Even online, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Even online, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on social media, you likely read abusive and offensive statements posted or left as comments to a post.

Justin Olsen, an 18-year-old Ohio man has been arrested and is facing state and federal charges after investigators claimed he made threats against federal law enforcement and Planned Parenthood. The FBI investigation found multiple entries in which Olsen posted his support of mass shootings, and cited a target of Planned Parenthood.

Olsen was arrested on Aug. 7 and told the FBI that his posts were “only a joke”. He was booked into the Mahoning County Jail on state charges of telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing, and the federal charge of threatening a federal law enforcement officer.

Is abusive language unlawful?

Although the Justin Olsen’s charges are severe for online behavior, a malicious or threatening post may qualify as defamation. Defamation is the publication of a statement about someone which hurts their reputation in the eyes of members of society.

Abusive language is always in bad taste but it is unlikely to break the law unless threatening or contains criminal intent.

Can I be arrested for releasing a video?

Richard Godbehere, a Hawaii native, knows all too well about the repercussions that come with “over-sharing”. In February, he uploaded a 5 minute video of himself driving, then cracking open a beer and taking a drink. He made a joke stating “We all know drinking and driving is against the law. You’re not supposed to do that. But they didn’t say anything about driving and then drinking.”

Even though he knew he was posting a video of himself doing something illegal, he was still surprised when the police showed up at his house prepared to arrest him on charges of consuming alcohol while operating a vehicle.

Although Godbehere stated the video was meant as a parody and claimed there was no beer in the bottle, the Police Chief Darryl Perry stated “Our traffic laws are in place for a reason, and Mr. Godbehere’s blatant disregard for those laws is the type of behavior that won’t be tolerated.”

Severe consequences.

In Steubenville Ohio, social media played a part in the case against two football players who were found guilty of raping a drunk 16 year old girl.

The victim says she doesn’t remember much of what happened that night when Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, assaulted her at a friends party in 2012, and was only made aware of it after a video popped up on social media. A key piece of evidence was an instagram photo of the boys carrying the girl out of the house by her arms and legs.

Legal experts say photos and videos, whether posted publicly or obtained by police, have to meet certain criteria:

  • They must be authenticated, meaning the prosecutors have to prove the images are what they seem and have not been altered or staged;
  • And they can’t be shown out of context

Additional charges were later brought against two teenage girls after police were shown twitter posts threatening the victim physical harm if she didn’t drop the charges.

When the accused admits to posting the materials themselves, the incriminating posts put them in the awkward position of having to disavow their own words. The boys each served 2 years in prison.

If you or someone you love is in need of an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer, call Terry Sherman. 

The dangers of hazing.

The dangers of hazing.

Inhumane, cruel and tragic are some of the words that have been used to describe the 2017 death of Penn State sophomore Timothy Piazza.

According to court records and testimony, the 19-year-old consumed 18 drinks in 82 minutes during a campus fraternity’s hazing rituals and later died as a result of a traumatic brain injury after falling down the stairs. Members of the fraternity waited 12 hours to call an ambulance. Now, nearly two years after Piazza’s passing, many say his death has led to key changes in state legislatures and in the college fraternity and sorority community.

Four families that lost their sons to fraternity hazing, including Timothy’s parents, began working with the North American Interfraternity Conference and the National Panhellenic Conference. Those two groups represent more than 90 fraternities and sororities in the U.S., and together they have formed an anti-hazing coalition and now share a common goal: to pass legislation that would increase criminal penalties for hazing, and to increase education and awareness on college campuses.

Rich Braham is another parent who’s traveled to colleges and universities across the country to support the mission. Braham’s 18-year-old son, Marquise, committed suicide back in 2014, and the family strongly believes it was because of alleged hazing while at Penn State Altoona. The case never resulted in criminal charges so the Braham family filed a civil lawsuit against Penn State as well as the Phi Sigma Kappa frat.

The fraternity’s national leadership objected to the suit’s allegations in a statement last year, saying that “Marquise’s tragic suicide had nothing to do with his involvement with the fraternity.” In a statement, Penn State “disputes the family’s characterization of these matters,” but later said, “Penn State Altoona looks forward to working with the Braham family in educating parents of prospective Greek life members.” The Braham family has reached settlements with all of the defendants in that case.

This new coalition of parents harks back to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) campaign of the 1980s. When Candace Lightner started MADD, four days after her daughter was killed by a drunk driver, public health professionals considered drunk driving to be the No. 1 killer of Americans between the ages of 15 and 24.

MADD’s efforts helped reduce the number of fatalities related to drunk driving and changed public perception of driving while intoxicated. Now, the parents in the anti-hazing coalition want to achieve those same results with respect to dangerous pledging rituals, and they’ve made some strides on campus and with policy.

In August, the North American Interfraternity Conference declared a ban on hard alcohol beginning in September 2019. Under the policy, hard liquor will still be allowed if it is served by a licensed third-party vendor.

However, no new policy is ever going to be better than its means of implementation. Virtually everything the fraternity industry does relies on 18 and 19-year-old men to implement it and make life and death decisions.

In October, the Timothy J. Piazza Antihazing Law was signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. It gives tougher penalties for hazing, making it a felony if it results in death or serious injury.

However, hazing charges are still a misdemeanor in Ohio. Ohio’s hazing law makes it a crime to
participate or coerce someone else to participate in “any act of initiation into any student or other organization that causes substantial risk of causing mental or physical harm to any person.” But that does little to stop hazing in Ohio, where fraternity brothers at Ohio University whipped their pledges with belts, pelted them with eggs and forced them to chug a large bottle of vodka in less than an hour at what was called “Blackout Monday.”

Hazing incidents on Ohio campuses continue to regularly made headlines, including the Nov. 12 death of Ohio University freshman Collin Wiant, who died of asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion. According to a toxicology report. He was found surrounded by drug paraphernalia, including canisters of nitrous oxide, also known as “whippets.”

Ohio State’s list of fraternity and sorority disciplinary history shows there were at least 16 other hazing violations among Greek chapters at Ohio State over the past five years. Of those, five resulted in chapter suspensions with the rest ending in probation.

Whatever the hazing ritual, it seems despite the dangers, Greek societies are determined to keep the ritual alive.

Have you or someone you love been charged with a crime resulting from hazing? Contact attorney Terry Sherman. The call is free.

I violated probation. What happens now?

I violated probation. What happens now?

If you’ve found yourself facing a possible conviction as a result of a probation violation, we recommend seeking the counsel of a probation violation attorney. Regardless of why you are serving probation, you don’t deserve punishment due to a minor infraction as a result of an oversight or accident. Your attorney’s number one priority should be convincing the judge to not inflict a severe repercussion for a simple fault in judgment.

How does the probation violation process work?

The probation violation process is different than the normal criminal case and generally follows the following process:

  • Probation officer informs the court that the probationer has violated one or more probation requirements 
  • The court will schedule a probation hearing or authorize an arrest warrant
  • If arrested, there will be an arrest hearing and a bond may be set
  • You are entitled to a Statement of Violations in which you are informed of what terms of probation you are alleged to have violated
  • You are entitled to a probable cause hearing to determine if there is a reasonable basis for the violation
  • You are entitled to an evidentiary hearing in which the State must prove that a violation occurred.

Let’s talk about the possible consequences for violating probation.

  • Ordered to perform service hours for community service
  • Extending your probation
  • More strict probationary terms such as earlier curfew 
  • Seeking substance testing or treatment
  • Attending classes or programs based on the offense (such as drug treatment programs or anger management)
  • Counseling with a therapist on a regular basis
  • Serving a prison sentence

The judge who assigned the initial probation ruling will be the judge determining the appropriate punishment for the violation. The judge may feel as though they did you a favor when worse consequences could have been dealt, which can result in hostile or resentful feelings. Because of this, the judge could decide a harsher punishment than is necessary. Therefore, it’s important to your case to have a probation violation lawyer to speak on your behalf. 

Having an attorney defend you can make the difference between fulfilling a minor repercussion or serving jail time. Call Terry Sherman today for a free case review.

What to Do When You’ve Been Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence

What to Do When You’ve Been Falsely Accused of Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is viewed by society and the courts as a serious charge against a criminal defendant. Regardless of whether you’re guilty or innocent, mere allegations of domestic violence against you can adversely affect your life and your future.

While millions of people are abused by their spouse or partner every year, (approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men) unfortunately, some people are quick to fabricate stories in order to “get back at” the alleged offender. These allegations are not only hurtful but undermine those that are true victims of domestic violence. If you’ve been accused or charged with a domestic violence offense, it’s extremely important that you contact an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer right away to protect yourself. It is not an admission of guilt.

What is Domestic Violence?

Many people believe that domestic violence is limited to a physical action against a spouse, family member or significant other.

Under Ohio law, victims of domestic violence are protected by both civil and criminal laws. Domestic violence can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. Domestic violence charges may also extend to:

  • Stalking
  • Mental/psychological abuse
  • Destruction of personal property
  • Cyberbullying
  • Throwing things toward the victim (even if they don’t actually hit the victim)
  • Sexual abuse

Whether domestic violence charges are charged as misdemeanors or felonies depends on the allegations, the age of the individuals, and whether there were weapons involved, and the associated punishments will range accordingly.

Understanding Domestic Violence Charges

Though unfair, people may accuse individuals of domestic violence for a number of reasons. Disputes can arise during a divorce, custody hearings regarding children, or just due to day-to-day stress of living under the same roof. If the alleged victim is seeking marital assets in a divorce or seeking custody of children, they might believe that domestic violence allegations will help their cause.

Many domestic violence victims, unfortunately, later recant their testimony or state that they no longer want to press charges. However, by this time, it’s usually too late. The decision to go forward with domestic violence charges is completely up to the prosecutor on the case.

Experienced Domestic Violence Defense

Being wrongfully accused of something as serious as domestic violence can be scary and has the potential to dramatically impact your life.

Attorney Terry Sherman is an experienced criminal defense attorney that has helped many clients dismiss or lessen domestic violence charges against them. He knows how to navigate your criminal allegations from start to finish and will help you arrive at the best possible result.

5 Common Juvenile Crimes Committed During Summer Break

5 Common Juvenile Crimes Committed During Summer Break

Summer break. It’s a time for barbeques, pool parties and…getting arrested? For some juveniles, the answer might be yes. Studies show that kids have a tendency to get into more trouble with the law during the months when they are not in school.

While overall juvenile arrest rates may be down, the number of teenagers who face criminal charges each summer remains high. The short and long term effects of a guilty conviction are harsh and can include:

  • Impacting their ability to get a job or to get a Commercial Drivers License
  • Impacting their ability to get public housing
  • Impacting their ability to enlist in the military
  • Depending on the severity of the crime, they may be prevented from carrying a firearm
  • Drivers License Suspension
  • Possible impact on return to school or transferring to a new school
  • Having to pay fines, court costs, and restitution where assigned
  • May affect immigration status

The following are 5 of the most common charges against juvenile offenders:

1. Operating a Motor Vehicle while Under the Influence (DUI / OVI)

While Ohio’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for adults age 21 years and older is 0.08 percent, minors are subject to a law known as “zero tolerance.” What this means that a juvenile driver can be arrested and charged for DUI / OVI if they are caught driving with any amount of alcohol, marijuana, or drugs in his or her blood. Teenagers who are arrested for drunk driving may also face related charges, such as underage possession, and use of a fake ID.

2. Possession of Marijuana and Other Drug Offenses

A significant portion of juvenile arrests involve marijuana and other drug-related offenses. Although juveniles caught with small amounts of marijuana are typically only hit with a fine, any juvenile conviction for a drug-related offense can potentially have implications for school enrollment, employment eligibility, and driving privileges.

3. Sexual Assault

Sexual assault crimes are prosecuted in Ohio at both the adult and juvenile levels. Prosecutors can seek to charge younger juveniles as adults depending on age and severity of the crime. Any teenager facing sexual assault charges, regardless of the severity, should seek legal representation immediately.

4. Criminal Traffic Offenses

Most traffic violations are misdemeanors; distracted driving, disregarding a traffic control device, speed exhibition, and speeding. Others may accompany criminal charges; DUI / OVI, causing bodily harm by the operation of a motor vehicle, evading an officer, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident.

5. Theft (Shoplifting)

Theft is another common juvenile offense. In Ohio, the penalties for theft are determined by the value of the property stolen, with the felony offenses carrying the potential for significant fines and even imprisonment.

If you or your teenager has been arrested, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. We have extensive experience in Ohio criminal matters, and we can help protect you or your child.

5 Things not to do when facing assault charges

5 Things not to do when facing assault charges

You didn’t intend to get involved in a fight when you went out for a night with your friends, but one thing led to another and you ended up getting pulled into a violent altercation and the police got involved. Now, you’re facing assault charges and you’re not sure what to do. Making the wrong choices could be detrimental to your case.

Here’s a list of common mistakes made when facing assault charges.

Talking to Police. Police are trained to manipulate you to get what they want, this includes evidence against you. For example, let’s say that you’ve been involved in a violent bar fight and the police are called. They might take you aside, hand you an ice pack for your swollen knuckles, tell you the other guy is clearly at fault and ask you for your side of the story. Naturally, you’ll want to explain yourself and tell your side, so you do. At that point, the police arrest you and charge you with assault. Unfair but legal, and also avoidable. The truth is, you don’t have to talk to the police. You’ve heard of your right to remain silent. That’s not just for after you’re arrested. You don’t have to speak to the police ever. Exercise your right to remain silent and stay silent until you talk with an attorney.

Talking with Others About the Assault. Being involved in an assault can be traumatic. It’s natural to want to talk about what happened with other people, to explain your side of the story or ask for advice. Just like talking to the police can hurt you, anything you say to other people can be used against you in court. This even includes those closest to you, like siblings and parents. It’s best to not discuss the incident with anyone except your lawyer.

Posting About the Incident on Social Media. Any time you’re involved in an incident that might result in you appearing in court, do not post about it on any social media forum, including Facebook, Twitter, or SnapChat. Prosecutors absolutely love to blow up huge images and Tweets for the benefit of the jury and use your words against you. So post anything, not even a fist emoji. It can be taken out of context and turned around to hurt you.

Contacting The Victim of the Assault. You may want to apologize, or clear the air, especially if the victim was a friend. Regardless of the reason, don’t do it. This is because anything you say to the victim may be used against you in court. Even if you had the best intentions.

Destroying Evidence. Maybe you’re reading this after you’ve already posted a video of the incident. Don’t delete the post and don’t delete the video from your electronic devices. This considered destroying evidence and can actually land you in more trouble.

Just like there are there are lots of things you can do that will hurt your case, there are also things you can do to improve your situation. With the help of an expert criminal defense attorney, you can give yourself the best chances of putting this behind you. Call Terry Sherman today to schedule a free legal consultation!

Arrested for legal medical pot? Here’s what you need to know about “affirmative defense”.

Arrested for legal medical pot? Here’s what you need to know about “affirmative defense”.

After months of waiting and several launch date push backs, Ohio’s online portal for medical marijuana registration finally went live. While doctors who have been certified by the State Medical Board to recommend marijuana can access the website, that doesn’t mean marijuana products are legally available for purchase yet.

State officials said medicinal cannabis products should be available for patient purchase by the end of January.

After receiving a recommendation from their doctor, patients will be able to access the registry for an annual fee of $50 ($25 for caregivers), and either print out a registration card or save it on their cell phone to show to licensed dispensaries.

Building an “Affirmative Defense”.

Although it’s been inconsistently applied, the law generally allows someone arrested for possession of or use of medical marijuana to argue before a judge they otherwise qualify under Ohio’s law.

If the patient displays a physician’s recommendation and is using cannabis in a form allowed under the law, it will then be up to the judge whether to accept the argument and look the other way.

This is called the “affirmative defense”, which is part of the 2016 law that legalized marijuana for medical use only. The law’s author intended it as possible protection for those in need of medical marijuana before the product was available in Ohio, and would potentially allow them to get it from another state, such as Michigan. However, there have been cases of people being charged for possession despite the defense.

“The affirmative defense has always been there,” said board spokesman Grant Miller. “We didn’t want a situation where we were registering people and 60 days later when the affirmative defense expires there still were no dispensaries open with the product.”

“We have literally thousands of patients who are ready to be enrolled,” said Connor Shore, president of Ohio Marijuana Card. “These are people who need marijuana, not to get high, but because it is medicine for them. We have cancer patients, veterans and pain patients who are really suffering, so this day is very exciting for them.”

A handful of licensed growers are prepping and have a limited amount of product expected to be available soon, however, it remains to be seen when a reliable supply will be produced to allow retail dispensaries to open their doors.

Know what’s legal.

According to House Bill 523, the 2016 law legalizing medical marijuana only allows for use in oils, tinctures, patches, edibles, and plant matter. The law strictly prohibits smoking, but it does allow vaping.

Keep in mind that all of those products will need to be purchased at a licensed dispensary. The law forbids the home-growing of marijuana.

Prior to the portals launch, no legal registration card had been available in Ohio, although some doctors were issuing recommendations before they were officially certified to do so.

Need to know more?

The board’s hotline for answering questions about the registry is 1-833-464-6627.

If you’ve been charged with marijuana possession and you believe you qualify for an affirmative defense, you need an experienced attorney by your side. Contact Terry Sherman 614-444-8800

Fentanyl is a growing epidemic: Cops are cracking down

Fentanyl is a growing epidemic: Cops are cracking down

Fentanyl:  “Just 2 milligrams — an equivalent to about 32 grains of salt — can be enough to kill a person”, said Jessica Toms, a laboratory supervisor at the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Investigation (BCI). Fentanyl is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The total number of fatal drug overdoses in Ohio, increased to a record 4,854 last year. That’s an astounding 20% increase from the previous year. According to the Ohio Department of Health, this was the 8th year in a row to show an increase with the synthetic opioid fentanyl fueling the epidemic.

A spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, says while a review of the data confirms fentanyl is absolutely driving overdose deaths, Ohio also is seeing significant progress in reducing the number of prescription opioids available for abuse.

A frightening state report on drug trends stated that drug cartels have flooded Ohio with fentanyl. In fact, many users don’t even realize they’ve taken fentanyl because it’s being cut into heroin, cocaine and even being pressed into prescription opioids.

According to the chief executive officer of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers, Lori Criss, “Drug dealers are flooding communities with different drugs to see what takes. They are very smart business people.”  

Gov. John Kasich’s administration is spending more than $1 billion a year to fight the drug epidemic, most of it to provide addiction treatment through Medicaid expansion. Ohio is also investing in providing the opioid-overdose antidote, naloxone, to first responders supporting efforts including drug courts, housing for addicts in recovery as well as educational programs.

Naturally, along with the fight against the drug epidemic, comes an increase in drug-related arrests, such as drug possession and DWI arrests. This only adds to Ohio’s increasingly overpopulated prisons.

Defense attorney Terry Sherman can fight for your freedom. Call 614.444.8800 to discuss your charges. Your phone call is free.

#SexualAssaultAccusation

#SexualAssaultAccusation

How does Ohio define sexual assault crime?

 

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual encounter without the consent of the person being pursued. Sexual assault can present itself in a number of different ways.

Statutory laws are used to prosecute offenses that are related to the victim being below the Ohio Age of Consent. Non-statutory rape laws are used to prosecute cases where force or coercion was used by the assailant.

Ohio has defined 5 crimes that are used to prosecute sexual assault in Ohio.

1. Gross Sexual Imposition § 2907.05: If the offender has or causes someone else to have sexual contact with someone whose ability to resist or consent is impaired due to a mental or physical condition for any reason. This includes advanced age, drug intoxication or by threat of force.

Punishment: 6-18 months in prison / If the victim is under age of consent: 1-5 years in prison

2. Rape § 2907.02: If the offender engages in sexual conduct with another through force or threat of force or when the victim’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired due to a mental or physical condition for any reason. This includes advanced age and drug intoxication.

Rape can take on several forms:

Date Rape – when a person is attacked by someone that they know
Stranger Rape – when a person is attacked by someone they don’t know.

Punishment: minimum 5 years in prison / If victim under 10, life in prison

3. Sexual Battery § 2907.03: If the offender has sexual conduct with another, when the victim is a minor, and the offender is more than two years older than the other person, or when the offender is in a place of power or authority (such as a coach, teacher, law enforcement etc) and uses such to persuade the victim to consent.

Punishment: 1-5 years in prison / If the victim is under the age of 13: 2-8 years in prison

4. Sexual Imposition § 2907.06: If the offender engages in “sexual touching” (i.e., the touching of another person’s erogenous area) when the offender knows the sexual touching is offensive to the accuser or is reckless in that regard; this includes if the victim is either underage (older than 13 but younger than 16), impaired due to a mental or physical condition of any kind including drug intoxication.

Punishment: Up to 60 days in prison for the first offense / up to 6 months for subsequent offenses

5. Unlawful sexual conduct with a minor § 2907.04: If the offender is 18 years of age or older engages in sexual conduct with someone who is 13 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age or the offender is reckless in that regard.

Punishment: 6 months – 8 years in prison depending on several factors including age gap and previous offenses / If the offender is less than 4 years older than the victim – up to 6 months in prison

 

Managing False Allegations

 

If you’ve been accused of sexual assault, the thought of the legal process that you’re soon to encounter can be terrifying. Your life can be significantly impacted in a variety of ways. By responding quickly and aggressively with a criminal defense attorney by your side, you can move through the legal process as quickly as possible:

-Do not provide law enforcement with any information without your attorney present
-Hire a criminal defense attorney with experience in this area
-Write down your account of what happened, provide as many details as possible
-Make a list of witnesses who can attest to the events at the time of the alleged assault

The consequences of a conviction for sexual assault are serious and could include: incarceration, difficulty obtaining employment in the future, becoming a registered sex offender, restrictions regarding where you can live, and much more.

If you’re falsely accused of sexual assault, call defense Attorney Terry Sherman for a free case evaluation. He has 45+ years experience and exceptional track record of success.   To learn more about Sex Crimes Defense, click here.

Expungement: A Gateway to Moving On?

Expungement: A Gateway to Moving On?

What is expungement?

 

Expungements are a legal process that can clear arrests, charges and minor convictions from someone’s record. Never heard of it? You’re not alone. See, that’s the thing about expungement: many people don’t even know it exists, let alone if they’re eligible, and of those who do, many don’t know how to get it.

 

Though “expunge” and “seal” are often used interchangeably, but they mean very different things. Expungement is to erase such documents while “sealing” simply means they’re no longer public record.

 

Am I Eligible to have my record expunged?

 

The law on who is eligible for either varies state by state, and there is no encompassing federal law on expunging adult crimes. In Ohio, the maximum allowable expungements, according to Ohio law, is one felony and one misdemeanor, or two misdemeanors. However there have been some changes in recent years, so the best way to know if you are eligible for records expungement by contacting a legal professional to review your case.

(Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Terry Sherman)

 

The difference between record expungement and record sealing.

 

There are some things you should know about expungements and sealed records. In the age of the Internet, expungement only goes so far. If your record is approved for expungement, the court will agree to toss out its records…but what about Google? How about news archives? Mugshots.com? It’s nearly impossible to expunge information in this cyber age. But that doesn’t mean expungements aren’t still an important step. You can still pare down someone’s record which helps them gain access to employment or housing. It’s vital.

 

An expunged record can still hurt your chances of landing a job. Beyond doing a simple Internet search, employers often turn to private information providers to run background checks on job candidates. Sometimes companies have downloaded the databases of the courts periodically, and they have them stored on their own databases.

 

The REDEEM Act.

 

Congress is considering whether to make more people eligible for expungement. The highly publicized REDEEM Act introduced by Senators Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey, and Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, stands for “Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment.” Under the proposal, those convicted of nonviolent federal crimes could apply to have them sealed, and all nonviolent juvenile offenses would automatically be expunged or sealed, depending on age when the crime took place.

 

While a lawyer is not required, legal expertise can help navigate a complicated process.