>> Ken Riley: How much insurance is available at the level then you go to the second level and then if that’s not enough or you didn’t buy that policy, then you can go to the next level, which is insurance on your vehicle. So you’ve got ‑‑ and then even on vehicles in your household. So you’ve got several layers of coverage’s. It all depends on how much is here, here and here, and then you have to factor in your injuries. Hopefully you’re not injured such that you have to dig in to those deeper levels of insurance. But if you are, please know that you can do that.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. For more information, go to Ken’s website. It’s deliveringjustice.com, or go to wbrc.com and click on the LawCall link. In tonight’s sidebar, Kirby Farris talks about young drivers and what you need to know when your teenager gets behind the wheel. ¶
—- Side Bar —-
>> Kirby Farris: Teenagers about to start driving. Any advice? Putting your teenager behind the wheel can be a stressful time for any parent. Teen drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group. This means that the cost of insurance will also be high. Not to mention how much you’re going to worry every time your teenager takes the car out. Now, can you do anything about it? Here’s my sidebar advice: A driver’s education course for your teen can help ease the burden of insurance costs. If your child’s school doesn’t offer driver’s Ed, look for a private form in the area. The cost of driver’s education could be cheaper than the extra cost of insurance. Best of all, the safety skills your teen learns may one day save his or her life. In you have a question, send it along to LawCall tv.com. I’m personal injury Kirby Farris at Farris, Riley & Pitt in Birmingham, Alabama.
>> Tiffany Bittner: We’re moving into our segment where we ask you, our viewers to call in and ask questions. Tonight we’re talking about criminal law and crime and punishment. We’ve got a great attorney on. Not only is king really here to answer your ‑‑ Ken Riley here to answer your questions. But introduce our guest to everyone.
>> Ken Riley: John Robbins is a friend and also someone who has been practicing in this area in the criminal law realm for a number of years. John’s a professor. If there’s somebody out there that has just about seen everything and couldn’t be surprised, I would say it would be John. But I bet John sees stuff from time to time that does surprise him. [Laughter]
>> John Robbins: I guess in normal 30 years of practice, I’ve seen a lot of stuff, yes.
>> Ken Riley: Thank you for being on the show.
>> John Robbins: My pleasure.
>> Ken Riley: Talk about your practice and what you do day in and day out.
>> John Robbins: My primary practice is representing people who are arrested, charged with a crime. And that goes from it could be just a traffic ticket all the way up to capital murder cases. Or white collar fraud type cases. I’ve been doing that for close to 30 years. I teach criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence and trial add at Birmingham School of law. I handle small cases and very complex criminal cases.
>> Ken Riley: Thank you so much for being here today. I know we’ve got a lot of people that want to talk to you.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Yeah, jump in. Vicky from south side is on the line. Vicki what’s going on?
>> Caller: Hey, I got in trouble for firing a firearm in the city limits. First time I’ve ever been in any trouble in my life. But I was firing it with a legal pistol permit as a warning to my brother who was bullying me, which is common for him. But he called the law to me. And they came and was going to carry me to jail but they didn’t because of my health issues. And they took my gun, however. And since that time I had to get an attorney. And it’s been post, continued they call it continued. And the chief of police, I was told, could give me my gun back within like a week’s time; but he refused it and says he’s going to let the judge be the one to give me my gun back. So I’ve been months without my gun.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Okay. What is your question tonight?
>> Caller: I was just wondering can they keep my gun?
>> John Robbins: They cannot keep your gun. Have they actually charged you with firing a weapon within city limits of Birmingham?
>> Caller: No, sir. South side of Gadsden.
>> John Robbins: Is there a local ordinance that says that you cannot fire a gun within the city limits?
>> Caller: Yes, sir.
>> John Robbins: That’s what you’re being charged with. That does not have anything to do with whether or not you have a pistol permit or that you legally own the gun. However, you have some mitigating circumstances. The attention of the judge, if you had a legitimate reason for firing that gun, you probably could get ‑‑ mitigate any type of fine or even whether or not you would be convicted. But certainly until the case is over, that gun is evidence. But once the case is over, they should return your gun to you.
>> Ken Riley: Let’s say that she just pled guilty to it and paid the fine or did whatever the judge sends her to or whatever, would she be able to get her gun back?
>> John Robbins: She should be able to get her gun back. That’s not an ordinance that would require a forfeiture of the gun. So she should be able to get that back. Now if the judge enters an order trying to forfeit, that’s something that could be challenged.
>> Ken Riley: Great question.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. We will take a break. When we come back, we want to hear from you. Call us at 855‑LAW‑1955. We’ll be right back.
>> Tiffany Bittner: When a drunk driver injuries someone in an accident the bar where he or she bought the drinks may be liable, as well. Bob Prince has more in tonight’s legal brief.
—- Legal Brief —-
>> Bob Prince: Alabama and many other states have laws that hold alcohol servers and bars responsible for the harm that intoxicated patients caused if they have an alcohol‑related accident. These laws, called dram shop laws, hold the establishments responsible for the dangerous actions of an intoxicated person when they have illegally sold alcohol to that person. In addition to bars and liquor stores, these establishments can include things like restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores and even social clubs, as long as they’re selling alcohol. For example, if you were hit by a drunk driver who had bought drinks at a local restaurant while visibly intoxicated ‑‑ and that’s the key ‑‑ or if the driver was being served even though they were underage, you may be able to file a dram shop claim against that restaurant. That’s your legal brief for tonight, I’m Tuscaloosa attorney Bob Prince. Back to you.
>> Tiffany Bittner: We’re discussing criminal law tonight, so give us a call if you’ve got a question. We got Tommy Laura in Bessemer, are you there?
>> Caller: Yes, I am.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Hi, what’s your question?
>> Caller: Okay. Mine’s about domestic violence. I’ve just had my boyfriend arrested for domestic violence because he choked me and left marks on my neck, it was a felony. And he hadn’t been able to get out of jail yet, so I’m safe. But what I was wondering: I got subpoenaed to go to the court date. Well I just talk to the D. A. or do I need to get an attorney? And then what does this charge carry?
>> John Robbins: Laura, he is charged with domestic violence in the second degree, strangulation, that is a class B felony. Under the law, a class B felony sentence ranges from 2 years to 20 years on a first time offense. And if this is a subsequent offense, he would have certain mandatory jail time to serve. Now, the district attorney’s office in Bessemer will represent your interest in that case, so you do not necessarily need your own lawyer, but you certainly are welcome to talk to a lawyer that you’re comfortable with and ask that lawyer to go with you to court. But it will be the district attorney’s office who will actually prosecute the case. But be sure to appear in court. Do not disregard that subpoena because if you don’t show up, the charges against your boyfriend could be dismissed.
>> Ken Riley: John, for folks like Laura who are victims of crimes and who are going to have to go either testify or be part of the process, do you recommend that they go seek counsel? Or is it really on a case-by-case basis? Would you talk just a second about that?
>> John Robbins: There could also be a civil aspect to that. There are also what we call a PFA, a Protection From Abuse petition, they are civil in nature but they’re handled through the family court which you get a restraining order that can go along with the criminal case. I think it’s really a case-by-case basis. But if anybody who is a victim of a crime is kind of intimidated by the system, I always recommend just talk to a lawyer. I mean most people know a lawyer, and lawyers will generally initial interview talk to someone for little or no money. But both district attorneys’ office, the one in Bessemer and other have victims’ rights advocates that will take victims and explain the system with them, kind of be with them in court and try to answer the questions that they have and help the fears. Especially if this is the very first time you’ve ever been in court.
>> Ken Riley: Good information.
>> Tiffany Bittner: We have Jan in jasper on the phone.
>> Caller: Hey, how are you?
>> John Robbins: I’m fine. What’s your question?
>> Caller: Yes. This past year back in July I was prescribed Klonopin for my anxiety and somebody had turned me and my husband in for selling drugs, which we was not selling drugs at all. It was just a misunderstanding or whatever. Somebody was trying to get back at us and everything like that. But I had a prescription of Klonopin in my purse that had one of our boys’ name on it even though I’m prescribed this same amount of Klonopin about it. And I talked to my doctor about it and he was fine with it. I didn’t go to jail then. But like two weeks later the drug taskforce came into my house and said that I was going to ‑‑ they thought that I was going to commit suicide. Which was a nonchalant negativey did have a pistol. I turned my permit in. But I thought the law was that you could have a pistol in your home as long as you didn’t try to kill somebody or whatnot. And I had the gun put up. I had everything separated. Well they took me to jail and I had to stay two weeks in jail. And the charges are still up. And I’m having to go to meetings like once a month because of this. I mean they drug test me. I’m clean. I’ve never done drugs. Don’t drink anything. I’m just a single mama with two kids. And I’m just wanting to know where about to go with this and everything. And there’s also another thing, I had passed out at the wheel and I ran into a house. And like my insurance company ‑‑
>> Tiffany Bittner: Pause just a minute.
>> John Robbins: First of all, you are correct. You are allowed to have a gun in your house. You do not have to have a permit for it as long as the gun is legal in the sense you purchased it legally. So you’re right on that. I’m not sure, are they charging with you with a drug offense? Are you in drug court?
>> Caller: Drug court, yes. They had me down for possession.
>> John Robbins: Possession of a controlled substance?
>> Caller: Yeah, it was Klonopin.
>> John Robbins: Did you show the prosecuting ‑‑ first of all, do you have a lawyer?
>> Caller: Yeah, I have a lawyer. But well we went to the court and I was so out of it because I’ve never been in trouble before that they made me plead guilty. And I wanted to fight the thing but if you keep on fighting it, then it’s automatically they’re going to win. And I just didn’t have the money doing it all on disability and everything.
>> John Robbins: That’s not generally the case that they’re always going to win. But if you had a prescription for it, you should have shown that to your lawyer who should have then shown it to the district attorney’s office. But I’m sure that your lawyer knew all the facts of the case and tried to handle it in the best way possible. But if you already pled guilty, my advice is follow the conditions, it sounds like you’re on some type of probation. The best advice is to follow the conditions of your probation.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. Let’s take another call. Annette in Birmingham. Hey, Annette? Hello?
>> Caller: Hello.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Hey there. All right. Let’s have it. What’s going on?
>> Caller: Yes. I just have a question. My son, he was actually murdered back in 2014.
>> John Robbins: Sorry to hear that.
>> Caller: And at this time I was told that the case was going to be turned over to the grand jury. So we was waiting to hear from the D. A..
>> Tiffany Bittner: Annette, I need to put you on hold for just a moment. We’ve got to take a break. When we come back, we’ll continue our conversation with you. We’ll be right back.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. Get your pencils ready. We got our calendars to show you. Next week March the 27th, we will be discussing when your child is hurt. April the third will be scams and rip-offs following bankruptcy the following week on April 10th. Of course we’ll hope that you tune in, watch the show and call us if you have questions pertaining to it. We’ve got Mr. John Robbins on LawCall tonight answering your questions. If you’d like to get in touch with him, you can call his office at 320‑5270 or you can email him at JCRlaw@BellSouth.net. If you need to get in touch with Bob Prince, he is in Tuscaloosa and his number is 800‑536‑1105. Ken Riley is with the law firm of Farris, Riley & Pitt here in Birmingham. 324‑1212 or deliveringjustice.com is his website. So let’s hear. We had Miss Annette on the line. Annette, are you still there?
>> Caller: Yes ma’am, I am. Okay. I was just saying my son, he was murdered back in 2014 and from time of his murder we was told, me and my family, that they was going to send it to the grand jury. So this happened back in September. So we was getting calls from one of the D. A.s they’re trying to keep in touch to see whether or not had they heard anything about the gland jury. So coming this in December he will call and say well I know the grand jury hadn’t made a decision about your son which he called my son by name and left messages with my son’s name when we couldn’t answer the phone. So it just so happened in December I was on the Internet just reading the local news and I ran across an article that said that there would not be any indictment for the murder of my son that happened in September. Well nobody called and told us. We was not notified that it wasn’t going to be charged against this guy.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Is your question what would be your recourse?
>> Caller: My question is that when we did have a meeting to go up to talk to the D. A., we found out that this trial never did go to the grand jury, that they made these decisions on their own. But my question was: My son, he had a felony charge, too. And the guy that killed him had a felony. But the D. A. told me ‑‑ I told the D. A., I said look, my son was told that he has a felony charge, that he was not allowed to carry a weapon at all.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Thank you so much for calling us. I guess if you will, what are your thoughts, John?
>> John Robbins: Well, it sound like the case has not yet been presented to the grand jury. I’ve taken that from what you had to say, Annette. So it sounds like the case is still going on. There is no Statute of Limitations on murder. And there’s absolutely no limitation on the number of grand juryies that you can present a case. If one doesn’t indict, it can be presented to another one.
>> Ken Riley: Just generally speaking for the folks that may not understand the system, how does that work? How does a D. A. choose to indict someone and take them before a grand jury? What’s the process? It doesn’t just happen.
>> John Robbins: Let’s use Jefferson county as an example. Most felony cases start at the District Court level, which is a probable cause determination. If a judge finds that there is probable cause in the case, generally just gets put in line with all the other cases. And when it comes up, it’s presented to a grand jury. The grand jury makes the determination, a probable cause determination. And generally the D. A.s can control what evidence is presented to a grand jury, but it’s ultimately the grand jury that has to make that decision whether to indict or not. Generally the grand jury’s going to follow the lead of the district attorney. But there are some cases ‑‑ and they are tough. Like maybe in that situation where the evidence may not be there to get a conviction. And if they can’t convict, they’re probably not going to present it to the grand jury.
>> Ken Riley: So at that stage at the probable cause stage or at the grand jury stage, is the accused defended?
>> John Robbins: The grand jury, you only hear one side, the state side. Now, a defendant can request to appear before the grand jury. That’s very rarely happens.
>> Ken Riley: Normally the defendant’s not even there.
>> John Robbins: The defendant’s not there. My almost 30 years practice, I’ve had two of my clients that we requested to testify before the grand jury. One, he was indicted, the other one he was not.
>> Tiffany Bittner: John Robbins thank you for joining us tonight. We appreciate your expertise and taking our phone calls and questions from folks. Ken Riley, always great to see you. Have a wonderful week, everybody. We’ll see you here for LawCall next Sunday night at 10:30.