Archive for February, 2010

Think You’re Disabled from Diabetes? Think Again.

February 11, 2010

The Social Security Administration has proposed a change in the regulations governing disability claims that would eliminate the “listing” for diabetes.  Essentially, the Listing of Impairments is a catalog of medical conditions that Social Security uses as a guide to determine when a claimant should be considered disabled irrespective of age, education, or work history.  If your condition is severe enough to meet or equal a listing, you are considered to be unable to perform any work, and you qualify for disability benefits.

Each listing requires specific criteria, not just a diagnosis of a certain disease or condition.  For example, if you broke your leg and the fracture never healed properly, you would meet a listing only if you couldn’t walk effectively, which is generally defined as needing a walker, two crutches or two canes.

So as you can see, it’s not easy to meet a listing.  Social Security wants to eliminate the listing for diabetes because “medical science has made significant advances in detecting endocrine disorders at earlier stages, and newer treatments have resulted in better management of these conditions.”  Although that is true, it doesn’t change the fact that many people still get very sick from diabetes!

Social Security’s reasoning is that experts say “adequate glucose regulation is achievable with improved treatment options, such as a wider range of insulin products.”  Again, this is true, but only for people who can afford treatment and medications.

I’ve seen many clients with uncontrolled diabetes because they could not afford regular medical treatment and/or the necessary medications.  Sometimes, even clients with insurance can’t afford these things because the co-payments required are too much.

Once again, the rules are being designed to cover those lucky enough to have access to regular, good quality medical care.  The rest are left to their own devices.  Ironically, these are the people who need disability benefits the most.

Cops in Jail

February 5, 2010

Kudos to the Jacksonville police officer who had the courage to turn in two fellow officers recently for committing a crime on the job.  Apparently the officers wanted to look for drugs in a house located in a high-crime area, but they didn’t have a search warrant.  So instead of developing the probable cause they would have needed to get a warrant, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  They removed a room air conditioner and went into the house, then made up a story about a lady driving by who reported a burglary so it would look like they were justified in going into the house.

They didn’t find any drugs in the house.  Now they’re in jail.

Sadly, too many officers take shortcuts.  Over the course of the last 18+ years as a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen it too many times.  I’ve had clients tell me about it again and again.

I guess these officers feel like the ends justify the means, but they never do.  Their actions taint all of the hard-working, dedicated officers who play by the rules while protecting the public.

The criminal justice system is designed to ferret out the truth, and most of the time it works.  Usually, when it fails, it’s because a cop or a prosecutor decides that winning is more important than justice.  It never is.

I’m sure the officers charged in this case will feel entitled to a fair trial, which they are.  I’m sure they’ll want the evidence used against them to be obtained legally, which it should be.  That’s the thing about the Constitution—it covers all of us, in all cases.

You can read more about this story at http://bit.ly/dChmmy.

Just Speeding or Reckless Driving?

February 5, 2010

Earlier this week, I was stuck in a traffic back-up on I-10 for more than an hour because of an accident that was blocking the left lane.  From my perspective, it looked like a one-car crash that was probably caused by speeding in rainy conditions.  I try to use situations like that as “teachable moments” for my kids—I always tell them that you won’t get where you’re going on time if you have an accident!

The situation brought to mind a recent Florida case on vehicular homicide, which means killing someone by driving a car in a reckless manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm.  Vehicular homicide by definition requires proof of reckless driving, which is also a criminal charge in Florida (not “just a ticket”).  Reckless driving is driving with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, and it’s punishable by up to 90 days for a first offense or 6 months for a second offense.

Generally speaking, speeding alone is not enough to constitute reckless driving, but Florida courts have held that it can be enough in certain situations, depending on how far above the speed limit you were going.

In the vehicular homicide case that came out recently, a South Florida man driving a Corvette crashed into another car at an intersection, killing the other driver.  The investigating officer estimated that the Corvette was going much faster than the 40 mph speed limit, and there were no pre-impact tire marks to indicate that the car had slowed down before the crash.

The officer got a search warrant for the black box in the Corvette.  The box showed that the Corvette was going 103 mph five seconds before the crash and 98 mph one second before. The defense attorney filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the officer did not have enough probable cause for the search warrant. The appeals court held that there was enough probable cause because speeding alone could support the vehicular manslaughter charge.

This case is a good example of how traffic offenses can turn into serious criminal charges in an instant.

The First Amendment, Round 2

February 2, 2010

I was happy to learn this morning that Judge Haddock has decided to let the Times-Union blog about the Rasheen Dubose retrial from his courtroom, even when he’s not there.  http://bit.ly/cqQOaF Apparently he was pleased with the Times-Union’s coverage, so he relented.

This is a small Jacksonville triumph for the First Amendment, I think.  It would feel more satisfying if the judge had realized that his initial reaction to the blogging was wrongheaded and that he doesn’t have the authority to control what people do in a public place.  What would have happened if he had been displeased with the Times-Union’s coverage?

Like it or not, we now live in a 24/7 world, and people are getting their news in real time from the Internet.  They’re not waiting until the next day to read about a trial in the newspaper; they’re logging on to find out what’s happening while it’s happening.

The role of the press in our free society is as watchdog of the government.  I think it’s a good thing when people can get more information, and faster, about what’s going on in the judicial system.