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Know Before You Fly: 3 Things You Need to Know Before You Fly Your Drone

One of the most popular new “toys” in the last few years are drones. What’s not to love?! You can pretend to be a pilot while staying on the ground, take pictures with views you would never otherwise get to experience, and feel cool while doing it.  That’s all true, but there are also laws you must be aware of.  Here are a few things to know before you fly:

1. You Need to Register Your Drone with the FAA

Under Federal law, if your drone weighs more than .55 pounds up to 55 pounds, you need to register it with the FAA.  It’s a relatively simple process, but it has to be done. Further, when flying your drone, you need to carry proof of registration with you. If someone else is flying your drone, you need to provide them with a copy of the registration, either by paper copy or by email.

What can the government really do if I don’t register my drone? While the FAA has stated that it “will attempt to educate operators who fail to comply with registration requirements,” penalties are in place for those whose conduct is egregious or aggravated by bad behavior. Civil fines are potentially as high as $27,500. Criminal penalties are even worse—up to a $250,000 fine and up to three years imprisonment.

2. Don’t fly over schools, jails, etc. 

In 2016, the Louisiana state legislature passed legislation creating “no-fly zones” for drones. Unless you have prior written consent of the property owner, you cannot use a drone to “conduct surveillance of, gather evidence of or collect information about, or photographically or electronically record schools or school premises. Violation of this section of the law is a misdemeanor on a first conviction, punishable by up to $500 and imprisonment up to six months.  A second conviction is worse—a felony punishable by a minimum fine of $500 up to a maximum fine of $2000 and imprisonment for a minimum of 6 months and up to a year, with or without hard labor.

Another subsection of the same law prohibits flying your drone over a jail, prison, or correctional facility (again without written consent of the person in charge of that facility).  The punishment for this section is somewhat more costly: a first conviction on this subsection is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment. A second conviction is a felony punishable by a minimum fine of $2,000 and up to a maximum find of $5,000 and imprisonment, with or without hard labor for up to one year.

3. You CAN trespass with your drone—DON’T!

The Louisiana legislature has also clarified trespass law to include operating your drone in the air space over immovable property owned by another with the intent to conduct surveillance of the property. So, unless you have consent to have your drone in the airspace over someone else’s property—don’t go there.

Essentially, those acts that were previously illegal are still illegal, and the legislature has enacted specific language to include those acts involving your drone.  Examples include video voyeurism (i.e. “peeping tom”) laws which specify that if you use your drone to film or photograph someone for a lewd or lascivious purpose, it is still video voyeurism, and obstruction of an officer. (Louisiana law now specifies that when an area is cordoned off for police investigations, that area includes the airspace above it and flying your drone across that cordon is a criminal offense, and police and/or fire department personnel are authorized to disable your drone.)

Enjoy your drone, but make sure you do so in compliance with both Louisiana and federal law.  If you or someone you know has been arrested for a drone-related crime, give Gilmer & Giglio a call to set up your consult at (318) 459-9111.

Happy National Aviation Day - August 19th!

I Didn't Do Anything Wrong...Do I Still Need a Lawyer?

We frequently help people in what we call “pre-arrest” situations—that is, the person has not yet gone to jail, and may never go to jail or be charged, but they have been contacted by a detective who wants to speak with them regarding a situation that the detective is investigating. A common mistake that people make is thinking this: “I didn’t do anything wrong, so I will just go and explain everything to the detective and everything will be okay.” There are a few things to remember before you do this. First, if you are getting called in by a detective to “give your side of the story” you must remember that the detective has likely already labeled you as a suspect. This means he is going to view everything you say with great skepticism, and likely not believe you, which could mean you are giving a statement in vain. Second, don’t forget that detectives go to extensive training in interrogation and interview tactics, so you are rarely actually going in for a “conversation” with them—you are going in for an interrogation, and you need to be prepared for what that means. 

Does this mean that we never take people to speak with the police? Absolutely not! We frequently take clients to give statements to the police. When you hire us, we make a plan with you, the client, to determine whether or not it is in your best interested to give a statement. We have taken many clients in to give statements who were never arrested. Taking an attorney with them provided those clients with an advocate and someone who was comfortable in the interrogation room, calling out unfair statements or tactics that the police use, when they may not have been able to accomplish that themselves, without an attorney.

Why should you hire an attorney prior to giving a statement? Aside from the fact that it is much less expensive to hire us for a pre-arrest matter than it is to litigate your case, you also may end up avoiding an arrest altogether.  If you are wondering whether you should hire an attorney for your pre-arrest matter give us a call at (318) 459-9111 to discuss your case.

My College Student Child Got Arrested for Possession of Marijuana. Do They Need an Attorney?

No parent wants to get a call from their child telling them that he or she was arrested on drug charges, but unfortunately we do see that situation often. So once it has happened, the question is “what do we do next?” Do we need a lawyer? An attorney will likely be able to help you and your child navigate not only the criminal but additional issues that may arise. 

Perhaps the greatest financial value in fighting your child’s possession of marijuana case is as it relates to federal scholarship money. If he or she is receiving federal aid (via FAFSA), his or her eligibility might be suspended if the alleged offense occurred while they were receiving aid. Eligibility would not be suspended simply as a result of the arrest, but upon conviction, if the student is re-applying for FAFSA, as you do going into each year of college, the student will have to report such a conviction. At that point, FAFSA will send the student a worksheet to determine whether or not funding will continue to be available to the student or if his aid will be suspended. 

Additionally, if your student is considering any type of profession which requires licensing (i.e., attorney, doctor, nurse, etc.), their case needs to be handled in such a way that the collateral consequences of the case are minimal. For example, if Client A has career aspirations that do not involve licensing, and Client B’s dreams involve a license occupation, diversion might be a great outcome for Client A, but if Client B’s licensing agency views diversion negatively, that might not be a good outcome for Client B. This is why we take an extensive amount of time to talk to each client about not only their case, but their life goals (particularly younger clients). We want to make sure we put them in a good position to pursue the future they want.

Unfortunately, we also sometimes see clients whose possession of marijuana arrest uncovers more significant drug use. In these cases, we work with the client and their family to work through these issues. We help our clients get into counseling, if necessary, and we will also connect them with rehab facilities. 

If you or someone you know is facing possession charges, give Gilmer & Giglio a call at (318) 459-9111, and we will set up a consult with you to see how we can help you.

Can I Get a Bond Reduction?

At Gilmer & Giglio, we frequently handle bond matters, including reduction requests. Here are our answers to a few basic bond-related questions that we often receive. Of course, each case is different, so if you or a loved one needs help, give us a call at (318) 459-9111, to talk to us about your case specifically.

Q: What is the purpose of bond?

A: Per Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 316, bond must be fixed “in an amount that will ensure the presence of the defendant, as required, and the safety of any other person and the community.”

Q: What does the judge consider when setting the bond?

A: The Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure sets out ten factors to be considered in setting a defendant’s bond. They are as follows:

    1. The seriousness of the offense charged (including whether it is a crime of violence or involved a controlled dangerous substance;
    2. The weight of the evidence against the defendant;
    3. The previous criminal record of the defendant;
    4. The ability of the defendant to post bail;
    5. The nature and seriousness of the danger to any other person or the community that would be posed by the defendant’s release;
    6. The defendant’s voluntary participation in a pretrial drug testing program;
    7. The absence or presence in the defendant of any controlled dangerous substance;
    8. Whether the defendant is currently out on bond for another felony;
    9. Any other circumstances affecting the probability of the defendant’s appearance; and
    10. The type or form of bail

Q: Why is it taking so long to get a bond set in my Domestic Abuse Battery case?

A: This is likely because of Gwen’s law. If you are charged with domestic abuse battery, violation of protective orders, stalking or any felony offense involving the use or threatened use of force or a deadly weapon upon the defendant’s family member, household member or dating partner, the court can hold you for a contradictory hearing (a “Gwen’s law hearing”) for up to five days after the finding of probable cause (usually the arrest day). This five-day window is exclusive of weekends and holidays. At that hearing, the court will make a determination as to whether or not the Defendant will have to remain incarcerated pending trial. Additionally, if bond is set at that hearing, there is a high likelihood that a protective order will be issued in favor of the complainant. If possible, you should hire an attorney before this hearing.

Q: I’ve already bonded out, but now I think that the bond was too high. Can we go back and get a reduction?

A: No.

Q: I bonded out, but now the State is asking for a bond increase. Can they do that?

A: Just like you can ask for a bond reduction, they can ask for a bond increase. We see this frequently, when a Defendant bonds out and subsequently picks up a new charge. Whether a bond increase is granted depends on many circumstances, just as a reduction does.

Q: What are my bond conditions?

A: Bond conditions are specific to each case, so each Defendant’s bond may be a little bit different. The jail or your bondsman should give you your bond conditions when you leave the jail. Common conditions of bond include: refrain from criminal activity and drug use, avoid associating with felons, do not leave the state without prior written permission of the court, and obey any orders of protection. In more serious cases, the court may require global position monitoring (ankle monitoring). It is incredibly important in cases where there is a complainant or victim that, if a protective order or no-contact order is in place, you abide by that order. It does not matter how friendly you are with that person or that you are in a romantic relationship with them—violation of these orders is the fastest way to get your bond revoked. Don’t do it! 

Q: What is the process to get a bond reduction?

A: If you hire us for your case, and would like us to seek a bond reduction, our first step would be to get you a court date as soon as possible, so the judge can hear the evidence quickly and hopefully get the bond reduced so you can get out of jail. Sometimes getting set on a docket takes a day, and sometimes it takes weeks, but that is the first step. Once we have a court date, we may subpoena witnesses to testify as to your ties to the community, work history, lack of drug history, etc. We may also start collecting character letters on your behalf. Additionally, we usually speak to the prosecutor to see if they will agree with the bond reduction. It is most DA’s policy to oppose bond reductions, but we have been able to get them to agree in some situations. At the bond hearing, we will present evidence, the state will present evidence, and then both sides will argue to the judge. Typically, the judge will rule on the bond reduction that day in open court, although sometimes they take the matter under advisement, which means we have to come back to court to get the answer.

Q: I need to travel out of state, but my bond conditions say I can’t. Can you do anything about this?

A: Yes. We often file motions to amend bond conditions, requesting that the judge sign an order allowing you to travel out of the state even though it is otherwise a violation of bond. We work to make sure your bondsman has no opposition, and then explain the reason for travel to the judge, find out if the State has any opposition, and hopefully the judge will approve your travel. If he or she does approve it, we give you a copy of the signed order to take with you while you travel, so you don’t run into any issues.

If you have been arrested and would like to discuss your options in more detail, please call us at (318) 459-9111 to set up a consult.

Happy National Get Out of Jail Free Day!

I Missed Court...Now What?

You had a court date and you missed it—here’s what you need to know. When you miss court, the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Typically they will set a bond significantly higher than your original bond (usually at least double). This means that if you are pulled over and that warrant has been entered into the system, you will go back to jail. Of course, you want to avoid going back to jail, so what should you do? Your attorney needs to get the warrant recalled, if possible. This means that you need to immediately gather any documentation or proof you have regarding why you missed court. For example, if you were in rehab, provide your attorney with a certificate of completion, so that she can provide that to the State and the Court. You will likely need to appear in court with your attorney to explain your absence to the court (through your attorney), and request that the bench warrant be recalled. This process needs to be done quickly—the more time passes once you have missed your court date, the more difficult it becomes to get the warrant recalled.

If you need an experienced attorney to help you navigate a situation like this one, call us for a consult at (318) 459-9111.

I’ve been arrested for DWI - What's Going to Happen to My Driver’s License?

In Louisiana, when a person is arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), his driver’s license will also be suspended in an administrative proceeding that is entirely separate from the criminal prosecution.

The first step in this process occurs during the arrest, itself. During the arrest, law enforcement will read a series of instructions and regulations to the arrested person advising him of his rights related to the breathalyzer.

The law at the time of this writing requires a person operating a motor vehicle on the public highways of Louisiana to submit to a chemical test of his blood, breath, or other bodily substance if an officer believes he is operating or “in actual physical control” of a motor vehicle and a law enforcement officer has “reasonable grounds to believe he is under the influence of alcohol beverages or “any abused substance or controlled dangerous substance.” (La. R.S. 32:661).

If the arrested person refuses to submit to testing or submits to testing and his results are above the legal limit of .08 (or .02 in the event the arrested person is under the age of 21), his driver’s license will be suspended for a period ranging from 90 days to 365 days. In order to reinstate his driver’s license after a DWI arrest, an arrested person usually must provide proof of additional auto insurance (SR-22) and install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle he operates. 

The arrested person has 30 days to appeal the suspension of his driver’s license. 

If you have been arrested for DWI and are concerned about the status of your driver’s license, please call us for a consult at (318) 459-9111.

I Fought the Law - Part One

We're doing something a little different this summer: once a month, we are posting a playlist of some music that is related to the work that we do or that inspires us to do the work that we do.

This playlist is Part One of our "I Fought the Law" series: songs describing criminal activity. Please enjoy (responsibly)!

Note: We do not advise engaging in the activity described in these songs, but if you do, contact us at 318-459-9111 for a consultation.

Know Before You Go - What You Need To Know Before Your Upcoming Court Appearance

Many of our clients have never appeared in court, and as a result they have questions about what to expect. We want to answer some of those questions for you here. Below are a few courtroom basics that we hope you will find helpful in preparing for your first court appearance

 Here are a few things to know before you go:

1. Show up—on time!

One of the fastest ways to frustrate the prosecutor handling your case and the judge presiding is to not be present when they call your case up. If your notice to appear says 9:30 a.m., don’t pull into the parking lot at 9:30. You need to allow time to park, go through security, figure out which courtroom you are in, and wait for an elevator. It is a good idea to plan to be in the courtroom at least 15 minutes prior to your notice to appear, unless otherwise instructed by your attorney. We have experienced judges who issue bench warrants one minute after the notice to appear told you to be present, so don’t push your luck on something so easy.  Just get there early—and this goes without saying, but no you can’t just skip your court date.

2. Dress like it’s an important appointment—because it is…

Wear what you would wear to church or to an important interview or meeting. Don’t wear your Budweiser t-shirt that you got for free at some festival to your court appearance for DWI or have your marijuana leaf tattoo visible for your court appearance for possession of drug paraphernalia. No caps. No chewing gum. You are trying to communicate to the prosecutor and the judge that you take this seriously, and being dressed inappropriately for court is the first thing they will notice.

3. Be patient—sometimes good results take time…

While everyone in the courtroom is trying to move the docket as fast as possible, these things take time. Sometimes the lawyers need time to work out a resolution or issue in your case. Keep in mind that there are usually dozens of cases on the docket, so there is a lot of activity going on. Typically, if you have retained an attorney, you will get called up at the beginning of the docket.

4. Be the best-behaved person in the courtroom…

Sometimes people get testy during long days in court—don’t be this person. This means if the victim/opposing party/opposing counsel is in the courtroom, there is no need to speak to them, glare at them, or otherwise communicate with them. Don’t get on the elevators with opposing parties—it’s awkward—trust us. Let the lawyers do the arguing—that’s what you pay us for.

5. Don’t be the person whose cell phone rings…

Don’t let your cell phone make any noise at all in the courtroom—if the bailiff says turn them off, then please do that. Nobody wants their phone to be confiscated because they were defiant. It’s really best to leave your phone in the car altogether

We hope these tips help you feel well-prepared for your first court appearance. If you would like to consult us regarding your upcoming court appearance, call Gilmer & Giglio for an appointment at (318) 459-9111.