The First Time I Actually Felt Like a Lawyer

This is the third installment in my series of “Lawyer Firsts.” The first two have been overtly deprecating and, therefore (I hope), entertaining to anyone. (Not that I had to try too hard to make myself look foolish—I was just giving you a Joe-Friday-level recitation of the facts.)

 With this post, there’s actually less to point a finger at and laugh, but please don’t think it boastful. I spoke in one post about the negotiation-litigation “spiral;” well, that’s not the only spiral. I have also found there to be a distinct confidence-insecurity spiral. As a new lawyer trying to figure things out (basically) on my own, I often find myself caught in the tension between success and failure, or confidence and insecurity.

lawyer is in

 So, when I talk about a good day, it’s only because I know what a bad day is. Likewise, it’s only because I’ve had bad days that I am hungry for better ones.

 This was a (mostly) good day, but there have been many bad ones since. And that’s okay because success can’t be linear. As a new lawyer, I will simply have to fail to get better. The goal is to make the good and bad days more like a dance than a fight. When one (either bad or good) leads, the other has to follow and try to make something beautiful. Or at least something that makes sense.

 The first day I felt like a lawyer was another full-day hearing in a rural court. I had bad (or at least less-than-compelling) facts and tried to jettison most of these facts, seize on the few details that were favorable to my client, and then make a somewhat novel legal argument based on these few facts.

 That is, my pleadings were good—which is pretty rare in family law. Honestly, I still haven’t decided whether quality pleadings are an asset or liability in family law. Family law is so dang informal and, frankly, vacuous you don’t want to look too cute with fancy posturing. (What is a material change of circumstances, anyway?) But I had it on good information and belief that this particular judge would notice good work. And he or she did, in fact, notice.

 I like to think that the written work I did before the hearing inclined the judge to be a little more patient with me. If I wasn’t (and I’m not) Daniel Webster in court, it wasn’t because I hadn’t put in some real time on the back-end. Inexperience is excusable at some level, but lack of preparation isn’t, so I tried hard to make my writing make up for my performance in court.

 I noticed several times throughout the day that the judge was reading my briefs. This has to be a good thing.

 My opposing counsel was courteous and competent. I have since found out that he’s actually something of a baller when it comes to insurance defense. Why in the world he spent an entire day on this thing is beyond me, but I was glad to have gotten the experience.

 When they tell you in law school that evidence is the most important thing you have to know, I think they’re wrong. It’s most important to know civil procedure. But evidence is a close second, and unfortunately, you can’t look up the right answer when you don’t know.

 This was the first day that I’ve done any of my own substantial objecting-to and received any substantial objecting-to by another lawyer. It is very fast and very demanding. (And it makes me a little more gracious with lawyers when I read a transcript from court. It is difficult to be articulate in the heat of battle.) It is also exhilarating.

 Of particular note: Opposing counsel kept laughing at my client’s responses, to which I objected (Without any specific rule in mind, of course. It just seemed wrong.) The judge agreed and offered the following stinging legal erudition :“That is just about enough of that.” Well played, judge. Well played.

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 On another occasion I was eliciting testimony about how cooperative my client had been and about his numerous efforts to settle the issues with mediation. The other lawyer objected because we were putting in evidence about settlement offers, which is, in fact, objectionable. The funny thing is that it’s supposed to protect the person who made the settlement offers, not the person who rejected them.

 That is, it should have been okay for my client to show the court how willing he has been to settle. It was his right to protect, but if he wanted to waive that right and make the court aware of his offers, that should have been fair game.

 I point this out to stress the importance of anticipating objections beforehand. My defense of this testimony was a ridiculous string of half-thoughts and convoluted legal reasoning. By the time I finished, even I had changed my mind because my explanation was so confusing. Lost that one, dang it.

 Here’s the first-time-as-a-lawyer part: Later I was able to exclude a particularly damaging witness simply because he or she had not been properly disclosed. This was very helpful to us, and it taught (or reaffirmed, I’m not sure) something that is important. It is no small thing to stand up, open your mouth, and tell a seasoned attorney that he or she can’t do something. And for someone who would always prefer that everyone simply got along, it’s always going to be uncomfortable.

 So what? If I don’t stand up and say something, who will? This is really basic, I’ll admit, but it gripped me that day. And I think that’s why I remember feeling like it was the first time I really felt like a lawyer. Certain things about lawyering are intuitive to me: I like dressing up, I like writing, and I like meeting new people. I love helping people.

 But I don’t like uncertainty, and I don’t like taking a risk in open court, and I don’t like going up against someone who was a lawyer before I was born. At that moment, however, (and thankfully), Stefan-as-Stefan faded away and Stefan-as-Advocate came through.

 I had behaved like a lawyer deliberately, not naturally. For me, conflict-laden advocacy is a habit, not intuition—it has to be cultivated through discipline. At that moment, I saw something objectionable and said something despite an overwhelming desire to stay seated.

 A modest victory from a legal standpoint, but it was incredibly helpful for me to see that lawyering isn’t about innate scrappiness. I don’t have to love the fight; instead, I just have to discipline myself to act a certain way when a fight is needed. And that will take me much further as a lawyer than natural scrappiness will. So that’s why I felt like it was my first day as a lawyer.

My First Pro Bono Case

This is the second installment of my first-year lawyer “firsts.” My goal is *to deliberately set* aside some time to look back over my first year as a lawyer. I’m hoping to learn; I’m hoping to be encouraged; and I’m hoping to encourage some other folks. It has been hard and scary, but it’s been wonderful, too. These posts are helping me to remember that, because between the daily grind and the terror of the urgent, the good things will be lost if I don’t make an effort to keep them around.

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(**Asterisks will henceforth let you know that I have intentionally split an infinitive. And when I say I’ve split it, I’ve split it wide open like any of the following things:

1. A ripe, Hope watermelon in August.

2. The kind of spaces the Dixie Chicks like to sing about.

3. The way Scott Stapp of Creed likes to hold his arms.

That is, it was no accident.)

Lawyers help people solve problems, but there’s a lot more problems going around than there is money to pay lawyers. This is the so-called “justice gap”: You can’t get help without money, and it’s often the people without money that need the most help. I have found this to be especially true with family-law clients—when it rains, it pours.

This is why lawyers should feel burdened to handle particularly needful cases without charging for our services. I feel this burden, and I only wish that I could do more. There are also several completely self-serving reasons to volunteer to take a pro bono case, which I have articulated elsewhere. So, that’s why I took this case and will take more in the future: I both unselfishly want to help other people and also selfishly want to be a better lawyer.

My first pro bono client was wonderful—a model client. He listened to me and was always responsive. He wanted to understand the law. He didn’t care about making someone pay for past sins; he just wanted relief. All he wanted is some legal protection as he proceeded to raise his child (and raise him/her particularly well, I might add.)

This is the first lesson I learned from this case. Or, I guess you could call it an exception to a rule. Generally, I have found that people value the things that they pay for more than things that they get for free. I have seen this tendency born out in my law practice, too—if someone hires me on the cheap, they don’t value me or my time. Now, my client may have just been a wonderful person, but I actually think that his appreciation for me, despite the fact that he didn’t pay me anything, reflects another reality: There is a distinct difference between working for cheap and working for free. Working for cheap makes you look less valuable. Working for free makes you look gracious. I am now much more likely to give away my time than I am to work for less than I’m worth. After all, I don’t want people going around telling all their friends about how cheap their lawyer is, but I do want people going around telling people about how kind and empathetic I am.

And then I proceeded to set a hearing for this wonderful client, where I then proceeded to lose to a frenetic, shrieking, false-crying, illiterate, unemployed, pro-se baby-momma in leopard-print leggings and bejeweled stilettos. (I couldn’t find a picture of said stilettos, but you can get a general idea from the picture I found.) Well, I say I lost, but the judge actually appointed an attorney ad litem to represent the child. But it felt like a loss for obvious reasons.

I guess this prompts another lesson: Strange things happen. I would have thought that above-mentioned baby-momma dropping young child off at dad’s house for months on end would constitute a material change of circumstances, but I was wrong. Family law is weird, y’all.

Thankfully, the ad litem was wonderful and completely changed the “landscape” of this “litigation.” (It makes me feel better to think that this “litigation” had a “landscape,” but that’s open for debate.) I like to fancy myself something of a shalom-broker, but that role is often limited because I’ve also got to be an advocate. But that’s exactly what the ad litem was able to do in this situation—she brought peace where there was none (and little chance of finding any.) The fabric of this child’s life was tearing at the seams, but the ad litem stitched it up.

The case could not have ended any better. My client got custody and successfully enrolled the child in an outstanding school. (The child had previously attended one of the worst schools in the state.) I got a picture from my client on the first day of school with the child beaming from ear to ear, donning an obviously freshly pressed school uniform and new haircut. This kid might grow up to be President.

And I guess that’s the most important lesson: I helped alter the course of this kid’s life simply by showing up at court in a suit and asking the judge for help. All I had to do was show up.

It’s days like that that I’ve got to remember or else I’ll forget that people need me. They don’t necessarily need my ten years of college or carefully articulated legal arguments; they just need someone with a bar number to stand with them and humbly ask for stuff. And even a new lawyer can do that.

My First Day in Court

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I don’t think there was anything this dramatic, but it sure felt that way.

This is the first in what I hope to be a series of posts on new-lawyer “firsts.” I’ve been doing this lawyering thing a year now, and I haven’t had a chance to do any formal introspection. Today, then, is the first “first”: My first day in court. I’m hoping these “firsts” will give me an excuse to look back on my first-year ups-and-downs and make sure I learned all that I could.

Note: Self-indulgent rant about “authenticity.” If blogs allowed footnotes, that’s where this would go. Skip this section for the meaty stuff.

I’m frankly a little torn on these kinds of blog posts. On one hand, I think there is tremendous value in the process of laying oneself bare, even as a professional. I find that people—whether clients or potential clients or whomever—respond far more favorably to real-person lawyer than untouchable-person-lawyer. And there is much that I need to learn through evaluating myself; that process is all the more helpful when I do that evaluation before, say, the internet. Lawyers are changing, for sure, but in my experience, there’s a whole lot more genuflection (whether to self or to others) in the legal community than true reflection, which means that many attorneys simply don’t get any better. I don’t want to do that.

But I’m also getting tired of the cult of authenticity/vulnerability/transparency/genuineness/etc. Some things really are better left unsaid and unshared.

There must be, however, some achievable balance between these two extremes. Yes, my name is Stefan and I am a real person with real person-like qualities. No, you don’t need to know what I had for breakfast or what I’m insecure about. I hope that posts like this one are able to thread that needle.

There.

Courtrooms are intimidating, and they are particularly intimidating for a new lawyer. I’m thankful, therefore, that I got my first day in court in the comforting flexibility of a small town. This is important because as a general rule, these folks allow you to make up for actual competence with sincerity and kindness. I asked a ton of questions and got a lot of really helpful answers simply because I was nice and looked (and was, mostly) lost.

The courtroom was large and packed with people, which only compounded my anxiety. The thought of having to examine a witness in front of 40 people was terrible, even though I’ve got a fair amount of public speaking experience. That’s another good takeaway: No matter what you’ve done, you haven’t been to court until you’ve been to court. It’s different. There’s a strange rhythm that’s unlike any other context I’ve seen.

Back up: when I arrived at court, I decided to go meet the judge’s case coordinator and see if I could extract anything useful. One thing led to another, and I ended up sitting in the judge’s chambers drinking coffee and discussing the vagaries of law practice. I explained to the judge that this was my first day in court, which I think was probably the most helpful thing I did throughout the entire process. I received a lot of grace that day, and when I say grace, I mean grace. I got a lot more than I deserved.

This brings home another crucial takeaway: Be humble. The value of my advocacy that day had nothing to do with my skills or knowledge of the law. As it turned out, I knew the law better than anyone, and it didn’t really matter. My excellent pleadings (Bryan-Garner-approved; wide margins; tasteful font; pinpoint citations; signal words, etc.) didn’t matter, either. The judge liked me because I wasn’t too proud, and I received a better result because of it.

Given the nature of my client’s case, she was ordered to submit to a drug test. She failed said drug test, which produced a cacophony of her wailing, baby-daddy cussing, and mother-in-law threatening to sue the state. (She did not identify a particular cause-of-action under which this lawsuit might proceed.)

I had no idea what to do. So I went back to the judge’s chambers (he was now out of court) and begged him to give my client another drug test. He reluctantly agreed, so client and baby-daddy loaded up in my truck (seriously), and we drove down to the police station, which also served as criminal circuit court. I ordered them to sit down in the hallway while I interrupted open court (This was the day of the month, oh by the way, when all the criminals with felonies had their hearings.) to talk to someone named “Jessica.” She just happened to be seated at the very front of the room next to a judge who was speaking loudly.

After explaining to her my situation through the struggle of hushed voices v. angry-judge-who-is-rebuking-hardened-criminal, she took my client and I down to see some well-armed deputies. These were the kind of deputies who don’t share my sentiment on why lawyers are important. We made small talk (very small, actually) while client took the drug test and, miraculously, passed.

Here’s another important takeaway from the story that I have found to be nearly universally true (especially in family law): You have not because you ask not. There is no reason whatsoever that I should have asked the judge for another test, that he should have given it to me, that I should have loaded these people into my car, that I should have interrupted open court, or that my client should have passed her drug test. This wasn’t a logical decision; I was just willing to do the silly thing on behalf of my client because her interests are more important than my pride. It was another valuable lesson.

For lunch, I decided to walk to a local café to drown my stresses in chicken-fried-steak and peach cobbler. This was unwise. I don’t care how you eat on a normal day, I would keep court-day meals light and easy to digest. There are few things more likely to produce a malpractice claim than a suit jacket that’s suddenly too small or audible indigestion. I actually don’t have any statistics on that, but the advice is good: Don’t overeat if you’re going to be in court.

We didn’t get started in earnest until about 1:30 in the afternoon, at which point the witness examination began. (By the way, I had asked the judge for an opportunity to deliver an opening statement before we began. His answer: “No.” The whole “you have not because you ask not” thing is a principle, not a promise.)

Most of this examination was pretty straightforward, but one episode in particular bears special emphasis: Baby-daddy. Baby-daddy was indignant about court and indignant about the judge and indignant about the cops and seemed to be even indignant about my tie As a delightful complement to this aspect of his personality, he was also unable to understand that his opinions were any less persuasive than, say, the actual law or the actual facts.

He was arrogant and made for a terrible, terrible witness. And as much as I’d like to blame him, it was ultimately my fault for not preparing him. I don’t really know if it would have made much of a difference, but it might have. So here’s another takeaway: Never assume that a witness is going to be anything but incomparably bad. Some people truly have no idea what they’re supposed to do.

After he got off the stand and I regained my composure, it became clear that things were not going well for us. Sensing our impending doom, I suggested that the parties “try to work something out” or something along those lines. I am sure that my request sounded like a drowning man coming up for a last desperate gasp of air. The parties went into separate rooms and the lawyers proceeded to shuffle back and forth trying to reach a workable solution. There wasn’t one, but it did give everyone—including the judge—a better chance to understand the situation.

I didn’t know it that day, but I think my inclination was right to step outside the heat (or what I perceived as heat) of litigation. I now think of this as the “litigation-negotiation spiral.” When you can’t litigate, negotiate to strengthen your position. Then, perhaps, you have something to litigate. If you can’t negotiate, litigate until you corner someone enough to agree on something. Then, perhaps, you can litigate a little more. And then negotiate. Rinse and repeat.

The day wore on and everyone could pretty much see the writing on the wall: No settlement was going to happen. As we all prepared for the judge’s ruling, the bailiff suggested that we should do a background check on the parties for good measure. Everyone agreed it seemed like a good idea.

Lo and behold, one of the people seeking guardianship was a felon. And you can’t be a guardian if you’re a convicted felon. No one had even thought to ask. This prompts my last first-day takeaway: Read the statute. Since that day, there have been several occasions where I have had a decisive advantage over another attorney simply because I knew what the law said and pointed it out in a coherent way. Thankfully, even a new lawyer can manage that.

It was an outstanding first day to have spent in court, really. I’m not sure that I would recommend anyone else’s first day be one that lasts from 9:00 a.m. to 6:15p.m. (I’m not kidding), but I guess if it had been easy or predictable, I would be talking about something else.

July 2014 Arkansas Bar Exam Results

Congratulations to all those who passed the July 2014 Arkansas Bar Exam!

It has already been an entire year, but I vividly remember the visceral feeling of relief after getting those results. What a day it was! If you worked to pass, you should be proud of yourself. If you didn’t work hard to pass, then you should clean up your act before you start lawyering.

But seriously—we are pleased to have you all as colleagues. Do well.

 

2014 July Bar Exam Results

After You Get Your Bar Exam Scores

Tomorrow is the day when Bar exam results are released. If the website crashes at 4:00 p.m., come on back here to the blog; we’re gonna try to post the scores here.

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If you passed . . .

If your name ends up being on the big list of those who passed the July 2014 Bar Exam in Arkansas, I extend to you a hearty congratulations. Studying was hard, the test was hard, but you did it. When you get your scores in the mail on Saturday or Monday, feel free to brag about them with your friends or, perhaps, secretly wonder if they happened to score the wrong test because you couldn’t have possibly done that well on a Commercial Paper essay.

Whatever you do, it doesn’t matter—your scores don’t matter. Whether you got a combined score of 270.1 (just barely passed) or 360 (super Bar-exam genius), you can still be a lawyer provided you’ve got $125 laying around and can find someone to swear you in. And that was the point.

If you didn’t pass . . .

But if your name is not on the list of those who passed, your scores do matter—a great deal. Now, the Arkansas Bar Examiner’s formula for scoring the test is admittedly voodoo and nearly incomprehensible (because, frankly, if you could do high-level math you would have been a doctor to make some real money and wear the white coat.) Let’s walk through the score report.

What do my scores mean?

On your score report, there will be two numbers that, when added together, determine your score on the Bar exam. If this number is over 270, you probably stopped reading at the top of the page because you passed. If the score is below 270, you did not pass the Arkansas Bar Exam and you’d like to know why.

One of the numbers is your “MBE scale score,” which is probably the most important part of your score. This score is your raw score (the actual number of MBE questions that you answered correctly) that is adjusted to account for the difficulty of this particular test. Basically, the scores are scaled so that a 150 means the same today as it did in 2010 as it did in 2008. (If this scaled score is above 135, you can transfer this score onto the next Bar exam, which means you’ll only have to study for the MEE.)

The other number is your Written Scale Score, which is the combination of your essays and your MPT. The essays make up two-thirds of this score and the MPT makes up one-third. This score is scaled according to the MBE distribution.

The Takeaway: MBE is 50% of your score, MPT is 17% of your score, MEE is 33% of your score. The MBE is scaled nationally and the your combined written (MPT & MEE) is scaled with Arkansas test takers. If the average MBE nationally is 140, then the average written exam in Arkansas will be given a score of 140.

Don’t worry too much about all this scaling; all it means is that the powers-that-be adjusted the score to reflect how well your particular testing group performed. If you took the test with a bunch of SCOTUS clerks, well, then, you’re likely to have a relatively low relative rank, but your testing pool doesn’t affect your actual score. Thus, you might have the worst score among your erudite peers, but had you taken the same test with a group of lesser individuals then you’d (theoretically) have the same score on your test because you wouldn’t have gotten any bump.

No, seriously. What do I do with my scores?

First, a little bit on strategy. For those of who may not have put any pre-test thought into strategy, you may need to reevaluate that choice. Nearly everyone uses Barbri or Kaplan, right? That means that they are tailored to benefit the most number of people, but you may not be one of those people. It may be time that you leave Bar prep companies to their own fear-mongering, money-making devices, initial investment notwithstanding.

If you got over a 135 on the MBE, keep that score and spend all your studying for the essays, especially the ones that you are most certain to see (family law, civil procedure, etc.). Unless you bombed the MPT, I would not spend one second studying for it specifically.

If you didn’t pass the MBE, you have a hard choice to make. If you made a schedule and stuck to your schedule throughout bar prep, it may be that you simply cannot study for both the MBE and MEE at the same time. There’s no shame in that, mind you: the Bar exam is stupid. People who have no business practicing law routinely pass the Bar and the test often excludes people who will be fantastic attorneys.

So as unpleasant as it sounds, you have to seriously think about breaking your studying up into two parts: beating the MBE first, and then moving on to the MEE. The MBE is much harder than the MEE, mind you, but it is also in some sense more straightforward: If you do 4,000 MBE questions, you’ve seen everything under the sun.

As far as what is the most beneficial way to spend your time studying, I think it depends on the person. But you’ve got to understand that the Bar exam—no matter how overwhelming it may seem—draws upon information from a limited universe. And, frankly, one that is fairly easy to understand.

For the MBE, it’s simply a matter of doing as many questions as you can get your hands on. And think about them when you’re done. And don’t focus on the fringy subjects—as far as I’m concerned, it’s foolish to even study the Rule Against Perpetuities. Instead, spend that time on understanding mortgages or the different levels of scrutiny for constitutional questions. You know that you will see those things, and you know that you will see multiple questions on them.

Improving your MBE score by 10 points is an astronomical amount, but you’ve got to focus on the stuff that matters most. Everything matters, but not everything matters most. If you know the most heavily tested stuff really well, you can easily raise your score by 10 points.

As for the MEE, well, you’ve also got to focus on the stuff that matters most. I always found reading model essays to be the most helpful thing. By doing that you’ll see pretty quick that every subject has concepts that are recycled pretty frequently. Go there first.

Does taking the Bar another two times sounds really unpleasant? Yes, yes I’m sure it does. But it doesn’t sound as unpleasant as putting in the effort again and not having anything to show for it because you didn’t pass the MBE.

Again, leave the MPT alone unless you bombed it.

Lou Reed: No Estate Planning Idol

This recent short article identifies one of the lesser-cited advantages of using trusts for estate planning: privacy. In it, we are told all the finer points about the distribution of Lou Reed’s estate.

Had the rocker instead used trusts, we would know nothing. Trusts are private, whereas wills (and the accompanying probate process) are public.

Takeaway: Wills are what you use when you don’t care. (Now that I think about it, though, that may have been his intention. I mean, Brother Lou wasn’t know for his careful attention to detail, nor was he known for his interest in what others thought.)

But really—who am I kidding? This was just an excuse to link to this gem. Pavarotti and Lou Reed!

What Does It Mean to be “Driving”?

This is the second post in our “Arkansas DWI Answers” series. (For the first post, go here.) Our goal with this series is simple: We want you to understand Arkansas DWI and DUI laws so that you can make informed decisions. (For example, you’ll be able to make the informed decision to hire us to handle your DWI or DUI issue.)

Shameless marketing aside, we know that Arkansas DWI laws can be intimidating and confusing (and absurd, to be honest). There’s also a lot of bad information out there. (Your cousin Harold, for instance, who I’m sure has good intentions, may not be the best person to ask.) Today we’ll take some time to work through what it means to be “driving” for the purposes of “driving while intoxicated.”

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This question actually breaks into three separate parts, but they’re close enough to only require one blog:

1. What does it mean to be “driving” while intoxicated?

2. What is a “motor vehicle”?

3. Where can you receive a DWI?

What Does it Mean to Be “Driving” While Intoxicated?

According to the text of the Arkansas DWI law, you may receive a DWI for either operating a motor vehicle or being in physical control of a motor vehicle.

First thing’s first: You do not have to be driving to be charged with driving while intoxicated. (If you are not a lawyer, it may surprise you to know that most things in the law don’t make much sense, such as the fact that you don’t have to be driving to get a DWI. But “OOBIPCOAMVWI” (Operating or Being in Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated) is, I’ll admit, a little difficult to pronounce.

There’s not a bright line here, but one thing makes a big difference as to whether you’re in physical control of a vehicle: The keys. If the keys are in the ignition and you’re in the car, you’re almost certainly in physical control. If the keys are not in the ignition and you’re in the car, you’re probably not in physical control.

The issue is how easily you will be able to take control of your vehicle because, of course, that’s when someone becomes a danger. (As a practical matter, then, if you decide to get drunk and fall asleep in your car, make sure you take the keys out of the ignition and put them in, say, the glove compartment.)

What is a “Motor Vehicle”?

The definition of a motor vehicle for DWI is the same as it is for car registration purposes: “[E]very vehicle which is self-propelled and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires, but not operated upon rails.” Ark. Code Ann. § 27-14-207(6). And a “vehicle” is “every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is, or may be, transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.” Ark. Code Ann. § 27-14-207(8).

There aren’t many cases on what the definition of a vehicle is, although there is actually a case that says you can receive a DWI for driving an A.T.V. while drunk. (On that note, check out Justice Corbin’s delightfully contrarian dissent in this case—Fitch v. State, 313 Ark. 122. You will not be disappointed.)

Where can you receive a DWI?

You can basically receive a DWI anywhere in the State of Arkansas. It doesn’t matter if it’s a highway, public roadway, private roadway, or even a roadway at all. If you’re in control of a motor vehicle, you’re fair game.

The Takeaway

As should be clear from these points, you don’t fight an Arkansas DWI on the issue of whether you’re driving or whether what you’re driving is a motor vehicle. Arkansas DWI law defines both of these things broadly, so the fight is almost always on whether you’re actually intoxicated.

Under Arkansas DWI law, then, you could conceivably be given a DWI for standing on the back of a commercial walk-behind mower in the middle of the woods. It is, after all, a motor vehicle. Tractors, riding mowers, golf carts, and go-carts are an even tighter case.

Drink at home. If you find yourself in a bind, call us.

Estate Planning for a Patriarch

The concept of stewardship is at the heart of our estate planning practice here at Wilson & Haubert. When someone works hard for their stuff, we like for them to be able to keep it for as long as possible. And when they can’t keep it any longer, we want to put it where it should go. We want to help people take care of their assets because the assets are ultimately a gift from God. And God is honored when we treat his good gifts with respect. genesis-25-abraham

While reading in Genesis 25 this week, I was struck by Abraham’s stewardship of his assets. In fact, some of Abraham’s decisions closely mimic the very steps or advice that we might use in our estate planning. None of this is prescriptive, obviously, and I have some taken some liberties with the text. But the fact remains: good stewardship looks the same across cultures and eras. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise us that Abraham’s division of his assets is strikingly similar to what we might have done.

Here are some examples of best practices in Genesis 25:

 

1. Giving your assets away before you die

Abraham gave his stuff away while he was around to make sure that it went down as he intended. He gave his inheritance to Isaac and gifts (apparently substantial ones) to his other children. (As an aside, this would have allowed Abraham’s family to avoid probate. Unfortunately, however, Abraham would have penalized for Medicaid purposes).

2. Understanding the problems with second or blended families

This account is a good reminder that family has always been complicated. There could only be one child of promise according to God’s plan, so only one son could receive the inheritance. Abraham knew that this would likely create jealousy among his children and thus gave his sons both enough money to establish their own life and do it somewhere else.

3. Including everyone

Abraham could have excluded the sons that he had with Hagar and Keturah, but he instead gave them enough to start their own lives. Nothing can ruin an otherwise-solid estate plan like a scorned family member.

What Does it Mean to be “Intoxicated”?

This is the first post in what we hope to be an ongoing (and informative!) series: Arkansas DWI Answers. As Arkansas DWI attorneys, our goal is simply to answer the most common questions about Arkansas DWI and DUI in plain English so you can understand your options. (And hire us, of course, but first you need to know what you’re dealing with.)

Arkansas-DWI

If you or someone you know has received an Arkansas DWI or Arkansas DUI, you know that it is frightening. It can also be confusing because normal words like “intoxicated,” “driving,” and “vehicle,” can have different meanings. This short post is designed to help you understand what the term “intoxication” means.

What Does It Mean to Be “Intoxicated”?

This is the official DWI definition of “intoxicated”:

“influenced or affected by the ingestion of alcohol, a controlled substance, any intoxicant, or any combination of alcohol, a controlled substance, or an intoxicant, to such a degree that the driver’s reactions, motor skills, and judgment are substantially altered and the driver, therefore, constitutes a clear and substantial danger of physical injury or death to himself and other motorists or pedestrians.”

Ark. Code Ann. § 5-65-102(2) (Repl. 2005).

As you can tell, the definition of “intoxicated” is broad. Virtually anything can be an intoxicant if it impairs your ability to drive. It does not matter if you have been prescribed the intoxicant, either. So yes, that means you need to be careful with that Hydrocodone you got after getting your wisdom teeth out. And that Ambien you take once-a-month when you can’t sleep. And that Benadryl you take when you mow your yard. (Maybe you can just wear a mask.)

This definition is important because there are two ways you can be charged with an Arkansas DWI. The law that most people know about has to do with BAC, or blood alcohol content. Under Arkansas law, you can be charged with a DWI if your BAC is .08 or above—proof that you’re intoxicated. But you can also be charged with an Arkansas DWI if you are driving a vehicle while intoxicated, regardless of your BAC.

So if you’ve taken something that impairs your ability to drive, you are legally intoxicated—whether alcohol, illegal drugs, or legal drugs. If you get pulled over while intoxicated, you are at risk of being charged with a DWI.

For more information about Arkansas DWI’s (and many other riveting legal topics), please click around our intoxicatingly good website (zing!). We want you to be informed.

And if you (or someone you know) has been charged with a DWI, you need to contact an experienced, aggressive Arkansas DWI lawyer. That’s us. (But calling anyone is better than nothing. Seriously, you need to get out in front of this thing.)

Entertaining Criminals of July 2014

Robs the place; returns for lunch

A man suspected of burglarizing an El Pollo Loco in Costa Mesa, California, has been arrested after he returned to the restaurant for a meal a few hours after the robbery. Daniel Lee Warn, 28, was arrested Wednesday when he tried to order food at the restaurant, because employees recognized him from the security footage of the robbery.

Breaks in and Falls Asleep

A New Mexico man faces charges after authorities say a couple found him naked and sleeping in their bed. Investigators say 30-year-old Freddy Shelby of Albuquerque was arrested Sunday after the homeowners called police to report their unwanted mystery guest.

Oklahoma woman calls police to complain that her meth was ‘laced’

An Oklahoma woman wasn’t satisfied with the purity of her methamphetamine, so she decided to do something about it. Unfortunately for Lynette Rae Sampson, the course of action she chose ended up leaving her with felony drug charges. The 54-year-old allegedly called police because she thought her “ice” was laced with something. When an officer arrived to check it out, Sampson reportedly said, “I’m glad you came.”

Police bust bank robber wearing shirt with his name on it

A Colorado man made it very easy for law enforcement officials to earn their paychecks after allegedly robbing a bank while wearing a shirt with his name on it. According to police, John David Martinez went to a Wells Fargo branch in Denver wearing a personalized polo shirt bearing his name. The suspect approached a teller and said, “This is a robbery, give me the money.” To make it even easier for police, the suspect also allegedly drove his own Honda to the bank so investigators were able to use the license plate to track down Martinez.

Licensed revoked at court – gets in car and drives away

Kieron Pemberton, 29, of Wigan, had his licence taken away for 14 months for failing to provide a breath sample. But upon leaving court, an eagle-eyed police officer who had been present at the hearing saw the motorist get into his car and start to drive away. He was pulled over and arrested.