20 years old, tall, strong, and crying so hard he couldn't speak.

When I met DJ, he was crying so hard that he couldn't speak. His head was buried in the fold of his arm, shoulders shaking. He was 20 years old, but fear and anxiety made him seem much younger. I wanted to pat him on the back, to tell him that it was okay. But there were bars between us.

DJ was accused of robbery: pushing a woman near the Coney Island boardwalk and running off with her purse. This happened two weeks before he was arrested. DJ swore that he didn't know anything about the accusations. He didn't know the woman, and only went to Coney Island to work. According to the prosecution, he had been picked out of the police photomanager program (an electronic repository for mugshots). I was in court to represent him; and this is how we met.

The sobs slowed down. He lifted his head to look at me and used his white t-shirt to wipe his face clean. DJ put a hand in front of his mouth. He apologized for crying so much, and for his breath; he hadn't been able to brush his teeth since he was arrested 23 hours earlier. We talked about the next steps; what to expect when we went in front of the judge, how we could fight his case, and what I needed from him and his family.

Let's fast forward... His family was present in court and they were inconsolable, Despite a clean record (save an arrest for having a joint), and his family being present, the judge set bail. The family couldn't pay it so DJ remained incarcerated for 5 more days until the grand jury hearing for his case.

During that time, my team investigated his alibi. We made a dozen calls to his family and friends. We spoke with his boss and got his time sheets and pay stubs. When we traced back that night, we put together that he had been playing video games with friends and later left to meet up with his girlfriend. We verified the video game party. And his girlfriend met with us in the courthouse to show the text messages that corroborated they spent time together.

On the 6th day (the day where the grand jury has to vote for an indictment to keep the defendant in jail), I met with D.J. in the cells near the courtroom. He looked tired and hopeless, his shirt was now grey, stained and stretched out. "Please miss, please miss, I don't belong here!. You have to get me out of here!" l had good news. He was going to be released! We were able to convince the ADA to do further investigation before moving for an indictment, in light of the alibi witnesses and favorable statement from his employer. Even though the case wasn't over this was a major development. He put his head down and cried.

The case ended on a good note. We subpoenaed his cell phone data to triangulate his location during the incident. He had been in his neighborhood, 6 miles away. That plus the text message proof that DJ had personally been in possession of his phone was enough to convince the ADA.

The charges were dismissed.

So what happened? How did DJ get caught up in this? He was arrested based solely on basis that the victim picked him out from that photo array program. When victims look through the Police photomanager program to look at suspects, they look at hundreds and hundreds. Scanning for an hour or two at a time to find the face that looks like the perpetrator.

During summers, DJ worked as a ride operator in Coney Island. Because of his experience and good job performance, he was promoted to team leader and was there at least 5 nights a week. DJ's picture was in the system because he was caught with a joint when he was 16. The woman who was robbed was a Coney Island resident who lived just blocks away from his workstation. We believe DJ looked familiar to her because she probably passed him on the street regularly.

This happened 5 years ago. But I share this story because DJ stays with me. I became a criminal defense attorney to help kids like DJ, professionals who get accused of bullshit crimes, and the folks who messed up, but don't want their lives ruined because of a mistake. It doesn't matter if it's robbery, a domestic violence accusation, a DUI, or a summons ticket. Everyone deserves a vigorous defense, an honest attorney, and compassion.

If you know someone who was arrested or received a summons ticket, make sure they have a good lawyer. And if they don't, you can call us. Fisher Law Practice: 917-819-5656.

Someone I Care About Was Just Arrested! 5 Things You Can Do Right Now

1. Collect Information.

If you're present when your friend or family member gets arrested, it means you're an eyewitness. Write down the names of the people present and get their telephone numbers. This will be helpful for the attorney and/or investigator. If visible, write down the Officers' badge numbers and vehicle number. DO NOT approach them to demand this information; you can make matters worse for the person in custody or for yourself. I've represented several people who were arrested for yelling at the officers or demanding information about someone else's arrest.

2. Call an Attorney Immediately.

The earlier an attorney gets involved, the better. Attorneys speak with the arresting officers, to find out what the charges are. For very serious crimes, we might go to the precinct to remind the individual not to talk about anything, other than their basic contact information. We meet with the family at the arraignment so that, when we get in front of the judge, we can make them aware of our client's place in the community. And we work hard to get our client released so that he or she can keep their jobs while fighting the charges.

3. Bring Your Loved One Some Food at the Precinct.

Jail food sucks. Within 3-8 hours of the arrest, bring your loved one a good, hot meal. Chances are, the officers will let them eat it. (keep it simple, like a burger and fries). Bringing food does three things: 1. your loved one gets a good meal; 2. your loved one is reminded that he or she is not alone and people care; 3. the police officers know the individual is part of a caring community. Be friendly with the officers but DO NOT answer any of their questions about the individual or their case. You never know what information could be harmful. 

4. Coordinate Family and Friends to Be Present At The Arraignment.

Make sure at least a couple of people are present at the arraignment. Keep in mind there is not way to know exactly when they will be seen, so you may be waiting in court for 4-8 hours. It's worth it, though. When he or she steps out of the cells and sees their family, they don't feel alone anymore. (I've seen grown men cry). Support in the courtroom also makes it more likely that the Judge will release them. 

5. If It's a Serious Crime, Know Which Bail Bondsperson You Want to Use.

If you know your loved one is being charged with a felony and/or they have a lengthy criminal record, decide which bondsperson you want to use before you get to court. That way, if the Judge sets bail, you can be on the phone right away to get the process moving. 

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You may feel helpless when someone you care about is arrested. But you aren't. Put your stress to good use by writing down witnesses, hiring an attorney, bringing them food, and coordinating with your community to make sure people will be there in court.

If someone you care needs help with a summons ticket or open case, give us a call at 917-819-5656.

 

What Should I Do if I'm Pulled Over for a DUI?

1. Pull over properly and carefully. Slow down and pull off the road to the right. Use your turn signal to indicate your intent to the officer. Pull over to the curb, just as if you were parking (if there are available spaces). It shows the officer you are in an observant, controlled state of mind.

2. Turn off the engine and Stay in the car. First, turn off the engine and any music. If it is dark outside, turn on the interior light and keep your hands on the steering wheel at 10 and 2. Stay in the car unless/until the officer asks you to get out. At this point, you don't know why you have been pulled over; it could be because of how you have been driving, what vehicle you are driving, or because the police are following up on reports they’ve been given about cars and occupants involved in recent crimes.

3. Don't Move Around in the Car; Keep Still. Police Officers are trained to view almost any movement as suspicious and assume you are trying to hide, destroy or dispose of something. They'll use any excuse to escalate the encounter and try to search your car.

4. Do what the officer says. Listen to what the officer says and follow his/her instructions. This is the best way to make the interaction go quickly. It sucks, but the officer is in charge and it’s not over until you are told you can leave. 

5. Don't volunteer information and don't argue! Just answer the officer’s questions, and don’t volunteer extra information. Charm won't help. You can't intimidate them. Sarcasm can literally get you hurt. This is not the time to ask for badge numbers or challenge what they say. Use all of that energy to try to memorize the encounter. Tell your passengers to follow the same rules. This will be helpful when you sit down with your attorney later.

6. Did you have anything to drink tonight? How much? Police officers routinely ask this question and most people usually respond with “just a beer or two with dinner." Officers believe people underestimate what they report and double anything you say. You may have had just one glass of wine with dinner, but when you tell the officer, he assumes it was two or more! And whatever amount you say, will end up in the police report as an "admission." It’s ALWAYS best to remain silent or answer that you don't remember exactly what you had to drink. 

7. Think carefully about whether you want to participate in BAC testing. Refusing to take the BAC test will result in immediate license suspension and possible revocation. However, if you have been drinking, it may be in your best interest not to take the test. You will be asked to participate in coordination tests, such as the “walk and turn,” "nose touch" or “one leg stand” tests. These are voluntary and you may refuse to take them. But if you are VERY certain that you 1. have not been drinking and 2. are not super tired, you may want to take the coordination tests. In my experience, good results help more than bad results hurt.

8. Keep track of your vehicle. Will the police let you keep it parked on the street? Will they let you call a friend to pick it up? Offer options to keep them from getting the car towed to a NYC tow yard. That's a money making scheme for the city and it can cost you hundreds of dollars and a lot of stress to get the car back. 

9. Remember that being very tired can mimic the effects of drinking. Being tired or sleepy can effect your coordination, response time, and thinking. I've had more than one client who later realized they must have fallen asleep at the wheel. You may not have been drinking but depending on what the officer observed (or says they observed) you should still follow most of these steps. Poor driving can result in traffic infractions or even a charge of reckless driving.

10. Contact an attorney as soon as possible.

 

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Recognizing Gender Bias in the Workplace: Part One of a Three Part Series

This is the first of a three part series about Gender Bias in the workplace. The first part is "Recognizing Gender Bias in the Workplace," the second is "The Impact of Gender Bias," and the third is "What You Can Do If You Experience Gender Bias."

It's 2017 and women have had the right to vote for nearly a century. Although the Equal Rights Amendment didn't become a part of the Constitution, women have been making enormous strides in the workplace; both in numbers and power. Income disparities and sexual harassment still garner news attention, but there are also more subtle forms of gender bias and discrimination. This post will name 20 common forms for gender bias women (both cis and trans) may experience in the workplace. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it is meant to call attention to some of the quieter forms of bias that, regardless of intent, can create an uncomfortable or even hostile office environment. 

1. Women in staff meetings are more likely to be interrupted or talked over.

2. Women are less likely than that male counterparts to be invited to after-work drinks by the boss.

3. Quiet women can be perceived as not having much to contribute, whereas quiet men are seen as evaluative and introspective. 

4. During group meetings, ideas raised by women are more frequently dismissed. Or if they are explored, sometimes they are attributed to a male. 

5. Women are expected to do office "housework" such as tidying up common spaces.

6. Women are disproportionately asked to do non-paid service-oriented work such as serve on committees or help plan events.

7. Women's clothing (sloppy, revealing, or "matronly" ) is evaluated and discussed. Women's weight and attractiveness are also judged.

8. Assertive women can be labeled "rude" or "bitchy" whereas men are not held to the same politeness standard and are more likely interpreted as being decisive and confident.

9. Men, more than women, are evaluated on their potential, rather than performance.

10. Women walking around large offices are often assumed to be support staff and asked to do administrative work.

11. It is often assumed that women with children prioritize family over work. The same assumption is not made for men.

12. Women are less likely to get the attention and credit for group projects, even if they do more of the work.

13. Women are expected to "go along with" the occasional sexist joke.

14. Women sometimes have to request (rather than just be offered) choice offices and locations.

15. During job interviews, women continue to be asked about their families or plans to start families.

16. Men, regardless of athletic ability, are more likely to be asked to join a company athletic team. This is an important internal networking opportunity.

17. Women who are pregnant or perceived as pregnant can be passed over for promotions.

18. When women raise HR issues, they are labeled "complainers," or not team players.

19. Women may get lower pay package offers because 1. the assumption is that they have a spouse or partner to help support them and 2. it is assumed they will not push for more.

20. Women are expected to be good listeners and provide emotional support to co-workers.

This list merely starts the dialogue about disparate treatment in the workplace. Look for the second part of this series: "The Impact of Gender Bias in the Workplace."

Businesses and Organizations Benefit by Providing Conflict Coaching to Employees

Conflict Coaching helps businesses retain talented employees while saving money.

Let's face it. It takes months to find employees that are just the right match for your workplace. The perfect mixture of intelligence, humor, and drive. The kind of employee that makes your clients happy and your company look good. What happens when these employees leave because of unresolved problems in the workplace, a verbally abusive manager, or even personal problems that spilled into their time on the clock?

It costs an organization tens of thousands of dollars to replace just one employee. But the value of that employee and the connections he/she/they established is worth many times that amount.

Individual coaching helps businesses and organizations keep talented employees by containing disruptive incidents, enabling the worker to generate ideas for solutions, and side-stepping costly litigation.

Conflict Coaching helps contain disruptive incidents and minimize impact on staff.

Conflict Coaching provides a support system to help employees process stressful situations or incidents. By exploring what happened from multiple perspectives and digging deep into issues of power and identity, employees gain a better understanding of what was troubling to them, why, and what they need to move forward. By providing a safe and confidential space for the employee to think through their needs, coaching can keep an incident private long enough for the parties involved to develop a satisfying solution.

Conflict Coaching can help save money on costly litigation.

I've talked with people who feel marginalized in the workplace. Gay men who overhear graphic, offensive jokes near their cubicle. Attorneys of color who are repeatedly mistaken for administrative staff and asked to make copies or get coffee. Women who see choice offices handed to men who have both less experience and less responsibility. Left untreated, each of these has the potential to build into a hostile work environment. And we know that can be costly.

The one size fits all response is company-wide sensitivity training. It's a start. but that top-down approach doesn't always help the people on the ground and may call even more attention to the "whistleblower." Better to offer individual, confidential counseling first, so that the employee can think through solutions they believe could work and identify what they need to heal.

Want to be in the forefront of worker satisfaction and worker retention? Want to avoid spending precious capital on litigation? Respond to a complaint by offering personalized support and implementing solutions created by the aggrieved parties.

Individual conflict coaching helps businesses keep talented employees, contain disruptive incidents, and ultimately, save money.

For more information, check out the Fisher Law Practice, P.C. Organizational Partnerships page or call 917-819-5656 for more information.