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March 09, 2016

St. Patrick’s Day DUI: Luck is NOT on Your Side

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun and festive time for people of all ages. It’s an annual celebration of all things green, and at least for that one day of the year, we can all pretend to be just a little bit Irish. Unfortunately, for far too many American families, St. Patrick’s Day has ended in tragedy. It’s such a problem that one NBC affiliate has labelled it the “deadliest day of the year”.

Image Courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Tagged: Automobile Accidents, car accident lawyer, DUI, Personal Injury Attorneys in Jackson MS, Traffic Stops

October 31, 2015

Protect Your Rights at a DUI Checkpoint/Road Block

In Mississippi, if convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), you face penalties from both the court and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08%, and if you are found driving with a BAC of higher concentration, you are almost guaranteed to receive an alcohol-related citation (and some pretty hefty penalties, along with it). Even if your BAC is below the legal limit, you are opening yourself up to significant trouble if you choose to drink and drive. You can view a list of possible penalties at DMV.org.

Tagged: Automobile Accidents, Criminal Law, DUI, Traffic Stops

October 06, 2014

New DUI Laws in Mississippi - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

On October 1 of this year, the DUI laws in this state got a face-lift. As with most changes to our laws, there are some very happy groups and some not-so-happy groups. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was very happy about this change in penalties for driving under the influence--though some groups originally pushed for a lower Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Luckily for restaurateurs and social drinkers, the desired change of BAC from the current 0.08 to 0.05 did not occur. However, the DUI laws did see some substantial changes in the latest legislative session.

Tagged: Criminal Law, DUI, Legal question, Mississippi Statutes, Traffic Stops

January 30, 2014

One for the Road?

I've recently had several people call in about getting ticketed for having an open container of alcohol, usually in conjunction with being arrested for DUI. Many of these callers have all said the same thing: "But my friend told me there were no such things as open container laws in Mississippi! They can't arrest me for that!" In doing some research for this post, I also found this article on Huffington Post, which may be where my potential client's "friend" got his information. And while I still caution you on using any legal advice or information given to you by your friend--unless, of course, your friend is a lawyer--in the case of open container laws in Mississippi, he might be right.

Tagged: Criminal Law, DUI, Legal question, Traffic Stops

October 18, 2013

7 Ways to Talk Your Way Out of a Traffic Ticket in Mississippi

We've all been there. "Driving down the road tryin' to loosen your load with seven women on your mind" when, BAM, you see the blue lights. You look down and see you're driving in excess of the posted speed limit. You pull over. Palms start sweating. Heart rate is pounding. You do a quick sweep of the interior of the car to make sure there are no body parts, etc.

You put your hands on the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 position. Do you get your driver's license and insurance card ready? Should you be fidgeting around in the car with a police officer approaching the car? You get a glimpse of the approaching officer and he looks unpleasant. He's wearing a typical "smedium" size uniform shirt which apparently are all these guys wear. You giggle at the sight but quickly remember the impending speeding ticket you're about to receive. Your insurance rates are going to go up. Plus you'll be paying a fine and court costs. Ugh, is there any way you can talk yourself out of this????

Well, I'm going to give you seven proven ways that people have used to get out of a speeding ticket. Now, keep in mind that police officers don't want to hear excuses or "can you please let me go with a warning" so you won't see those here. Use them if you like but if they don't work, don't blame me!

1. "I'm late for a funeral". A lady was trying to get to her grandfather's funeral and got lost. She was driving around for hours trying to find the place. She panicked when she thought she was going to miss the entire funeral so she started speeding. She was pulled over and explained why she was late. The officer happened to know she was telling the truth because he had actually received the call to go the her grandfather's house when he passed away.

The trick here is to always keep a fake family obituary in your car at all times. Simply print one out each day before work and change the date. It would also help if you dressed in dark colors. Add some Visine to the eyes if you get pulled over for some fake tears. Please note that the tears may not work for male drivers. In fact, such actions may get you ridiculed and/or tasered.

2. Clown Around: Our next story comes from a lady who dresses up as a clown for children's parties. She was dressed in full clown attire when she was stopped for speeding. However, she left her driver's license in her other pants! As the officer approached the car, she leaned out the window and remarked "Why sure officer, you can have a balloon animal!" After the officer composed himself he let her go.

Ok, dressing as a clown every day won't work for most of us and it you do dress as a clown you could be mistaken for a John Wayne Gacy type. (Too soon?) I think the point here is humor can go a long way. Police officers have highly stressful jobs and they encounter people who really don't like them all day. Making them laugh never hurts. But if you're not funny try this funny line: If the officer asks you why you were going so fast simply tell him that your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend left you for a police officer and when you saw the blue lights you were afraid the cop was trying to bring he/she back.

3. "Cop to it." One lady has been pulled over 43 times for speeding but has only been ticketed 4 times. Her secret? She readily admits she was speeding, offers no excuse, and apologizes.

Police officers hear bogus stories all day. If all you did was speed (not a jailable offense in Mississippi) it may not be a bad idea to fall on the sword.

4. "I gotta pee". A lady in Florida was driving home when nature called. She was only a mile from her house so she floored it. She was pulled over and when the officer approached he asked the squirming speeder why she was in such a hurry. The lady was reluctant to say anything but then her 7 year old daughter blurted out "she has to pee! She has to go really bad!" The now blushing Mom admitted that this was true. The officer laughed and let her go.

The moral of the story is bad bladder control can be useful.

5. "I'm contagious". One lady reports that she had a horrible case of bronchitis when she was stopped for speeding. As the officer stood by the window she broke into a violent coughing spell. The officer, clearly a germaphobe, quickly allowed the sick lady to go on her way with a warning and a cough drop.

Keep in mind that if you fake an illness you are likely to be arrested for being stupid.

6. "Citizen's Arrest": One man was pulled over because his rear tag light was out. As the officer explained the reason for the stop, the man looked through his rear view mirror and started chuckling. The officer asked what was so funny. The man replied "you have a headlight out". The officer quickly put away the ticket book and allowed the man to go on his way.

You really have to be careful here. This only works if the officer has a problem with his car. Please don't try to fabricate one by say, busting out the cop's tail light when he's not looking.

7. "Walk This Way": Finally, our last tale comes from a man who was driving down the road jamming to an Aerosmith tune. When the officer asked why he was driving so fast the driver simply responded that you simply can't drive slow when listening to Aerosmith. The officer, apparently an Aerosmith fan, gave the man a warning.

Please be smart here. Always use Classic Rock tunes as the excuse for your speeding even if you weren't listening to one. Never, EVER, under any circumstances should you admit listening to any of the following: Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, PSY or any of their ilk.

Tagged: Traffic Stops

August 07, 2013

License Tag Covers - Worth the Possible Stop?

On the way to take my son to daycare this morning I pulled behind a vehicle much nicer than mine when I noticed a small problem. At the next red light, I snapped this picture to share with our readers.
As you can see, the driver of this vehicle is a New Orleans Saints fan (I'm gonna guess post-2005 when all the Saints fans came out of the woodwork). He's proudly displaying his loyalty to his NFL team by placing a mighty fine tag cover around his license plate. What he probably does not realize is that he is giving any law enforcement officer probable cause to pull him over.

The Mississippi Code, specifically in 27-19-31, states in relevant part: "Any person who...covers any portion of a license tag with any sticker, decoration, paint, marking, license plate bracket or holder...in such a manner that the characters and any legally affixed decals on the tag cannot be read, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished by a fine of not more than Twenty-five dollars. ($25.00)" The statute goes on to say that it's acceptable for the county name at the bottom of the tag to be partially or completely covered.

Look at that tag again. Can you tell when the tag expires? I think I can, but the answer is completely within the discretion of the person answering the question. I am willing to bet the driver of this vehicle can afford the $25.00 fine and the ridiculously high court costs that get tacked on to each traffic violation, but the fine is hardly the problem. If you are anything like me, you enjoy living your life without governmental interference, even from law abiding law enforcement officers. Displaying my loyalty to a certain team through a tag holder is not worth it to me. Usually we just keep the tag holder on the vehicle from when we purchased the car. Car dealerships love it when we're lazy. We become driving billboards for their dealership. These tag holder often cover parts of the tag in violation of 27-19-31.

If you are arguing with the officer that you think you can see all the portions of your tag that need to be seen, you have already lost. It isn't enough that you could "win your case in court." Do you want to be stopped at all? No. The tag holder gives the officer the reason he/she needs to stop you, temporarily detain you, and "get in your business."

Display your team loyalty, collegiate affiliation (real or imagined), fraternal organization, etc. in some other way that does not cover your license plate. Do not give law enforcement officers the probable cause they need to pull you over.

Tagged: Criminal Law, Traffic Stops

June 25, 2013

"Permeating" a Vehicle Deemed Unconstitutional Search

In U.S. v. Taylor, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia recently held that the police strategy of "permeating" a vehicle, prior to a drug dog sniffing the vehicle for drugs, constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. Permeating a vehicle, or entering the suspect's vehicle without a warrant and tampering with the controls, involves turning the vehicle "on", rolling up the vehicle's windows, and adjusting the air conditioning to blow odors from the inside of the vehicle to the exterior, so the drug dog can more easily sniff out illegal drugs. This process of tampering with the interior mechanisms of the vehicle increases the likelihood that the drug dog, sniffing the exterior of the vehicle, will pick up the scent of any illegal drugs inside the vehicle. Since this search was performed without a warrant, and these officers did not have probable cause to search Taylor's vehicle, the judge found the officers' permeation unconstitutional. The officers' entry into the suspect's private automobile, to gather evidence they otherwise would have been unable to obtain lawfully, constituted an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.

Although permeation has become a fairly common practice in many jurisdictions across the country, this West Virginia court found the practice unconstitutional. The court relied on two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions to make this ruling: U.S. v. Jones and Florida v. Jardines. In Jones, the Supreme Court determined that placing a GPS device on the suspect's private property (his vehicle), without a warrant, was not only trespassing, but also constituted an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, since this device was used to collect information about the suspect for over a month before his arrest. In Jardines, the Supreme Court upheld the Court's decision in Jones, finding that a police officer could not enter a suspect's porch, which was held to be an extension of the person's home, with the intention of conducting a search of the property without a warrant. Since the officer brought a drug dog to the porch for the purpose of carrying out a warrantless search, the Court held that the officer performed an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.
When permeating a vehicle, the officer unlawfully enters the suspect's vehicle without probable cause. The officers entered Taylor's vehicle for one reason: to "stack the deck" against him by making it more likely the drug dog sniffing the exterior of his car would be able to detect the smell of illegal drugs, if any were hidden inside the car. The West Virginia court recognized the unconstitutionality of this practice, and stood up for Taylor's civil rights. As the Jones opinion notes, the government may not trespass, or physically enter private property, to collect information about suspects, without a warrant or probable cause. Doing so constitutes an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. Because the officers physically entered the suspect's private property without a warrant, and performed an unlawful search of his vehicle, Taylor's constitutional rights were violated. Thus, physically entering private property without a warrant, to aid in the search of a suspect's property, is unlawful under the Fourth Amendment.
If you, or a loved one, have fallen victim to an unlawful search, please contact the skilled attorneys at Coxwell & Associates today. To learn more about civil rights litigation, please visit our website.

Tagged: Civil Rights, Traffic Stops

June 10, 2013

Coxwell & Associates' Mullins Wins DUI Case

Recently, the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down a very favorable decision regarding DUI convictions. The case, Freeman v. State of Mississippi
Freeman v. State
, litigated by Coxwell & Associates' very own Chuck Mullins, resulted in a very favorable outcome for our client, as it is not very often the Supreme Court reverses a DUI conviction.
Dr. Freeman was convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) first offense, by the Madison County Justice Court. On appeal, the State was put under a court order to preserve specific video evidence, vital to Freeman's defense. However, this key evidence was eventually destroyed, in violation of the court order mandating the State to preserve this evidence. As a result, the Supreme Court determined that, without this key evidence, Dr. Freeman would be unable to present a complete defense. The arresting officer even admitted at trial that this evidence would have cleared up any unanswered questions regarding Dr. Freeman's traffic stop and arrest.
When Dr. Freeman agreed to a continuance, he did so under one stipulation - that the video recording of the traffic stop would be preserved for defense counsel's use at trial. However, this evidence was destroyed while the arresting officer was away on active military duty. Without this objective video evidence, which undoubtedly would have cleared up any unresolved questions regarding the traffic stop, the Supreme Court decided that Dr. Freeman would be unable to present a complete defense without the evidentiary support and aid of the videotaped arrest. As a result, the Court reversed and remanded Dr. Freeman's DUI conviction - a great result for our client.
At Coxwell & Associates, the best advice we can give clients regarding drinking and driving is simple: NEVER, under any circumstances, get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. However, as Dr. Freeman can attest to, the attorneys at Coxwell & Associates are here for you if you, or a loved one, ever have any questions regarding DUI convictions. Our experienced and knowledgeable attorneys will work hard to achieve the results you expect. To learn more about DUI defense, click here.

Tagged: DUI, Traffic Stops

March 07, 2013

Can the police stop me for that???

Recently I was hired to defend a young man who was charged with one felony count of possession of marijuana. The entire amount seized by the police was 34.5 grams - just enough to be considered a felony by Mississippi law. According to a witness in the vehicle, the officer explained why he pulled my client over: "You have an out of county tag, and you were driving through this neighborhood late at night."
Here at Coxwell & Associates, we hear many different versions of traffic stops when we work cases, but I had never heard a witness say something to this effect. I advised them that when we receive the discovery in this case we would be able to determine exactly why the officer pulled my client over that night. If we had the facts on our side, a suppression hearing may be our best route.
A few months later after my client was indicted and arraigned, we requested all of the evidence the State had against my client. The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as the local rules regarding discovery, basically demands the prosecution furnish to the defendant this evidence. Everyone has the right to confront those who have evidence against them, and a good criminal defense attorney will search through the evidence to understand exactly what the state intends to prove at trial. In this case, the report actually stated exactly what the witness had told me. My client was "guilty" of driving at night with an out of county tag, so in the mind of the officer, he could conduct a traffic stop and then search the vehicle without my client's consent. The United States Supreme Court and even the Mississippi Supreme Court begs to differ with the officer on this issue.
After a fifteen minute discussion with the assistant district attorney in their office, they agreed to dismiss the case and conceded the officer needed more training in this area.
This case is an example of why everyone should always discuss their case with a reputable attorney to explore what options are available under our current laws. When someone is charged with a crime, it is imperative to secure a knowledgeable attorney in that specific area. Find someone who you trust to work the case on your behalf. Call us and we will be glad to set up an appointment to discuss your case with you.

Tagged: Criminal Law, Possession, Traffic Stops