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New York & New Jersey Law
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

There Are Three New DUI Bills Pending In New York State Legislature

The New York State legislature is currently considering three new bills concerning driving while impaired. If passed, the three new bills will once again increase the penalties associated with DUIs. These bills are part of what has become a trend of harsher penalties and longer sentences for those convicted of DUI.

The first bill concerns offenders with multiple DUI convictions. The main purpose of the bill is to increase the severity of the charges that multiple DUI offenders will face. In this case, offenders with three previous DUI convictions who are involved a fatal crash can now be charged with vehicular homicide, a step up from the standard charge of vehicle manslaughter. Offenders charged with vehicular homicide can face up to 25 years in prison.

The second bill involves leaving the scene of an accident which is currently a felony whenever human injury or death is involved. A common defense for impaired drivers who left the scene of the accident is that they were too intoxicated to realize that they left. The New York legislature is now attempting to remove an offender's ability to use that defense.

The third bill aims to legally redefine "intoxication." Legally, when the word intoxication is used, it applies to being impaired by alcohol. The New York State legislature now wants to broaden that definition so that any substance that causes an impairment on someone's ability to drive. If passed, this bill would widely expand the criteria of what a DUI is. For example, drivers who are impaired by prescription pain medication could be charged with a DUI.

These new bills do not simply increase the penalties associated with DUI, but increase the need for offenders to have an attorney. A good attorney is essential to the outcome of your DUI case. Don't let a DUI conviction change your life forever.

For assistance with a DUI, you can contact my office at 718-313-7563.

- Kevin P. McKernan

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What to Do When You Get a DUI

In my experience, the typical DUI client is an average person who made a mistake and now is facing enormous consequences which will affect their ability to get jobs, pay their bills, and even keep their freedom. Defending a DUI client, especially in New York and New Jersey, involves a very particular type of law since in these cases the prosecutors usually already have substantial physical evidence such as blood and urine results. For most clients, the majority of our defense will come down to pinpointing discrepancies and/or outright mistakes law enforcement made during your arrest. This involves meticulous review of your case - every detail counts in a DUI case.

Many peoples' first instinct is to consult their family or local attorney when they get a DUI. These attorneys do not often deal with DUI cases and all too often will look at the surface of the case and then advise their client to take a plea. Unfortunately, many clients do not realize that taking a plea in a DUI case has long term and serious consequences. When you plea to a DUI, you are admitting guilt and you will now have a (possibly felony) criminal record for the rest of your life. This means you will now be required to check "yes" when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime on both job and college applications, may get your driving privileges suspended or even revoked, and your car insurance will undoubtedly be higher.

The best thing you can do if you are arrested for a DUI is hire a Criminal Defense lawyer. The more experienced your attorney is in DUI cases, the better off you will be. When looking for an attorney, remember that a DUI case is one where close and meticulous attention to detail is needed, so this is an attribute you should be looking for in your attorney. Another important thing to remember is that a skilled attorney often can make a real difference in the outcome of your case, so don't panic! Remember, in a DUI case, the surface facts of the case like your breathalyzer results are just the beginning. A good attorney will be able to build a solid defense from these facts.

If you or a loved one has been arrested on a DUI, feel free to contact my office at (718) 317 - 5007.

- Kevin McKernan

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mortgage Modification Can Affect Your Credit

Mortgage modification has recently become a popular option for homeowners who are having difficulty meeting their financial responsibilities. Mortgage modification can help financially strapped families avoid foreclosure and remain in their homes. However, it is important to know that mortgage modifications can also have an effect on your credit.

When you apply for and subsequently accept a mortgage modification from your lender, that modification is reported to the three credit bureaus. The report should indicate that you, the mortgage holder, are participating in a program that qualifies you to send in partial payments on your mortgage. This is translated negatively on the your credit report, leading to a decreased score. 

The good news is, the hit on your score will most likely be small. The U.S. Treasury Department recently reported that it can range from 30-100 points. For a family facing foreclosure, which is guaranteed to create an even larger hit to the credit score, it is probably worth it to take the smaller decrease and move forward with mortgage modification. Fortunately, credit bureaus are now developing a new way to report some mortgage modifications in a way that will not negatively affect your credit. Still, it is important to be aware of all the financial implications of any mortgage modification. Possible unforeseen effects, such as decreased credit, are why it is so crucial to consult an attorney before making major financial decisions. Your attorney will guide you through the process and help you make the right decision for your family.

- Kevin McKernan

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Hidden Cost of Speeding Tickets

Some people get speeding tickets, pay the fines, and shrug it off. However, speeding tickets can cost you way more than just the face value of the fine. In New York, speeding tickets are associated with points, whose accumulation on your license can lead to suspension. Many people simply don't realize how much money simply accepting a speeding ticket will actually cost them.

First, you must pay the ticket itself, which depending on the speed you were pulled over at, could be anywhere from $45-$600. Then you must pay the associated surcharges. In New York, many speeding tickets come with surcharges of up to $100.

After you have paid all the fines and surcharges surrounding your ticket, you must accept the points that will be added to your license. If you have been ticketed with other driving violations in the past and have accumulated 11 points in the past 18 months, your driver's license may be suspended. Furthermore, if you have had three speeding incidents in the past 18 months, even without them adding up to 11 points, your driver's license may be suspended.

Finally, your insurance may increase as a result of a bad driving record. This results in you paying more each year for the same insurance!

The best way to avoid the consequences surrounding a ticket is to get an attorney. Experienced attorneys have handled hundreds of these matters and know how to make you walk out with the least possible amount of points and/or fees. A traffic attorney will help you navigate the situation to the best possible outcome.

If you received a traffic ticket in New York or New Jersey and need assistance, feel free to call the office at (718) 317-5007.

- Kevin McKernan

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How to Handle Post-Divorce Legal Issues

Even after the divorce decree is finalized, some families have disputes over its execution that need to be settled in Court. As an attorney who has spent many years practicing Family Law, I must stress the importance of consulting an attorney, even post-divorce, if legal conflicts within the family arise.

Another important thing to do when legal conflicts arise is to take your divorce decree outside of its safe place and carefully read it over. Any legal argument you will use in Court will start from there. The New York Supreme Court recently ruled in a case that exemplies this. In this particular case, a father was financially supporting his child by providing for her apartment. The father fell behind on his child support payments. When he was taken to Court for his delinquency, he argued that the financial support he provided outside of his set amount of child support should satisfy his obligations. The Court ruled that his financial support of the apartment was a voluntary payment that the Father had chosen to make and therefore could not be used to satisfy the child support obligation that both parties had agreed to in their divorce decree. The primary reason the Court ruled this way can be found inside the parties divorce stipulation. The stipulation included a "Voluntary Payments" clause that stated that any outside payments made to either party could not be used to satisfy the amount of child support they had agreed on.

Cases like these often generate unnecessary legal fees and hostility for all parties. Furthermore, they can be easily avoided by consulting a Family Law attorney any time you have a question about the specifics of your divorce decree. In this particular case, the "Voluntary Payments" clause prevented the father from applying any outside financial support to his child support payments, but he might not have been aware of the legal implications of such a clause. You should expect your attorney to provided a detailed review and explaination of your entire divorce stipulation. Additionally, I strongly advise all of my clients to keep records and hard copy receipts of each and every payment made to the other party. It is always helpful to have an organized and detailed paper trail in case a legal dispute arises.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Get the Benefits you Deserve in your Divorce!

As an experienced attorney, I know how important it can be to have a lawyer to handle your legal matters, especially in cases that can turn contentious such as divorce. Unfortunately, some people will still "go it alone" by trying to use "quick and easy" divorce paper sites or divorce "consultants". While these cases may work out happily if the divorce is an amicable matter with little to no assets and no children, most divorces are not so clear-cut. In an emotionally charged matter such as divorce, it is important to have an objective outsider who can guide you rationally.

Remember, the things you agree to in your divorce will affect your future!

For example, if you decide to go to Family Court without an attorney to represent you and you agree to only weekend visitation with your children and then later change your mind, you will have a long, difficult, and needlessly expensive legal battle ahead of you. However, if you hire an experienced attorney from the start, your visitation rights can be secured from the very beginning and then used at your discretion.

Another benefit of being represented by a Family attorney is that they will be knowledgable about what exactly you are entitled to in your divorce. It is common for clients to not even realize that they could ask and be rewarded certain funds until their attorney informed them. For example, you may not know you may be entitled to your former spouses' Social Security benefits. If you were married to your spouse for 10+ years, are older than 62, are not re-married and don't qualify for Social Security benefits in your own right, there is a significant chance you will be entitled to a share of your former spouses' benefits! Additionally, you can be entitled to your former spouses' Social Security Benefits even if they have passed away.

Take care of your future and consult a Family Law attorney today.

- Kevin McKernan