The Virginia Verdict Review

Comprehensive and Informative Commentary on State and Federal Legal Matters

Let the People Tweet: NLRB Condemns Illegal Social Media Policy

For all those out there suffering under the abject tyranny of their employer’s oppressive social media policy, hope is on the horizon.  According to a report published last month by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the social media policies enforced by a number of Virginia employers may be overly broad, and therefore unenforceable.

The Board’s report, now the third of its kind, examines seven cases in which acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon found fault in the social media policy enforced by an employer on its employees.  In six of cases, Solomon concluded that “at least some of the provisions in the employer’s policies and rules are overbroad and thus unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act.”

To help differentiate between lawful and unlawful policies, the report cited the following provisions as examples of overly broad and, therefore, unlawful policies:

TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT

Offensive, demeaning, abusive or inappropriate remarks are as out of place online as they are offline, even if they are unintentional. We expect you to abide by the same standards of behavior both in the workplace and in your social media communications.

OTHER [EMPLOYER] POLICIES THAT APPLY

Think carefully about ‘friending’ co-workers . . . on external social media sites. Communications with coworkers on such sites that would be inappropriate in the workplace are also inappropriate online, and what you say in your social media channels could become a concern in the workplace. 

In each of these examples, it was determined that the wording overstepped the boundaries of labor laws by failing to properly define the parameters of the policy and by infringing on the employee’s ability to communicate with co-workers via social media.

A full version of the Board’s report, which includes a full-length example of a lawful social media policy, can be found in the links on the NLRB’s site, here.  For more information on contract law, or to discuss the legality of your employer’s social media policy, feel free to contact Westlake Legal Group.  You can find us on Twitter and Facebook via the links at the bottom of this blog.

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Bankruptcy Law: Filing Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

NOTE: All of the policies and procedures addressed below are based on the standard practices of Westlake Legal Group and are not intended to be construed as anything other than such.

To begin with, it is important to understand that a Chapter 13 case follows the same initial process as a Chapter 7 case.  After the  initial consult,  a “means test” is applied in order to determine eligibility under Chapter 7. Once it is determined that you are not eligible for relief under Chapter 7, we will begin to prepare your application for relief under Chapter 13.

When filing under Chapter 13, we will typically propose to the Chapter 13 Trustee a payment plan that sends him/her your disposable income to be used to pay off your creditors. The payment plan cannot exceed your disposable income and the plan cannot exceed 60 payments (5 years). Unless your plan allows you to pay off all your debts in fewer than 60 payments, you should count on a 60 month plan. At the end of the plan term, the remaining debts (with a few exceptions) are eliminated, just as in a Chapter 7 case.  While the plan is in effect, you do not pay interest on most debts. You may also pay a portion of your legal fees through the plan

At the moment Westlake Legal Group files your Petition for relief under Chapter 13, legal and collection actions must stop. This “stay” applies to foreclosures, garnishments, repossessions, and any other lawsuit. The first payment of the plan is due no later than 30 days after filing. This payment is due even if the plan is not ultimately approved. Failure to make this payment will result in an automatic dismissal of your case.

One other important obligation, incurred as a result of being granted the “stay” upon filing, is that you must keep all of your regularly incurring debts current. These include house payments, car payments, and any other secured installment payment.

It is also important to realize that the Trustee will not send you a monthly reminder. It is up to you to make sure your payments are received by the Trustee on time.  In addition, the Bankruptcy Code requires that a payroll deduction order be entered so that your employer pays the Plan payment directly to the Chapter 13 Trustee. However, you are responsible to ensure the payment is made. If your employer fails to make the payment for some reason, your case can be dismissed.

It is important not to miss any payments to the Trustee. If you miss a payment, the Trustee cannot pay your creditors as called for by the Plan and the Trustee may be obligated to file papers with the Bankruptcy Court asking that your case be dismissed. If your case is dismissed, your creditors will be notified, and they may resume collection against you.  If there is a serious change in your circumstances that affects your ability to make payments under the plan, contact Westlake Legal Group immediately. Do not miss a payment. We will notify the Trustee. We will also review your status, and possibly seek to modify your plan.

Once the Petition and plan are filed, if the Trustee recommends approval of the plan, you will receive a Confirmation Order setting forth the duration of the plan, the amount of payment, and other obligations. If the Trustee does not initially approve the plan, or a creditor successfully objects to the plan, we have to file an amended plan or attend a hearing. It is imperative that you continue to make your plan payment even if there is an objection or a request to submit an amended plan.

After the plan is filed, as in a Chapter 7 case, the Trustee will conduct a hearing to verify the accuracy of your Petition and to determine the status of your assets and income. Creditors have 90 days from that hearing to file a proof of claim in order to receive some payment from the plan (governmental units, like the IRS, have 120 days). Usually within six months of filing, the Trustee’s office will send a report called “Notice of Intent to Pay Claims.” You will have 30 days to object to any amounts claimed in the report, otherwise the debt will be deemed valid and paid in the Chapter 13 case.

If the plan does not call for paying all debts in full, every year you will be required to provide signed copies of your Federal and States tax returns to the Trustee within 10 days of their filing. Westlake Legal Group will also assist you in determining the proper number of tax exemptions to take from your employer, as all tax refunds in excess of $250.00 must be paid to the Trustee as an additional payment for the benefit of your creditors.

Every six months, you will receive a report from the Chapter 13 Trustee’s office listing the payments received and to whom payments have been made during that period. This report should be reviewed to ensure consistency.  Approximately 6 to 8 months after filing, the Chapter 13 Trustee will conduct a short, half-hour meeting to review your case.

Information regarding your Chapter 13 filing and the specifics of its administration are available as matters of public record, and the financial details of your case will be disclosed to parties in interest.

When you are finished making all of the payments in the plan, as directed by the Confirmation Order, the closing procedure will begin. If you are paying less than 100% to your unsecured creditors, you must file all the appropriate tax returns in order for the case to be closed. After all required information and payments have been received, the Chapter 13 office will issue an order to stop your payroll deduction. Any overpayments will be refunded after your case has its final audit. If you pay 100% of your debt, you can pay your case off early. After all the requirements of your case have been satisfied, you will receive your discharge papers from the Court in approximately four to six weeks.

For more information about the Chapter 13 process, or to schedule a personal consultation, please feel free to contact Westlake Legal Group and we will be glad to meet with you.

Bankruptcy Law: Filing Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

When considering bankruptcy, it is imperative that one considers all of the options available and the unique, intricate aspects of each.  In this particular post, we will explore the characteristics of one of the most popular forms of bankruptcy–Chapter 7.  In particular, we will focus on the process through which ones files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Virginia.  Since I can only speak to what I know, all of the procedures outlined below are based off the practices adhered to here at Westlake Legal.

As you might have guessed, the bankruptcy process often begins in an attorney’s office.  If you feel you want to discuss your options for filing for bankruptcy relief in the Commonwealth, please feel free to schedule an appointment with our firm, Westlake Legal Group.  Regardless of which firm you chose though, be sure to bring a complete list of your assets and your current bills with you. Typically, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire with regard to those assets and bills.  In our office, we will also ask you to authorize a credit check that will be ordered and sent to us.  The attorney will also provide you with certain required notices to help better inform you of your responsibilities down the line.

After we get your information, we will apply what is called the “means test.” This  test, which is based on income, will give a preliminary determination of your eligibility to apply for relief under Chapter 7. You are automatically eligible to wipe out your debts with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy if you are below the average income for your family size inVirginia.  As of April 19, 2010, the averages for Virginia are:

Family Size* One Person Two People Three People Four People Five People
INCOME $48,190  $64,890 $73,887 $85,633   $93,133

*Add $7500 for each person in excess of four

If your family income falls below those listed above, you are automatically entitled to relief under Chapter 7. If you exceed those limits, an additional analysis needs to be performed.

If your family income exceeds the average as identified above, you may still be eligible for a Chapter 7 filing. To determine that, Westlake Legal will evaluate your specific case. We will determine your “disposable income” after deducting certain expenses from your overall pay.

If your projected disposable income over the next five years is less than approximately $175 per month, you will likely be eligible for Chapter 7 relief. If you have more than approximately $175 disposable income per month, you may only be allowed to use Chapter 7 if you can demonstrate special circumstances, such as on-going medical situation. Otherwise, you may have to consider filing under Chapter 13.

Once we have determined that you are eligible for filing under Chapter 7, we will ask you to take an online credit counseling course. This is usually done in our office. Once completed, we will prepare the necessary paperwork, with your assistance, and file with the Bankruptcy Court.

Once we have filed, you will be required to take another online course, this one on financial management. This is also usually done in our office. This must be completed before you can receive a discharge.

Approximately 30 days after filing, the Trustee will conduct a hearing to verify the information placed in the Bankruptcy Petition and to ask questions about any equity in highly valued assets. After the Trustee’s hearing, the Trustee sends notice to creditors and gives them approximately 60 days to make inquiry and object to the discharge, if a reason exists. After the 60 days, assuming there are no objections, the Court enters a final Order of Discharge and the case is ended.

For more information on the Chapter 7 process, or if you would like to schedule a personal consultation, please feel free to contact us at any time.

We are a Debt Relief Agency.
We help people file for Bankruptcy Relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

 

Bankruptcy Law: Chapter 7 vs. Chapter 13

For anyone considering seeking bankruptcy relief, understanding the bankruptcy system is of utmost importance.  For this reason, we have created a number of short articles that briefly explain some of the most essential aspects of the bankruptcy process.  In this particular post, we will be discussing the difference between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

The laws regarding bankruptcy are found in Title 11 of the United Stated Code. Each Chapter of the Title deals with certain parts of the bankruptcy process. For example, Chapter 1 provides general provisions and definitions as they apply to the bankruptcy process. Several chapters deal with specific relief for specific types of debtors. Chapter 11 provides the rules and law for the reorganization of large companies that want to keep operating. Most individual debtors are concerned with either Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Chapter 7 is the most common chapter used by individuals in debt. It is considered to be the quickest and least expensive way of obtaining relief. When filing under Chapter 7, most of your unsecured debts are discharged–meaning they are eliminated and cannot be collected.  Usually you cannot eliminate taxes, student loans, or child support. You also may not be able to eliminate some debts associated with a divorce. At Westlake Legal Group, we can analyze your debts and give you an accurate prediction of the likelihood of their discharge.

Chapter 13 is referred to as an adjustment of debt and is used when a debtor has regular income and can pay his or her living expenses, but cannot make all the payments on his or her regular, scheduled debts. Essentially, the debtor cannot make all his payments but can make some contribution to paying back his debt. Often people with higher incomes are required to initially file under Chapter 13. Under a Chapter 13 filing, the Court adopts a payment plan you can afford. The plan stops the accrual of interest on unsecured debt and can require payments for up to five years. If all the debt can be paid off sooner once interest is stopped, the plan may be for a shorter period.  One is eligible for Chapter 13 relief if his or her unsecured debts are below $360,475 and his or her secured debts are less than $1,081,400.

For more information regarding Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, follow this link to a helpful site, or give us a call at Westlake Legal Group to set up an appointment.

Pursuant to the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA), please be advised that:

We are a Debt Relief Agency.
We help people file for Bankruptcy Relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

 

Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Creates Unintended Incentive to Drive Drunk

Given the most recent decision of the Virginia Supreme Court with respect to passive “operation” of a vehicle and the application ofVa. Code § 18.2-266, I wonder how many more citizens of the Commonwealth have to die before the General Assembly and the Supreme Court stop providing unintended incentives for drunk drivers to stay on the road.

In January of last year, in Nelson v. Commonwealth, 281 Va. 212 (2011), the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of a man who, after being found asleep behind the wheel of his car with the radio running, was charged with DUI.  In support of this conviction, the Court reasoned that, by placing the car in the “on” or ‘accessory” position so as to activate the radio but not the ignition, the defendant was, in effect, operating the vehicle and was therefore in violation of Code 182.-266.  Alarmed by the implications of this ruling, I have been anxiously anticipating some form of retort or rebuttal from the legal community for the last year.  On March 2nd, that response finally arrived.  Unfortunately, it was not exactly the response I was looking for.  Instead of objecting to or overturning last year’s ruling, the Supreme Court of Virginia further solidified their opinion by affirming the DUI conviction of a man found sleeping behind the wheel. Enriquez v. Commonwealth, 2012Va. Lexis 49,March 2, 2012.  In doing so, I believe the Supreme Court has inadvertently signed the death warrant of untold drivers and passengers onVirginia highways.

In Enriquez,  the Defendant was originally investigated by the police after a parking meter attendant tried to ticket his car for being illegally parked in a bus zone and discovered him asleep inside.  Unable to rouse the man by knocking on the window, the attendant called the police and the situation progressed from there.  Ultimately, he was charged with (and later convicted of) DUI because he had the keys in the ignition so he could listen to the radio while his engine was off and car in park.

While some may not question the Defendant’s eventual conviction, my issues lies with the logic applied by the Supreme Court in reaching its decision.  Following previous cases, the Supreme Court engaged in an analysis  that focussed on whether a key was in a particular position in the ignition.  Va. Code § 18.2-266 prohibits a person under the influence from driving or operating a motor vehicle on the highways.  In Enriquez, the Supreme Court spends considerable effort stretching the definition of “operate” to now include merely having the keys in the ignition, even if the engine is off and the car is in park.  In its efforts in expanding the logical definition of “operate”, the Supreme Court has created a perverse incentive for drivers that will result in more deaths on theVirginia highways.

Because the Supreme Court’s reasoning criminalizes the simple act of turning on the heat on a cold night, or of listening to the radio, while  being drunk in a car, this opinion creates an incentive for drunk drivers, or those who feel the beginnings of impairment, to stay on the road.  There is no benefit to these drivers in stopping and resting and ensuring they are going to be safe.  As such a driver faces a criminal penalty if he stops and is caught, he has an incentive to keep going and to try to reach the safety of home.  Frankly, that is the last thing I want:  implicit encouragement to drunk drivers to stay on the road.  Based on the Court’s extension of previous cases, I fully expect it to find that the mere possession of car keys, when one has a push button ignition in his car, to be construed as “operating” the vehicle.  Again, more incentive not to stop, more incentive to stay on the road, more likelihood of killing someone.

I understand that drunk driving is a hot political button.  Every officer in the state makes a DUI inquiry during every traffic stop.  However, in non-alcohol related cases, the General Assembly has already provided an incentive for tired drivers to get off the road.   Under Virginia Code 46.2-830.1, the act of parking one’s car on the shoulder in order to rest is encouraged by removing any serious penalty for drivers who do so because they are feeling drowsy or tired.   Conviction for sleeping on the side of the road is a no demerit point offense.  The General Assembly has recognized that it wants tired drivers to get off the road.  It shouldn’t matter if he is tired because he has been up for twenty-four hours or because he has had too much to drink.  That driver needs to be off the road.  Instead, if the driver who has too much to drink does what society wants and pulls over to sleep, he faces a greater chance of being discovered and punished as a criminal, especially if one were to pull over in winter and need heat to stay alive while he sleeps.   Faced with that outcome, many a drunk driver will take the chance of getting home.  And, more people will be in accidents and more people will die.  It is the law of unintended consequences.

Now that the Supreme Court has spoken in Enriquez, our only hope is that the General Assembly overturns the Supreme Court’s decision through legislation.  I am not holding my breath.

10 Rules for Dealing with the Police

As a criminal defense attorney, I routinely encounter people who could have avoided legal trouble if they had simply known how to exercise their rights when talking to the police.  Every time I see this,  I lament the fact that so few Americans have a real, working knowledge of their rights.  It seems to me that whether the topic is traffic stops or full-scale police searches, most people have little or  no knowledge of their rights and how to exercise them in daily life.

In an effort to help people become more informed about their rights, I’d like to share the following video, “10 Rules for Dealing with the Police.”  I originally came across this video series while perusing the internet, but,after watching it, I am convinced that it is a phenomenal resource for all citizens.  Personally,  I think all Virginians (and Americans, for that matter) should watch this video and take the time to properly  educate themselves about their rights and how to use them.

The video, provided by flexyourrights.org, can be viewed in its entirety by following this link to the FlexYourRights YouTube channel.

VA Senator Introduces Bill to Abolish Court of Appeals

According to a report recently published by Virginia Lawyers Weekly,  Virginia Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath Co.) has introduced a bill that calls for the abolition of the Virginia Court of Appeals.

The bill, Senate Bill 630, would do away with the Commonwealth’s intermediate appeals court starting October 1, 2012, thereby restoring the Virginia Supreme Court’s authority to hear all criminal, traffic, domestic and administrative appeals.  Deeds’ proposal is in direct opposition to House Joint Resolution 111, a piece of legislation introduced by Del. Sal Iaquinto (R-Virginia Beach) calling for an expansion of the Court of Appeals’ authority.

Though some see this piece of legislation as an attack on the court, Deeds has been adamant that his actions were not prompted by any ill-will toward the Court, but rather by a desire to promote fiscal responsibility.  According to Deeds, the abolition of the Court of Appeals would save the Commonwealth 8 million dollars annually, a significant sum for a state in the midst of wide-spread budget cuts.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Courts committee.

Virginia DUI Law: The Penalties for A DUI Conviction

As one of the most frequently charged offenses in the Commonwealth of Virginia, driving under the influence (DUI) is a very serious offense.  Since it is a class one misdemeanor, the Court may sentence a person found guilty of DUI to a variety of penalties, depending on the number of subsequent offenses and the amount of intoxication:

First Offense

  • Jail of up to 12 months
    • If BAC is .15 or greater, there is a mandatory jail sentence of 5 days
    • If BAC is more than .20, there is a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days
  • Fine between $250 and $2500 plus court costs, or
  • A combination of jail time and a fine
  • Required probation and participation in the Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (“ASAP”) as well as attendance at Victim Impact Panel
  • A loss of license for one year is required
    • If BAC was .15 or greater, one who is convicted must install an ignition interlock device before being able to get a restricted license

Whether the Court will impose some or all of the above penalties depends on the facts of each case and the person’s driving history. The loss of license is required, as are the mandatory jail sentences for high BACs.

Second Offense (within 5 years of First Offense)

  • Jail between 1 month and 12 months, or
    • Mandatory minimum jail term of 20 days
    • If BAC is between .15 and .20, there is a mandatory jail sentence of and additional 10 days
    • If BAC is more than .20, there is a mandatory jail sentence of an additional 20 days
  • Fine between $500 and $2500 plus court costs, or
  • A combination of jail time and a fine
  • Required probation and participation in ASAP as well as attendance at Victim Impact Panel
  • A loss of license for three years is required
    • If BAC was .15 or greater, one who is convicted must install an ignition interlock device before being able to get a restricted license

Whether the Court will impose some or all of the above penalties depends on the facts of each case and the person’s driving history. The loss of license is required, as are the mandatory jail sentences for high BACs.

Second Offense (between 5 and 10 years of First Offense)

  • Jail between 1 month and 12 months, or
    • Mandatory minimum jail term of 10 days
    • If BAC is between .15 and .20, there is a mandatory jail sentence of an additional 10 days.
    • If BAC is more than .20, there is a mandatory jail sentence of an additional 20 days.
  • Fine between $500 and $2500 plus court costs, or
  • A combination of jail time and a fine.
  • Required probation and participation in ASAP as well as attendance at Victim Impact Panel
  • A loss of license for three years is required.
    • If BAC was .15 or greater, one who is convicted must install an ignition interlock device before being able to get a restricted license.

Whether the Court will impose some or all of the above penalties depends on the facts of each case and the person’s driving history. The loss of license is required, as are the mandatory jail sentences for high BACs.

Third Offense in a 10 year period

  • Class 6 Felony classification.
  • Jail of up to 5 years authorized.
    • Mandatory jail term of 90 days. (180 day mandatory jail term if all three offenses committed in a 5 year period).
  • Loss of license indefinitely
  • Court fine of $500-$2500 plus court costs.
  • Required probation and participation in ASAP as well as attendance at Victim Impact Panel
  • State may seize vehicle

Whether the Court will impose some or all of the above penalties depends on the facts of each case and the person’s driving history. The loss of license is required, as are the mandatory jail sentences for high BACs.

Fourth Offense within 10 years

  • Class 6 Felony classification.
  • Jail of up to 5 years authorized.
  • Mandatory jail term of 12 months.
  • Loss of license indefinitely
  • Court fine of $1,000-$2500 plus court costs.
  • Required probation and participation in ASAP as well as attendance at Victim Impact Panel
  • State may seize vehicle

Whether the Court will impose some or all of the above penalties depends on the facts of each case and the person’s driving history. The loss of license is required, as are the mandatory jail sentences for high BACs.

Offense by Person under Age 21 (BAC of .02-less than .08)

  • Loss of license for six months.
  • Fine of not more than $500 plus court costs.

Whether the Court will impose some or all of the above penalties depends on the facts of each case and the person’s driving history.  Nevertheless, the severity of these consequences often necessitates proper legal representation.  If you find yourself facing a DUI charge,  it is well within your best interest to spend some time researching competent attorneys in your area.  As always, feel free to contact Westlake Legal for a free consultation.


Virginia DUI Law: The Effect of a DUI On Insurance and License

Q: What does a conviction for DUI do to my insurance and license? 

A:  One of the most frequent requests I receive from Traffic/DUI clients is to negotiate for fewer points on their driving record if they are found guilty.  In fact, fearing skyrocketing insurance payments, many clients offer to plea to a lesser offense in exchange for reduced points.   Unfortunately, points on a driving records are not assessed by the Court, so neither of these options are possible.  Points are assessed by the DMV, and depending or one’s driving record, a conviction for DUI could result in an administrative suspension of one’s license by the DMV. At a minimum, a person convicted of DUI will be assessed (-6) points on their driving record by the DMV. Such a conviction will remain on the driving record and can be considered when determining insurance rates for a period of 11 years after conviction. A 2004 study concluded that a DUI conviction costs up to $20,000 over the life of a convicted defendant in the form of increased insurance premiums and other fees.

When faced with the possibility of such a substantial financial burden, many people find the idea of hiring an attorney who will aggressively defend their rights much more appealing.  Should you ever find yourself in need of such services, please feel free to contact Westlake Legal Group to schedule a consultation.

Wrongfully Accused: VA Drivers Convicted of Charge That Is Not A Crime

In a turn of events that is particularly embarrassing for the Commonwealth, it has recently been reported that a number of Virginia localities have been ticketing, convicting, and fining motorists for a charge that, though alleged to be illegal, does not actually violate Virginia law.

In this instance, the law in question is Virginia Code § 46.2-707, titled “Operating uninsured motor vehicle without payment of fee; verification of insurance; false evidence of insurance.”  As its title suggests, this code makes it unlawful to operate an uninsured motor vehicle without having paid the $500 uninsured motorist fee that is required of those who chose not to purchase auto insurance.  The statute also prohibits anyone operating an uninsured vehicle from either providing false insurance information or from failing to provide proof that they have paid the uninsured motorist fee.   A conviction under this statute amounts to a Class 3 misdemeanor, the punishment for which is a $500 fine and the immediate suspension of one’s license.  Additionally,  a conviction for providing false insurance information when driving an uninsured car is labeled a “crime of moral turpitude” and can adversely affect future employment and military service.

What is particularly important about this statute–and what a surprisingly large number of police officers, prosecutors, and judges state-wide seemed to have missed–is that it only applies to drivers who are operating uninsured vehicles.  Therefore, in order to properly be charged under this statute, a driver would have to admit that his/her car was uninsured and that he/she failed to pay the uninsured motorist fee.  There is no crime if a driver does not have their insurance card on them or simply can not find it, or if they never make the above admissions.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this new revelation though is not the fact that a few police agencies (4 counties worth to be exact) misinterpreted the statute and handed out illegal tickets.  As shocking and ultimately disappointing as this is, the issue that is of most concern to me is the fact that more than a few defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges in the Commonwealth were complicit in the mistake.  The discovery that this charge has been wrongfully levied time and again without being properly challenged in court suggests a much larger issue with the justice system here in the Commonwealth.  While it might be conceivable to forgive such an error on the part of VA state troopers (thought I would not normally advocate such a move), to be equally as lenient with lawyers in the prosecutors offices or with the judges involved is inappropriate.  Just as I am charged with providing my clients with the best defense under the law, these men and women have taken an oath to uphold the laws of our country and to pursue the ends of justices at all times.  To think that a mistake as widespread and costly as this could be made on a routine basis is both extremely disappointing and terribly frustrating.  Going forward, I hope cases like this will both galvanize the Commonwealth to rectify its mistakes and prompt more citizens to educate themselves as to their basic rights.  In doing so, citizens and public servants alike will help to ensure that gross misinterpretations of law such as this do not reoccur.