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.

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.

​6 Tips to Avoid an Underage Drinking Conviction

​6 Tips to Avoid an Underage Drinking Conviction

Fall is almost here and school is back in session. Many college students pack their bags and move away from home, possibly for the first time. They get ready to go out and experience college nightlife, a preconceived notion of what that means likely already formed in their mind. Underage drinking is an extremely common problem, not just in college, but in high school as well.

I’m going to explain what steps you can take in the instance you have contact with the police related to an underage drinking or a public drunkenness investigation. Let’s be clear, I’m not encouraging you to drink underage. I am merely going to enlighten you as to your rights.

In Columbus, underage drinking charges are common. However, you can take steps to avoid an underage drinking conviction.

1.  Immediately talk to an Attorney.

My first tidbit of advice applies to all charges. If you receive a summary offense citation, the very first thing you should do is speak to an attorney! The fact that you may be factually guilty doesn’t mean that an attorney can’t help you. It’s far easier to nip these types of things in the bud than to try to get them off your record later.

2.  “I would rather not answer”.

You have he right to remain silent. This next tip should be fairly obvious, but most people charged with underage drinking fall into this trap. If a cop asks you whether you have been drinking, don’t say yes! You have a right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself. It becomes much more difficult to win a case at trial where there is a confession to one of the major elements of the offense.

However, I suggest that you not lie to the police if you were, in fact, drinking. You can either say, “I would rather not answer” or “I would like to invoke my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.” At that point, the police officer is supposed to cease any further questioning.

3.  “Just say no”….to a breathalyzer.

My next tip…don’t agree to submit to a breathalyzer test. Lots of people have a misconception that they have to submit to a breathalyzer test any time a police officer asks them to do so. That’s simply not true. What is true is that a motorist suspected of driving under the influence must submit to a chemical blood test or a certified breath test, or he’ll lose his driver’s license for a year for the refusal. You’re NEVER required to submit to a breath test while under investigation for underage drinking or public drunkenness.

If you do submit to a breathalyzer and test positive for alcohol, especially if your BAC is high, the officer will then try to manipulate you into a confession. The cop is just doing his or her job by using a tried and true police tactic. That being said, you aren’t obligated to make the cop’s job any easier.

4.  Leave your ID at home.

Next, you need to be aware that you don’t have to show the cop your ID when you’re stopped, for the simple reason that in the United States, citizens are not required to carry identification with them….unless you’re driving.

In that case, you must present your driver’s license. But, if you’re just walking back to the dorms or standing around an OSU tailgate, you are not required to carry an ID with you just in case a cop happens to ask to see it.

This is really important for the simple reason that the crime of underage drinking in Ohio is defined as possession, consumption or the attempt to purchase alcohol while being less than 21 years of age. Meaning that the arresting officer, at trial, has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were, in fact, less than 21 years of age.

The mere fact that you really are 18, 19 or 20 years old is not enough for a conviction. The officer has to prove it. Typically at trial, the officer will testify that he or she observed your ID and noted your date of birth.

5.  Don’t lie to the police.

While we’re on the subject of IDs, I should make it perfectly clear that you should NEVER lie about your identity or date of birth to the police. If you’re under an official police investigation for a crime like underage drinking, and you give the officer a fake name or date of birth, you could be charged with false identification.

6.  Be polite.

Now for my final tip, which may be the most useful of all. You should never be rude or combative with the police. Expressing your frustration by being obnoxious to the police never does anyone any good. Being polite and cooperative will go a long way. Remain polite while explaining that you left your ID at home, declining a breath test or refusing to answer whether you have been drinking or not.

If you’ve been charged with underage drinking, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct or related offense, call Terry Sherman at (614) 444-8800 for a free consultation.

Underage Drinking Defense

Underage Drinking Defense

There is strict enforcement of underage drinking laws.
Underage alcohol possession/consumption is one of the most common criminal charges for young people in Columbus and law enforcement has little tolerance. If you are under 21 and get caught possessing/consuming alcohol, expect the law to be enforced.

There is increased police presence and strict enforcement on game days at The Ohio State University and aggressive prosecution for underage drinking offenses that occur in the homes of fraternities & sororities. Even if is your first time,  a lapse in judgment will likely become a criminal case with significant consequences.

A charge of underage drinking is typically accompanied by other charges.
This charge may also be known as; “underage alcohol consumption”, “prohibition”, “underage alcohol possession”, “underage intoxication”, “offense involving underage persons”, and “certain acts prohibited”.   If your behavior is obnoxious, you may be charged with Disorderly Conduct.  If non-cooperative, you may be charged with Resisting Arrest. If you gave fake information, you may be charged with Obstructing Official Business or Falsification.​What are the penalties for underage drinking violations?
It is classified by Ohio law as a first degree misdemeanor. The potential sentence for conviction includes a  jail term up to 6 months, a fine non-exceeding $1,000 plus court fees, community service, alcohol counseling, and probation. A conviction is a permanent, public criminal record that may influence education & employment opportunities. Since the information is public, it will typically appear in internet searches for your name.

What strategies might we use to defend you?

  1. Diversion Program: If you are accepted into a diversion program and complete it successfully, the case is dismissed without a conviction, and the records for the case can be sealed (expunged).
  2. We obtain all evidence that the prosecuting attorney intends to introduce, evaluate the strength of that evidence, and pursue potential defenses.

If a diversion program is disqualified or you choose not to participate in a diversion program, we may plead “not guilty” and begin a defense against your charges through the court process. The court process may include; pretrial hearings, hearings on motions to suppress evidence, and a trial. In all cases, we seek the best possible outcome.

Why choose Attorney Terry K Sherman to represent you?
Practicing as a criminal defense attorney exclusively for his entire career, Attorney Sherman has represented many clients (including students) that had been charged with underage drinking offenses in Ohio courts. In most cases, the underage drinking charges were reduced or dismissed, and often he was able to get the records for the case sealed (expunged).