorney then speaks that lie to another person while trying to achieve a desired result for you, if the other person discovers the lie, then your attorney has lost credibility and you have irrevocably damaged your attorney’s ability to achieve the result you desire.

But, enough! Carry away from this rambling blog a simple directive. Don’t lie to your attorney. He or she must keep your communications confidential so you have no reason to lie. Be direct and truthful with your attorney. That will serve you best.