Police Body Cameras

Police Body Cameras Would Cut Crime

If you’ve been following the debate over whether or not police officers should wear mounted cameras while they are out on patrol, you’re probably familiar with the experiment in Rialto, California.

Back in 2012, officers in Rialto decided to equip themselves with body cameras for one year to see if they would help reduce complaints and provide stronger evidence in “he said, she said” situations. At the end of the year, the Rialto police department crunched the numbers and found:

  • Use of force by officers dropped by 60 percent (61 compared to 25).
  • Complaints against officers fell by 88 percent (24 compared to 3).

Video evidence collected during citizen encounters was also used to support an officers re-telling of events in many cases. In all, the body camera trial was a rousing success.

So Why The Hesitancy?

Despite the findings in the Rialto study, precincts and departments are still leery about outfitting their officers with cameras. As the Associated Press puts it, “most law enforcement officials [say that] the lack of clear guidelines on the cameras’ use could potentially undermine departments’ goals of creating greater accountability of officers and jeopardize the privacy of both the public and law enforcement officers.”

To us, that just sounds like an excuse to bury the issue under a gob of bureaucratic red tape. Rialto police chief Williams A. Farrar had the right idea when he said, “When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better. And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”

It’s a no-lose situation. Citizens don’t need to fear excessive force or an officer who doesn’t know the law, and officers don’t have to fear a frivolous suit by someone looking for a payday.

Attorney Mel Welch extrapolated on the point, saying that there were a few key reasons why body cameras would be beneficial.

“It is a win-win for all involved to have law enforcement wear cameras: there is objective evidence to corroborate their accounts of an incident,” said Welch. “It keeps law enforcement honest, which is important because:

  • They have guns; and
  • They have the authority to use those guns;

Also, this will help expedite the wheels of justice because those accused:

  • Will not have their backs up against a proverbial and literal wall as a result of police abuse; and
  • They will be able to rely better upon the objective account of evidence in coming to terms with the accusations.”

You can make the case that the cameras are too costly, and in some cases they may be, but don’t tell us it could “undermine accountability.” When you factor in the money they’ll save by preventing frivolous suits, it’s not hard to see how the cameras could quickly pay for themselves.

Related source: AP, Web Pro News

ALF Scholarship

Announcing the $1,000 ALF Scholarship Award Winner 

Late last year, we at Appelman Law Firm decided that we wanted to invest in the future of a prospective law student by offering a $1,000 scholarship to a student interested in pursuing a career in criminal justice. While we could have simply asked students for their GPA and an essay about what they planned to do after college, we decided to put a unique twist on the scholarship.

Those of you who know me best know that at one point in my life, I was chemically dependent. I have been sober for 11 years, but taking a walk on the wrong side of the tracks certainly gave me a new perspective on right and wrong, and how it can be difficult to overcome obstacles during this journey we call life. If I was going to give out $1,000, I wanted it to go to someone who had traveled down a similar path and triumphed over their past mistakes.

We decided to offer a scholarship to a law school student who had overcome a run-in with the law in their past. We asked for an essay describing their experience and how it affected their future pursuits. We also took into account GPA and work experience.

We received 35 applications, all of which had fascinating stories to tell. We wish we could feature them all on our blog, but we didn’t want to delay the announcement any further.

So without further ado, I am pleased to announce the Lia Rottman is the winner of the $1,000 Appelman Law Firm Criminal Defense Scholarship.

Lia’s story stood out from the rest for a number of reasons. She got into serious trouble with drugs and alcohol, but she put her mistakes behind her and has thrived ever since. Her 3.75 GPA and work with the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office and U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma prove that she is working extremely hard at school and in the legal community.

I held a videoconference with Lia late last week. I told her that she was a finalist, and that I wanted to learn a little more about her. Little did she know that our panel had already selected her as the winner. After talking for a bit and explaining more about the scholarship, I informed Lia about the committee’s selection. She was grateful for the scholarship, and she told us a little more about herself. You can check out the video call below.

 

 

So now that the scholarship is over, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone involved. Thank you to all who applied, and a big thanks to all the universities and counselors who helped spread the word to their students. Overall, the scholarship contest was a rousing success, and it’s likely we’ll offer another scholarship in the future. Best of luck to all those pursing a career in law, and don’t ever let a mistake stop you from chasing your passions.

Sincerely,

Avery Appelman
Appelman Law Firm

Justice

ALF Law School Scholarship Essay #5

We’re currently in the process of narrowing down finalists for the $1,000 ALF Scholarship, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the best essay submissions we’ve received on our blog. As part of the application process, entrants were asked if they would allow their story to be shared on our blog, and if so, how they would like to be attributed. Today’s essay comes from E.W.

My start in life was less than ideal. I grew up in an abusive home with a weak support system as our family moved seven times before I turned fourteen; until college, I had never attended the same school twice. By the time I was sixteen years old, my home life had deteriorated to the point that I was forced to leave home with my fourteen year old younger brother for our own safety. In addition to my coursework, I worked two jobs through my junior and senior years of high school to support us. To make matters worse, my brother developed a hereditary mental disorder, making caring for him even more challenging.

The culmination of the tremendous amount of responsibility I assumed in late high school, the lack of parental guidance, and the unresolved issues I had developed from my abusive upbringing resulted in unhealthy behaviors in my personal life. In 2010, when I was twenty years old on spring break, I chose to drink excessively which resulted in my being cited for disorderly intoxication. The charges were later dropped, but this experience left a far reaching impact on my life that would not be fully realized until a year later. In 2011, I was once again cited for intoxicated behavior, this time by the Florida State University housing department. The turning point came for me with the resultant university mandated alcohol awareness class at the Thagard Health Center on campus. The class prompted me to evaluate my alcohol consumption and with it, the coping mechanisms I had developed as a teenager. I have since developed healthier methods for dealing with stress, by avoiding high risk situations and channeling my energy into proactive solutions, such as exercising and building solid support systems.

Presently, I am active in the gym, my church, and my community which helps me to manage stress properly. Due to my experience with abuse and the emotional repercussions of it, I choose to serve my community by mentoring teenagers with similar backgrounds. Working with high risk high school students through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentor 2.0 program, I act as a mentor and a safe adult resource which gives me the opportunity to use the challenges I overcame to prevent abuse and facilitate positive life outcomes for others. In the future, I will continue this work through the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program by acting as legal voice for children from abusive homes and ultimately, by becoming a foster parent.

Part Two

Since elementary school, I knew I wanted to attend law school. Some of my friends wanted to be ballerinas or firefighters; I wanted to be an attorney. My inspiration to pursue law school at such young age was born out of the necessity of advocating for the wellbeing of myself and my younger brothers throughout our volatile home life. Working toward this goal, I studied hard in high school and was accepted into college at sixteen through a dual enrollment program. After I graduated from high school, I paid for college with two jobs, one waiting tables and the other as a peer tutor for other college students.

The academic focus of my legal interests originated during the spring semester of my junior year at the University of South Florida (USF) when I began my first constitutional law class with Professor Lawrence Morehouse. His class focused on the way in which case precedence shapes public policy, and mimicked traditional law school classes by employing dense reading assignments coupled with argument based written exams. Professor Morehouse’s exhaustive curriculum cultivated an environment of intense academic discussion, developing my interest in the intersection between law and public policy.

Professor Morehouse’s course inspired me to apply for the Tallahassee Internship Program (TIP), a competitive experiential learning program offered by USF comprised of a two month long intensive course focusing on state government and legislative policy followed by an internship during Florida’s legislative session. I was accepted to the program and, during the class, researched and wrote on the structure of Florida’s state and local government, current policy issues, and related legal proceedings. During the 2013 Legislative Session, I was delegated the responsibility of managing the education priorities for the office of Senator Jeffery Brandes, which exposed me to legal professionals working in governmental relations and became the catalyst for my career focus in public policy and administrative law.

In January of 2014, I transitioned into a professional role as a research analyst with the nonprofit research institution Florida TaxWatch whose mission is to provide independent analysis of state and local government policies. Currently, I research and analyze Florida statutes, legislative history, administrative procedure, local governmental policy and budgets, and Florida Supreme Court rulings. In conjunction with my research, I recently authored a report aimed at informing and shaping the dialogue on municipal pensions. This work builds upon the foundation of my undergraduate studies, advancing my understanding of policy as well as strengthening my skills in research and analysis.

Encouragement and guidance from Professor Morehouse and the many other civically engaged professionals I have worked with over the past two years has developed my aspirations from a childhood interest in attending law school into a professional interest in obtaining a legal education from the Florida State University College of Law. I hope to use my legal education in the fields of administrative law and governmental relations to promote informed policy creation and responsible governance.

Fake ID

ALF Scholarship Essay #4

We’re currently in the process of narrowing down finalists for the $1,000 ALF Scholarship, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the best essay submissions we’ve received on our blog. As part of the application process, entrants were asked if they would allow their story to be shared on our blog, and if so, how they would like to be attributed. Today’s essay comes from B.C.

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I desperately scrambled to the top of my concrete bunk in order to escape the torrent of urine seeping into my cell and covered my ears to drown out the racist slurs echoing throughout the halls from the white supremacist in the next cell over. I should have been studying for finals and preparing for my graduation from a prestigious university less than two weeks away. Instead, I was cowering in a Compton jail cell. This was just the beginning of a journey that taught me valuable lessons in discrimination, tenacity, humility, compassion, patience, inequality, leadership and maturity. Ultimately, this journey has led me to discover my true passion in life of becoming a public interest attorney and helping the less fortunate and disadvantaged.

The 5 days I spent in jail opened my eyes to the rampant discrimination that occurs in the criminal justice system. Upon my arrival, I overheard my arresting officer instruct a guard to “give me the royal treatment because I went to a prestigious university and probably had money and could sue.” I was given my own cell and was not stripped searched, and for the most part I was segregated from general population.

I learned tenacity after I was released from jail and lived with my father for several months in the desert. I was convicted of 2 felony counts of forging the Seal of the State of California for manufacturing fake IDs for college students and sentenced to 3 years of probation and 250 hours of community service. My active felon status made finding work particularly difficult, so I had to go beyond my comfort zone and work manual labor jobs that I once thought beneath me in oppressive 105+ degree heat.

I learned humility through my living situations after moving back to Los Angeles to seek better job opportunities. When I first arrived, I slept on the ground in an 8ft x 4ft section of a squalid 300 ft studio apartment. I shared the space with a Bangladeshi immigrant and a middle-aged failed comedian who was addicted to painkillers. The conversations I had with the tenants opened my eyes to the unique struggles and sacrifices immigrants go through, and gave me a window into a life full of strife and broken dreams, allowing me to witness first-hand the constant struggle that a drug addict goes through.

I learned compassion during my struggle the find a stable job. During much of this time I was forced to go on food stamps, and at one point had to scavenge for expired food in the dumpsters of supermarkets. There I developed friendships with other homeless men, and this made me realize that many of the homeless were not lazy and did not choose to be homeless, but rather suffered from serious issues that they had no control over, and with the right sort of help may be able to overcome.

I learned patience through completing the requirements of my probation. I had to complete 250 hours of hard labor doing landscaping and picking up garbage on the side of active freeways. There was a single van, and on rare occasions 2, that would pick up participants from a line of numbered spaces laid out in a parking lot Monday through Thursday. There was far more demand for spaces than supply, so participants had to arrive around 4am to secure a spot. There was no community service on days when it rained, and the vans would randomly never show up for the day. For these reasons it took me over 2 years to complete my community service hours.

The people that I encountered during community service allowed me learn about the rampant inequality that persists in the criminal justice system. I met a woman named Rosalina, an undocumented immigrant who came from Mexico 10 years prior to escape an abusive husband and find work. She was given 100 hours of community service as punishment for stealing baby formula to care for her infant. That contrasted greatly with a 23 year old graduate from a prestigious university who came from a wealthy family and could afford the best attorneys to defend him. He was convicted of manslaughter resulting from a drunk driving incident and received just 300 hours of community service plus some time in rehab. Rosalina’s life has arguably been ruined because of a petty crime committed with good intentions, whereas this entitled, irresponsible man who actually killed somebody essentially received the same punishment.

I learned about leadership, maturity and passion during my career in marketing and time volunteering at a legal aid non-profit. At my first full time position I learned leadership when I was promoted to Marketing Manager overseeing a team of 12 employees as well as redeveloping the company’s entire marketing program. This prepared me for my current role where I learned maturity. My current career has honed my leadership and management skills, taught me how to analyze and present complex data, sharpened my creativity, showed me how to work effectively in a team, and taught me invaluable time management skills. However, my marketing career has left me unsatisfied, and the experiences I had after my conviction made me understand the challenges low-income people face, particularly within the criminal justice system, and convinced me that my passion lies in legal advocacy for the disenfranchised. Volunteering at a legal aid non-profit solidified my decision to pursue a career as a public interest attorney and one day create my own non-profit legal aid organization with a focus on criminal defense to help the indigent. My non-profit would ensure that they get the attention their cases deserve, and at the same time would free up resources for public defenders so that they could argue their cases more effectively.

I would have never guessed that manufacturing fake IDs for college students would take me on a journey that would reshape my life and give me a completely different perspective on the world. Through this journey I have met good people that the legal system has failed, and witnessed firsthand the pernicious unfairness and inequality that exists within it. The journey has revealed to me injustices that I would have never imagined had occurred, and crystallized my resolve to change the system through being a legal advocate to the disenfranchised.

Law Scholarship

ALF SCHOLARSHIP ESSAY #3 – Justin C.

We’re currently in the process of narrowing down finalists for the $1,000 Appelman Law Firm Scholarship, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the best essay submissions we’ve received on our blog. As part of the application process, entrants were asked if they would allow their story to be shared on our blog, and if so, how they would like to be attributed. Today’s essay comes from Justin C.

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From the perspective of an outside observer, it would be fair to characterize my life as composed of two distinct stages: before and after law school. Before law school, I had little regard for society’s rules. To be sure, I wasn’t a punk — I never hurt anyone, and most of my teachers from K-12 would say I was a genuine pleasure in class. That said, I was a bad kid by almost anyone’s definition: At age 12, I was arrested for possession of marijuana in school; at age 18, I was arrested for possession of an illegal knife; at age 19, I was arrested for throwing a 300+ person party, complete with food and alcohol, at the restaurant where I used to work; and at ages 20 and 23, I was arrested for shoplifting. Now, at age 28, having gone five years without breaking the law, and after graduating law school magna cum laude, I look back on my life and wonder, “What was I thinking?” It’s hard to say exactly, but I do know that what sparked the dramatic change was my close call with jail time.

The punishment I received for most of my crimes was rather typical: fines, community service, and probation. However, one experience in particular stands out. The last time I was in court (for shoplifting groceries) the prosecutor was ready to send me to jail. After all, I had a lengthy criminal record, and it was my second offense for shoplifting. Until that point, I had thought that there was no way any prosecutor was going to send an educated, middle-class white kid to jail. I was dead wrong, and when the prosecutor requested a six month term of incarceration in front of the entire court room, my life flashed before my eyes. I was pale and stricken with terror, and I realized the mistakes I made in the past had finally caught up with me. Fortunately, I had a very persuasive public defender and a sympathetic judge, so I didn’t serve any jail time, but I finally understood that I had to make a change.

Attorney Advice

After court was finished, my public defender asked me if I would join her for coffee, and I accepted her invitation. I spent the next few hours getting chewed out harder than I had ever been before. She told me I was an idiot, that I was about to throw my life away, and that if she hadn’t stuck her neck out for me, I’d be in jail. But she didn’t just yell at me. Rather than viewing me as a criminal, she saw me as a person who simply needed some guidance. Thus, she gave me her personal phone number, and took me under her wing as a mentor. To be clear, we didn’t have a YMCA/big-sister kind of relationship, but she helped me understand that being a criminal isn’t something to be taken lightly. She encouraged me to think about my future, and how my criminality could affect the lives of the people I love: my mom, my brother, and my future wife. Indeed, my public defender even introduced me to the therapist who helped me understand my criminogenic needs and taught me how to overcome them. Simply put, my public defender changed my life. (And it was because of my experience with her that I decided to pursue law.)

But I didn’t get off with just a stern talking-to. Beyond the realization that I could actually wind up in jail, and what I learned from my public defender, I was given a hefty sentence of community service — 80 hours working for the city park. I arrived for my first day at 6 a.m. in the middle of a severe snow storm, terribly underdressed and unprepared for manual labor. My task for the day was to shovel and salt all of the sidewalks and walkways in the park. After eight hours of backbreaking shoveling, practically freezing, and no lunch break (because everything was closed due to the weather), I finished my first day of community service with the feeling that I was truly being punished. It was a humbling experience. Over the following months, however, I was fortunate enough to be assigned to garbage duty, rather than backbreaking labor, with a man named Tyrone. Tyrone is an excellent human being, but he’s not proud of being a garbage man. When I first met him, he made sure to tell me about the mistakes he made that led him to be a garbage man, and he urged me to consider that if I continue my mistakes, I may end up the same way. I soon understood why he engaged me to change my ways: When people would come by the park or club house and see me hauling garbage, they would look at me with a strange mix of disgust and pity. I will never forget what it feels like to be the garbage man that everyone looks down upon. This was the final nail in the coffin of my criminal behavior.

After narrowly escaping jail, and being transformed through my public defender and community service experience, I realized it was time to make something of my life. Thus, I enrolled at Rutgers Camden School of Law, with the dream of becoming a public defender. After all the second chances I was given, I realized that the only reason I was not in jail, or on the path to being a garbage man, is because someone — my public defender— thought I was worth saving. I hope to return the favor to another troubled youth some day.

During my 1L summer, I worked at the Federal Office of the Public Defender in Camden to see if it was what I truly wanted to do. There, I saw first-hand the injustices of the federal system, and the many unnecessary hardships that criminals must endure: from being overcharged by U.S. Attorneys, to facing draconian sentencing enhancements for trivial acts. To be clear, I am not a fan of criminals, and I understand how they hurt society, but, speaking from experience, I know that retributive punishment is not only unjust, it is also ineffective. Therefore, my goal is to use my law degree to do exactly what my public defender did for me — to give criminals the defense, and guidance, they deserve, so that they may do something meaningful with their lives.

Now, after graduating law school, I am taking the steps necessary to become a federal public defender. In September, I will be clerking for the Honorable Maria Valdez, U.S.M.J, in Chicago, and in 2015, I will be clerking for the Honorable Freda L. Wolfson, U.S.D.J., back in New Jersey. After that, I hope return to the Federal Office of the Public Defender, and perhaps enter private practice some day. In the mean time, however, I am struggling with over $140,000 in law school debt, both private and federal, and I am currently torn between studying for the bar full-time and picking up extra shifts as a waitor in order to make my monthly student loan payments. A scholarship from Appelman would thus be an incredible relief, and allow me to focus on passing the bar.

Sincerely,

Justin C.

Hope Solo

US Soccer Star Solo Arrested for Assault 

U.S. Women’s National Team goalie Hope Solo was arrested for assault over the weekend after witnesses say she struck her sister and nephew at a family gathering.

We’ve been theorizing how red card fouls in the World Cup would translate to assault charges if the aggression occurred off the pitch, but it appears that Solo won’t escape this situation with a simple red card. According to the police report, Solo would not stop “hitting people” or leave the home where the incident occurred.

Officers arrived at the residence and reported that they could hear the disturbance. Once inside, they noted that Solo appeared “intoxicated and upset,” and they determined she was the “primary aggressor and had instigated the assault,” which left her sister and 17-year-old nephew with visible injuries.

Solo was arrested on two counts of fourth-degree domestic violence assault. She will make an appearance this afternoon at Kirkland Municipal Court.

No Stranger to Controversy

This isn’t the first time the soccer star has made headlines for the wrong reasons. Besides making waves for her criticism of some former teammates and coaches, Solo was also involved in a domestic disturbance the night before her wedding.

According to the 2012 report, Solo and her fiancé Jerramy Stevens, a former tight end for the Seattle Seahawks, got into a heated argument a day before their wedding. Stevens was arrested while authorities investigated a possible assault, but he was never charged. The pair got married the following day.

Reached by email to comment on the latest incident, Solo’s attorney Toddy Maybrown said, “”Hope is not guilty of any crime. In fact, our investigation reveals that Hope was assaulted and injured during this unfortunate incident. We look forward to the opportunity to present the true facts in court and to having this matter behind Hope very soon.”

Related source: CNN, ESPN

Alex Song

Alex Song’s Assault Earns Red Card for Cameroon

Yesterday’s post about the World Cup mentioned that Portugal’s Pepe had the most discussed red card in this year’s tournament, but Pepe’s headbutt may have been upstaged by Alex Song’s hybrid punch/People’s Elbow.

The elbow heard round the world occurred just moments after two Cameroon players collided with one another in the attacking end. Croatia gained control of the ball and looked to push for a counterattack. As the players were rushing to get back to the other side of the pitch, Song bumped into Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic. Frustrated that his progress was impeded and that his team was down 1-0, Song threw a running elbow punch into Mandzukic’s back. Check out a video of the play below.

Gif provided by Who Ate All The Pies

The Croatian forward fell like there was a sniper in the building, and the whole incident unfolded in clear view of referee Pedro Proenca. The Portuguese referee wasted little time showing Song a red card, which forced Cameroon to finish the game with 10 men. Croatia went on to score three more goals to eliminate Cameroon from the World Cup by a score of 4-0.

Avery Explains Another Assault

Alex Song’s intentional elbowing of Mario Mandzukic was, by definition, a clear case of assault. There are three key points in Minnesota’s Assault statute that must be met for the crime of assault to have taken place.

  • Intent
  • An act
  • Harm

For a person to commit assault, they must partake in an act, with the intention of causing harm or the threat of harm.

As you watch the replay, it’s clear that Song committed the act with the intent of harming Mandzukic. Any city attorney worth a lick would prosecute that offense.

World Cup trophy

The World Cup: Red Cards, Pepe, and Assault

The World Cup is under way as 32 nations vie for the chance to call themselves champions of the world. With tension levels at an all-time high, it’s no surprise that players are sometimes left seeing red, literally and figuratively.

The first documented red card was handed out to none other than Peru’s Placido Galindo in 1930, and since then 161 more red cards have been handed out. Three red cards have been shown in the 2014 World Cup so far, which puts referees on pace to dish out 11 red cards this tournament, down from 17 in 2010. Before we get into why a criminal law firm is writing about soccer and red cards, here are some quick facts about red cards in World Cup history.

  • The Brazilians have received the most red cards in tournament history (11), followed by Argentina (10) and Uruguay (9).
  • Australia leads all countries in red cards on a per contest basis. One of their players receives a red card in 40 percent of their World Cup matches. Cameroon is a close second at 35 percent.
  • Spain has only received one red card in 56 World Cup matches.
  • Mexican referees have handed out the most red cards, with half of those cards shown to South American teams.

Punishing Pepe

After he was whistled for a foul on what he believed was world class acting by opponent Thomas Muller, Pepe decided to give the German a piece of his mind. Literally. He gave Mueller his forehead.

Despite the fact that Pepe’s forehead appeared to have miraculous healing powers,  (Did you see how quickly Mueller went from being injured to back on his feet after their heads touched?), you simply cannot headbutt an opponent on the pitch. While it wasn’t a violent headbutt like the one dished out by Zinedine Zidane back in 2006, Pepe’s headbutt still crossed the line.

We bring this up because had this incident occurred in the stands or in the workplace, the headbutter could find himself in legal trouble. According to Minnesota Statute 609.224 Assault in the Fifth Degree, a person is guilty of a misdemeanor offense if they:

  • Commit an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or
  • Intentionally inflict or attempt to inflict bodily harm upon another.

A misdemeanor offense is punishable by upon to 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Luckily for Pepe his only punishment is missing the remainder of the game against Germany and the following game against the United States.

Keep checking our blog for more criminal analysis of the World Cup as the tournament unfolds.

Related source: DailyMail.uk

Scholarship Entry 2

ALF Scholarship Essay #2 – David Stoddard

We’re currently in the process of narrowing down finalists for the $1,000 Appelman Law Firm Scholarship, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the best essay submissions we’ve received on our blog. As part of the application process, entrants were asked if they would allow their story to be shared on our blog, and if so, how they would like to be attributed. Today’s essay comes from David Stoddard.

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In high school, my friends and I would occasionally drive 30 minutes south to a pond in Salem, Utah to go swimming. This pond has a large bridge that spans one of its widest points. We would climb on the rail of the bridge and jump 40 feet into the cold waters below. Being mischievous teenage boys, we loved the rush that we felt on two separate levels. First, we loved the feeling of crisp waters quickly engulfing our bodies. Second, we knew this activity was not allowed, as there were signs posted stating “No Trespassing,” thus adding to the excitement of the act.

Due to the imminent risk of being caught, each time we drove to Salem we would only do a few jumps before returning to our vehicles to quickly exit the premises. One warm summer night, we decided we would go around midnight and do as many jumps as we could, in order to get the most thrilling return on our investment of driving time. This time, we planned it well and invited as many of our friends as would like to participate. One of our friends invited his female cousin who subsequently invited a couple of her friends as well. Needless to say, the group ended up being much larger than we had initially anticipated.

The night came, and three cars full of teenagers ventured sneakily down to Salem Pond. We tiptoed over to the bridge and began our plunges into the dark waters below. As one may imagine, a large group of teenagers comprising both genders plunging into brisk waters in the shadows of moonlight is not a quiet activity. Within about fifteen minutes, flashing lights of red and blue came racing around the nearest bend. What is the one thing a bunch of seventeen and eighteen year olds are thinking when they know they are about to be caught? Run! And that is exactly what we did, scattering in every possible direction. The next hour was comprised of hiding in bushes and lurking in shadows as we watched officers hunt each nook and crevice with their flashlights. After about an hour, we were all caught.

With the kindness and compassion of the officers, we were only officially charged with one offence. Having ran for so long and trespassed, we know that our punishments could have been much worse. Because some members of our group were seventeen years old, those of us who were eighteen received Class B misdemeanors for ‘Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.’ On September 21, 2006, those of us who were eighteen appeared before Judge Howard Maetani for our arraignment. We did a plea in abeyance. We each paid a one hundred dollar fine and had six months of probation. At the completion of six months, the charge was dismissed.

Since this run-in with the law, I have stayed out of any other sort of trouble. This experience, although unfortunate to have happened, has helped me gain a frontline view of the legal system coming to life in a way that I never would have been able to see otherwise. I have always been fascinated by law and the criminal defense system. Had I not gone through this short-lived trial, I would not be able to appreciate what criminal defense is all about. The counsel that we were assigned was very helpful to explain the ramifications of our plea and the punishment to follow.

Furthermore, as I am now approaching law school, I want to be sure I have a clean record going forward. To facilitate this venture, in February I began the process of expunging this offense on my own. I contemplated hiring an attorney to help me through the paperwork and filing technicalities but ultimately decided to pursue it independently. This was the best decision I could have made! I love learning by doing. Going through the appropriate channels of getting my certificate of eligibility, followed by serving the prosecutor, and the petition to expunge has taught me a great deal about how the legal system works. I am now in the ninety-day waiting period before the judge issues the order to expunge. This whole experience has taught me a great deal and has further solidified my excitement to start law school in August.

As an attorney, I would love to help those who have walked through my same footsteps. I know everyone makes mistakes, and it would be my honor and privilege to help others feel comfortable through the sometimes confusing legal system. Having been here before and known the overwhelming feeling that can come with a criminal charge, I know how great it feels to be given quality counsel. I want to pay it forward and be the one to give that counsel. It is my hope and prayer that obtaining my legal education will help facilitate that ambition.

Scholarship Entry 1

ALF Scholarship Essay #1 – Joseph Crawford

We’re currently in the process of narrowing down finalists for the $1,000 Appelman Law Firm Scholarship, and we thought it would be a great idea to share some of the best essay submissions we’ve received on our blog. As part of the application process, entrants were asked if they would allow their story to be shared on our blog, and if so, how they would like to be attributed. Today’s essay comes from Joseph Crawford.

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During high school my ability to overcome adversity would be tested. Conflict at home was normal and manifested itself in my high school performance and attitude. My father was a corporate man who tried to remove his unhappiness in life with a bottle. My mother tried to be there but was just as sick as my father. Baseball was my out, and my freshman year I made the varsity squad. My sophomore year, I allowed the drama to catch up with me and was sidelined from baseball for eligibility issues. The high school team went on to win the state championship; I would have been the starting short-stop. After reflecting upon the disappointment of my sophomore year, I renewed my focus and had a breakout season. Colleges started to show interest in my abilities. However, my dream of playing college baseball would never be realized, because during my junior and senior year I made decisions that cost me the ability to achieve this dream.

In 2002 while in the midst of having a breakout baseball season I was stopped by an officer in Derby, KS and questioned about an event that happened earlier that day. Hours prior, while exiting the high school parking lot I was involved in an altercation that ended when I head-butted another student. I could have avoided this confrontation all together but I chose otherwise.

I told the officer that I had nothing to talk about and he immediately requested I exit the vehicle and arrested me for assault and battery. This was only the beginning, because in my possession was a small amount of marijuana that was found when I was searched at the juvenile detention center. The assault and battery charges were later dropped, but the possession charge was enough to land me on diversion for one year.

While on diversion I continued making poor decisions. Later that year, I was pulled over and booked for DUI while driving in Derby, KS. My diversion was revoked and I was placed on probation for one year. My life was beginning to really spiral out of control and I failed to take action and change things.

My poor choices continued to catch up with me and in 2003 while attending a high school formal I was approached by a school administrator. You see, a few months prior to the dance I fought some kid from another school and beat him up pretty bad. He got his revenge that night by informing the school administrator, which had previously approached me, that I was under the influence and causing trouble. I was under the influence, and as soon as the administrator was sure of this she carted me off the dance floor.

The result was a one year expulsion from school. Instead of graduating from high school and moving on to play collegiate baseball, I was taking the GED. Taking the equivalency exam thrust me directly into a cohort of which less than one percent will finish a four year degree. Having completed my undergraduate degree, with honors, and in the process of completing my Juris Doctor, I have triumphed over difficulties and grown from them. The humility learned, in suffering as the result of my own behavior, turned out to be extremely beneficial to my development.

I have always felt that my background gives me a unique perspective on what it means to be a criminal or a person accused of a crime. I mean not to state that I was undeserving of any punishment I received, or that I was slighted and therefore can understand those that also feel slighted. However, I do believe that my experience gives me empathy towards those who are currently constrained by criminal charges.

I feel that I am especially equipped to become a unique defense attorney in the field of juvenile criminal justice. After all, the bulk of all the legal trouble resulted from a few years of misbehavior as a juvenile. The cases I caught as a juvenile have stayed with me to this day. I understand the repercussion of adolescent actions and how these actions effect employment, applying to schools and organizations like the Bar, and generally how these actions can stick around like shackles on your feet. Ultimately though, I am proof, and can provide inspiration to others, that although these shackles will never be removed, they can be overcome.

I hope to be a zealous advocate for my clients. I am passionate about defense law because of my life experiences. My hope is that I can combine my legal knowledge, desire to represent the accused, and inspirational story into a successful and fulfilling legal career. Any support from the Appelman Law Firm would be greatly appreciated in this endeavor.

by Appelman Law Firm