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DWI/DUI - Breath or Blood Test

In Maryland, the currently approved breath testing device is the Intoximeter EC/IR. This devise gives a measurement of grams of alcohol per liters of breath. Blood test results are measured in grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.

Both test results have legal significance:

Less than .05 = presumption that the driver is not under the influence

.05 - .07 = the test is considered neutral

.07 - .08 = the test is considered prima facie evidence the driver is impaired

.08 or more (or refusal to submit to a test) = the driver is presumed to be under the influence.

.15 or more = you may be required to participate in the Ignition Interlock System—a breathalyzer device attached to your vehicle's starter. You will be required to blow into the device in order for your vehicle to start. A person with a test result of .15 or more may not be eligible for a work permit.

Different standards apply to drivers under 21 years of age.

Even with today’s technology, breath-testing devices are subject to mistakes because they make certain assumptions about the people being tested that may or may not be true. Additionally, breath-testing machines are subject to human error, maintenance problems, and internal malfunctions. Additionally, because breath and/or blood tests are challengeable, do not assume a case is not worth fighting merely because of a test score.

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Felony vs. Misdemeanor

A felony conviction is a serious matter that can result in one year or more in State prison and the potential loss of certain privileges and Constitutional rights of U.S. citizenship, such as the right to possess a firearm or the right to vote. Felony cases are typically tried initially in Circuit Court of Maryland in the county where the crime allegedly took place. Felony Crimes involve drug and narcotics charges, arson, burglary, armed robbery, murder and/or attempted murder, rape and/or sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault and battery, white collar crimes, and other serious crimes.

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies but a conviction of one can still result in significant jail time. Misdemeanors typically result in imposition of such punishments as a fine or a jail sentence not exceeding a year. If a jail sentence is imposed, it is served in a Maryland county or city jail rather than the State or Federal prison. Misdemeanor cases are typically tried initially in District Court of Maryland in the county where the crime allegedly took place.

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Field Sobriety Tests

The following describes some of the major Field Sobriety Tests and note what the officer is/was looking for.

The Alphabet Test: This test includes counting backwards or reciting the alphabet. These tests are presumably designed to check your attention/concentration abilities, critical skills in operating a motor vehicle. However, there are many people who, for many innocent reasons, cannot perform these tests to the officer's satisfaction.

The Finger to the Nose: This test requires the accused to place his or her feet together while standing straight with eyes closed, and bring the index finger to the nose as ordered by the officer. The officer is looking for body sway, body tremors, eyelid tremors, muscle tension, or any statements made by the accused to support a finding of intoxication.

The Nystagmus: The officer will position an object (such as a pen) 12 inches away from the driver's face, and move the object from side to side while watching the subject's eyes. The officer is looking for involuntary jerking or trembling of the eyeball. This jerking or trembling may be a sign that the subject has consumed alcohol.

The Preliminary Alcohol Screening Test also known as the PAS Test: This is a portable breath test used to determine the presence of alcohol. This test is voluntary and the officer is supposed to advise the suspect of same.

The Rhomberg Balance Test: This test requires the accused to assume a position of attention, close their eyes, tilt their head back, and estimate 30 seconds. The officer is looking for the inability to stand still or steady, body or eyelid tremors, opening eyes to maintain balance, swaying (either front to back or side to side), muscle tension, or statements made by the accused. The officer is also testing the suspect's internal clock, which will usually be slow in the case of alcohol or depressants, or fast in the case of stimulants.

Standing on One Leg: The accused is instructed to stand with heels together, arms at the side, then raise one leg six inches off the ground while counting out loud until the officer allows the accused to stop. The officer is looking for raising of the arms, swaying, hopping, putting the foot down, inability to stand still, body tremors, muscle tension, and any statements made by the accused during the test.

The Walk and Turn: This test requires the accused to take heel-to-toe steps along a line, turn, and take heel-to-toe steps back. The officer is looking to see if the accused can keep their balance, follow instructions, stops during the test, leaves space between heel and toe, steps off the line, or loses their balance while turning.

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What To Do if you have been in an Accident

At the Scene, copy down the following information:

  1. The license plate number of the other vehicle(s) involved;
  2. The other driver’s information and vehicle owner’s information (name, address, insurer);
  3. The name, badge number, and contact information of any police officers on site;
  4. The reference number of any police reports, and where/when the report will be available;
  5. The names and contact information of any witnesses.

If possible - Take photographs of the scene (traffic signals, signs, weather, obstructions to visibility, etc) and the vehicles involved. Remember – most cell phones have cameras now. If you don’t have a camera phone, see if one of the witnesses do!

After the Accident, keep detailed notes about:

  1. Any medical visits, including all invoices;
  2. Any lost wages;
  3. Any other expenses incurred as a result of the incident.

Conversations with any witnesses and/or other driver(s).

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Grounds for Absolute vs. Limited Divorce

Grounds for Absolute Divorce

  • Adultery;
  • Desertion;
  • Voluntary Separation for one (1) year;
  • Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor if: spouse has been sentenced to serve minimum 3 years and has already served 12 months of the sentence;
  • Two-year Separation;
  • Insanity as determined by a licensed physician and committed spouse has been institutionalized for at least three (3) years;
  • Cruelty of treatment; or
  • Excessively vicious conduct.

Grounds for Legal Separation/Limited Divorce

Requires no sexual relations or cohabitation. Generally, a Legal Separation will begin with a Marital Separation Agreement regarding the settling of your marital property rights, child support/alimony claims, custody agreement, and other issues, which after one (1) year should qualify you for a Judgment of Absolute Divorce.

You can file for a Legal Separation/Limited Divorce while you are waiting to meet the statutory timeframe for an Absolute Divorce. This may allow the court to grant you temporary custody, visitation, child support, and alimony.

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How to Protect Yourself if your Property is being Claimed by the Government

Although the formal eminent domain or condemnation process begins when the condemnation complaint is filed, activities that take place prior to the initiation of a condemnation lawsuit often have a significant effect on the value paid for the acquired property. Decisions made at the beginning of the acquisition process may have a long reaching effect on the final resolution of the case. The importance of retaining experienced counsel at the initial stages cannot be overemphasized.

  1. Retain an Attorney - A Maryland eminent domain lawyer can better inform you what your are up against, demystify the acquisition process, and give you an honest opinion as to whether you are better off challenging the government’s ability to take your property and/or to challenge the value set forth by the government’s appraiser (i.e. a valuation challenge). Staiti & DiBlasio accepts Valuation Challenges on a Contingency Fee basis.
  2. Get an Independent Valuation of Property - The government’s acquisition agent will always explain that the offer being made is based on an appraiser’s determination of fair market value. However, the property owner should remember - the appraiser determining the government’s fair market value was hired by the government. As such, another appraiser could have a different and significantly higher opinion of fair market value. Do not delay in scheduling your independent appraisal. Timing your appraisal close in time to that of the acquiring agency will aid negotiations or the jury.
  3. Let your Attorney Negotiate with the acquiring agency - Both the acquiring agency and the government will rely on the appraisals completed by their respective experts for the negotiation process, and if necessary, valuation trials. By negotiating through counsel, you can avoid the costly mistakes of not knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the appraisals, accepting an unfair offer, or making statements that are later held against you. Additionally, a skilled negotiator may help limit the issues to be presented for trial and sometimes, provide you with interim financial relief.
  4. When Necessary, Prepare for a Valuation Trial - A Maryland eminent domain attorney can assist you in dealing with the inequality in bargaining positions, which often may only be possible through a court proceeding. In court, both the governmental agency and the property owner may present evidence that will reflect their opinions of fair market value, and where appropriate, challenge the opinions of each other’s respective appraisers.

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Ten Signs of a Bad Contractor

  1. No License – Maryland issues licenses for custom home builders and home improvement contractors alike.  If you deal with a licensed contractor, there are state agencies and funds that can help you and insurance is required.  The same can not be said for the unlicensed contractor.
  2. The Far Lower Bid – This could be a sign that the contractor is inexperienced with the work scope, intends to use shoddy materials, or intends to find reasons to claim out-of-scope services.
  3. No or Questionable References – Get references for the work actually being performed.  Whether or not they were great at replacing windows has little to do with your bathroom renovation.
  4. Desire to Avoid Permits – The homeowner is always liable.
  5. Desire to Avoid Contracts – A written contract is usually a legal requirement.
  6. Contract Requires More Than a 33% Deposit – Look out for the 10% Deposit plus 33% due upon project start as well – that’s a 43% Deposit.
  7. Excess Materials – If you are "getting a discount" because they over-ordered on a previous job, ask yourself if the items that were over-ordered make sense.  Why would they have over-ordered windows?  Shouldn’t an experienced contractor know how many square feet of materials to order?
  8. Absent or Late – Sometimes projects get delayed because of a shipping error and people do get sick, the test is how often.
  9. Scare/Pressure Tactics – "You don’t want the County involved – do you?"  "There’s no time to get other estimates, this could collapse at any minute."  It’s your home, the decision of what to do and when should be yours.
  10. Trust Your Gut – If you get a bad feeling, get help.

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What is Title Insurance

Insurance protects against unexpected and unforeseen losses. We purchase car insurance to protect us in the event of an automobile accident. We carry hazard insurance on our homes to protect against losses from fire, flood, theft, and other mishaps.

Similarly, title insurance protects against losses that might result from defects in title. For example, the person who owned your property 40 years ago granted an easement over your land to a neighbor, but it wasn’t recorded properly in the land records. As you begin to stake out the site for your new in-ground pool, your neighbor comes by to see what’s going on, and when he learns of your plans, he informs you that you can’t put your in-ground pool there because it would interfere with his easement. This is a claim against the title to your property that you were previously unaware of and which affects your ability to use your land as you desire.

Title insurance is available to lenders and to buyers. The lenders’ policy protects the lender even though the cost is usually paid by the buyer (most lenders require this as a condition of making the loan). The buyer’s policy protects the buyer. Buyers need to be aware that although they may be paying for a lender’s policy, this policy does not protect the buyer’s interest in the property; buyers need their own policy to be sure their interest in the property is protected. There are different levels of title insurance; some policies cover basic defects and cover only defects from the date of issue backward in time (issues related to the acts of previous owners), others offer coverage that is more broad than a basic policy and protects against things like future issues such as zoning, in addition to past defects.

Common causes of defects in title may be things such as unrecorded or incorrectly recorded deeds and liens, estate matters, and human error, each of which could give someone else a valid claim against your property. While title companies make every effort to discover and clear any defects which may exist, Title Insurance provides you with peace of mind knowing that your investment is protected should something unexpected arise, and the comfort that your title insurer will defend your title, and if necessary, settle any costs or claims that may have resulted.

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