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Can You Get in Trouble for Pleading the Fifth During a Routine Traffic Stop?

Many people have heard the phrase “Pleading the fifth” on TV shows and movies, but how many are aware of what it actually means? “The fifth” refers to U.S. citizens’ fifth amendment right that protects them from being compelled to incriminate themselves. When individuals “plead the fifth,” they essentially invoke their right to remain silent so as not to be coerced into saying anything that may be construed as incriminating. When a person invokes said right—whether during a routine traffic stop or a drug bust—that person expects those rights to be upheld. Unfortunately, however, many people are intimidated by officers of the law and so succumb to whatever the police want from them—even it means answering leading questions that could lead to a conviction; and those who do not cave to officers’ demands may still find themselves in trouble, but for a whole different reason—namely failing to cooperate with the law.

A Case of Officer Retaliation

Some officers react angrily when a person refuses to talk, as was the case earlier this year when Lionel Alexander invoked his fifth amendment right and Officer Marciano Garza roughed him up as a result. According to his statement, Alexander was parking his car when Garza activated his emergency lights and asked him for his license and registration. Alexander complied, but when Garza asked him what he had been doing prior to his stop, Alexander refused to answer, invoking his fifth amendment right. Instead of letting matters rest, Garza called backup.

Alexander was asked to exit his vehicle but he refused, stating that he did not believe he was legally obligated to do so. According to reports, police got angry and pulled him from his vehicle and pinned him to the pavement. They cuffed him. Alexander was arrested on the spot for “resisting a search,” and released the next day with all charges dropped. Soon after, he filed a suit for violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Texas Constitution.

Though the court originally dismissed the claim based on the defendant’s immunity, the Fifth Circuit reversed the ruling, citing the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from illegal search and seizure. Though the plaintiff’s claim that he was forced to incriminate himself was dismissed, his claim of police retaliation was upheld.

Know Your Rights

When you are pulled over or ever stopped by an officer of the law, you do not have to say anything beyond confirming your identification. If the officer tries to coerce you into saying anything incriminating, you have the right to Plead the Fifth. That said, know that “pleading the fifth” may be interpreted differently depending on the situation.

For one, “pleading the fifth” may protect you from self-incrimination in the event that you are compelled to say something that may be construed as a confession to a crime. In the second instance, “pleading the fifth” may save you if you have already made an involuntary confession. For instance, if when you are stopped the officer forces you to admit to a crime and then arrests you for said crime, the confession may be suppressed in a later criminal proceeding. In the third instance, “pleading the fifth” may be used to prevent further interrogation. If an officer questions you during a routine traffic stop, you can answer his or her questions so long as you feel comfortable. The moment you begin to feel uncomfortable, you can invoke what is also known as your “Miranda Rights” and remain silent thenceforth. If an officer does not take no for an answer, and if he or she continues to badger or harass you in any way, it can be used against the officer in a civil claim, as was the case with Alexander.

Contact a Skilled Dallas Criminal Attorney for Immediate Help

If you believe that your fifth amendment rights were violated during a traffic stop, do not just assume that the officer was in the right. An aggressive Dallas criminal defense lawyer can subpoena any evidence from the stop, including footage from dash cams and bodycams, and review it for proof that the officer did indeed act out of line. Begin building your case today, and contact Udeshi Clark and Associates now.

(image courtesy of Daniel Monteiro)

Give Your Child the Gift of Fair Parenting During the Holidays

In an ideal world, every child would get to experience the joy of Christmas morning with both of his or her parents, but sadly, “ideal” is not always what children get. According to the American Psychological Association, 90% of people marry before the age of 50, but 40 to 50% of those unions (at least, those that occur in the U.S.) end in divorce. As of November 17, 2016, 69% of children (those 18 or younger) lived with two parents; however, that percentage sharply decreased since 1960, when the percentage hovered at 88%. It is becoming the norm for children to grow up in a split household, but just because it is the norm, does that mean it is any easier? At Udeshi Clark and Associates, we know that it is not—especially during the holidays.

The Challenges Posed by the Holidays, and How You Can Overcome Them

Divorce forces couples to think about things they never would have given a second thought to before, one of which is, how do we split up the holidays? Who gets the child on Christmas Eve, and who gets to wake up with them on Christmas morning? Should they split the day, 50/50, or do every other year? Which parent gets to uphold which family traditions? How do the parents make sure that the child does not miss out on family time with either set of grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles?

As a divorced parent, there are many challenges that you will face during the holiday season, but the biggest of which is making sure that your child—despite all of the changes—is happy. So, how can you do that? Our Dallas family law attorneys at Udeshi Clark and Associates have a few tips that you can use to help you establish and maintain a fair and effective holiday shared parenting schedule.

Consider Your Children First and Foremost

Holidays are supposed to be a joyous time, but for children of divorce, the holidays can mean stress, arguments, competition, sadness, anger, and disappointment. You can help your children avoid negative emotions by listening to them during the holidays—ask them about what they want to do and with whom they want to spend time. Do not minimize their feelings, and most importantly, do not forget that the holidays are supposed to be fun. Avoid starting arguments with your former partner, and try your best to work with him or her.

Start New Traditions

For children of divorce—especially older children—the holidays can be particularly difficult because they are used to certain family traditions. You can help ease the pain and sadness, and even help your child look forward to more holidays in a “split family,” by starting new traditions.

Plan Ahead

The worst thing that you and your former spouse can do for your child is to fail to come up with a holiday parenting plan. Failure to establish a schedule can lead to arguments, confusion, and resentment. You can avoid all this by establishing in a court-ordered agreement that dictates where your child should be and when during the holidays. For instance, your court agreement may state that your child is with Dad from 3 pm until 9 pm on Christmas Eve on even years, and with Mom from 9 pm until 3 pm on Christmas Day; the schedule may switch on odd numbered years. This type of plan can help to avoid confusion and misunderstandings and establish consistency, which the child will come to grow used to and even crave.

Retain the Help of a Compassionate Dallas Family Law Attorney

If you want to help your child enjoy the holidays rather than just cope with them, it is imperative that you plan ahead. Establish a holiday parenting schedule and get it in writing, and agree to get along with your child’s other parent at least for the holidays. Keep in mind that though the holidays may be hard on you, they are even more painful for your child.

At Udeshi Clark and Associates, we strive to help ease that pain of divorce by helping parents establish a holiday parenting plan that works for everyone. If you need help easing the pain of divorce for your child, reach out to our Dallas child custody lawyers today.

(image courtesy of Annie Spratt)

An End to the Debate of “Who Gets the Ring?”

So, you want to know what becomes of your diamond ring in the event of a divorce? Some people will tell you that the engagement ring is a gift, and that women should be able to keep it in the divorce, or even if the engagement falls through entirely. Others will say that the ring is a gift with contingencies—namely that the woman should be able to keep it so long as the marriage is good; if the marriage falters or if the engagement falls through, the woman must give the ring back. The latter belief is more in line with what is deemed “socially acceptable,” but what is socially acceptable is not always what people do. If you are in a situation in which you are not sure what to do with your engagement ring—give it back or keep it—our Dallas property division lawyers at Udeshi Clark and Associates can share a few guiding principles to follow.

How to Determine the Ownership of the Ring

Determining the ownership of an engagement ring all depends on the circumstances leading up to the dissolution of the relationship. Consider the following situations:

The Marriage Ends in Divorce

In Texas, a wedding ring or engagement ring is only a gift conditional on the acceptance of the engagement, and not of the wedding itself. In other states, the opposite is true: The ring only becomes the personal property of the accepter once the vows are said. That said, if a proposal of marriage is accepted, the ring automatically becomes the separate property of the person who accepted the proposal.

The Ring is a Family Heirloom

If the ring is a family heirloom, and if the marriage did occur (meaning it was not a matter of mere engagement), the matter of ownership becomes a bit more complicated. If the marriage produced children, the ring may be held onto by the former wife so that she can pass the ring down to her children. However, if there were no children, the woman should return the ring, though the law would not obligate her to do so.

The Wedding is Called Off

A called-off wedding poses additional complications in determining ownership of the ring. A wedding-that-was-not does not always mean that the ring goes back to the person who purchased it. For instance, if the person calling off the wedding is the person who purchased the ring, the ring will go to the party who accepted the proposal. This matter was effectively settled in a 2003 case, Curtis v. Anderson, 106 S. W.3d 251, 255, in which Curtis, the giver, called off the wedding but wanted his ring back. The courts decided that because he was the one who called off the wedding, the gift would not be returned.

On the other hand, an engagement ring is sort of like a contract: A person is allowed to keep it only if he or she follows through with his or her end of the deal. If the receiver is the person who calls off the wedding, then he or she must return the ring to the proposer.

Debt for the Ring

No matter what the circumstances are that lead to the dissolution of the engagement/marriage, if a person purchases a ring on credit, that person is solely responsible for the debt. This is the case even if the ring remains in the possession of the person who accepted the marriage proposal.

Speak With a Knowledgeable Dallas Property Division Attorney

Fortunately, many couples are able to settle the matter of ring ownership on their own, as most divorcees do not want a ring given to them by their former partner. That said, if you and your spouse or fiancée cannot settle the matter on your own, use the above guidelines to see what protocol dictates. If you still cannot settle the matter, and if you and your spouse are in the midst of a divorce, reach out to the experienced Dallas property division lawyers at Udeshi Clark and Associates to ensure that your assets are divided fairly and in accordance with state law. Call our team at 469-906-2226 to schedule an initial consultation today.

(image courtesy of Wesley Tingey)