Birmingham Criminal Defense Blog

Issues of Oversight in Alabama’s Oldest Law Enforcement Agency

Posted in Alabama Criminal Law

Law enforcement officials who abuse their power are a constant source of struggle, especially at the local and state level. Now, Alabama’s oldest law enforcement agency is under scrutiny and could face a total overhaul. The Constables Association is being investigated for growing concerns regarding a number of constables with arrest records in Mobile County.

The arrest of one Constables for murder in July only fanned the flames concerning the agency.

According to Fox10 News reports, many constables in Alabama have criminal records and little or no training. There is also no agency or commission in Alabama charged with the oversight of these elected law enforcement officers. Even after pleading guilty to trafficking cocaine, one constable was still acting Constable for Precinct, 34 months after his conviction.  Even the head of Alabama Peace Officer’s Standards and Training Commission (APOST) voiced concern there are convicted felons making police stops. According to constable defense statements, they are elected officials and have to be impeached. They simply cannot be thrown out of office for a felony conviction.

This may be about to change. Law enforcement officials are given authority and power to enforce the law. What happens when they themselves do not abide? According to other law enforcement authorities, constables should be forced to vacate an office immediately upon conviction. In fact, Alabama law already prohibits any convicted felons from becoming law enforcement officers. So why should a constable continue in his post, even as a convicted drug trafficker?

Under current Alabama law, the constables are not under APOST supervision or oversight. Except for this agency, every other law enforcement officer and deputy must be certified by the APOST.  Fox10 News investigators uncovered more than a few constables who have been accused of crimes, ranging from DUI to drug trafficking. Given current law for constables, none of the offenders were forced to resign or take leave. Because they are officials in an elected position, the law would require some kind of public impeachment process. Not only are those convicted of crimes able to continue in their positions, but it background checks are not even mandatory before they are sworn in. One constable admitted that though they are not all convicted felons, it is likely that something on their background would eliminate them from holding a public office.

Even members of the constable agency admit that there is not enough oversight. The constables need more training, oversight, and mandatory background checks. The media has finally exposed the reality that many of the constables are not fit for a law enforcement position. For all other APOST certified positions, applicants would be disqualified for pending criminal charges, probation, or felonies. Even misdemeanors could disqualify candidates for other law enforcement training, including domestic violence.

This alleged corruption in the constable agency is a reminder that you do not always know who you are dealing with when arrested or charged. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to raising awareness to protect the rights of individuals throughout the state of Alabama.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Aggressive Prosecution of Cyber Crimes in Alabama, November 3, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog


Are Violent Criminal Acts Genetic?

Posted in Alabama Manslaughter Law, Alabama Murder Laws, Alabama Violent Crimes, Assault Charges

Violent crimes may range from a bar fight or domestic abuse case to a school shooting or other public attack. Legislators, health care workers, psychologists and other professionals are often researching violent criminal acts to determine the cause and source.

What makes a violent offender? How can we prevent future violent attacks and assaults? According to research published by Swedish scientists, there are potentially two mutations that carry a risk of violent behavior. This cutting-edge research could pave the way for law makers, enforcement authorities and public health officials to curb and prevent future violent crimes.

Researchers claim up to 10 percent of violent crimes could be linked to the two genes. The first mutation involves a gene called MAOA, which appears to redirect the way a brain processes dopamine. Even earlier research has made a link between violent crimes and the overproduction of dopamine. The gene can produce aggressive and violent behavior, especially when combined with alcohol or drugs. Another mutation involves the gene CDH13, which has been linked to ADHD, and impacts neural connections that can affect normal impulse control.

The researchers also added there could be a number of additional genes that contribute to the potential violent behaviors. It is also important to note  just because an individual has this mutation does not mean that they are inevitably going to commit a violent crime. Individuals who have been charged with a violent crime should consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A violent criminal charge, involving assault, domestic violence, battery, gun-related crimes, manslaughter or murder will carry serious penalties. Often the circumstances of a charge are heavily dependent on the factual circumstances, so an independent investigation is key.

The severity of criminal charges related to a violent crime will depend on the facts of the case. Our Birmingham violent crimes defense attorneys are experienced in the investigation of violent crimes and will provide strategic advocacy in your case. Understanding the nature of violent crimes and the psychological issues related to violent crimes can also be valuable when preparing a defense.

According to researchers, the carriers of the MAOA and CDH13 mutations are 13 times more likely to commit a violent crime, though the majority of those with these mutations will not commit severe violent crimes. The study was intended to explore the potential genetic relationship between individuals and criminal behavior and examined the genes of 800 Finnish citizens who had been convicted of a crime. Some of the participants had been arrested for non-violent behaviors, including drug crimes and property offenses, but others had been convicted of violent crimes, including murder and assault. The researchers compared the DNA samples of all the criminals compared to 2,000 citizens who had provided DNA for a previous study.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Alabama Criminal Convictions Profitable for Private Prisons, Sept. 20, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Alabama Woman Arrested for Taking Drugs During Pregnancy

Posted in DUI News, War On Drugs

Pregnant women have long been scrutinized for certain “unhealthy” activities that can threaten the health of a fetus. Though societal expectations have changed overtime, law enforcement officials seem to be raising the bar and pursuing more aggressive means to test and prosecute pregnant women for drug use. In a recent case, an Alabama woman was accused of taking drugs during her pregnancy and  on the day she went into labor. The 24-year-old defendant has been charged with one count of “chemical endangerment of exposing a child to an environment where controlled substances are ingested, produced, or distributed.” Her bond was set at $10,000 and she must get a negative drug test before being released.

baby-diaperAccording to reports, the woman confessed to taking methadone during the pregnancy and morphine and valium the day she went into labor.

What are pregnant women’s rights in drug cases and when has the state gone too far in testing? While the state has an incentive to ensure that women are not breaking the law or endangering a fetus, there have been cases that have gone too far. Prosecutors throughout Alabama have been more aggressive in filing cases against women who test positive for drug use while pregnant. Combining fetal rights advocacy with the war against drugs, more and more pregnant women have faced the harsh scrutiny within the criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, women are often charged with serious crimes, including child neglect, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or chemical endangerment, even felony assault, without considering the legality of the drug or how casually the woman used it. Whether the woman was using heroin or a prescription medication may not matter to prosecutors. Though these cases are sensitive, it is important to consider the civil liberties of pregnant women when it comes to testing for drug use and criminal charges related to drugs and pregnancy.

Between 1973 and 2005, more than 400 women were incarcerated or forced into drug treatment. There have been 300 more cases since and the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) asserts that this is likely an underestimate. In addition to women who are subjected to state drug testing and incarceration, others have been reported to child protective services (CPS) agencies because of their drug tests.

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that drug testing pregnant women without consent is unconstitutional, though policies continue to vary in states, counties and hospitals. What is the law of consent when a pregnant women signs a medical form necessary for treatment?

Pregnant women who are tested for drugs or charged with crimes because of their pregnancy should consult with an experienced advocate. This is a complex area of the law, with both state and federal implications, but should be evaluated by an experienced attorney.

If you were drug tested without consent or you are a pregnant woman facing criminal charges, it is important to consult with an experienced defense attorney who understands the facts of your case. Our Birmingham drug crimes defense lawyers have extensive experience in state and federal investigations and can effectively protect your rights.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Aggressive Prosecution of Cyber Crimes in Alabama, November 3, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested for Obstruction in Alabama, Mayor Cries Foul, Sept. 3, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Federal Prosecutors Collect $7.5 Million in Alabama

Posted in Uncategorized

Convicted criminal offenders can be sentenced to jail time, but they could also face financial penalties.

According to reports, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama collected more than $7.5 million in civil forfeitures and criminal actions during the 2014 fiscal year. It may come as a surprise, but criminal and civil actions are a significant source of revenue for state and federal prosecutors as well as police agencies. Especially fruitful are convictions for white collar crimes, including fraud.

Individuals who are under investigation should consult with an experienced advocate as soon as possible to minimize charges and penalties.

In addition to the $7.5 million brought in by the U.S. Attorney’s office, cases that were jointly pursued with assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice brought in an additional $117.8 million in civil actions. There was $3.2 million collected in criminal actions and $4.3 million in civil actions.

According to representatives, the goal of the U.S. Attorney’s office means “seeking justice” by putting criminals behind bars and ensuring American taxpayers and the federal government are compensated for financial losses.

For individuals who are under investigation for criminal activity, it is important to remember it’s not just your freedom at stake, but your financial well-being even upon your release.

The Northern District of Alabama includes 37 counties, including Birmingham and Huntsville. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reported the largest financial collections came from settlements related to fraudulent health care claims. This year, defendant Hospice Compassus settled for $3.93 million after allegations the company submitted false claims to Medicare. Two former employees who were whistleblowers in the qui tam case were able to collect and share over $700,000.

In another case, American Family Care Inc. paid significant penalties for knowingly submitting fraudulent Medicare claims and billing at higher than normal rates. A claims processor who shed the light on the Birmingham company received $204,000 of the $1.2 million settlement with the company.

A large majority of criminal and civil financial penalties are collected related to white collar crimes, including fraud. Many of the funds collected in Northern Alabama were related to Medicare fraud, including a $150 million penalty from Amedisys, one of the largest home health providers in the U.S. According to reports, a whistleblower-nurse uncovered the fraudulent scheme involving false home healthcare billings to Medicare. The nurse in was able to collect over $15 million in shedding light on the fraud.

While those who are guilty of large scare financial crimes should be investigated and penalized, it is important that defendants have experienced counsel and advocacy. Our Birmingham federal crimes defense attorneys are committed to investigating allegations of fraud to protect our clients. Remember that white collar crimes are often investigated for weeks, months, even years before you are brought in for questioning. An experienced advocate is necessary to level the playing field when confronted by federal investigators. The money collected in the northern district of Alabama is only a fraction of the $24.7 billion collected nationally.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Aggressive Prosecution of Cyber Crimes in Alabama, November 3, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Alabama Woman Charged With Tax Refund Theft of $550,000

Posted in White Collar Crime, Your Rights

Federal tax crimes are becoming increasingly targeted by prosecutors across the country. Alabama is no exception.

In a recent case, an Alabama woman was indicted by a federal grand jury alleging she engaged in a tax refund scheme and fraudulently collected more than $550,000. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham, the charges include grand theft of government property, wire fraud, and money laundering. The indictment accuses that the defendant stole tax payer refunds between February of 2013 and February of 2014.
The defendant also faces wire fraud charges, allegedly for causing the IRS to electronically transfer over $500,000 in fraudulent tax refunds from outside Alabama. According to the indictment, the defendant opened a bank account and filed fraudulent tax returns. Federal prosecutors allege defendant used ill-gotten returns to purchase a luxury Lexus ES350.

Penalties upon conviction, including fines and jail terms, could be severe. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, defendant is facing up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The IRS has initiated an exceptionally large number of investigations this year into identity theft and other refund fraud schemes. The new identity theft investigations have resulted in more than 1,800 active cases throughout the United States. The IRS Criminal Investigation department is working as part of a larger effort in collaboration with the IRS to combat identity theft and refund fraud. According to both departments, the goal is to hold identity thieves accountable and prevent future fraudulent refunds from being issued. The agency also wants to protect victims from tax fraud losses.

Given the proliferation of internet use and widespread data sharing, more people have been able to commit tax fraud by accessing data and using online filing systems to collect refunds. The IRS claims it is one of the fastest-growing crimes nationwide and one of the biggest challenges to the agency. Representatives claim they are making substantial progress in combating refund fraud.

However, this means that more people will be scrutinized, investigated and charged. If you are under investigation by the IRS for federal tax fraud or other crimes, it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to protect your rights and prevent unwarranted charges and penalties.

If you are contacted by the IRS involving an investigation or potential criminal allegation, remember not to go through the interrogation process without a lawyer. Our Birmingham defense attorneys are experienced in complex identity theft and computer crimes cases and can effectively protect your rights.

If you made a mistake or were wrongly accused of tax fraud, you need an experienced attorney who can protect your rights.

Even if you purposely misstated the facts on your return, it is important to consult with an attorney so you are not over-charged in federal court. Since the beginning of 2014, the Criminal Investigation department of the IRS has worked aggressively to pursue and prosecute crimes related to tax refund fraud.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Aggressive Prosecution of Cyber Crimes in Alabama, November 3, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Alabama PSE Restrictions and the War on Meth

Posted in Alabama Drug Laws, Possession of Controlled Substance

The war on drugs has shifted in past decades from aggressive prosecution of marijuana crimes to an increasing focus on other drugs, including methamphetamine, also known simply as “meth.”

Law enforcement officials and safety advocates say meth is one of the most dangerous drugs on the street—and the investigation and prosecution of meth-related drugs is on the rise.

According to reports, Alabama anti-meth legislation has created some of the toughest laws against offenders. A 2012 law created comprehensive legislation to investigate, charge and penalize offenders. The statewide law created a “drug offender database” to crackdown on production, distribution, and possession.

With more investments in the investigation and prosecution of meth-crimes, more individuals will be targets of law enforcement. The arrest and conviction of a meth-related crime could carry severe and lasting penalties, including fines, jail time and a criminal record. The anti-meth legislation in Montgomery is considered the toughest law of any kind in the U.S. In addition to prosecuting drug crimes, it also limits the amount of pseudoephedrine-based medication an individual can buy in a year. Pseudoephedrine or PSE is the active ingredient found in common cold and allergy medications, but is also one of the ingredients used to make meth.

Unfortunately, individual citizens who can benefit from the PSE-medications to treat cold and allergies may be limited as a result of the new meth-laws. Those who rely on PSE-medications could also be targets of investigations should they be suspected of using legally purchased over-the counter drugs to make meth.

Legislators who backed the anti-meth law maintain it keeps PSE medications away from meth producers while ensuring ordinary citizens still have access. The law intentionally kept the drugs available over-the-counter, without a prescription, while placing caps on the number of PSE-drugs an individual could purchase in a year.

Alabama’s anti-meth bill also integrates Alabama into the National Precursor Log Exchange (NPLEX), tapping into an interstate network that automatically tracks PSE purchases. Individuals who attempt to purchase more than the legal amount are blocked. In Alabama, those who seek to purchase these legal over-the-counter drugs can be turned over to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center. The system prevented the sale of over 45,000 boxes of PSE, allegedly thwarting the production of over 110,000 grams of potential meth.

While Alabama lawmakers may have good intentions in seeking to prevent the production and distribution of meth throughout the state, individual citizens could be at risk. The system targets those who are purchasing PSE, over-the-counter cold and allergy medication buyers and could leave innocent users facing criminal charges.

Our Birmingham meth crime defense attorneys understand the complications of drug crimes investigations. We will review the facts of your case, identify any violations by law enforcement and work to minimize charges and penalties on your case. If you are suspected of meth production or purchasing PSEs for illegal use, it is critical to involve an experienced advocate to protect your rights during the investigation, thorough interrogations and at trial.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Alabama Criminal Convictions Profitable for Private Prisons, Sept. 20, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Complications With Alabama’s New Expungement Law

Posted in Alabama Criminal Appeals, Alabama Criminal Law, Alabama Criminal Procedure

New expungement legislation passed by the Alabama legislature was intended to give individuals charged but not convicted of a crime a second chance.

An increasing number of former defendants are seeking assistance from Alabama defense attorneys to help them get their record wiped clean. The elimination of a record can be critical when applying to schools or seeking employment. A criminal record can be an insurmountable roadblock when seeking some forms of employment. For years, Alabama was one of a handful of states that didn’t give an expungement option for those arrested but never convicted. Despite the intention of the new expungement law, it hasn’t been as easy as many citizens of Alabama hoped.

According to a recent report, the law is flawed, costing more than anticipated and taking longer than expected. The new law allows individuals to see their misdemeanor arrest and some non-violent criminal charges stricken from the record.

The law applies to those who were arrested and charged, but never convicted of a crime. There are some limitations—individuals who are applying for expungement must disclose their other arrest records and involvement in any other criminal investigations. Those who were charged with violent felonies, including domestic violence, cannot have their record expunged.

Advocates of the new law laud its ability to give young offenders a fresh start. It also prevents background checks from blocking potential employees who were never convicted of a crime.

However, one of the frequently-cited flaws is that it costs applicants $300 per charge. Those who are seeking expungement may not expect such a significant cost. Additionally, it’s been reported those who have followed procedure and applied have had to wait longer than they expected to get results. Even lawyers offering help with expungements acknowledge the process takes a significant amount of legwork. Applicants are required to obtain certified records of their arrest, collect documentation from the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center and get updated information from local agencies.

Expungements are often pursued as an option for those who have been arrested and charged with DUI, but not convicted. The process is important because it prevents applicants from being stigmatized for a crime never actually proven in court. While some people may not be aware of their new rights under the law, others may find the fees and time expenses overwhelming. However, given the trade-offs, expunging one’s record tends to be worth it.

If you were charged with an Alabama crime but not convicted, you may be able to get your record expunged. Our Birmingham expungement attorneys are experienced with handling expungement cases under Alabama law, and can help you protect your rights.

While many advocates are seeking reform to streamline the process, former defendants should consult with an experienced advocate who can help investigate their case, collect relevant documentation and pursue an effective expungement. While the process may involve jumping through some hoops, the results are lasting and can secure expungement so you can pursue employment and other opportunities without the stigma of a criminal record.

If you have been arrested in Birmingham, call Defense Lawyer Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

More Blog Entries:

Aggressive Prosecution of Cyber Crimes in Alabama, November 3, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

Arrested Juveniles More Apt to Offer False Confessions, Sept. 24, 2013, Birmingham Drug Defense Lawyer Blog

United States v. Paladino: On Federal Child Pornography Charges

Posted in Sex Crimes

Being charged with possession or manufacture of child pornography is one of the most serious federal crimes in terms of sentencing.  If you are convicted of possession of child pornography, there is a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.  In other words, upon conviction, you will spend at least five years in a federal penitentiary. If you are convicted of manufacturing child pornography, there is a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.

In, United States v. Paladino, defendant unknowingly arranged to meet an undercover officer to obtain pornographic videos featuring young boys, after responding to an Internet advertisement.  After several email exchanges, defendant went to pick up the package from the undercover agent.   At that point, authorities attempted to arrest defendant, but he fled and led them on a high-speed chase.  During the chase, he struck several cars and threw away the package.  He was eventually apprehended. Continue Reading

United States v. Ridolfi: Constructive Possession in Firearms Cases 

Posted in Federal Criminal Appeals

Federal firearms offenses can carry serious penalties, including mandatory minimum sentences.  In United States v. Ridolfi, an appeal heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, defendant was convicted of being a felon in possession of one or more firearms, including two shotguns.

shotgun-shells-1207089-mAccording to court records, a man called police around four in the morning and told authorities that a man had just rung his doorbell and then walked away from his house.  Police were on scene in less than a minute and approached defendant, who was sitting in a car with another man.  As the caller described, both men were wearing winter hats with earflaps.

Defendant told police that he and his cousin were driving to his girlfriend’s house when they got lost. They pulled off the road to use their GPS.  The men were allegedly perspiring and acting nervous, so authorities pulled them out of the car and questioned them separately.  Defendant’s cousin said they were at the girlfriend’s house all night and were heading home. Both men denied ringing the doorbell. Continue Reading

United States v. Marks: Departure from Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Posted in Possession of Controlled Substance

United States v. Marks, an appeal heard in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, involved a defendant who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and to launder money.

cocaine-stripes-489547-mSeven years after pleading guilty, his attorney contacted the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) assigned to the case and told her that his client had knowledge of two inmates who had made a key that fit various locks in the prison and planned to escape.  In exchange for this information, he requested that his client receive a reduction in his sentence and that the AUSA draft a motion requesting such modification.

The AUSA did not draft the motion but did pass the information along to authorities at the prison.  The two inmates who were attempting to escape were transferred to a maximum-security facility. The AUSA then told defendant’s attorney that she would not be filing the motion, because he did not participate in a meaningful way in preventing the crime of escape. Continue Reading