Thursday, October 18, 2007

Understanding the legal system: What most attorneys do not tell you

Whether or not you choose to utilize the legal system (i.e., suing someone) or it chooses you (you are sued or you are arrested) it unfortunately helps to understand that (and I hate to admit this) justice is a business. What this means is that no matter how you enter the system, it is most likely going to cost you a substantial amount of money to see your case through. Many attorneys do not fully disclose how much your entire case will cost, and often lead you to believe your initial payment covers all your legal fees. It is important to ask your attorney what exactly you are paying for; if costs are additional; how much are trial fees (if necessary) and a general ball park question of how much this entire matter will run.

What most people do not understand is what you are paying your attorney for. Plain and simple you are paying them for their advice, much like a doctor. They may not actually "do" anything but simply listen to your problem analyze it and then give you a response. Sometimes their responses and advice can save you, make you or cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. This advice has a certain value, as because of it you are relying on them to help you make your decision. In criminal matters this advice can also mean saving you from going to jail.

Additionally, this advice and cost is not only based on years of going to law school (the average law school degree costs about $70,000), but experience in handling your matter once out of school; as well as the building of a reputation and relationships within the legal system. Additionally you are paying them for their time and their costs of running a law practice (i.e., research materials, office costs, etc.)

Before hiring an attorney it is always best to meet or talk to a few to get the best perspective on which one is best for you. The most expensive rarely means "the best." I have personally found, much like doctors, you can never pay someone to legitimately care about you and your matter. Some attorneys naturally care and some don't, its up to your instinct and the attorney's actions in speaking to you to decide if this is simply a business transaction, or the lawyer legitimately cares for your best interest.

Ask the attorney if he or she has a strategy on how they plan on handling your matter and make sure it is one you agree with. You can also check online to see if your attorney has ever been disciplined or is currently licensed, by checking them on which is the California Bar website.

It is almost always best to hire an attorney that you or someone you know personally has used in the past. The attorney/client relationship much like the doctor/patient relationship is a unique one as you often have to discuss highly personal matters with someone you hardly know. However if you do not feel comfortable discussing such matters with this person, perhaps that is not the right attorney for you. It is also important to realize that unless you waive "the attorney/client privilege" you can tell your attorney just about anything and they cannot reveal this information to anyone.

Court Room Protocol

Whether you willingly choose to enter a court room by suing someone, or you have the setting imposed upon you by being sued or you are facing criminal charges; court rooms are very intimidating places. Regardless of your reasoning for being in this environment, it will probably put you more at ease if you have the opportunity to visit the court room, prior to your required court date. Each court room is like its own country with its own ruler (the judge), and its own rules of functioning. Being familiar with these protocols before you are in the spotlight will ease the entire experience for you. The key is understanding that the legal system is largely based on respect.

Time is a valuable commodity in a court room, as the legal system is jam packed with cases. It is imperative that you respect the court's time and arrive at court when ordered. You may also call and find out what time the court room opens and what time the judge takes the bench. Do not be late. If you have a court date set and you do not appear on time, that in and of itself may cause you a multitude of problems in addition to the ones you are there for in the first place. If you are going to be late, you MUST contact the court room and advise them of your situation. A failure to do so could result in your civil matter being dismissed, fines being imposed; or in a criminal matter, a warrant for your arrest being issued.

Court room attire is of the utmost importance. Judgements about you are often made very quickly in a court room. Many individuals in the court room are looking at you and evaluating you, and some of these individuals also may be largely responsible for deciding the outcomes on your matter as well. A court room is a very conservative and formal environment and its important to act and dress accordingly. A court room is not a place to show your individuality, or make a political statement. So you may want to think twice about wearing your nose ring or chaps.

Individuals are often referred to as sir or madame and the proper way to address the judge is "your honor." If asked a question by the judge a proper response would be "yes (never yeah) your honor." When you stand before a judge, your hands are at your sides, not in your pockets. If you have an attorney, it is not proper for you to address the judge directly. Your attorney is your representative and will speak, and in most cases answer, on your behalf. Do not let that concept intimidate you. If your attorney says something you do not agree with or the judge says something you do not understand, you may halt the proceeding and question your attorney accordingly.

Lastly, an important note about court room staff. Although the court room staff (the bailiffs, clerk, court reporter, interprater) may seem like minor players in the court room, they often are responsible for various important aspects of your case. You must treat them all with respect at all costs, as one error committed by them, either intentionally or unintentionally, may detrimentally effect you and your case in various ways.

If you have questions about this or any other legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at the Law Offices of Carl Simons (310) 749-4529.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hit and STAY!

Although this seems very basic to most people, if you are involved in an accident, whether you believe the accident to be your fault or not, legally you must follow certain protocols. After the accident you are required by law to contact (or attempt to contact) the individual you collided with, exchange California Driver's licenses, contact information, and insurance information. If you fail to do this, even if the accident is NOT your fault, you could be charged with a crime. In the event, the other party is no where to be found (ie you collide with a parked car) you are required to place a note with the aforementioned information on a note and attach it to the vehicle.

Unfortunately, when many of us are involved in an accident we go into panic mode. Many people fail to think clearly and realize one important thing: the crime involved is NOT hitting the other individual, the crime is running. About 95% of the hit-and-run cases I have handled involved parties with insurance; so if they simply would have followed the law, they would not have been subjected to criminal charges. If you are caught and convicted of the crime it could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the amount of damage in the accident. Such crimes could subject you not only to jail time, but also consequences on your driving record, insurance, and your professional licensure as well.

The other night, my partner and I were getting ready to call it a night. I received a call where an individual had just accidentally hit and substantially injured an individual on a bicycle. As his actions were unintentional, and the incident had only recently occurred, I instructed him to return to the scene and exchange information with the individual and avoid the drama and tremendous expense, of potentially being arrested. He then told me that he infact had returned back to the accident scene in an attempt to make sure no one could identify him and find out if the person was hurt. Once he found out the person was substantially injured, he freaked out and decided to leave. He then told me he was a DOCTOR.

As less then twenty minutes elapsed since the incident, I told him to go back or at least contact the police and inform them of the incident to avoid possible hit and run charges as well as potentially facing action against his license to practice medicine. Although I reminded him the crime was not the accident, but not taking responsibility for it and also told him if he was caught his life would be a great deal worse. Additionally, he would have to live with his conscious for the rest of his life. He told me he would think about it, but I could tell he was not thinking clearly and did not follow my instruction. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon call I receive.

Last, it is important to place yourself or someone you care about in the "victim's" position. Personally over the last 10 years I have experience 2 rather serious hit and run injuries to my car while it was parked and my partner was almost killed in an accident where the individual ran. If you are involved in such an accident, generally you have no reason to run, as you most likely will not be charged with any sort of crime, is it really worth the risk and expense of getting caught?

If you have any questions about this matter or any other legal matter or referral please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Carl Simons at (310) 749-4529.

Monday, June 25, 2007


Ah, the Patriot Act. Did anyone actually believe the Government when they said that all these new laws were meant to "protect" us and not infringe upon our civil liberties? Well, one of the latest fall outs from the Patriot Act is the National Computerized Data Banks that now connect your criminal and arrest history to our nation's borders and airports.

What exactly does this mean? Most importantly IF you have any outstanding warrants for your arrest, it is highly advisable you contact an attorney and you take care of them NOW. No matter how old they are (a client last week had a relatively minor warrant for an event that occurred over 15 years ago, and he was arrested coming off a cruise ship with his partner) as there is no statute of limitations on a criminal matter once it has been filed. Generally if you walk into court with an attorney and try to clear the matter up, the court will treat you a great deal kinder then if you are dragged into court against your will.

Generally, most people are picked up on outstanding warrants when they come into some form of law enforcement contact, either through a traffic stop or general police interrogation. However, now your criminal history is run through our nations borders and airports prior to international and sometimes interstate travel as well.

Additionally, say you are traveling to Australia and you are connecting through a flight through San Francisco, and you have an outstanding warrant in Los Angeles. Once you leave Los Angeles, generally your passport or identification will not be checked against these data banks until your final US destination before leaving the country. Once your passport is checked and your warrant is discovered in San Francisco, you will be arrested in San Francisco, and have to wait up to 30 days in custody for a representative from Los Angeles Law Enforcement to come bring you back to Los Angeles before you can see a judge.

Also, if you are currently out on bail, on probation or have a prior criminal history this will all be displayed for the US Customs Officer at the US port of reentry once your return from your trip abroad. This can be highly embarrassing for you and your travel partners, as you will often be subjected to hours of questioning about these outstanding matters. However, there are things you can do to minimize the chances of this happening.

Lastly, many people do not even know they have warrants outstanding. Many times, people are investigated for crimes which result in filing; fail to complete court orders; or pay fines and warrants are issued without any notification. It is advisable that if you think you may have a warrant to contact and attorney and have them do the necessary tasks to make sure you are not subjected to these procedures.

If you have questions about this or any other legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at the Law Offices Of Carl Simons (310) 749-4LAW.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


One of the most confusing things as an attorney is to try to explain to someone how you actually make a living. Its not easy. People come up to you and ask your opinion on this particular problem or that particular problem. Nine times out of ten, even if do give them free advice they do not listen to what you have to say anyway. Its a very frustrating job let me tell you.

Attorneys get paid generally in 3 ways: Contingency Fees (they make a percentage off your recovery, but you are generally still responsible to pay their costs in going after your recovery); hourly fees (you are billed a certain dollar amount per hour usually with a hefty upfront retainer where the attorney has the ability to draw from monthly); or a flat fee retainer (where the attorney charges a stated amount for a particular job or amount of work. As in medicine, law is a multi disciplinary occupation and certain fee arrangements generally follow the area of law you seek.

Generally with personal injury type cases (i.e. car accidents, dog bites, cases with BIG pay offs...) the attorney will get a certain percentage of your case depending on where the case settles or if the case has to go to trial. Unfortunately, these types of cases force you to use attorneys. The insurance companies you will be dealing with generally will not even take your case seriously regardless of how in the right you may be, unless you are represented by an attorney. Additionally there is a "general" formula for these types cases regarding recovery. Your recovery is generally based on your injury (usually based on your medical bills), your out of pocket expenses, you job losses, as well as current and future pain and suffering and job loss. the insurance companies generally take these losses into account and multiply them by between 2.5 and 3 times. Basically 1/3 goes to your attorney, 1/3 goes to actually pay off your bills and 1/3 goes to you. These are all estimates. And sometimes, if your case goes to trial and there are circumstances which greatly sway the jury in your favor you can often come out with a great deal more (or less depending on the facts).

Business litigation, family law cases, contract cases, other general civil type cases most often use an hourly rate. This of course can end up being very very expensive. Many of these types of cases do not have provisions where the other party is responsible should you win your case. So even if you spend all this money in fighting your case, you still end up paying a great deal of your hard earned winnings over to your attorney. This of course is one of the most important things to find out before you begin these types of lawsuits.

Criminal cases generally use what is known as a flat fee retainer a certain agreed upon amount to perform a certain degree of work. Criminal cases are generally divided into certain stages and most criminal attorneys require separate retainers for each stage of your case. It is very important to understand that in most situations trial fees are NOT included in your fee quote and often will up your legal bills greatly should you chose to go to trial on your case. This is done for a number of reasons, but most importantly, because in reality very few criminal cases actually do end up going to trial; so why pay for some service your attorney did not perform in the first place.

The important thing to understand in negotiating a fee with an attorney is just that, you are negotiating a fee. The attorney may quote you a cost but in many circumstances, the attorney is just making an initial offer of what he would charge to work on your case and feel free to counter that offer with a lower quote. Most attorneys will respect this and work with you in that regard.

If you have any questions regarding this or any other legal matter, please feel free to contact me at the Law Offices Of Carl Simians at (310) 749-4LAW.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


I have been an attorney for close to twelve years now and one thing that has stayed constant is how completely off guard my clients were when they were arrested. As police resources are stretched further and further it appears more people are getting arrested with little supporting evidence, with their arrests largely based on simple allegations of criminal conduct.

Unfortunately, until our politicians see how important it is for our local law enforcement to be adequately funded in order to better do their jobs by fully investigating crimes BEFORE arresting someone; it is within all of our best interests to have a plan of attack should you be facing an arrest. When police are called they often talk to the alleged victim of the crime first and get their version of what happened. Many times these "victims" have grudges or have motivation to lie or over exaggerate facts. Officers for whatever reason are often forced to make a decision regarding arresting the alleged defendant with little or no supporting evidence; but simply have to make a judgment call in order to protect the alleged victim or "society" as a whole. Do these officers make mistakes, yes like everyone else they are human and can only do the best job possible with the resources they have.

Unfortunately what this means is, all someone has to do is make a relatively simple allegation of criminal conduct against you, and you can be sitting in a jail cell. Should this happen to you, it is best that you have a plan of attack, instead of relying the overburdened, antiquated system, better known as "justice." Once you are arrested you are generally brought before a "judge" within 48-72 hours after your arrest. However, you are often given the opportunity to pay money to the jailer and make a promise to appear in court at a later date (posting "bail" or a "bond.") This can cost you a great deal of money. Money, that if it is tight, may be better spent contacting an attorney, who may negotiate with the detectives on your matter or at the very least instruct you to the bail reduction department. Also posting bail does NOTHING to help fight your case.

In choosing an attorney it is best to do your research ahead of time. Once arrested, your arrest becomes a matter of public record and within less then a week numerous attorneys will PURCHASE this information on you and send numerous advertisements to your home. The best attorneys are usually the ones that will start working on your matter IMMEDIATELY; as in many cases, much can be done before you have to show up to court. You will also often be asked by detectives if you would like to make a statement about what happened or give your version of the events. As your words can easily be twisted around or you may have very limited knowledge of particular laws; it is almost always advisable not to give a statement UNLESS your attorney is present with you.

If you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided for you. Many public defenders are excellent attorneys who care deeply about their jobs and will do their best to help you. Unfortunately, as they have tremendous case loads, they too are often overburdened by the system and simply do not have the time to fully investigate or get your complete version of the events.

In this day and age where your criminal record pretty much can follow you around to one degree or another for the rest of your life, having a spot free criminal record can be a very important thing depending on your current or intended future occupation. This is also an extremely important consideration in determining how important hiring a private attorney is to you.

Also if you are arrested, one of the first things that will happen is your background will be checked to see if you have any existing warrants, past arrests or past convictions. These also play an important role on whether or not you will be held in custody or released.

If you have any further questions regarding this or any other legal matter please feel free to call the Law Offices of Carl Simons (310) 749-4LAW.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This column is not intended to endorse illegal activity or drug usage. It is however written to inform you of current legal predicaments you could be facing if you make the choice to use illegal and prescription substance and drive while certain substances still may be in your system.

Most of us know by now that it is illegal to drive with .08 or above alcohol levels in our bodies. But what most of us do not know, is there is an increasing trend of arrests being made where individuals are testing positive for other substances (i.e., Crystal Meth, Cocaine, Ecstasy, Opiates, sleeping pills, pain killers) who were stopped while driving and requested to take a blood test to see weather or not these substances were present in their bodies while they were driving.

The current blood tests given by LAPD/LASD generally will show a positive result for the above listed substances for up to 3 days after ingestion of these substances. If you were out at a club on Saturday night and chose to ingest one of these substances, and a police officer pulled you over on Monday and had reason to believe you were driving with an illegal substance in your system; he could request that you take a blood test, and it would very likely come back positive.

The unfortunate thing is that in California, we have something called the Implied Consent Law, which states that in order to drive in the State you MUST submit to a blood, breath or Urine test IF requested by a police officer. IF you refuse, you could loose your privilege to drive for 1 year or more. You MUST take one of these tests.

Local law enforcement is VERY aware of the pervasiveness of drug use in our community. They KNOW that the chances of arresting someone who has one of these substances in their body who is driving to or coming home from a party venue or club, is very high.

I have seen a number of cases lately where there was basically no solid reason to suspect the person was under the influence of one of these substances; yet they were asked to be tested. Additionally, I have seen a number of cases where people were charged with DUI even though their driving did NOT show any impairment, but simply because their tests came back positive.

How do you avoid all this drama? IF YOU ARE GOING TO PARTY, DO NOT DRIVE. TAKE A CAB. Most importantly, driving under the influence of drugs (including prescription drugs) can be extremely dangerous to you and those around you. Additionally, by taking a cab, not only will you and those around you be safer; but you will also minimize your likelihood of contact with law enforcement.

If you have questions regarding this or any other legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact me at (310) 749-4LAW.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Although these suggestions are based on how the system is supposed to work in "theory" the reality is that police officers can do anything they want to and some do not always follow the guidelines. However, like any other profession (lawyers, doctors, teachers, etc.) there are some bad apples who completely disregard the law in their pursuit of their job.

One of the most important things to remember is that IF a police officer asks to search you without arresting you, you can always say "NO." The first thing to do upon being asked to search you or your vehicle, is to ask the police officer, "Am I under arrest?" If the officer answers, ANYTHING but yes; you are free to decline the search. Regardless of promises to "go easy on you;" if you consent to a search and they fined something illegal in your possession, you will most likely be charged for the offense anyway.

Additionally, if the officer believes they are in danger or if they have "reason to believe you are carrying a weapon" they can search you. They are not supposed to search for items other then weapons or items that may be used as weapons.

You would be surprised at the number of people who would have avoided any criminal prosecution whatsoever if they simply would have said "no" to the initial request for a search. However, if you say "yes" to the search and they do find something illegal in your possession; you can be charged with a crime, as you consented to the warrantless search.

When you decline the search, clearly say to the officer a number of times, that you do not have any weapons on you, and you do not consent to the search. If you are lucky, there maybe be other witness around you who may also hear you say this. If the officer goes ahead and searches you without your consent; and finds something illegal in your possession; technically, the search is illegal and you cannot be convicted of that particular offense.

Lastly, there is something known as an "impound search." In Los Angeles County, many local ordinances will not allow police officers to leave your vehicle on the street, should they take you into custody. This is a very sneaky way of getting to search your vehicle without your consent. These ordinances state that prior to your vehicle being taken to the "police lot" for "safe keeping" while you are being booked or further interrogated; they can do an "inventory search" of your vehicle for "the protection of your property." Unfortunately courts have found these types of searches and any illegal evidence obtained during these searches to be completely legal.

Although these rules may be a bit confusing, the important thing to remember is that the police are supposed to be able reasonably demonstrate you have committed a crime, before they can arrest you. You are under no duty to help this process along.