Law Office of Mark Rosenfeld - September/October 2019

WHAT HAPPENED IN REED SPRINGS?

HOW A SMALL TOWN WENT BANKRUPT OVER A POT HOLE

In 2002, the quaint town of Reed Springs, Missouri, declared bankruptcy. The hard decision came after the town was forced to pay $100,000 to Sally Stewart, a woman who sued Reed Springs after she tripped over a pothole during a shopping trip. News of a greedy woman ruining a small village to make a quick buck sparked outrage across the country. But Stewart wasn’t the real villain of this story. A little digging into this case reveals a much deeper conspiracy. Stewart had been visiting Reed Springs in 1998 when she tripped on a pothole hidden beneath some overgrown grass on the sidewalk. But this was no small stumble. Stewart tore two ligaments in her ankle and had to undergo surgery. To help pay for the medical bills, Stewart, who’d never sued anyone before, initially filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owners of the store in front of the pothole. However, the Missouri Court of Appeals determined the city of Reed Springs was liable for Stewart’s injuries. The court ordered Reed Springs to pay Stewart $100,000, over half the city’s annual budget. Despite the high price tag, in normal circumstances, this verdict wouldn’t have forced Reed Springs to declare bankruptcy because the town’s insurance would have covered

the bill. Unfortunately, at the time of Stewart’s accident, the mayor of Reed Springs was a corrupt man named Joe Dan Dwyer.

Dwyer left office while being investigated for insurance fraud, child pornography, statutory rape, witness bribery, and perjury, and he was later sentenced to seven years in federal prison. Among his many indiscretions, Dwyer also let the town’s insurance policy lapse. Reed Springs didn’t have insurance when Sally Stewart got hurt, which is why they had to write a check out of their own budget and ultimately declare bankruptcy. In this case, what started as a simple pothole accident quickly unveiled the lasting damage of an unscrupulous politician. Perhaps this case serves as reminder about why it’s important to vote in local elections.

THE RIGHT TO REFUSE What Happens When You Decline the Sobriety Test

Driving is a privilege, not a right. When you get behind the wheel, you give

these hearings. Nonetheless, fighting a refusal charge is critical in the defense of any DUI refusal case. The state will use your refusal at trial. As a result, it is crucial to review every part of the refusal and investigate the circumstances.

implied consent to submit to a chemical test if you are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence. However, you can choose NOT to do field sobriety tests.

Confusion Doctrine

In short, these rights state you have the right to remain silent, what you say can be used against you, and you have the right to speak to an attorney and have an attorney present. If the police fail to read the Miranda rights, what you say can’t be used against you, but your case won’t be dismissed. When Miranda rights are read and when the refusal advisement is given can create confusion as well as a possible defense to a refusal allegation. In a DUI context, since driving is not a right and you have already given implied consent, you do not have the right to an attorney until after an officer gets a sample of your breath or blood. There are instances when the officer actually read the Miranda rights before reading the implied consent law. You can imagine the confusion this can cause in the mind of an accused driver, and they will think they are within their right to refuse. This officer-created confusion can help us win a refusal case. To keep it simple, if someone is stopped for an alleged DUI they should be nice, choose not to do any field testing, and agree to a blood test.

Implied Consent Warnings

Field tests and pre-arrest breath tests are not required by law, but make no mistake, if you refuse a post-arrest breath or blood tests, expect consequences. If the police think you are refusing to take a chemical test, they are required to advise you to California’s implied consent laws, along with potential penalties. As amazing as it may seem, you are not entitled to an attorney at this point. You will have to make the decision on your own, and you should choose a blood test. If you refuse a chemical test, your license will be suspended for one year or more. We do have a right to challenge the refusal allegation, but the DMV is very tough on

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