When someone commits a crime and that crime causes someone else to lose money or value to property, the person who lost money or value can ask the court to make the criminal defendant pay for the loss. This request and obligation is called restitution. Unfortunately, people know that there is little oversight over this process and often this process if abused. Mr. Beach had a case where we agreed that our client had caused $14,000 in medical bills. However, the person decided he wished to receive $41,000. Mr. Beach, naturally challenged that number reversal. Through cross examination, Mr. Beach convinced the judge that this was a falsely excessive claim. The judge accordingly reduced the amount to what was actually supported by the bills – just as Mr. Beach wanted from the beginning.
A shelter care hearing is the first hearing that occurs after the department of human services removes a child from that child’s family. At this one, Ms. Johnson represented a parent and challenged both the government’s claims for why this child should be in foster care and why the government should have any involvement in this family at all. Ms. Johnson completely won causing the child to be returned home and ‘temporary jurisdiction’ (the power of the Court and DHS) to be dismissed!
Mr. Goldman’s client was facing driving under the influence convictions number five and six. Due to the dates of convictions for numbers one through three, these new charges only faced 364 days of jail each (for a total of two days short of two years). The evidence was so strong that although Mr. Goldman would normally pursue a trial under such circumstances, he instead focused on pre-trial motions and sentencing mitigation. At the final stage, the prosecutor was demanding that Mr. Goldman’s client serve at least six months of jail. After Mr. Goldman’s presentation, the judge imposed a total of 4 days of jail with 16 more days of custody, but with eligibility for all programs (work release, etc). Since, Mr. Goldman’s client has already done that time prior to this stage of the case, Mr. Goldman’s client faced no additional jail time.
Mr. Thiesen’s client is a mother who tested positive at the hospital for methamphetamines. The Department of Human Services (child welfare) asked the judge to allow them to remove her child from her care due to this test. This mom denied using methamphetamines and had no idea why that one test indicated she had used. At the hearing called a ‘shelter care hearing’, DHS presented their case for removal of this child from this family because of that test. Mr. Thiesen argued that even if that test was accurate (something he also disputed) that DHS presented no evidence that the child was being harmed or that mother’s care of the child was harmed at all. Accordingly, this child got to stay at home with mom!
Mr. Goldman’s client appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. He was also waiting alone in a parked car. Mr. Goldman’s client told the four police officers who arrived that he hadn’t driven and that the driver was in the building ‘right over there’. The police chose not to believe him and arrested him for DUII. At trial, the police testified that that there was no evidence that there had been another driver. So, Mr. Goldman cross examined the primary officer using the officer’s own report that confirmed they were told exactly where the actual driver was (walking distance). The officer denied that having that information along with the clear denials of driving were evidence and they didn’t feel they should check if there was actually a driver in the building. Since the officer’s report didn’t support the officer’s testimony, the jury was unable to resolve the case and a mistrial was declared.
Sometimes DHS will take kids from a family without wishing to trouble themselves of the necessity of proving that the kids need to be removed from that family for their safety. Unfortunately, most people don’t understand that they don’t have to agree with the plan DHS imposes upon them. For this family, thankfully, they reached out to an attorney. So, when the family wouldn’t ‘agree’ to have their kids taken into foster care, DHS had to go to court. At court, Mr. Beach proved that the reason DHS claimed there was a ‘safety threat’ had nothing to do with actual ‘safety threats’ the court could or would find to be true (the facts were not as DHS claimed). Accordingly, the kids went home!
Mr. Goldman’s client was accused of Assault 4 and Harassment in a domestic relationship. His client is not a US citizen. He was eligible for the Washington County Domestic Violence Deferred Sentencing Program. Although that option would result in both charges being dismissed, it would also likely result in his deportation due to the requirement that he admit to committing the Assault charge. So, his client really had no option but to go to trial. At trial, the evidence from the prosecution was that Mr. Goldman’s client had punched his girlfriend in the face causing obvious injury. If that was believed by the jury, it is essentially the crime of Assault 4. Mr. Goldman naturally challenged everything. The jury returned with a Not Guilty on the Assault 4 and a Guilty on the Harassment. Mr. Goldman’s client was therefore saved. He will still have to do domestic violence treatment pursuant to the Harassment conviction – but, he always agreed that he needed to engage in that treatment. Now, he can do that treatment and continue to work his way to US citizenship.
Mr. Thiesen’s client was a poor single dad. He was running behind on his payments to his day care provider. His day care provider, however, was willing to allow Mr. Thiesen’s client to run up a debt while the he was struggling financially. Unfortunately, DHS believed that an inability to keep current with day care expenses was a threat to a child’s safety and therefore this child should be removed from his father care. The fact that this child’s home was considered safe and he was receiving sufficient food and clothing – and that the day care provider was willing to continue to care for the child while his dad was unable – did not dissuade DHS. So, DHS filed a request with the court to remove this child from his father. At the shelter care hearing (the court appearance when DHS asks a judge to confirm a decision to remove a child from a family) Mr. Thiesen presented all the evidence showing that all the physical and psychological needs of this child were being met by his dad and also presented the prior case law on this issue pointing out that merely being poor is not a reason to have one’s child removed from home and place into the foster care system. The judge agreed, no removal was allowed and the case against this family was dismissed!
Ms. Johnson’s client was accused of assault in the fourth degree. This carries up to 364 days of jail (it used to be one year, but was reduced by one day). The case was a ‘he said, she said’ situation where the only witnesses to the event were the person claiming this occurred and Ms. Johnson’s client saying it didn’t. This is fairly common in domestic violence cases. This case, however, had a problem. The complaining ‘victim’ had a large goose egg on her forehead that she didn’t have before the argument. That obvious injury had to be explained. Of course, she said that Ms. Johnson’s client had punched her in the forehead causing that swelling and pain. Ms. Johnson’s client said he didn’t know how she was injured and that she must have self-inflicted it.
Preparation (as is always essential) won this case for Ms. Johnson. When it was time for the complaining ‘victim’ to be cross examined, Ms. Johnson tore into each of her inconsistencies and motivations. When it was time for Ms. Johnson’s client to testify, he was ready. He testified calmly, consistency, and clearly. Within an hour after the jury went to the jury room, they returned with a verdict of Not Guilty.
Mr. Goldman’s client was accused of shoving his former girlfriend against a car and hitting her. This was supposedly done in a public park in front of many witnesses. Having a group of strangers testify that they saw something, and that something was all the same, would normally be a problem for defense. Here, however, the police reports were suspicious in that all the statements were too prosecution friendly. Investigating the case, Mr. Goldman saw that this case needed to go to trial because these claims of uniformity of witness opinion did not match the physical reality of where people were at the time of the event. Since the prosecutor would not discuss the case nor talk to the witnesses until the start of trial (not unusual in misdemeanor cases), Mr. Goldman had to wait until the morning of trial. With all the witnesses there, the witnesses confirmed to the prosecutor that what they saw and said was not what the police wrote in the reports. Seeing the hopelessness of obtaining a conviction, the prosecutor dismissed the case rather than be defeated at trial.