Researching Your Attorney – Why Credentials Matter

Deciding which attorney to hire is perhaps the biggest decision people face when defending themselves against criminal prosecution.  Hiring the right attorney may seem like a daunting task given the number of attorneys out there.  Many lawyers claim to be criminal defense attorneys, but also claim to practice family law, personal injury, estates and trusts, and virtually every other kind of law there is.  This is a red herring for, “I am not an expert in any one area, so I’ll try to do a little bit of everything”.  Other attorneys claim to do only criminal defense, but in all candor, don’t have a clue what they are doing and offer a cheap price tag to offset their deficiencies.  Hiring an attorney obviously falls into the “buyer beware” category, but there are things you can do to ensure that you’re hiring a criminal defense attorney who is competent, experienced, and will give you the strong defense for which you’re entitled.

RESEARCH YOUR ATTORNEY.  We can’t say it enough.  Just because someone is listed online claiming to be a criminal defense attorney by no means ensures that they know what they are doing in the courtroom.  Even more concerning are the lawyers who send you solicitation letters in the mail.  Someone who simply claims to do criminal defense is not the same as someone who does criminal defense well.  The key is to research the attorney before hiring and to look for certain credentials to ensure successful, competent representation.

CREDENTIALS TO LOOK FOR: There are many groups and so-called “awards” that attorneys can join or win by simply paying money.  Realistically, those are not awards at all.  Awards that are most credible are those that are peer nominated (ie. attorneys nominating attorneys for awards), followed by independent third party research, and then voted on by credentialed panels.  Awards that fall into this category include Superlawyers, Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Martindale-Hubbell, and Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

Additionally, certification and expertise in a specific area of law is a huge plus.  Although the Missouri Bar does not recognize outside certification organizations, and offer no specialty certification of its own, the National Board of Trial Advocacy offers certification in specialized areas of practice that are recognized by the American Bar Association.  For example, Criminal Trial Practice is a specialty area of certification that the NBTA offers and is recognized by the American Bar Association.  In order to be certified by NBTA to ensure specialized knowledge and experience in Criminal Trial Practice, an attorney must go through a rigorous application process, demonstrate adequate experience across dozens of key practice areas, and finally complete a bar style exam solely in criminal law.  It is a scary thought, but many people who practice criminal defense in Missouri likely could not pass this exam.  That is why certification by your attorney is something to look for to ensure competency and specialized knowledge to protect you against government prosecution.

IS THE ATTORNEY DEDICATED TO CRIMINAL DEFENSE?  Finally, one key in hiring a good criminal defense lawyer is to look for whether the attorney you hire is dedicated to his or her profession of criminal defense and to his or her clients.  Many defense attorneys tout the fact that they used to be prosecutors.  I’m not so sure this is a positive.  You want an attorney who is going to be loyal to you without the concern of them playing both sides.  Additionally, you want to see your attorney have specialized education in criminal defense and specific involvement in criminal defense only groups, such as the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  These organizations provide criminal defense specific training throughout the country to better equip defense lawyers for the rigors of providing the best representation possible for their clients.

Attorney Adam Woody has the among the most combined experience, credentials, and courtroom success of any criminal defense attorney in Southwest, Missouri.  He has never practiced any area of law other than criminal defense, and has been perfecting his craft for over a decade.  He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, as well as the National Criminal Defense College in Macon, Georgia.  He is a general member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the treasurer of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, an organization for which he is on track to be president of in two years.  He has been named to the Superlawyers Rising Stars list in 2016, he has won the Missouri Lawyers Weekly Up and Coming Attorney award in 2011, and he has been named a Top 100 Trial Lawyer in the country in 2013 through 2016.  He is board certified in the area of Criminal Trial Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and is the only attorney in Southwest, Missouri to achieve such specialty certification.  He has achieved an AV rating by the lawyer rating resource, Martindale-Hubbell, which indicates a Preeminent rating, the highest rating available, based on peer and client reviews and independent panelist research.  He is a member of the invitation only group, National College for DUI Defense, and he has received the same certification in standardized field sobriety testing as police officers receive in their academy.  Adam has achieved hundreds of dismissals for clients accused of crimes, as well as dozens of not guilty verdicts, including for the most egregious of charges such as first degree murder.  He is a criminal defense attorney who is dedicated to that profession alone, and he is ready to step into the courtroom and provide you the best defense available in the region.

When researching an attorney to determine whether you will get the most experienced, most competent, and most prepared defense available, look no further than attorney Adam Woody.  He’s ready to fight the battle with you as your advocate in the courtroom.

Understanding Vandalism Charges

The word vandalism spray painted on a cement wall

If you or a loved one is charged with vandalism in Missouri, whether it be tagging or graffiti or defacing property, the result can be serious charges and severe penalties. If damage resulting from the vandalism is bad enough, you can face steep fines, a criminal record, jail time and even time in state prison.

Many do not realize that parents of minors are financially responsible for the damage that their children cause.  Parents of minors charged with vandalism or tagging need to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle their case.

Types of Vandalism
  • Carving into a piece of glass or wood such as a table, chair, desk or bench with a knife or any other tool
  • Breaking windows or doors
  • Tagging with markers or paint
  • Damaging somebody else’s property including mailboxes, cars, plants, lawn or other personal property with intent
Difference Between Misdemeanor & Felony Vandalism

For a person to be found guilty of vandalism prosecutors must prove that they maliciously intended to damage or deface personal property of another person.

Charges of Misdemeanor or Felony depend of the severity of the damage caused. Typically damage under the amount of $750 is considered a misdemeanor while damage of $750 and over is considered a felony.

Acts of vandalism will automatically be felonies if they are proved to be “hate crimes.”

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your case as well as help you get the best possible result in court. In some cases, your case may even be dropped if there is not enough evidence.

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Will People Be Able to See My Criminal Case Online?

Look, I get it, you are embarrassed about what you are going through. You do not want people to know about that DWI that you are dealing with. Or that Misdemeanor Assault. You do not want your employer to find out about it and you certainly do not want your mom finding it. So, will they see it?

Believe it or not this is a simple and complicated question at the same time. In the practice of law there are a lot of moving parts. Some of those moving parts are easy to predict and some are much more difficult. I am going to start with some broad statements that are generally true and then move into the specifics on what my experience has shown.

 

The first undeniable truth that you will need to accept is that we live in a digital age. Everything is recorded and placed on the web. Some things are easy to find and some things are very very hard to find, but they are out there. So, the first thing that you will need to consider is who is looking and how hard are they trying to find something. There is a FBI list called the NCIC. This is the National Crime Information Center which is a computerized database of documented criminal justice information available to virtually every law enforcement agency nationwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If a cop pulls you over, this is one of the things he or she is checking on back at their car. That list shows every arrest, plea and conviction on your record. So if you have been arrested for an assault on law enforcement officer in the past, even if that charge never went anywhere, the cop IS going to treat you different. But Grandma is going to have a hard time finding you on the NCIC.

 

The second issue is Casenet. You can find that here: Casenet. This is going to be where every person charged with a STATE offense will be shown. (example: State of Missouri v. John Doe). Whether it is a speeding ticket to a DUI to a murder charge, you are going to be on here. People get confused about this in regard to being charged in Greene County. This is considered a State Charge. Some municipal charges are on Casenet as well. That depends on the City. For instance, Springfield Municipal is NOT on Casenet, but the City of Nixa is on there. You may eventually come off of Casenet if you receive a SIS or you win your case at trial. Additionally, there is a very rare thing that can be done at the discretion of the Court which would change the clearance level of those that can see you on Casenet. That rarely happens in Criminal Cases and is more likely in the Family Court setting.

 

The third issue is all the mugshot websites. This is a hard one. Every time you pull one down it seems that a new one pops up. If money is not an issue, go ahead and spend away to have these pictures pulled down. I have a hard time telling my clients to do it because your picture will roll off the front page in a few hours. After that, you can look people up by their last name, but the websites are so bad it takes forever to even pull up the picture. It is your money and you can spend it how you want. I DO know that if I call as an attorney to pull your picture down they charge me more than they would charge you to do it yourself.

 

The fourth issue is going to be your driving record. Anyone with $8 and clearance through the State of Missouri can order your driving record and find every speeding ticket and DUI and administrative action you have. There is no protecting against this, but know that Grandma will likely not have that ability. Jobs on the other hand will…

 

Will your employer see the criminal charge? I do not know for sure. Why are they looking? Are they looking for a reason to let you go? Then they will find one and it does not have to be for this. Are they looking because their insurance needs an update on your driving record? They will find any driving offense (including a DUI) with a driving record.

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The Future is Here: Breathalyzer Skin Patches

We all know that if someone is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, they will be required to take a breathalyzer test, usually later at the police station. And this test result will be the primary evidence used against him in a drunk driving case.

The first problem with this is that the amount of alcohol in the blood is constantly changing — either rising due to absorption from recent drinking or, more likely, falling due to metabolism of the alcohol.

The second problem is that it is only illegal to have a .08% blood-alcohol concentration at the time of driving — not later at the police station.  And this breath test may not be given for an hour or two after the driving has ended — particularly in accident cases, where the police may not arrive for some time.  So the prosecution has to try to estimate what the blood-alcohol level was when the suspect was driving based upon the later test.

The third problem is that because of this, for the test results to be admissible as evidence in court they have to have been obtained within a certain period of time — in California, for example, within three hours.

But what if there was a breath-testing device which could record what the blood-alcohol level was at the time the suspect is actually driving?
Flexible Wearable Electronic Skin Patch Offers New Way to Monitor Alcohol Levels

San Diego, CA.  Aug. 2 – Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a flexible wearable sensor that can accurately measure a person’s blood alcohol level from sweat and transmit the data wirelessly to a laptop, smartphone or other mobile device. The device can be worn on the skin and could be used by doctors and police officers for continuous, non-invasive and real-time monitoring of blood alcohol content.

The device consists of a temporary tattoo — which sticks to the skin, induces sweat and electrochemically detects the alcohol level — and a portable flexible electronic circuit board, which is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and can communicate the information to a mobile device via Bluetooth…
Clearly, the government would be very interested in requiring anyone convicted of DUI to wear such a patch for the probationary period (commonly three years).

 

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What is a Class A Felony in Missouri?

The Class A Felony is the highest level of classification of crime in the State of Missouri. This is the highest of the high, the most serious level of crime.

This includes cases like Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, Robbery in the First Degree and some drug crimes like Trafficking in the First Degree.

From a lawyer’s point of view these big cases are what the big time lawyers live for. Can they be technical? Yes, but rarely so. It is a common saying that from a legal point of view a DWI can be more difficult to try in a technical point of view than a homicide. There is a lot more science and need for precision in analyzing Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, Breathalyzers and the expert witnesses the officers are holding themselves out to be. Robberies cases do not tend to be scientific in nature. They tend to be more fact base. That makes it less likely to find a technicality to get you or your loved one out of hot water. You need good lawyering more in these high end cases than a routine DWI.

Why do the big time lawyers want these big cases? These cases can be true life changers. These cases are the ones that decide if you are going to be there for your family for the next 10, 20 or 30 years; if you are going to be able to see your five-year-old graduate from high school, or get married, or have kids of their own. These are big time stakes. Big time players want the ball.

You need to be looking for the right kind of attorney to deal with these high end cases. Some of the things you should be looking for in an attorney if you or a family member has been charged with this sort of crime.

Having the compassion to deal with the client and their family. Taking time to explain the situation to them. To talk about the facts. Do they take phone calls and return phone calls?

  • Having the knowledge to deal with the legal issue. To be able to spot where the prosecutor went too far or the detective asked one too many questions. Are they straight out of law school? Are they looking at 1970 law? You need someone up to date but still having the experience.
  • Having the experience to know how the Judge is likely to rule. To be able to predict what is going to happen.
  • Do they try cases? Winning is good, but trying cases is the important part. I once worked for an attorney that said there are two types of attorneys: Cryers and Tryers. If you have a Tryer on your side, you will always beat the Cryer. Being able to stand up and hold the line is an important part of our legal system. Make sure you hire someone that is not afraid to hold that line for you.

Why do you need this kind of lawyer? Because the Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri (RSMo) states that a Class A Felony shall have the punishment as follows:

558.011. 1. The authorized terms of imprisonment, including both prison and conditional release terms, are:

 For a class A felony, a term of years not less than ten years and not to exceed thirty years, or life imprisonment;

Additionally, if you are charged with Murder in the First Degree, the death penalty is also on the table. The stakes do not get higher than this.

Class A felonies will determine the way you live your life for a very long time to come. Do not leave it up to chance.

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Missouri in the Middle When it Comes to DUI Strictness

blue united states map with borders around each state

 

Many consequences could come out of being accused of drunk driving. Multiple factors impact what specific things a person who has had DUI charges brought against them could face if a conviction is ultimately reached in their case. This is because each state has its own particular laws regarding drunk driving, including what actions can be taken against those charged with DUI and those convicted of DUI.

Among the ways states vary when it comes to DUI law is in the strictness of the laws they have. A recent set of state rankings put Missouri solidly in the middle when it comes to overall DUI strictness. In these rankings, done by WalletHub, Missouri was in a three-way tie for the No. 25 spot. The states that Missouri tied with were New Hampshire and South Carolina.

While the rankings found Missouri to be middle-of-the-road overall when it comes to how strict its DUI laws are, there was one general class of DUI-related things that the report rated Missouri to be very strict on. This was DUI prevention.

DUI prevention was one of the two main categories of metrics that were used for determining the overall rankings. The other was criminal penalties. Metrics which fell into the prevention category included a state’s laws and practices on things like: alcohol abuse assessment/treatment, ignition interlock devices, enforcement tactics and license suspension.

When it came to the prevention category, Missouri ranked 7th in the nation in strictness. In comparison, it ranked 39th in the criminal penalties category.

As a note, what sort of DUI prevention measures they could be subject to after being charged with or convicted of a drunk driving crime can have very big impacts on a person, just as the potential criminal fines and jail sentences they could face can.

Experienced Missouri DUI lawyers can assist individuals accused of drunk driving in the state with taking the unique aspects of Missouri DUI law (including its laws related to drunk driving prevention) into account in their defense efforts.

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