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Wednesday, April 24, 2019
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Amazon – A 21st Century Business With 19th Century Working Conditions

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Online marketplace Amazon is in many ways an American success story. Jeff Bezos started the business in a garage in 1994. Its stock valuation approaches $900 million, making Bezos the wealthiest man on the planet (at least before his divorce) worth perhaps $150 billion.

Though Bezos has expanded into everything from computer services, to online video and music distribution, to supermarkets and space travel, the core of his empire is his Amazon online retail business. It runs on underpaid and overworked employees manning a widening network of warehouses (at least until they’re replaced by robots) who are frequently injured due to a blistering pace of work in an atmosphere that prizes efficiency over safety.

Worker Health & Well-being at Amazon Not as Important as Meeting Quotas

An investigation by the Guardian newspaper last year found that Amazon workers frequently suffer workplace injuries and are later forced out of their jobs. This 21st century worldwide business giant is profitable for many reasons, including treating their employees in ways that might remind you of working conditions described in a Charles Dickens novel.

Amazon warehouses made it to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s “dirty dozen” list of most dangerous places to work last year. The company was listed because of unsafe working conditions and making productivity and efficiency priorities over the safety of its workforce.

Examples of allegations made against Amazon include:

  • Bryan Hill of Florida sued Amazon last year claiming he was fired for injuring his back on the job and their failure to file a workers compensation claim after his injury was reported.
  • Christina Miano-Wilburn worked at a fulfillment center in Pennsylvania for five weeks. She says she was on a ladder which was struck by another employee, she fell and landed on her left leg and back. Her back is permanently injured from the accident. She claims Amazon refused to give her the forms for a workers’ compensation claim and cut short her short term disability benefits.

Other Amazon employees quit before they can become injured. Lindsai Florence Johnson stated she left work in an ambulance after feeling dehydrated and dizzy while working at an Amazon warehouse in California in 2017. She quit the company last year. She told the Guardian not everyone injured on the job reports it to management for fear they’ll be fired.

Temporary Workers at Amazon Deal With Injuries and Their Uncooperative Temp Agencies

Many workers at Amazon warehouses aren’t technically Amazon employees. They’re hired by temp agencies who may also stonewall workers’ compensation claims. Michael Yevtuck has been involved in a workers compensation claim against Integrity Staffing, who hired him to work in a New Jersey fulfillment center. Yevtuck said he suffered knee injuries while going up and down step ladders trying to fulfill his work quota.

An Amazon company doctor stated he could to work on light duty and he was provided knee braces. He provided documents explaining the situation from Amazon company and private doctors to management. But Yevtuck says those documents were ignored, he was placed back on full duty and reinjured both knees.

Amazon’s Treatment of Employees gets the Attention of the Federal Government

It’s not just Amazon employees who aren’t reporting injuries. It’s also the company. A citation issued by federal safety regulators in 2016 accused the company of failing to report at least 26 work-related illnesses and injuries at a New Jersey warehouse, reports CBS.
After an inspection by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the agency found Amazon failed to,

  • Report workplace injuries, and,
  • Provide protective equipment to workers, who risked injuries including possible amputation of limbs.

OSHA also stated,

  • Workers were exposed to stress from repeated bending at the waist,
  • They worked shifts of ten or more hours,
  • Sometimes overtime shifts were mandatory, and,
  • The on-site medical unit provided medical care beyond what was permitted by their licensing and certification and without the supervision of a board certified, qualified medical professional licensed to practice independently.

A Pennsylvania Amazon warehouse became so hot in 2011 the company had paramedics on standby to help employees who passed out, yet the company didn’t open doors to improve ventilation because they feared employee thefts, according to the Allentown Morning Call. In one part of the warehouse the heat index (a measurement of the heat and humidity) reached 110. Employees could take short breaks but were then told to get back to work.

In June of that year a warehouse employee reported to OSHA,

  • The heat index hit 102 degrees in the warehouse,
  • 15 workers collapsed, and,
  • Workers who went home due to heat-related health problems were disciplined.

Eight days later an OSHA complaint hotline received a message from an emergency room doctor at a nearby hospital reporting “an unsafe environment with a[n] Amazon facility in Fogelsville…Several patients have come in the last couple days with heat-related injuries.”

New York Times Article gets Bezos to Talk the Talk, but not Walk the Walk

Amazon was the subject of a 2015 New York Times article which described its workplace as essentially a fast moving machine that crushed employees who couldn’t keep up. While some found the work compelling and the atmosphere addictive, there was high turnover in the high intensity warehouses where workers referred to themselves as “Amabots.”

After this article was published Bezos (who called his company’s culture “friendly and intense, but if push comes to shove we’ll settle for intense.”) met with employees and claimed he couldn’t recognize the workplace described as Amazon’s. In a letter to employees he claimed “shockingly callous management practices” wouldn’t be tolerated and urged employees who knew of “stories like those reported” to contact him directly, according to the Times.

It’s been more than three years since that article and if Bezos learned anything about how to treat its employees, especially those injured on the job at Amazon, it doesn’t show. While Amazon plans for warehouses run by robots it treats its current human warehouse employees like machines. Replaceable if damaged and undeserving of much thought or compassion.

Video Evidence in DUI Cases – What You Need to Know!

The internet is filled with viral videos showing crude interactions between drivers and police officers. Police abusing their privileges is not uncommon. There is a public outcry demanding that law enforcement agencies should have greater restraint and limit police privileges. For this reason, law enforcement agencies all over the country have incorporated the use of cameras to ensure that police conduct their activities within legal boundaries. These cameras are either placed on the officers’ dashboard as a dash cam or worn on their chests.  Video footage captured from either of these cameras can affect the outcome of your case in either direction. It all depends on the circumstances of the interaction between the officer and the driver as well as the driver’s driving conduct.

Types of Video Evidence Available

As aforementioned, police officers typically have a dash cam and a body camera on while on duty. As the name suggests, the dash cam is usually attached to the dashboard of the officer’s car. This camera mainly helps by capturing images of the driver’s driving conduct and the events leading up to the arrest. Most importantly, this camera shows whether the police officer had probable cause to pull you over in the first place. Obvious reasons why an officer can pull over a driver is if he or she is driving erratically or made a moving violation like passing a red light.

If the prosecution is going to make a case against the defense, they would have to show that the officer, indeed, had a strong belief that the driver was breaking a law. The dash cam also helps show how the police officer was interacting with the driver.

Recently, law enforcement agencies also included body cameras to provide more accountability for the actions of police officers. These cameras show the initial interaction with the driver and may help verify whether the officer’s suspicions were warranted. The body cam may also show how the officer was conducting the field sobriety tests appropriately and how the driver behaved towards the officer.

On rare but also possible occasions, surveillance cameras from private businesses can capture DUI incidences without the knowledge of the officer or the driver. To acquire such footage, the defense may need to subpoena the video from the owner if it is not already logged in as evidence during a pending investigation.

Is this Video Admissible as Evidence in Court?

According to California’s PC on Criminal Procedure, the law clearly states that video recordings fall under the category of documented evidence that can be seized when necessary to aid in the process of a case. The defense can only obtain the video evidence after submitting a discovery request. Once the request goes through, the defense can have access to the video during a pretrial hearing for the defense. In a more difficult situation, the prosecution may refuse to hand over the video evidence for assessment. In such a case, the defense will have to petition the court to grant them access to the video by filing a motion for discovery.

How is Video Footage Likely to Influence my DUI Case?

Whether or not video footage will be helpful in your case highly depends on your driving conduct, your interlude with the officer, and your performance during the field sobriety tests (, which we recommend that you NEVER do). If the videos show that your driving was erratic or reckless in any way, chances are that the case will not be an easy battle for you. This would show that the officer had probable cause to pull you over. On the other hand, if the video shows that you were driving responsibly within traffic laws, the prosecution will have less evidence in their case against you. This is why it is important to comply with officer’s requests to an extent (learn more about what to do when pulled over in our article: What You Should Do If You’re Stopped for a DUI). You need to be mindful of how you interact with the police officers as well. Ideally, they are not out to get you. They are only doing their jobs in trying to keep the roads safe for everyone. Whatever your situation is, you’ll need a great DUI lawyer to improve the outcome of your case. Contact Don Hammond as soon as possible if you have a DUI or any criminal trouble.

How Can A DUI Affect my Career?

A DUI, felony or misdemeanor, can have long-lasting effects to someone’s life. Having a DUI is a permanent record, which leaves a dark stain on your reputation and limits opportunities that would otherwise be abundant if you had a clean record. In a world where getting or keeping a job is already difficult, a DUI on one’s records makes it even more complicated.

Effect on Current Job

Once you have been convicted for a DUI (driving under the influence) in the State of California, your driving license is automatically suspended. Without this very important piece of plastic, getting around will become a major problem. Since you would probably need to go to work, your only options for moving around would be carpooling with a friend or colleague, calling a taxi, or using other means of public transportation (which are also very unreliable) every single day. Even if you do manage to find reliable transportation, court appointments, mandatory education classes, or jail-time will take up a large portion of your time. Your absenteeism from work will be very evident, which will put you in an awkward position with your employers when you have to explain why you’re always late or missing from work.

The State of California has a zero-tolerance policy for DUI’s, which makes the consequences even tougher. Depending on the terms of your contract or where you work, your employers have the liberty of firing you at will if your conviction comes to their attention.  For job applications, most employers ask applicants to note down whether they have any prior convictions. While it is not mandatory to disclose this information, a DUI conviction on your record is a solid ground for firing since this would not constitute as a protected class for discrimination.

If you are convicted of any DUI charges, you may also likely lose your professional license. To learn more about how a DUI can affect people in real estate, see our article: Can a DUI Stop You from Becoming a Real Estate Agent? California also requires that you disclose any arrest to your licensing agency at once. Losing your medical, engineering, or legal license depends on your licensing agency. Some tend to be stricter than others and even mere charges without a solid conviction can still hinder your path to a successful career.

Effects on Future Opportunities

As discussed above, maintaining a job with an arrest record is hard as it is. The chances of you finding a job with a conviction are very slim. This is because employers usually associate a criminal record with people who have trouble following orders or a lack of integrity, which is an important quality. Once again, employers may ask for any prior convictions but applicants are not legally required to disclose such information. This creates a dilemma that could end badly in both situations. On one hand, you may choose a DUI conviction or charge to reveal to potential employers, which will demonstrate that you have trouble with the law. On the other hand, if you lie in your applications and a background check shows the opposite, you are both a liar and have trouble with the law. In any case, the best choice is to consult with an attorney and start on the process of having your records expunged.

You can read more about expunging criminal DUI records in our article: Getting an Expungement in California – A New Start!

DUI’s are hard to deal with and failure to address these charges in court effectively may lead to numerous setbacks in your life. However, with the help of a capable, competent, and experienced lawyer like Don Hammond, you have a chance of starting over or preventing a looming DUI conviction. If you already have a shadowing DUI conviction, Don Hammond is more than capable of helping you through the process of having your records expunged. Call us today.

If you are immediately worried about whether you will go to jail for a DUI, check out our article: Will I Go to Jail or Prison for a DUI?

How to Defend a Drug DUI (DUID) Case

A lot of people in California have the impression that DUI cases only involve drunk driving. While alcohol is a common cause of many DUI incidences on our roads, the majority actually involve other drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs. Even more unknown to the general public is that DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) may involve either legal drugs such as prescriptions, over the counter drugs, or the more illicit drugs like methamphetamine. For this reason, DUID cases vary considerably due to the complexity and the type of drugs presented before the court.

In a DUID case, Sections (a) through (g) of the California Vehicle Code 23152 provide the guiding principles of what constitutes DUI charges. In general, the section makes it illegal for any person to operate a vehicle under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, drug, or a combination of both. The legislation further quantifies the legal limit for alcohol intoxication for people with different physical characteristics. You can also learn more about your blood alcohol content level from Am I over 0.08% BAC?  However, the law does not give the same level of transparency when it comes to the amount of drug intoxication. The burden to prove intoxication, therefore, falls on law enforcement that have to present sufficient evidence that the driver’s driving capabilities were severely affected by the drugs. Regardless of the charges against you, finding a good lawyer is the first step in winning your case as an experienced attorney may have several defenses to your case.

Defenses Related to Your Driving

A court cannot convict you for a DUID if you were not driving a vehicle in the first place. The DUI process starts when an officer pulls you over following observation of your driving behavior. An arrest made simply because the officer was suspicious even when you were stationary does not constitute a DUI. For the prosecution to have a strong standing case, they must prove that you were operating a vehicle at the time of the arrest or that you were in physical control of one. Their main objective is to prove that your driving would have been dangerous to other people on the road.

Defenses Relating to Your Arrest

The America justice system follows rules and procedures. Police are also expected to follow the appropriate procedure. If an officer did not have legal justification in making an arrest or they did not follow proper legal procedures, prosecution risks having the case thrown out by the court. This is why it is important for citizens to know their basic rights while interacting with law enforcement. If an officer did not follow appropriate measures or lacked probable cause to arrest you, any evidence they submit for your case will be inadmissible in court.

Miranda Rights

Another crucial step in making an arrest is reading the Miranda Rights. Police officers should read you your rights diligently and flawlessly. Any mishap in how the rights were stated means that the officer did not follow proper procedures. The prosecution can just as easily lose their case before it even begun. You can read more about the Miranda Rights here.

Challenge the Arresting Officer’s testimony

When video or audio evidence fails to provide sufficient evidence against you, it all boils down your experience versus the arresting officer’s testimony. Part of the prosecution’s strategy relies on the arresting officer’s statement on the observations he made prior to the arrest. The officer will need to recount your driving behavior, whether it was erratic, how you interacted with him or her, how you reacted when you were pulled over, how you looked at the time, and how you performed on the field sobriety tests (, which we recommend that you never do).  You can challenge the officer’s testimony based on these claims. For example, field sobriety tests are helpful but not 100% effective for determining intoxication. A positive field sobriety test does not automatically indicate that you are experiencing impairment. In another example, marijuana can be visible in one’s blood tests even after four weeks. Certain medications such as antidepressants and flu medications can also affect your cognitive behavior and response time. Moreover, erratic behavior can be caused by high levels of emotional distress, injury, or even fatigue.

Most of these cases don’t go to trial because many people prefer to have the matter settled through negotiation. Whether the case makes it to a trial or not, it is important to have a competent and experienced attorney by your side to guide you on how you should handle your unique situation. We here at Don Hammond Law provide expert services with an impressive track record with our clients. Do not hesitate to reach out to our firm for help in your case.

Filing a Restraining Order in Las Vegas

Restraining orders, called orders of protection in Nevada, are meant to protect persons against violence or the threat of violence.

Las Vegas’ Just court authorizes protective orders against stalking and harassment in Clark County. The District Court Family Division issues protective orders against domestic violence. The stalking and harassment must be a repetitive action happening more than one time.

The Clerk of Courts at Clark County Courthouse at 500 S Grand Central Pkwy can provide the appropriate forms which includes an affidavit, defendant worksheet and victim worksheet.

The most recent threat, or violent incident, must be completed using descriptive language and specific words.

Applying for a Restraining Order or Order of Protection

A person can apply for a protective order against:

  • Stalking and harassment,
  • Harassment in the workplace,
  • Protection from sexual assault, or
  • Protection against harm to children (minors)

The applicant for a protective order must include, with the application:

  • A photo ID,
  • Complete and accurate address(es) of where the accused is to stay away from, and
  • The address of the person whom the protective order is against

Be sure to provide any supporting documentation such as medical or police reports.

What’s Next

Once the restraining order paperwork is filed with the clerk in Las Vegas, the clerk will file it with the judge who may allow a temporary order based on the application. The judge may choose to grant an “ex parte” hearing where you can explain why you fear the defendant and the need for a temporary protective order, especially in cases of domestic violence.

The temporary restraining order (TRO) will be valid for 30 days or until a hearing for an extended protection order is held.

When application for an extended order is made, the court sets the hearing date and the defendant is served with the hearing date by an officer of the court.

Within 48-hours of receiving notice, the defendant is allowed to request the hearing be held sooner than planned. If so, then you may be given a new date for the hearing.

Attend the Restraining Order Hearing

Nevada law requires the hearing to be held within 45 days of the filing of the application. At the hearing, you will have to convinced the judge you feel you are in danger.

California’s Castle Doctrine Compared to Stand Your Ground Law

The Castle Doctrine has been discussed before with clear details of how your attorney can use this argument in your self-defense case. Different states have different conditions for when self-defense and force are necessary. In California, for example, the Castle Doctrine stipulates the requirements for self-defense in one’s home, business, or property. The extent to which an individual can use force highly depends on the circumstances presented. There are probably a few more things one should know about self-defense in California in relation to the Castle Doctrine. This post will help clarify and fill any lurking gaps that may be present in understanding Castle Doctrine in California.

The Castle Doctrine is one of the self-defense laws that some states have incorporated into their legal system. The other two common self-defense laws are the “Stand Your Ground” law and the “Duty to Retreat law”. Most states, with time, have enacted a Stand Your Ground law with Florida being the first one in 2005, but California still lacks a clear and definitive law. Instead, the State of California has the Castle Doctrine, which is similar yet different from the general Stand Your Ground law.

When and Where Does the Castle Doctrine Apply

Both laws are used interchangeably when finding out whether the defendant was justified to use force. California’s Castle Doctrine is sited in the State’s Penal Code 198.5, which states that an individual has the right to defend their home, property, or business using reasonable or even deadly force in the face of imminent danger. The term “castle” is symbolic of one’s home, which individual’s reserve the right to protect at all costs. In recent years, most states have broadened the scope to include private property, lands, and businesses.

As per the California PC 198.5,  an individual can use reasonable to deadly force against an intruder if they believe that such force would be necessary to prevent the intruder from causing harm. The use of deadly force is only justified under certain conditions, namely:

  • If it is used against someone who is not a resident of the house
  • If the person reasonably believed that using deadly force would end the imminent threat
  • If the individual believed that using such force was the only way to end the threat, and
  • If the individual used the amount of force proportionate to the threat

The Castle Doctrine, however, still faces certain limitations when it comes to confronting trespassers. For instance, shooting a trespasser who is not forcibly seeking entry cannot warrant a self-defense argument. A typical example of this is if the trespasser is just peeking through the window without making any efforts to enter the house. You can brandish your weapon on them without firing but the first step is to verbally demand that the trespasser leave immediately. However, use of force may be used if the trespasser is uncooperative since the danger is still present. California’s Castle Doctrine also applies to private property and businesses. The general rule around this law is that reasonable and deadly force should only be used when necessary and should be equally proportional to the imminent threat.

What is the Relationship between the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Law?

As we mentioned before, the Castle Doctrine is only a variation of the Stand Your Ground law. If a state’s self-defense laws legally declare that an individual who faces certain danger from an opponent has no duty to retreat, that state automatically has a stand your ground law. The Stand Your Ground law gives you the option to defend yourself even if running away from the threat would have been the most logical and safest option.

Our Castle Doctrine operates on similar grounds. This legislature further allows an individual to pursue the threat until the danger is passed. To illustrate this, we can create a hypothetical scenario between two individuals, say A and B. if A is drunk and approaches B with a knife in his hand, B, who has a gun in his car can retrieve the gun and shoot A even if he had the security of his car and the option of driving away since he “reasonably believed” that his life was still in danger. The individual B may successfully convince the jury that he did so in self-defense. However, the Castle Doctrine loses its privilege if there was no longer an imminent threat, which would warrant deadly force. In our same scenario, if a bouncer happened to walk into the two and hold A into the ground, B is not justified to shoot since the imminent threat has been neutralized.

Taking into account both situations, one may feel the need to better understand what the law postulates as “reasonable belief” and “imminent danger”. The Judicial Council of California provides instructions for the jury on how to assess and determine the validity of the self-defense claims. The California Criminal Jury Instructions, otherwise known as CALCRIM 3740 contains these instructions and others. According to CALCRIM 3740, the defense must prove to the jury that the danger was about to happen. Any kind of threat which would be set in the future almost certainly does not fulfill the imminent threat clause.

In other words, one must prove that the danger set upon them was going to happen immediately and using deadly force was the only way to stop it then. The jury will also want to determine whether using the force was a reasonable measure. To do this, they can put a hypothetical “reasonable person” in the same situation and judge whether his actions would have been the most reasonable at the time. Even though the CALCRIM instructions are not laws per se, they do allow the jury to acquit an individual based on the Stand Your Ground laws as stipulated in CALCRIM No. 505 and 506, which both talk about justifiable homicide.

Self-defense should be a right accorded to every individual by the state. However, saving your life may go horribly wrong on you if a jury concludes that you inappropriately used this right. A criminal defense attorney like Don Hammond can help win your case against possible homicide or manslaughter charges.

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