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February 2009 Archives

Take a Breathalyzer ? It depends...can you afford not to?

May 13, 2009. If someone knows I am a criminal lawyer, invariably I'm asked. Most likely, its at a bar (ironic I know) or a restaurant -- often with a beer in hand (even more so). "Hey, you're a lawyer.... should I take the breathalyzer if I get pulled over?" My usual retort is just as brazen "Hey buddy, you get what you pay for..." Besides, I don't usually have enough time to go over all the variables and contingencies that go into giving a proper answer. I want to finish my beer! The answer really does require a well thought out review of the facts of each case or circumstance, but there are certainly some guidelines the public should consider before they subject themselves to such a test. Besides, no matter what I or anyone else says, the likelihood of you remembering what I write here at 3:00 a.m. after you have been pulled over by the state virtually Nil.Consider that the breathalyzer is a machine, you plug it in, turn it on and let it warm up. Machines are fallible and also subject to human operator error. Breathalyzers machines are designed to

Ashley ... Good for Business?

February 13, 2009. So, it's nearly Valentines Day. The roadsides are strewn with vendors pawning flowers that may or not live the weekend. Couple are planning the most expensive meal out of the year. Hallmark is trying to get me to buy a $ 5.00 dollar greeting card that plays 80's music or Homer Simpson burping. Its such a romantic time of the year. Not too long ago, I remember hearing stories from my parents about how they met. I think my father first saw my mother in church one day. My grandfather, so the rumor goes, met my grandmother at a coming out dance (I embellish, sorry Nana) .Today, we have become accustomed to hearing stories of our friends trying out online dating sites like Another site, eharmony, plasters television ads enticing us with a "free compatibility test" (I checked, no one is compatible with me). One friend of mine even met his wife on a Jewish singles dating site. Whatever you may think of it, good or bad, Internet dating is here to stay. We are busy. We don't have time to say hi to the cute girl we see across the room anymore. Instead, we go to craigslist and checked "missed connections" every night (again, no luck here). Read more » 

What Do Kellogg's, Michael Phelps and Marijuana Activists Have in Common ?

February 11, 2009. Michael Phelps, America's most decorated Olympic athlete, recently was the subject of tabloid fodder when a picture of him allegedly using a "bong" surfaced on the Internet. Yup that's him! Leave it to the British to uncover the photo. I've read reports indicating that the pictures were from an incident that happened before the Olympics. (I for one would have focused on his watch!) His Olympic achievements aside, Phelps faces scrutiny from his fans, the public and especially his commercial sponsors.Phelps' agents have confirmed that he has deals with a number of big corporations including Speedo (surprise), Hilton, Visa, Omega Watches, and AT&T, to name a few. His agents have refused to release the value of the endorsement deals but suffice it to say Phelps won't have to work anytime soon. I'm sure he and his family for generations to come will be set financially. (I sure hope he buys his mom a house, I grew fond of her cheering him on in the stands).Now Kellogg's has announced they will let their current endorsement deal with Phelps expire. He was also suspended from competition by the US swim team. This has prompted marijuana activists groups to start calling for us to boycott Kellogg's products. (There has been no mention of them boycotting swimming - I assume because even marijuana users like to swim) Petitions are circulating and the publicity machine for both camps are in full swing. I thought it was interesting that Kellogg's was apparently aware of Phelps' prior drunk driving charge and didn't make an issue of that. Phelps hasn't been charged with anything yet and given the carefully crafted wording of his public apology for some regrettable decisions he has made, his lawyers likely considered that possibility well before he responded to the media inquiries. Just today, Phelps no-showed for IBM as the keynote speaker (I guess he's in demand) at a tech conference. Magic Johnson batted back up.Consider that Massachusetts, like a growing number of other states, has joined the growing trend of de-criminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. That doesn't technically mean smoking pot is now legal. Its just now treated as a civil infraction along with a fine.Could Phelps be charged? Sure, he could be charged if that jurisdiction isn't as liberal as Massachusetts. Consider, however, how would they prove what he was doing was illegal unless he admitted to it? I've seen plenty of bongs and hookah's in bars where people smoke tobacco. The obvious aside, its clearly a matter of proof as to whether some gung-ho District Attorney could successfully prosecute such a case. All criminal cases have burdens of proof. They usually involve observations of an officer. In successful drug prosecutions, evidence usually includes an officer's testimony of identifying the odor of marijuana and a lab analysis confirming that the seized substance is, in fact, an illegal drug.I sincerely doubt any evidence of this 'crime" still exists. Although Roger Clemens' trainer kept the "needles" he allegedly used for several years (That is just weird). I hope that Phelps's advisers counseled him to keep his mouth shut. In my opinion, the kid is 23 years old. He has been training since he was in the womb. I'm sure he has had little time to grow up. Cut him some slack. I'd rather see some footage of some of these bailout (Wall Street bankers) caught on tape smoking something funny. Then we could all save some taxpayers' money but cutting off their funding. Should he be without consequence? NO, he was suspended. He likes to swim. I am sure he is not happy about the suspension. If he wants to keep swimming, then test him and be done with it. 

Amazon Releases Kindle 2 Today

February 10, 2009 - I have been resisting buying a digital reading device ever since the first Kindle came out a couple of years ago. I like to read, however, i couldn't imagine reading my newspapers, magazines and bestsellers on a small hand held screen. I likened it to an affinity of the smell and feel of paper, the ink on my fingers and the bulk and size of the book. Besides, I could get electronic versions of everything I want to read on my laptop or even my iphone. I suppose when Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, decided to embark on a new venture involving selling technology Amazon actually produced, the tide was turning. I suspect that the Kindle was intended to be the answer to the question no one asked. What can I fit in my hand, is comfortable to hold, has huge storage and is lighter and smaller than a laptop? According to their marketing materials, the new Kindle 2 can wirelessly download over 230,000 books! That's mind boggling. There are no fees associated with the downloads nor are there wires to connect. It is all done wirelessly over Sprint's cell network. There are tons of magazines, newspapers and blogs you can also wirelessly subscribe to. To my surprise, there are pictures too, albeit black and white only.The new Kindle 2 is priced at $ 359.00. That's a hefty chunk of change considering its just for the hardware. So the next question is what is the price of the content? Well, books list at anywhere from $ 4.00 and up. I saw most titles around the $ 10.00 range. I priced the Twilight Book 1
(I swear i have not read it!) at $ 6.04. The print version of the same book costs $ 11.99 in hardcover and the same $ 6.04 in paperback. Note, that this was one of the lesser priced Kindle 2 books. Most were a little higher.Given the economy, I suspect that people may be reticient to pony up for this new device. After all, one can download books to their laptops or computers, ipods and even listen to books in their car. Also, isn't there some appeal to showing off your bound library to company? I now the tacky titles some of us collect may not be the most impressive. I admit to having such bound classics as "The Pick Up Artist" and "The Hardy Boys." But these hardcovers often instill a level of accomplishment to perusers of the bookshelf. "I read them all" usually impresses an admirer until they ask for a plot summary. I don't see that same level of accomplishment or "affect" when powering up the Kindle 2 and scrolling thru the dozens of titles . Its not as much of a part of your "appearance" as it is a part of you. Introverts may prefer it, but I think some will never leave the comfort and familiarity of the smell of paper.I have not been able to test drive the new Kindle 2 yet. its not shipping until the end of the month. Considering the first Kindle sold out in 5.5 hours in 2007, I admit that I ponied up and reserved my place in line by ordering one today. I will update this posting after I am able to get a hands on with the device. 

New Child Support Guidelines in Effect !

February 10, 2009 - As of January 2009, Massachusetts Probate Court Judges are using an entirely new formula in calculating child support obligations. The "old" guidelines were completely modified. The new changes are not minor. They are dramatic. The new 2009 Child Support Guidelines consider the joint gross income of both parents, the number of children, daycare costs as well as the costs of insurance. The costs of health, dental and even vision care can now affect the support order. These guidelines expand the definition of "income" especially in situations of a self employed "obligor" and address the "gray" area of overtime compensation and the support obligation. Gone is the obligor's income cap of $ 120,000.00. These new guidelines apply in all cases where the combined gross incomes of the parties does not exceed $ 250,000.00. This should apply to most families and eliminates the discretionary element of an order in most cases. I have had a number of clients indicate that the orders are generally "higher" than the old orders. Its probably a good idea to contact an attorney familiar with probate practice and run the numbers to see if filing a Modification is warranted. There are several criteria to consider. Income is not the only determining factor as to whether a support order can be modified.I suspect it may take many months to sort thru the effects of the new guidelines. Gray areas will likely cause litigation and appellate judges will clarify.

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