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.
Sometimes our role is not to avoid a conviction. Sometimes people are guilty and that is just what the evidence proves. When this happened, a defense attorney must pursue the strategy that best protects that client. Mr. Beach’s client was a driver of a car that was in a single car accident. The problem was that Mr. Beach’s client was drunk and had passengers. These facts were not good. The prosecutor’s position was that Mr. Beach’s client must do a minimum of 13 months of prison. Mr. Beach got his client into alcohol treatment immediately (two days after his arrest). By the time Mr. Beach’s client needed to enter a plea, the reports from his treatment providers were so good that the judge agreed to postpone the case another two months to see how well he would do by being allowed to finish that course of treatment. Two months later, the judge agreed that Mr. Beach’s client showed every indication of taking treatment seriously and dedicating himself to change. Accordingly, the judge agreed to allow probation rather that prison (with an obligation to continue treatment and to perform community service). Due to Mr. Beach’s work (and his client taking treatment seriously), his client avoided prison, changed his life to a better one, society saved the cost of imprisoning someone, and society gained a better and safer person.
The case involved an allegation that Ms. Johnson’s client hit her boyfriend with a hot hair straightener and when he then tried to call 911 that she took away the phone. Ms. Johnson didn’t challenge the factual allegation but rather spent the trial talking about why her client did those acts and encouraged the jury to decide the case upon what Ms. Johnson’s client intended to do through her actions. Based upon diving into the issue of ‘intent’ alone, the Jury returned a Not Guilty verdict!
This was another case where Mr. Beach’s client was accused of Assault 4 (364 days jail possible) and Harassment (6 months jail possible). The case involved arguing spouses throwing the toddler’s toys at each other. The prosecution wanted Mr. Beach’s client to attend a minimum of thirty-six weeks of domestic violence batterers intervention classes due to the allegation. Mr. Beach took it to trial. The jury took twenty-six minutes to return a verdict of Not Guilty!