BERRY LAW Blog

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4 thoughts on “BERRY LAW Blog

  1. admin Post author

    Help, I just got arrested!

    Most people do not think this will ever happen to them so, when it does, it is quite a shock. But, even good people can find themselves in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong people, and mistakes can be made by police officers and others. It is far better to have a prior understanding of the process and to be prepared just in case you or someone close to you is ever arrested.

    The three tiers of police encounters, simply stated, are 1) an encounter like any other citizen, where one walks up and speaks to you (and you have the right to not respond and to walk away); 2) a brief investigatory detention, where a police officer determines whether there is probable cause to arrest you; and 3) being placed in custody, arrested and taken to jail.

    If you are arrested, you will be handcuffed behind your back and transported to jail in a police car. Most police officers have microphones on their person, and their cars have video viewing inside and outside the car, and audio as well. Whatever you say or do may later be seen by a jury and judge.

    At the jail, all of your belongings will be confiscated, inventoried, and stored. This includes your cell phone, so you need to memorize the phone numbers of a couple of people whom you can trust to come and bail you out of jail, or contact your family and an attorney. You will also be booked, fingerprinted, and have your photograph taken. Your clothes will be taken and you will be given a jail jumpsuit; normally green in color, along with white socks and rubber flip-flops. You will also likely be placed in an administrative holding area until they assign and take you to a pod or other unit within the jail.

    Most people have seen countless police TV shows and movies, where the Miranda warning is given. Two important issues must be present before a Miranda warning is required: 1) You are in custody and not free to leave, and 2) The police officer intends to question you “after” your arrest. Even though most people are aware of Miranda, it is shocking and disappointing at how many people waive their rights and begin to speak to the police and make incriminating statements or even confessions without demanding that their lawyer be present. If you choose to speak with the police, you may remove valuable defenses and tools that your lawyer will need in court as your case progresses.
    A related issue that many people do not think about is when they choose to waive their rights and consent to a police search of their person, home, car, backpack, or other property. If you give up your rights, it will be much more difficult, if not impossible, for your attorney to provide the best defense in your case. Simply put, never consent to such a search! Of course, do not ever attempt to prevent the police from searching if that is what they intend to do, but do not ever give them your consent. What you do and what you say at the beginning will often impact how effective your lawyer can be later on as your case works its way through the criminal justice system.
    The best advice I can give you is likely what you already know but do not think much about. First, remain silent and do not answer any questions from the police without your attorney being present. By law, you are required to provide your photo ID, name and date of birth upon request. Beyond that, I would advise that you say nothing without your attorney. You can say something like, “Excuse me officer, but our family attorney has directed me not to make any statements without him being present.” Next, as quickly as possible, arrange to retain an attorney to represent you.

    Also, understand that all telephone calls are recorded at the jail, so do not make any incriminating statements. Do not discuss the case with police officers, other inmates, family or anyone else but your lawyer. Only your conversations with your attorney are privileged and protected as confidential. Normally, the only telephone calls you can make from the jail are collect calls and, as I said above, you will have to know the number of the party you wish to call.

    Depending upon whether you were arrested with or without a warrant, you will be brought before a judge for a first appearance hearing between 48-72 hours after arrest, at which time the judge will advise you of the charge(s) against you and ask if you have an attorney. He will also normally inform you of the amount of your bail on each charge. If charged with a felony, you may have to wait for a preliminary hearing in order for your attorney to work out a bail amount for you or question any officers who testify as to probable cause for the charge(s). And, there are some charges that require a Superior Court judge to determine the bail amount versus a Magistrate Court judge (who is usually on duty at the jail).

    The best course of action in this initial situation of arrest and jail is normally for a family member or friend to arrange a bail-bond through a bonding company. Normally, the bonding company will require that 12% of the total bond amount be paid to them, which is nonrefundable. A cash bond can also be paid for you, directly to the Sheriff’s bonding section at the jail; with a cash bond, you will normally receive a refund after the final disposition of your case, but you will be required to pay the entire amount up front. Once you bond out of jail, you will be under certain terms and conditions of bond; if you violate any of these, your bond can be revoked and you can be returned to jail.

    Even after you are released from jail, do not discuss your case with anyone except your lawyer. Also, do not make any comments or posts on social media about your case or anything related to your case. Do not post incriminating photos or information.

    Contact an attorney as early as possible in the process. He can help you to understand the process and he can assist in getting things done for you as quickly as possible. It is very unwise to proceed without attorney representation.

    If you or a loved one has been arrested, call me today:

    Wallace M. Berry
    Attorney at Law
    BERRY LAW LLC
    600 South Perry Street
    Lawrenceville, GA 30046
    678-442-1126
    http://www.BerryLawGA.com
    Wallace@BerryLawGA.com

  2. admin Post author

    HELP, I’VE BEEN HURT IN A CAR WRECK!

    WHAT TO DO AT THE SCENE
    1. If there is anyone injured, call 911 immediately. Unless a person is in immediate danger, it is usually best not to move them since doing so could cause further damage to their neck and spine, etc.
    2. If a police officer asks if you are hurt, say yes if you are sure you are hurt, or say I’m not sure since you could have internal or unknown injuries. Never refuse an ambulance ride to the hospital, because that is the safest course of action. Never fail to obtain treatment just because you do not currently have health insurance; hospitals and Emergency Rooms have a duty to treat you if you are injured.
    3. If you are not seriously injured and it is safe to do so, you may want to move the vehicles off of the roadway and onto the shoulder/emergency lane, and turn on your warning flashers to alert other motorists.
    4. Obtain the other driver’s insurance information, driver’s license information and license plate number. Never admit fault! If possible, obtain witness information as well. I also like to take photos of their vehicle and license plate.
    5. If able and it is safe to do so, take photographs of all vehicles and damage, as well as the crash scene from all angles. Sketch the scene on paper and make any pertinent notes. After your initial treatment, have photos taken of any visible injuries or bruises.
    6. Contact an experienced attorney before making any statements to your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
    7. Do not attempt to represent yourself. By doing so, you may put your case at risk and may greatly diminish any financial compensation your attorney might obtain for you.

    MEDICAL TREATMENT
    My experience is that many clients think they are “fine” at the time of the collision, only to wake up a day or two later with severe pain in their back, neck or other areas of the body. The truth is that you will likely be in shock at the scene and you may be unaware of the true extent of your injuries. Always seek treatment at the time of the crash.

    Follow your doctor’s advice with regard to treatment, and follow-up with any referrals to other specialists. Ensure that you attend all appointments and do not miss recommended treatment. Keep in mind that you will likely have to use your own insurance in order to seek medical treatment after the collision, or pay for medical services out of pocket.

    However, in many cases, IF you are represented by an attorney and it is needed, there are doctors who will agree to “treat you on a lien.” That means that they will wait to be paid out of any settlement or verdict proceeds your attorney obtains for you upon the close of your case.

    MEETING WITH YOU LAWYER
    Your lawyer can answer your questions and assist you with maximizing compensation for you injuries.
    Your lawyer will need to know the following:

    1. The date of the collision?
    2. Your insurance carrier and policy number?
    3. The insurance carrier for the at-fault driver and policy number?
    4. The police report number, and officer name and badge number?
    5. The extent of your injuries, diagnosis, treatment, and bills?
    6. The number of people in your car?
    7. The names of doctors you have consulted?

    WHO PAYS FOR MY CAR REPAIR OR REPLACEMENT?
    The at-fault driver’s insurance company should pay for your car repair or, if your car is a total loss, provide a check to cover the entire amount of the loss. There are times when their insurance company will try to use less expensive parts; you always want to require OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts in the repair.

    Georgia law also states that you are entitled to compensation for the “diminished value” of your car, if it has been wrecked and repaired.

    WHO PAYS FOR MY RENTAL CAR?
    Normally, the at-fault insurance carrier will provide a rental car but, in some instances, you may have to obtain a rental through your own carrier, so you should always have rental car coverage as a part of you policy.

    AFTER THE WRECK
    Do not agree to make any statements (except to the police officer at the scene), recorded on the telephone or in person without your attorney being present. Do not sign any document without your attorney reviewing them first. Some insurance adjusters will attempt to trick you into signing away your legal rights. If you do, your claim is forever lost.

    CHOOSING THE RIGHT LAWYER
    All lawyers are not the same and may not have the same level of experience. You want to choose a lawyer who has experience handling car wrecks/personal injury cases and who is able to proceed to litigation and trial if that is best for you in order to try and maximize your compensation.

    KEEP A PAIN JOURNAL
    I ask all of my clients to maintain a daily pain journal, wherein they describe their level of pain at different times of the day, with 1 being the lowest pain and 10 being the worst pain. Clients should include information about how their injuries have caused them to cease certain activities or scale back; basically, any way in which this crash has changed your life.
    The journal is not only cathartic, but you will likely not remember certain things weeks and months afterward, so it is important to keep a written record.

    TO SETTLE OR TO FILE A LAWSUIT?
    Most personal injury cases settle without the need for filing a lawsuit. However, in some cases the at-fault insurer will leave you no choice but to file a lawsuit before they get serious about properly compensating you. Many other cases will settle prior to trial, but some will have to proceed to trial due to an unreasonable insurer. You and your lawyer will discuss these options as your case progresses.

    HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE?
    Every client and situation is different and there is no set formula for determining how long it will take for a resolution. You will have to complete all medical treatment prior to your lawyer attempting to settle your claims, so that may be as short as 3-9 months in some cases.

    FINAL REMINDERS
    1. The at-fault insurance company’s goal is to minimize your injuries and reduce your financial compensation.
    2. Anything you say may be recorded and used against you.
    3. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will not pay for your medical treatment at the outset.
    4. If you sustained injuries in the crash, you will need to pay for your medical treatment via insurance or out of pocket. But, if you are represented by an attorney, many doctors will agree to “treat you on a lien.”
    5. If your health insurance pays for your medical treatment, you will normally be required to pay them back from any financial recovery in your case.
    6. If the other insurance company will not agree to a reasonable settlement of your claims, you may have to file a lawsuit to try and obtain a reasonable recovery.

    If you or a loved one has been injured in a car wreck through the fault of another, call me today:

    Wallace M. Berry
    Attorney at Law
    BERRY LAW LLC
    600 South Perry Street
    Lawrenceville, GA 30046
    404-955-8253
    WallaceBerry@BerryLawFirmLLC.com

  3. admin Post author

    “Help, I just got a traffic ticket!”

    There you are, driving along and enjoying life. Then, all of a sudden, you see those blue lights coming up behind you. Your heart beats faster, as you hope he is stopping someone else. But, you soon realize that you are his target.

    Being a wise driver, you put on your turn signal and identify the closest place you can safely pull over and stop. Once you are stopped, you place your car in park, roll down your window, and place your hands on your steering wheel to allay any fears of the police officer. If it is at night, you also turn on your overhead dome light to put the officer at ease as he approaches your vehicle.

    Upon his request, you provide your driver’s license, registration, and insurance information. However, you do not confess to any illegal behavior and you do not apologize or say you were sorry for speeding or some other crime.

    You are polite and civil to the officer and, because of that, he issues you a citation instead of arresting you and taking you to jail. You realize that the time to argue your case is not on the side of the road, but later in a courtroom.

    Reasons you may be stopped
    There are many reasons for which a police officer may stop you. One of the most common is speeding. Others are window tint that is too dark, changing lanes in a reckless manner or without using a signal, driving over the fog line, riding someone’s bumper, swerving in your lane, sitting at a green light, or acting suspiciously in some manner. Legally, the police must have a valid reason to stop you, and it must be more than a hunch or gut feeling.
    Another area that gives the police the reason to stop you is failing to properly maintain your car. That may include, but is not limited to, having a large crack on the windshield; a non-working tail-light, brake light, headlight, or tag light; a suspicious tag or no license plate.

    Can the police search my car?
    The police can search if you are placed under arrest or you give your permission (consent). In a polite way, never give your consent to a search of your car, person, backpack, luggage, etc.

    The Ticket
    Once the officer has issued you a citation, you may then leave the scene and be on your way. The citation has a lot of information on it but, for you, one of the most important items is near the bottom where it shows you the court, date, and time you must appear in court.

    What’s next?
    The next thing you should do is consult with an experienced attorney. Trying to handle a ticket on your own is not advised. I cannot tell you how many times clients have come to me after trying to handle their own case, only to say to me, “I didn’t know I could lose my license!” or some other consequence.
    Also, do not pay your ticket on-line without first consulting with your attorney. Paying on-line means you are pleading GUILTY, and that may have more serious consequences than you know.
    Your attorney can evaluate your case, discuss the law, and represent you in discussions with the prosecutor, or at trial.

    Your Driver’s License and Points
    In Georgia, driving is a privilege. If you receive 15 or more points in any 24-month time period, your license will be suspended. Also, there are other offenses that carry mandatory suspensions.

    Super-Speeder
    Also, if you are cited for going 75 miles per hour on a 2-lane road, or 85 on any road or highway, you can be assessed a super-speeder fine of an additional $200, payable to the State of Georgia.

    Court appearances
    Your attorney will speak to you about when and whether you must appear in court. Do not miss a court appearance, because a judge will issue a bench warrant for your immediate arrest.

    There are many considerations when you receive a traffic ticket: how many points will I receive against my driver’s license?, will my license be suspended?, how much will my fine be?, will I have to take a class like defensive driving?, will I be placed on probation?. Your attorney will advise you as to the best possible outcome in your case.

    There are also more serious potential consequences for a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) driver or underage 21 driver.

    I want to help you!
    I make my living helping people, and I want to help you. Do not make the mistake of going unrepresented. I charge a reasonable fee to represent those charged with traffic offenses.
    If you have received a ticket, call me today:

    Wallace M. Berry
    Attorney at Law
    BERRY LAW LLC
    600 South Perry Street
    Lawrenceville, GA 30046
    678-442-1126
    404-955-8253
    http://www.BerryLawGA.com
    WallaceBerry@BerryLawFirmLLC.com

  4. admin Post author

    HELP, I JUST GOT SUED IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT!

    Any person or entity may sue another for any valid legal claim in Magistrate Court, if such claim does not exceed $15,000.00. Generally, you must file a lawsuit in the county in which the Defendant resides, and have the Sheriff personally serve that lawsuit on the Defendant. The advantages to filing in Magistrate Court (small civil claims court) are lower filing fees and a quicker trial schedule. The disadvantages are the lower monetary cap for a possible judgment, no “Discovery” of the opposing party (written questions and requests for documents), and no jury trial available.

    DO I NEED A LAWYER?
    While you may prosecute a case yourself, other disadvantages are not knowing the rules of evidence and the court, possibly being too emotionally involved, and running the risk that you may fail to properly present your case. For example, many people mistakenly believe that they can bring affidavits to court but, since an affidavit cannot be cross-examined (questioned), they are not admissible in Magistrate Court. Also, it is likely that only an attorney will know when to object to certain testimony or evidence.

    ANALYZING YOUR CASE
    Most of the time, it is wise to hire a lawyer to handle your small claims case. Your attorney can advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case, whether there are any available factual or legal defenses, whether you may have any available counterclaims, and whether it may be better to proceed to trial or to negotiate a settlement of your case.

    WHAT IF I DON’T FILE AN ANSWER?
    If you fail to file an Answer to the Plaintiff’s Lawsuit (Complaint), then the judge will enter a default judgment against you for the monetary damages that the Plaintiff has requested. The Plaintiff can then obtain a lien against you and seek to collect all money due under the judgment via garnishment and other methods. There are strict time constraints for opening a default, so you should not delay in consulting with your lawyer if you are in default.

    WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS IN COURT?
    If you believe you may want to attempt to settle your case, discussions may be held between your attorney and the opposing attorney, or the parties may choose to proceed to mediation (in court but before the trial) where a neutral third person (usually another attorney) meets with both parties together and attempts to resolve the case without a trial.

    THE TRIAL
    If you choose a trial or the other party wants a trial, it will be a shorter version of other trials you have seen or read about. Each side may present a brief Opening Statement before the judge. The Plaintiff then has the burden of presenting testimony and/or evidence that supports their claims by a “preponderance of the evidence.” The Defendant will then present testimony and/or evidence that supports their position. Each side also has the right to cross-examine each witness during the trial. After each side has rested their case, their attorneys may each give a brief Closing Argument, giving all of the reasons why their client should win the case. After this, the judge will render his or her verdict and then sign an Order.

    CAN I APPEAL IF I LOSE?
    In Magistrate Court for civil claims, either party who loses the trial has the right to appeal to a higher court, called a “de novo” appeal.

    HOW MUCH MAY THIS COST?
    You can afford to retain an attorney to represent you in Magistrate Court. Depending upon the complexity of the case and whether you have any counterclaims, you may qualify for our $500 flat fee.

    Call me at 678.442.1126 to arrange for a $60 consultation (for 30 minutes), at my office, about your small claims case. Don’t go unrepresented and don’t go it alone!

    Wallace M. Berry
    Attorney at Law
    BERRY LAW LLC
    600 South Perry Street
    Lawrenceville, GA 30046
    678-442-1126
    404-955-8253
    WallaceBerry@BerryLawFirmLLC.com
    “Seeking Justice for You”

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