Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The first video demonstrates the problem of mouth alcohol. I've seen this myself at a seminar. The individual swigs something with alcohol in his mouth (like Scope, or in this case I think it's Vodka) and spits it out. A few minutes later he blows into the machine and registers an outrageously high number.
The second video starts off similar -- an initial 0.00 BAC. Then the guy chews on Wonder Bread for 5 minutes, and he blows a 0.025 BAC. In other words, no alcohol at all and he's halfway to what some cops would ticket (improperly) for DWAI. I can only guess that the sugars and/or starches mix with the yeast and ferment quickly.
The moral of this story: Breath tests are unreliable. I've seen too many cases where the BAC doesn't fit the rest of the story.
We have a case going right now where our client blew a 0.17. That's close to falling-down drunk. The cop car had video, and the guy looks totally sober. Not to mention that he was going more than 30mph over the limit and handled the car well. He passed the One-Leg Stand and Walk-and-Turn tests.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
What stands out about this is the difference in traffic by day of the week. The usage of our court site has a clear pattern with Monday as the big day, with a gradual decline to Friday, and then significantly lower numbers on the weekend. Sunday is usually slightly higher than Saturday. I see similar patterns on our law firm site's traffic and the traffic to this blog as well.
The restaurant review blog follows a different pattern. The big days are usually either Friday or Saturday. Sundays and Mondays are the slowest. So far Google Analytics does not offer a specific "day of week" tool for analyzing traffic. Would be a nice feature.
Here's a sobering lesson from a client who took a DWAI:
is there ANY WAY to get this charge changed to something else?? i cross the canadian border A LOT for work, and every time i cross i have to pay $200 canadian, and risk not getting in as it's at the will of the border patrol officer. if there is anything i can do to change the charge on my record, or clear my record completely...i'd be willing to partake in anything, or do/pay anything to make that happen. please advise me on this, as it's a really really important part of my job that i be able to cross the border with no problems.
i hate that this one thing is goin to haunt me for years and years. let me know if you know of anyting i can do.
Read more at this Canadian immigration FAQ.
Another reason not to drink and drive; and to fight any DWI charge.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The two spikes, each about 150 visits, constitute about one third of total traffic to the site during that period. At first that might suggest that the mainstream media has a great deal of power. But it really cuts both ways.
On the one hand, the stories reached a lot of people. Each spike is about 150 visits. Since 30/day is normal, the stories generated about 120 each. If 120 people came to the site, that likely means thousands read the story. Maybe even tens of thousands. So the Times Union reaches a lot of people.
The other hand carries the day. A newspaper can only cover a topic like this a limited amount. There are too many localities to cover them all with frequency. There are counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, and more. A well-done local website will be viewed far more over time and can provide far more content. The two TU stories were quite short and contained no substantive discussion of the relevant local issues.
The mainstream media has become the candy at the checkout counter. The web delivers the meat and potatoes. I just read a great blog post about the internet and the economics of the newspaper industry that is pretty relevant.
One final note ... the TU actually mentioned the website another time, a week after the first mention. This did not lead to another peak. Another sign of limits to mainstream media power.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Tough Times Keeping Lawyers Busy
Thanks to Abigail Bleck for doing the story and for including me. I'm flattered.
The story relates to at least a few of my past blog posts:
Recession, Crime and Lawyers
Criminal Defense Lawyer Thoughts
The Surcharge Tax Increase
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Sunday, March 08, 2009
My mom has been having problems with her new printer/fax/scanner/phone. So after messing around with it I decided to try to get an RMA from HP. They have a feature where you can "chat" with someone online. I think it said you get instant customer service. I'm copying and pasting the chat as we go. No wonder so many companies are going under.
I don't blame this on Chandra. It falls on our friends at HP. The process is designed to take so long and be so difficult that some people will just give up. Great for building customer loyalty.
My HP Chat is below - I abbreviated Chandra's name to minimize any impact on him/her:
Warren Redlich : HP LaserJet M1319f MFP -- Handset unable to make phone calls. Picking incoming call receives, but cannot hear caller. Fax does not send/receive. Want RMA. Purchased 12/08.
[An agent will be with you shortly.]
[You are now chatting with Chandra PP .]
Warren Redlich : Hello.
Chandra PP : Hello, Warren.
Warren Redlich : Can I get an RMA?
Chandra PP : Welcome to HP Total Care Chat Support for Imaging & Printing Group. My name is Chandra. Please give me a minute while I review the issue description.
Warren Redlich : How are we doing?
Chandra PP : Could you please tell me what RMA stands for?
Warren Redlich : Return Merchandise Authorization - so I can send it back to HP and you can send me a new one.
Warren Redlich : Are you still there?
Warren Redlich : Sorry, I mean you send us a new one and we ship this one back to you in the box you sen dto us.
Warren Redlich : Is this chat supposed to be this slow?
Warren Redlich : You see, in a normal conversation you would type something back to me.
Chandra PP : You may experience a lag in response while your interaction, due to server maintenance. The inconvenience caused to you is deeply regretted.
Warren Redlich : We've been on this chat for 8 minutes and you have asked me one question.
Warren Redlich : Sorry, 9 minutes.
Chandra PP : Warren, may i know is the printer connected to the dedicated phone line or from any other device?
Warren Redlich : Dedicated line
Warren Redlich : I plugged a phone into the secondary phone jack and it worked fine.
Warren Redlich : 14 minutes now.
Warren Redlich : How long do your records show this chat has taken?
Chandra PP : Warren, as this is known issue with this prooduct, so I am going to create a service ticket against this product. So, I need some information , you will receive a call back to get the issue resolved.
Warren Redlich : I don't know what that means.
Warren Redlich : I think we're at 20 minutes now.
Warren Redlich : You see, I'm at my mom's house for a birthday dinner. It's my birthday. Instead of enjoying time with my family, I'm doing this with you. Why is it taking so long?
Chandra PP : I mean that we would replace the printer, for that we need some information.
Warren Redlich : Then you should probably start asking me some questions, as we are now 22 minutes into this chat.
Chandra PP : Please let me know the contact number?
Warren Redlich : My cell phone is 518-xxx-xxxx [I gotta have some privacy]
Warren Redlich : 25 minutes now, unless you have a different view of how long this has taken.
Chandra PP : Any alternate number if any?
Warren Redlich : Sure. My office phone is 518-862-1877 x108
Chandra PP : Warren I apologise for the inconvience but it would take some time to create the service ticket.
Chandra PP : Alright.
Warren Redlich : I don't understand what you mean.
Warren Redlich : 28 minutes
Warren Redlich : You're not going to disagree with me on the length of time, are you?
Warren Redlich : 31 minutes
Warren Redlich : Am I supposed to keep waiting or are we done?
Warren Redlich : We started this chat at 4:47 pm. It's 5:21 pm now. I think dinner is almost ready. What's going on?
Chandra PP : I agree that its too long to reply, I really apologise for the inconvience, You may experience a lag in response while your interaction, due to server maintenance. The inconvenience caused to you is deeply regretted.
Warren Redlich : It's just short of 40 minutes now. I'm going to sit down for dinner and I'll come back when dinner is finished. You may experience a lag in response in your interaction, due to nutritional abuse. The inconvenience caused to you is not at all regretted.
Chandra PP : Now please let me know the Serial number of the printer.
Warren Redlich : CNCZ84K0XM
Chandra PP : Warren, I again apologise for the delay.
Warren Redlich : I don't think it's your fault. I blame HP.
Chandra PP : Please let me know your physical address .
Warren Redlich : 255 Washington Ave. Ext.; Suite 108; Albany, NY 12205
Chandra PP : Please let me know the appropriate time to call you.
Warren Redlich : You can call me anytime between 8 am and 8 pm any day of the week, Eastern (New York) time.
Warren Redlich : 45 minutes now.
Chandra PP : thank you for the information.
Chandra PP : Please let me know when did this issue occur?
Warren Redlich : It stopped working properly about a month ago (roughly February 1st).
Chandra PP : Okay.
Chandra PP : Did you registered this product earlier?
Warren Redlich : I don't know if we registered the product.
Chandra PP : Okay.
Chandra PP : What is your email address?
Warren Redlich : email@example.com
Warren Redlich : What's yours?
Warren Redlich : Over 50 minutes now.
Chandra PP : I apologize, as we are in chat technical support we do not have email address.
Chandra PP : It will take another 5 minutes.
Warren Redlich : Dinner really is ready now. I'll be back in less time than this chat has taken.
Chandra PP : Okay. You can go over and end this, I will send you the service ticket number through email.
Chandra PP : Will it be convenient for you?
Warren Redlich : email is great
Chandra PP : Befor you end this chat, please let me know the windows operating system you are using in your system?
Warren Redlich : Mac OS X
Warren Redlich : About 55 minutes now. I did step away for 2 minutes there.
Chandra PP : I understand the inconvenience caused to you and I sincerely apologize for this. Let me assure you that in future you will not face this issue.
Chandra PP : Is there anything else, I may assist you?
Warren Redlich : Not at this time. I'll look forward to your e-mail.
Chandra PP : I will make sure that you receive the call within 48 hours.
Chandra PP : Please note the reference number: 1416130 for this chat session.
Chandra PP : Thank you for contacting HP Total Care Real-Time chat support. If you need further assistance, please contact us again at:
Chat support is available 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week.
Stay connected and protected with HP's new online storage and sharing service, HP online. To try it FREE for one year, please visit:
For information on keeping your HP and Compaq products up and running, please visit our Web site at:
As mentioned in the update, the call never came.
I e-mailed twice and got the following responses:
Thank you for writing back to us and providing us an opportunity to serve you again in this matter. I apologize for the inconvenience caused.
Warren, I would like to inform you that the case has already been forwarded to HP Technical
support and they were unable to contact you due to technical difficulties, I have just now informed them and they assured me that they will call you at the earliest.
If you need any assistance or if you have any questions, please get back to us. We are always available round the clock to assist you technically regarding the issue you may experience with All-in-One units.
Sincerely,HP Total Care
Thank you for writing back to us. I am glad to assist you further.
I understand from your email that you did not contacted yet by our call back team. I regret for the inconvenience this might have caused to you.
Warren, I once again personally forwarding your details to the concerned department and they would be contacting you at the earliest.
I hope the above information should answer your query, however if you need additional help, please reply to this email I shall be glad in assisting you further anytime.
We are available round the clock to assist valuable customers like you.
Have a nice day.Sincerely,
HP Total Care.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Anyway, so far the 40s aren't going so badly. Well, maybe the world economy is going in the tank, so that's not so great. But I was referring to daily life for me.
You'd think I'd be worried about becoming middle-aged. Nope. My father died at 64. I was middle-aged at 32. Or maybe concerned about getting closer to death. Nah. I still have that youthful misconception of immortality. Yes I do know intellectually that it's coming, but I guess I'm mainly in denial.
Having kids changed my perspective too. I used to have "nightmares" where I would face some kind of danger. I put nightmares in quotes because I always win in my nightmares. I'm an optimist, even in my sleep. Now my nightmares are about my kids instead. I still win, but it's a little more unsettling.
The whole lawyer thing is going well. I was confident from early on (that optimism thing again), but now it's backed by a lot more experience, a deeper feel for the law, business sense, wisdom (but I have a long way to go on that one), and a bigger network of lawyer friends. I have the impression my reputation has grown. That only comes if you are honest and do good work.
I'm also learning, as Einstein mentioned, how much I don't know. For example, bankruptcy law was a mystery before but now I realize it's a huge and complicated mystery. I know enough about matrimonial law to be glad I don't do it, but not much more. Corporate law? I know less about it than I did in law school and that's saying a lot. I didn't know anything then. The key with all of these is that I know to ask others when these topics come up, and to some extent I know whom to ask. Look at that grammar - I even got whom right.
Health - yeah, that seems to be going downhill slowly. But I still perceive myself as athletic, though I never was. Things hurt more. I've got this one spasm in my lower back that's been there so long we're on a first-name basis (he's Charlie). The last four months I've been feeling a little crappy but it has gotten better recently. No diagnosis except maybe winter. I actually had a brain MRI - it was negative. :-)
Politics ... ugh. It is hellish. Serving on the town board has been great learning. I guess you could say all the attacks build character. There have been many unpleasant moments. More and more I appreciate how important it is to gut it out. Yes, it's full of nasty people. But if you let that keep you out, who are you leaving in charge? We need more good people.
Satisfaction is a big feature of my 40s. I'm very fortunate in so many ways and I realize it. It starts with family, all healthy and doing well. There is nothing I need that I don't already have. And there aren't too many things I want either, unless you get silly and start talking about private jets or sports cars. I considered a Porsche and chose a family sedan instead. Have I lost too much of the boy in me?
About twenty years ago my father and I were chatting. He was close to sixty. I told him I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. "Me neither," he responded.
Many lawyers are unhappy with the profession. There are so many hassles. We've escaped one of the biggest - receivables. Attorneys struggle to collect money owed them by their clients. It haunts them. This is a big lesson - if a client won't pay you up front, there's a good chance they'll never pay. You have to insist on a substantial up-front fee.
I half-joke that the web business is going so well I won't have to be a lawyer any more. In part it's not a joke because I enjoy the internet work more, and in the long run I will probably make more money doing that. The joke part is that I still like being a lawyer.
Well, not completely. One thing has been troubling me most. Readers of this blog have seen my concerns with the criminal justice system in the past. It boils down to this. Regular people want criminals punished harshly. Politicians feed on that leading to a system that is too harsh, as well as unfair, impersonal, and unjust. My post about assembly line justice touches on this.
Here's a simple way of looking at it. There are four kinds of defendants. First come the innocents. Most people think that's a small percentage. It's more than you think. The remaining three groups are guilty of the offense charged or something in the ballpark. Some suffer from serious mental health problems, such as addictions or schizophrenia. Others are basically good people who made a mistake. The final group is the hardened criminals. It's also the smallest of the four. And that's who the system is designed for.
Sometimes I get calls from my young clients' parents. They're very upset about how the system is treating their children. When politicians say we need to be tough on crime, they're talking about your sons and daughters.
With some cases it gets to me:
The tourist treated like a terrorist.
The woman convicted by a judge on the testimony of a lying whore - I'll never do a bench trial again on a criminal case.
The profoundly disturbed prostitute traumatized by extended delay until we lucked into a humane prosecutor.
The innocent clients who took deals because they couldn't stomach the fight.
The cops who lie and the judges who let them get away with it.
The good kid who made a mistake and found his life drastically changed.
Maybe I'll remember more later. There have been plenty of redeeming moments too. Good judges, decent prosecutors, and honest and decent police.
I didn't mean to end this post on a down moment. Maybe I'll rework it later.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
First how it came to my attention. I'm active in politics and that unfortunately leads to finding political opponents. Since I started serving on the Guilderland Town Board, the lead opponent has become crystal clear. His name is Ken Runion.
I felt strongly that people did not have the full story about Mr. Runion, so I registered kenrunion.com - that's a domain name for those who are unfamiliar with the term. I created a website at that address for the purpose of showing some of the things that are obvious but not portrayed accurately in the mainstream media.
This is hardly the first time a candidate used another candidate's name in a domain name. Just last year during the Democratic primary, the Tracey Brooks campaign registered several domain names using the name of Phil Steck, an opponent.
It turns out, not surprisingly, that some people don't like others using their name in a domain name. Mr. Runion and company even seem to think it's illegal. Well it's not. I was discussing this with a friend who decided after the conversation that it was time to review their own websites, and I figured others might want to know more.
For starters there's that darn First Amendment again. It's free speech. I have important facts I want to say about Ken Runion and using kenrunion.com is a very effective way of delivering those facts.
But there are laws that protect people, and businesses, from cybersquatting. In short, the term refers to registering a domain name for the purpose of reselling it. That's too simplistic, but it's not that far off. For a more complete discussion of that term, see Wikipedia on cybersquatting.
The main federal law on this is the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which is within Title 15 of the US Code at Section 1125(d). If you're doing it with a "bad faith intent to profit", then that is in the ballpark of illegal. It's not a crime, but rather you can be sued. One key thing to be aware of is §1125(d)(1)(B)(i)(IV) -- and who says federal law is complicated?
If your use of the domain name is "bona fide noncommercial or fair use", that will help a lot. If you just put up a page that says "this site for sale", that suggests you're trying to profit off of it. But if you put up a page that talks about the named person, company or product, then you should be in better shape.
That was federal law. New York State also has a couple laws on this. It starts with Article 9-C of the General Business Law. Section 148(1) says:
No person or entity shall register a domain name that consists of the name of another living person, or a name substantially and confusingly similar thereto, without that person's or entity's consent, with the specific intent to profit from such name by selling the domain name for financial gain to that person or any third party.
There's some key language in there -- "with the specific intent to profit from such name by selling the domain name." If you didn't register the name for the purpose of selling it, your'e okay.
Another thing protecting those who register domain names from this New York Law comes in the next section, §149(4). It seems that the law only applies if the domain name registrar is in New York State. I don't think any of them are, so that may render the whole statute meaningless. Also, it doesn't appear to be a crime.
There's also § 133 of the General Business Law, titled "Use of name or address with intent to deceive." This one is a misdemeanor. Here, it seems to be limited to the use of a corporate or trade name. The statute is below. Comments appreciated.
§133: No person, firm or corporation shall, with intent to deceive or mislead the public, assume, adopt or use as, or as part of, a corporate, assumed or trade name, for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade, or for any other purpose, any name, designation or style, or any symbol or simulation thereof, or a part of any name, designation or style, or any symbol or simulation thereof, which may deceive or mislead the public as to the identity of such person, firm or corporation or as to the connection of such person, firm or corporation with any other person, firm or corporation; nor shall any person, firm or corporation, with like intent, adopt or use as, or as part of, a corporate, assumed or trade name, for advertising purposes, or for the purposes of trade, or for any other purpose, any address or designation of location in the community which may deceive or mislead the public as to the true address or location of such person, firm or corporation. A violation of this section shall be a misdemeanor. Whenever there shall be an actual or threatened violation of this section, an application may be made to a court or justice having jurisdiction to issue an injunction, upon notice to the defendant of not less than five days, to enjoin and restrain such actual or threatened violation; and if it shall appear to the satisfaction of the court or justice that the defendant is in fact assuming, adopting or using such name, or is about to assume, adopt or use such name, and that the assumption, adoption or use of such name may deceive or mislead the public, an injunction may be issued by said court or justice, enjoining and restraining such actual or threatened violation without requiring proof that any person has in fact been deceived or misled thereby.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
For MA drivers, most moving violations put two "surcharge points" on your driving record. Major violations, such as a DUI, are 5 points. The official explanation is at the Massachusetts Safe Driver Insurance Plan.
Massachusetts is not a member of the Drivers License Compact, but we believe they still report violations to other states. Per Chapter 2 of the RMV manual (pdf), most out-of-state tickets will affect a MA driver.
We talked after court with the police officer there. He said that the typical increase for one 2-point ticket is $200/year. The impact can last 6 years, though the SDIP explanation (see link above) indicates it's more complicated than that.
So how does Court work? Keep in mind that we went to only one court and only saw one "judge" - they're called Magistrate, or Clerk-Magistrate - and one police officer. We suspect that things may vary depending on the court, magistrate, and officer.
From what we saw, here's the deal:
1. Your case is scheduled for an initial hearing with the Clerk-Magistrate. You have to show up. We're researching whether a lawyer can appear for the client or if the client has to come. Practically speaking we think that a lawyer who does his homework can handle your case without you there.
2. They kept the courtroom empty. I'm not sure where the defendants waited, but probably a nearby waiting room. A bailiff comes out and gets you for your case. The Magistrate was kind enough to allow us to watch.
3. The officer in court presents the case. Usually this will not be the person who wrote the ticket, but someone from that police agency.
4. After the officer speaks, it's your turn. You present your case (or you don't).
5. The Magistrate decides the case, finding you responsible or not responsible. In some cases the officer in court does not have enough information and the Magistrate will find you not responsible.
6. The Officer may agree to convert your ticket into a warning. Two things seem to play a role in this decision -- your driving record and your attitude. If you admit guilt and have a clean record, you have a better shot at the warning. You're probably not getting this on a high speed or serious infraction, but you might get it on a minor violation.
7. If you are found responsible, you can appeal. This is a de novo hearing with a judge in the district court. De novo means new -- you get a fresh shot at the case. The officer who wrote the ticket has to appear, and you do too.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Okay, so after I started posting this, I figured out what happened. On the above image, I had it set to compare to a previous period. I think it counted the keywords from both periods. Once I unchecked the "compare to past" box, it came down to 5690 keywords. I still suspect GA is not counting right, but at least it fits better now.
I also worked with him on a case after he was no longer a judge. We worked on an election law case where his client was trying to knock my client off the ballot. Politically I did not agree with his actions, but professionally he was, again, great to work with.
The accusations against him about corruption never made sense to me for two reasons. First, I handled cases in front of him, and no one ever asked me for money. Second, I know the guy, and I just don't see him doing this.
So I went on Pacer to check on the status of his case. Turns out the prosecutors are trying to remove E. Stewart Jones as Spargo's attorney, as reported in the Times Union a week ago.
I am posting the relevant documents on my website: Prosecutor motion and the response from Jones.
The most ridiculous item in the motion is the allegation that Jones made a $10K contribution to Spargo's legal defense fund 2 days after filing an RJI in a case where Spargo was assigned. This makes no sense at all. When you file an RJI in Albany County, you don't find out who your judge is until weeks later. The prosecutor's attempt to connect those two dots is both idiotic and offensive. All in an effort to deprive Spargo of his constitutional right to the attorney of his choosing.
There is a real issue with the idea of funds established for judges where the money is solicited from lawyers who practice in the same courts. And that would put nearly all judges in NY and local courts in jeopardy due to the way judicial campaigns are financed. So why is Spargo being singled out?
My bet is on a not-guilty verdict - if the case doesn't get dismissed first. They've been harassing Spargo for years now. It's time they left him alone.