In a surprising and encouraging move, late last year (2018) the “First Step Act” passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by the President. The Act purports to change several provisions that will have an effect on Federal criminal cases going forward, as well as many individuals who are serving federal sentences already.

Here are some highlights of this 148 page piece of legislation; as always of course this analysis is early and could be modified over time.

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Alabama law requires that, before the Board of Pardons and Paroles can hear a case, they must notify any identifiable victim of their right to be present at a hearing and make their feelings known on the matter. This has two effects on those awaiting a hearing: First, it can delay the hearing as the process of locating and notifying victims progresses. Second, a victim’s wishes carry significant weight with the Board.

Here are my thoughts and experiences on the matter:

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A recent US Supreme Court ruling has the potential to affect many people who have had vehicles searched by law enforcement, including at least one client of Skier & Associates. The Court in Collins v. Virginia held that the 4th Amendment’s “automobile exception” (which allows police to search an automobile without a warrant) does not apply to a vehicle parked next to a home, and that police are required to obtain a warrant before they can search the vehicle.

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Judges cannot allow juries to hear evidence that was obtained illegally or in violation of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. A defense lawyer can file a “Motion to Suppress” evidence that he or she believes fits these categories. A Motion to Suppress Evidence can be a very powerful tool for someone accused of a crime. A couple of our clients have had great results in a couple of recent cases thanks to effective suppression motions.

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I recently became involved in a case in Federal Court in the Middle District of Alabama involving allegations that a client was part of a scheme to perform sub-standard physical examinations for Commercial Driver License holders and applicants.

You can read about the case here.

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In the past few days, I have received a number of inquiries from people who have been or had a loved one denied parole or a pardon from the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. These potential clients want to know how to appeal a ruling of the Pardon and Parole Board. In every case, I have to give them the bad news: There is NO APPEAL from a decision of the Board. Continue reading

A recent article got me thinking about the issue of prosecutorial misconduct and whether it has been an issue in my work.

As a person who prosecuted cases for over 3 years, I take it as an affront when a prosecutor abuses his power. That person is nothing more than a street thug, but instead of guns and knives, their weapon is the authority of the government.

That being said, I can’t recall any instances of prosecutorial misconduct in any of my cases. Continue reading

Is a police officer, without a warrant and uninvited, authorized under the Fourth Amendment to conduct a search of a vehicle parked near a residence?

This is the issue the United States Supreme Court will decide next year in the case of Collins v. Virginia. I have a case in the Middle District of Alabama with very similar facts so I, along with others, will be watching this Supreme Court case very closely.

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Restitution is an amount of money paid by someone convicted of a criminal offense. The purpose of restitution is to compensate a crime victim for actual losses incurred as a result of criminal activity. Importantly, restitution is not meant to compensate a crime victim for pain and suffering, hurt feelings, or other non-measurable losses. Only losses that are documented can be reimbursed through restitution.

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Don’t get taken advantage of in restitution orders.

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