The Secret to Avoiding Litigation

Posted by Kaih Reed on October 07, 2015
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Two guys avoiding litigation. Shaking hands in agreement.Would you like to know the secret to avoiding litigation? Well, unfortunately, there isn’t one. However, you can position yourself to avoid a lengthy and expensive court battle. Choose alternatives and plan ahead! One of the best ways to avoid it is by looking into Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Often times, a provision ADR can be built into an agreement, and if possible, you should always attempt to include one.

There are four alternatives you should consider before going through litigation:

1. Negotiation is interchange between parties to reach a compromise. This does not involve a neutral third party. Typically, both parties try not to focus on who is right or wrong, but instead focus their efforts on reaching a mutual agreement that satisfies both parties.

The benefit of negotiation is that is a voluntary process and both parties remain in control of the outcome without outside influencers. This process is desirable to those who want to maintain a healthy business relationship without having the confrontation that litigation brings. If negotiation settles the issues at hand, it is always a good idea to memorialize the agreement in writing.

If both parties cannot reach a mutual agreement they often look to a neutral third party.

2. Mediation is a way to resolve disputes outside of court. It is usually informal and confidential and is conducted by a mediator. The mediator is a neutral party who has no personal interest in the dispute. They do not decide who is right or wrong and they do not issue a decision, instead they help both parties reach a mutual agreement.

The benefit of mediation is that it is an amicable way to resolve disputes, time friendly and cost effective.

For examples of mediation, check out University of Bath case study.

3. Arbitration is another way to resolve disputes outside of court. Unlike Mediation, arbitration involves an arbitrator who reviews the evidence, listens to both parties and then makes a decision. This is a more formal way of handling disputes than mediation while still being less formal than a traditional court hearing. Arbitration can be binding so both parties lose the right to appeal after the final decision is made. If you are going to arbitration, it is important to know whether it is binding arbitration, or non binding, which is more of a suggestion than an order.

 The benefit of Arbitration is that it is typically less expensive than litigation, both parties must agree in order for arbitration to take place, it is time friendly and it gives finality so that it ends the dispute.

For examples of arbitration, check out Sports Resolution case study.

 4. Collaborative Law is a more modern way of handling disputes. This involves both parties having their own attorneys to help them settle the dispute outside of court. Unlike mediation and arbitration, each attorney provides legal advice to their clients and acts as a negotiating partner. A 4-way meeting, which is a face-to face negotiation, is typically how the dispute is then settled. 

The benefits of collaborative law is that both parties avoid court, you have greater control over the agreement with a negotiating partner who is an expert in law, it is not a time consuming process all of the time, and it preserve relationships.

For examples of collaborative law, check out Collaborative case study.

If you’re writing a contract, ALWAYS try to build in a provision for Alternative Dispute Resolution. It is less formal, less stressful, and less expensive. Contact me today if you are looking for alternatives or if you need any legal advice. This Katz got your back!


Expungement in Pennsylvania

Posted by Kaih Reed on September 17, 2015
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Handshake, Legal, Expungement

Getting convicted of even a small crime is a traumatic experience. Arrest, investigation, and the trial can all be harrowing to go through, and what’s worse, you now have a criminal record that will follow you everywhere. However, not all hope is lost! There is an option that allows you to, at least on paper, move past all of that unpleasantness. This option is expungement and it is the process of sealing arrest and conviction records. Simply put, this offers you a fresh start with no record of your arrest or conviction.

In the state of Pennsylvania, there are certain criteria that must be met in order to be granted expungement. Here are some general rules:

  • Lack of Conviction:
    • If 18 months have passed since your arrest, and there is no pending criminal action, you may apply for expungement.
  • Summary Offenses:
    • You may apply for expungement of summary offenses. The most common of these are traffic offenses, but other than that, many people are convicted under a catch-all charge called Disorderly Conduct. This is a minor offense, and people have been charged with this for a large variance of things, from fighting, to small amounts of marijuana, to being too loud at a party, and other behaviors that are generally considered a nuisance. You must be free from any sort of arrest or conviction for 5 years after your summary offense conviction in order to qualify for expungement.
  • Specific Misdemeanors (from 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 9122(a)(3)):
    • a person 21 years of age or older who has been convicted of a violation of section 6308 (relating to purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of liquor or malt or brewed beverages), which occurred on or after the day the person attained 18 years of age, petitions the court of common pleas in the county where the conviction occurred seeking expungement and the person has satisfied all terms and conditions of the sentence imposed for the violation, including any suspension of operating privileges imposed pursuant to section 6310.4 (relating to restriction of operating privileges).
  • Crimes other than summary and above specified offenses:
    • Cannot be expunged until after the offender turned 70 years old and has been free from arrest or conviction or 10 years prior.
    • Can also be expunged if offender has been deceased for more than three years.
  • You have completed a program like ARD and the court orders expungement upon completion. ARD will be discussed in a future blog, but for today’s purposes, it can be summed up as an alternative program for first time offenders to avoid serious penalties.
  • Some offenses, even if you have been granted ARD prohibit you from applying for expungement. They are as follows (From 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 9122 (b.1) :
    • Any offense set forth in any of the following where the victim is under 18 years of age:
      • Section 3121 (relating to rape).
      • Section 3122.1 (relating to statutory sexual assault).
      • Section 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse).
      • Section 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault).
      • Section 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault).
      • Section 3126 (relating to indecent assault).
      • Section 3127 (relating to indecent exposure).
      • Section 5902(b) (relating to prostitution and related offenses).
      • Section 5903 (relating to obscene and other sexual materials and performances).

If you think that you are eligible for expungement contact me. We can begin the process that starts with obtaining necessary documents and petitioning the court. Expungement is not a difficult process to go through, but it does require a lot of technicalities. Remember, this Katz got your back!


What is Considered a Low-Level Crime?

Posted by Kaih Reed on September 10, 2015
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Many people do not know what is considered a low-level crime. It is critical to educate yourself in the eyes of the law so you know the classification of the crime in which you committed, and its severity. These classifications can vary state by state.

Low-level crimes can also be considered misdemeanors, infractions, or petty offenses. There is sometimes a very thin line between a low-level crime and a capital crime, also known as a felony, due to aggravating factors.

Low-level crimes can be considered a misdemeanor depending on the severity of the crime. For instance, if it is a drug related crime, the amount of drugs will be the determining factor as to whether or not it is classified as a misdemeanor or felony based upon the state in which the crime was committed.

Here are examples of low-level crimes and felonies.

Low Level Crimes Felony
Public Intoxication Murder
Trespassing Rape
Speeding Burglary
Prostitution Kidnapping
Vandalism Arson
Use of false ID Robbery

There is a great article by Free Advice that goes more in depth about the differences between petty offenses, misdemeanors, infractions, and felonies.

If you find yourself not knowing where you stand with the law, contact me. I am more than willing to help you with your case or advise you on the next steps you should take. Remember, this Katz got your back!


How to Protect Yourself against Self Incrimination

Posted by Kaih Reed on March 10, 2015
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Do you know your rights under the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights? Well, for those who don’t, your Fifth Amendment rights include your right against self-incrimination. It is a very important to know your rights included the Bill of Rights so that you may handle your encounters (if you unfortunately have one) with law enforcement appropriately.

Amendment V:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Have you ever heard the phase, “I Plead the Fifth”? That phrase is often used in the context of someone refusing to speak because doing so will prove incriminating. At times, law enforcement or the prosecution may try to convince you to give them information that will only help them build a case against you. Do NOT do this. You are not obligated to give the police or the court any information that will jeopardize your case.

Exercise your right to “Plead the Fifth”. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, tell the authorities that you want a lawyer. By law, they are obligated to stop all questioning until a lawyer is present. If they continue to question you, they cannot use anything you say against you in the court of law. Your request must be unambiguous, and I recommend the language “I have nothing further to say. I would like to speak to my attorney at once, and would like to contact him/her immediately”.

Knowing your rights does not make you a criminal, but surrendering your rights could make you a victim. If you need a lawyer, contact me. I am more than willing to take your case, educate you on your rights, and make sure your rights are not being violated. Remember, this Katz, got your back!