Illegal Search and Seizure – Know What to do if it Happens to You

officer with evidence bagOne of my clients recently “walked” after a special unit of the Nebraska State Patrol trained in drug enforcement caught him with about $40,000 worth of illegal drugs. Was it fancy lawyering that got him off? Well, I think it was good lawyering, but that’s not all.  My client went free from the felony drug charges against him because of laws that protect us all, and because of his smart moves during the police encounter leading to his arrest. It’s important to understand, however, that the laws that set my client free aren’t intended to protect the guilty. Rather, they are to protect the innocent – to protect us all. That’s why, when it comes to illegal search and seizure, you should know what to do if it happens to you.

Illegal Search and Seizure – It Could Happen to You

We’re all guaranteed Constitutional protections from government intrusion on our privacy — innocent and guilty alike. With few exceptions, the police can’t legally bother you with a stop, or search you, unless there’s a credible reason to believe you’re breaking the law (ie. probable cause). But can’t and won’t are two different things.

As we’ve seen in the news, despite laws against unreasonable search and seizure, it still happens. Whether or not you think you’re doing something illegal, this is stuff everyone should know. After all, it’s not only guilty people who are subjected to unlawful police searches. It could happen to you, too. While most of the law enforcement officers I know are good cops who don’t purposefully violate citizens’ rights, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.  Law enforcement officers are no different.

Why my client walked

In the recent Douglas County, Nebraska, felony drug case in which my client “walked” instead of serving what could have been a lengthy prison sentence, it happened because the court threw out the evidence against him. All of it.

I made a motion to the court and the judge agreed with me. He refused to allow into evidence the tens-of-thousands of dollars worth of drugs the State Patrol seized from my client’s suitcase, or anything else found during the search. The judge suppressed the evidence because he agreed that it came from an illegal police search. That meant the prosecutor had no choice but to drop the felony drug charges.

I won that Motion to Suppress for my client because law enforcement violated his Constitutional rights with an illegal search. They stopped him without a good reason and they searched his bags without a warrant when there was no exception allowing them to do it. That rendered the evidence they got during the search inadmissible.

I also won because, during the stop, while the Nebraska State Troopers were violating his rights with an unlawful search, my client made the right moves.

What my client did during the stop that was smart

Pay attention to this part. I’m going to tell you exactly what my client did that helped him walk out of the courthouse after being caught with tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs.

  1. He didn’t run from police when they approached him
  2. He didn’t argue, resist or obstruct during the encounter

It’s pretty simple stuff, but it’s not always easy. Emotions can run high during a police encounter, especially if you feel like they’re violating your rights. In my client’s case, staying calm and cooperative and not arguing or telling the troopers how to do their jobs (like they’d listen anyway) paid off for him. Had my client done any of the above, his case could have ended much differently.

How you can be smart too

If law enforcement stops you, whether or not a search follows, the best things to do to help yourself and your lawyer down the road (should the need arise) are:

 

 

If the police perform an illegal search and find evidence, a good lawyer will try to have it suppressed so it can’t be used in court. If the search was without a warrant, there may be a chance your lawyer can find a legal argument to give you some leverage in court.

Don’t make it harder on your lawyer by doing something during the cop encounter that could end up making an exception to the warrant rule, clock more charges on your docket, or give the prosecution something to use against you in court.

Remember, you aren’t going to settle any disputes over your rights there on the scene. Those will all have to be hashed out in court later. All you are likely to accomplish by resisting police or arguing with them is to make more trouble for yourself.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney and criminal defense lawyer Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Susan and Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the firm’s Omaha office

Using GPS to Track Your Spouse During Divorce – Forbidden or a Free-for-all?

cell phone tracking and gps trackingUsing GPS to track your spouse during divorce – or tracking them via their cell phone – is a relatively new thing. Beware however, digitally tracking your spouse is a legally dicy deed.

If you think your spouse is digitally sleuthing you, there are some things you can do.

Using GPS to track your spouse – forbidden, frowned upon, or a free-for-all? 

This month marks the five year anniversary of the first Supreme Court Case to address protection of our privacy rights against digital age government intrusion. In that case, the government used GPS without a warrant to track a suspected drug dealer. The Supreme Court decided government use of GPS tracking is a “search,” that triggers Constitutional protections of our privacy.

However, when two private citizens are involved (like using GPS to track your spouse), and there’s no government action at issue, the rules are different. Sometimes those rules aren’t so clear.

To track or not to track? 

In a Nebraska divorce case or other Nebraska family law case, (or in criminal court) the Judge is likely to view recording sound or images of people differently than only tracking whereabouts of a vehicle.

Not long ago, a Nebraska woman involved in a domestic relations case sewed a recording device into her four-year-old child’s teddy bear. As a result, the court ordered her to pay quite a bit of money in damages, plus attorney fees and costs, for violating her ex-husband’s privacy.

Clearly, if you’re considering using GPS to track your spouse, or tracking your spouse via their cell phone, you should consult with an attorney. Ideally, that attorney should have deep experience in both family and criminal law. Here at Hightower Reff, we practice in both areas of law – family law and criminal law. That means when a client’s question crosses practice area boundaries, we can give them a quick, knowledgeable answer.

Ownership is key

In general, in Nebraska, if you’re thinking of installing a GPS unit on a vehicle to track the vehicle’s movements, make sure your name is on the title. If you’re thinking of using an app for cell phone tracking, make sure it’s through a device on your account.

In Nebraska, you could also hire a private investigator to do spousal surveillance for you. Most PI’s in Nebraska use electronic surveillance after they’ve watched the subject enough to establish a pattern of behavior.

If there’s a protection order against you however, paying someone else to follow your ex for you isn’t likely to play well with a Judge (to say the least).

Foreseeable fails 

Beware – using GPS to track your spouse during a divorce (or otherwise) could put you in hot water. Depending upon the situation between you and your spouse, and how you go about monitoring his or her movements, you could run afoul of harassment or stalking laws.

Additionally, if there’s a protection order in place against you, tracking of any sort is an automatic no-go.

Also, emotions are often intense during a divorce. If your spouse finds out what you’ve been up to, your digital detective work may make bad feelings between you and your soon to be ex-spouse even worse.

Tracking cost-benefit analysis

Another thing to consider if you’re thinking of using GPS to track your spouse, or tracking them via their cell phone, is whether the value of information you may get is likely to be worth the risk. If you’re considering using the information in court during your divorce or other family law case, talk to your attorney about whether it’s likely to be admissible.

Consider also that, even if the Judge lets in the evidence, you could be the one who comes out looking the worst. It may appear that you have control issues, are unreasonable – or you’re just a jerk.

All states aren’t the same

Keep in mind that Nebraska law is different from laws of some other states, so this information may not apply elsewhere. Also, whether tracking or surveillance of a certain nature is legal can change depending on what, if anything, is recorded.

It’s always best to consult with a trusted attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before you do something that may get you in hot water. This is especially true when it comes to something that could have criminal penalties – like GPS or cell phone tracking or surveillance.

Protecting your own digital privacy during divorce – what you can do

While you’re considering going modern-day Inspector Gadget, your spouse may have already beat you to the electronics store (or website, or app store.. or to your phone). But there are some things you can do to protect your privacy from digital disruption during your divorce.

 

If you think you’ve been tracked (digitally or otherwise), tell your lawyer. She or he can ask written questions of opposing counsel to find out whether your spouse or anyone acting for them has used cell phone tracking or monitoring, GPS, or the services of an investigator.

If you find out your spouse or someone acting for them hired an investigator, your lawyer should subpoena the investigator and get every last bit of information they’ve dug up about you. If your spouse un-truthfully denies hiring an investigator, they can’t use any information from the investigator in court.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff Attorney Scott Hahn, visit his profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’s divorce practice is available here.

If you need help with a Nebraska divorce, contact Hightower Reff Law today and visit one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Nebraska Misdemeanor Charges – 6 Things you Need to Know (Infographic)

nebraska-misdemeanorsIf you’re kicking off the new year with Nebraska misdemeanor charges hanging over your head, a bit of knowledge and clarity about the court process may help you feel more at ease.

There are seven classes of misdemeanors in Nebraska. They run the gamut in possible sentences – from only a relatively small fine to a rather hefty fine and jail time.

Regardless of the misdemeanor charge, the process you’ll go through is the same, except with a DUI. Although the court process is the same for a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there’s also a Nebraska DMV process you’ll have to deal with.

 

Appeals

If you’re convicted of Nebraska misdemeanor charges, you may be able to appeal. However, you must have legal grounds for your appeal.

In an appeal, the higher court looks at the legal process that led to a conviction. The appeal can also address other issues like an excessive sentence.  However, an appeal isn’t a chance to present new evidence. That’s not allowed. The appellate court will only consider the trial court’s record and the parties’ appellate briefs.

Figuring out whether you have appealable issues can be complicated. You need the advice of a trusted attorney to guide you before you waste a lot of time and money. If the court sees your appeal as frivolous, it’ll be dismissed and you’ll be out of luck – and probably quite a bit of money.

It may surprise you to learn that even if you entered a plea, you may still have grounds for an appeal. Appellate practice can be complicated. As with your case, your best bet is to have a lawyer guide you in the appeals process.

Get Help with Nebraska Misdemeanor Charges Early

The best thing you can do if you’re accused of a Nebraska misdemeanor (or any crime) is to get experienced legal help fast. You can hurt my power to help you as a criminal defense lawyer if you do something to damage your case before I get onboard.

It’s best to consult with your lawyer before speaking with law enforcement or making a move of any sort.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney and criminal defense lawyer Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Susan and Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the firm’s Omaha office

Nebraska Child Custody Relocation – Guide to Removal Cases

childcustodyrelocationIf you’re contemplating a move out of Nebraska with your child in the coming new year and you have a custody order in place, you’ll have to get the court’s permission beforehand. As the name of this article implies, these kinds of cases are called Nebraska child custody relocation, or removal cases.

Nebraska child custody relocation cases can be tricky. These are some basics to help make more clear how Nebraska child custody relocation cases work:

 

No temporary orders

Temporary orders allowing you to remove your child from the jurisdiction aren’t allowed in Nebraska. That’s why there’s a faster litigation process and final hearing than in a typical family law litigation case. A faster final hearing allows families to get on with their lives as quickly as possible.

Your contribution is key in your Nebraska child custody relocation case

Whether you’re the parent requesting the move, or the one opposing it, the more evidence your lawyer can show the court to support your position, the better your chances of winning. You play a key role in your lawyer’s ability to do that. You know your circumstances and your child best and can best help your lawyer understand the key elements that he or she will need to prove to the court.

It’s especially important that you communicate well with your attorney and work side by side with them during your Nebraska child custody relocation case. That will enable them to have all the key information about your situation and present it to the court.

Get a lawyer experienced in Nebraska child custody relocation onboard ASAP

Removal cases can be hard to win. It takes an experienced attorney to navigate the sometimes murky waters of Nebraska law when it comes to proving to the judge whether moving away from their other parent is truly in your child’s best interests.

Because things usually move quickly in removal cases and in the circumstances that typically surround the need for an out of state move, it’s important to get a lawyer experienced in Nebraska child custody relocation cases on board as soon as you find out an out of state move is on the horizon – whether you’re the parent moving, or the parent on the other side of the case.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower, visit her profile page.

More information about Nebraska child custody removal cases is available here. 

If you need help with a Nebraska child custody relocation or other family law case, contact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Changing Child Custody or Support Your Holiday Wish? 4 Things You Should Know (Infographic)

holiday-modification-mediumFrustrations over repeated problems can be a bigger deal during the holidays. That can be a pain, but it can also be a benefit in the long run because it can make clear to you things that need to change. Sometimes those things include child custody or child support orders that aren’t working for your family anymore. If changing child custody or support is your holiday wish, there are 4 things you should know:

 

In a Nebraska child support modification, if a parent is looking to reduce the child support they owe because their income has gone down, the court will look at what caused their income decrease. The court will also look at whether the parent caused it on purpose.

Unfitness not a necessity for changing child custody

You don’t have to prove that the other parent is unfit for the judge to grant a custody modification. Showing that changing child custody is in the child’s best interests may get the job done. For example, the court may find that changing child custody is in the child’s best interests if the parent with primary custody is no longer giving the child a stable living environment.

The court’s decision will turn on the very specific, individual facts of your case, and the needs of your children. Your attorney’s skill in clearly and effectively showing the court those things is critical.

Experienced legal support is essential

Choosing the right attorney for a Nebraska child custody modification or Nebraska child support modification is crucial. It’s also crucial to your peace of mind during what can be a long court proceeding. Having an attorney in your corner you are confident in, who gives you clear information and who is committed to your case is key.

Also remember that experience goes a long way. When you choose your attorney for your child custody modification case or child support modification case, look for a lawyer who works daily in this specialized area of the law.

Look also for a lawyer who’s familiar with the judges in your area, and how they may view the facts of your case. While no attorney has a crystal ball, or can guarantee the outcome of a case, familiarity with “the bench” in the county where your case will be heard can help your attorney know how to approach your case in the most effective way.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Hightower Reff can help with custody and support modification. 

If you need help with a child custody modification case, or a support modification case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Reasons to Consider Settling Your Nebraska Family Law Case Out of Court

img_3340Divorce, child custody, and other family law cases are among the most emotionally intense kinds of litigation. There are several sound reasons to consider settling your Nebraska family law case out of court.

Court proceedings aren’t punishment

Going to trial isn’t a good way to try to punish or penalize your spouse for their wrongs. Nebraska is a true no-fault divorce state. That means that, in the vast majority of circumstances, your spouse’s status as a giant jerk isn’t going to have any bearing on the outcome of your case.

Also keep in mind that emotions can get the better of you during a family law case. It’s usually a really hard time in your life. Very rarely – if ever – does a trial do anything positive to ease the raw nerves or wounded feelings of a divorcing spouse or to heal a hurting family.

Different options, same outcome –  settling your Nebraska family law case

Whether you reach a divorce settlement agreement through the collaborative divorce process, mediation, or negotiations between your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer – this infographic outlines some good reasons to consider settlement:

 

Additionally, settling your family law case out of court can save money in the long and short run. Settlement can be less expensive in the short run because it saves the costs of trial – which can be very expensive. In the long run, you and the other party are more likely to follow an order upon which the two of you agreed, as opposed to one decided by the judge. That means you’re less likely to have to spend money going back to court in future.

If you and the other party are able to reach a settlement agreement:

  • your attorneys or the mediator will put it in writing
  • both parties will sign it
  • the judge still needs to approve and sign a Divorce Decree incorporating the provisions of your settlement agreement
  • that Decree will be the court order that you and the other party must follow, unless the court modifies the order down the road

Not for everyone

Settlement isn’t appropriate in every case. However, in the majority of cases, good attorneys can help guide you along the path to reaching an amicable and fair settlement for your Nebraska family law case.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Tracy Hightower, visit her profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’s family law practice is available here.

If you need help with a Nebraska family law case, contact Hightower Reff Law today and come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

 

Nebraska DUI and the DMV – 7 Things You Should Know (Infographic) (DUI Process Series Part II)

girl-dui-dmvThe holidays are a time to celebrate, and a favorite time for law enforcement to look for drunk drivers. Of course, drunk or drugged driving can be deadly and you shouldn’t do it – during the holidays or any other time. It also carries legal consequences, including court issues, as well as issues with Nebraska DUI and the DMV.

If you’re ticketed or arrested for driving under the influence in Nebraska, DUI and the DMV process is something you’ll need to know about.

The DMV process doesn’t impact the court proceedings regarding your DUI, but it does affect your ability to drive legally. (For more information about the court end of the Nebraska DUI process, see the first part of this series, Nebraska DUI Court Process – Ten Things You Should Know.)

This information is meant to make things more clear, but it’s not a substitute for hiring an experienced DUI Lawyer. When you do sit down with your DUI defense team, these seven things about the Nebraska DUI DMV process may help you feel less anxiety during what can be a scary time.

 

 

More on ignition interlock

The ignition interlock device attaches to your car’s ignition system. It requires you to pass a breathalyzer test before your car will start. If you qualify for the ignition interlock permit, you’ll be allowed limited driving privileges.

But wait, there’s more…

Your Nebraska DUI DMV plight isn’t finished after you go through all of the things in the infographic, however. There’s even more to do.

After all of the stuff in the infographic is finished successfully, you have to start the process to reinstate your driver’s license with the DMV. To accomplish that, you’ll have to do even more things. Depending on your DUI offense, you may have to pass a driver’s test, pay a reinstatement fee, and complete a chemical dependency evaluation, treatment and education.

Nebraska DUI and the DMV – Don’t go it alone

I’ve been representing clients in cases involving Nebraska DUI and the DMV in the Omaha area for many years. I know the ins and outs of both the DUI court process and the DUI DMV processes. Both can be complicated, and it’s easy to make a mis-step if you don’t have good legal support.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Hightower Reff can help with your DUI case

If you need help with a DUI, contact Hightower Reff Law today at the downtown Omaha office, and arrange a time to talk with Partner Attorney Susan Reff

 

Nebraska DUI Court Process – Ten Things You Should Know (Infographic) (DUI Process Series Part I)

nebraska-dui-10-things-you-should-knowThe Nebraska DUI court process can be confusing, and it’s the last thing you want to worry about during the holidays. The best thing to do is not to drink and drive – of course. Good people make bad mistakes, however.

Clarity is key

I’ve been a practicing Nebraska DUI attorney in the Omaha area for many years, and I’ve met quite a few good people who’ve made bad mistakes. I understand. I do my best to help my clients through a very hard time in their lives by giving them the best representation possible, as well as clarity about their case. Clarity can be especially important when you’re going through a Nebraska DUI.

Two separate processes

To make going through a Nebraska DUI cases even more difficult, in addition to the court process – which addresses the legal penalties of a DUI offense – there’s also a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing process. That process will determine what happens with your license.

This infographic focuses on the court end of a DUI. Stay tuned for the next part in Hightower Reff’s DUI process series to find out about DUI DMV procedure ins and outs.

 

 

Plan Ahead

Again, it’s never okay to drink and drive. Before you head out for holiday parties, have a plan for a designated driver, a friend who will pick you up, or have your Uber app or the number of a cab company handy. On busy holidays, it may be best to be sure you have a designated driver or a sober friend or relative on standby incase cabs and Uber drivers are backed up.

The Nebraska State Patrol posts a calendar of selected enforcement locations throughout Nebraska on their website.

Don’t go it alone

Getting a DUI in Nebraska can be a very big deal. It can turn your life upside down – for a long time. Having an experienced DUI attorney who will fight for you and help you make the best decisions during both the court process and the DMV process is crucial.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Hightower Reff can help with your DUI case

If you need help with a DUI case, contact Hightower Reff Law today at the downtown Omaha office, and arrange a time to talk with Partner Attorney Susan Reff