Our firm has over 40 years of experience representing clients charged with DUII. We respect your time. Regardless of how or why you are here, our goal is to provide you with good advice and efficient, friendly service. Ultimately, we want to get you back to your normal routine as quickly as possible. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUII please contact our office at 503-224-3100 to schedule an appointment with our helpful and friendly attorneys. We look forward to working with you.


You are a few blocks from your house. You and your friends just ended a great night and it was even better for you because you kept winning at 8 ball. The product of your victory was that your friends had to buy the last round of shots. That last shot of Fireball, made your ears buzz and you could feel the warmth in your face, but what a night! You feel like you are the “King of the World!!”. You are so excited about winning that you may have failed to notice that you were still a little buzzed.

As you cross through the intersection, red and blue lights illuminate the inside of your car. Your heart races, you know you weren’t speeding. You had been watching that speedometer religiously, in fact so religiously that you sat a little too long at that last intersection and you didn’t notice that your vehicle was gently gliding in and out of the far lane lines.

The Officer has pulled you over. He asks if you’ve been drinking and you indicate you have had 1 or 2, which in truth was more like 3 or 4, but that was hours ago so those earlier ones shouldn’t count, or so it seems…. He asks you to submit to some field sobriety tests and asks you to “blow” into a Breathalyzer unit. Your mind races as you ask yourself, Should I? Isn’t my right to refuse? Can they make me do this? …..What happens if I refuse? What happens if I fail?


Many people think that it is their right to refuse to “blow” into a breathalyzer, however Oregon law requires you to take a blood, breath or urine test if you are arrested for a DUI. Under Oregon’s “Implied Consent” law an officer who has probable cause and believes that you have been driving while under the influence can require you to submit to a chemical test of your blood or breath for the purpose of determining your blood alcohol content also referred to BAC. While you do not have to submit to a blood test unless you have been in an accident or have been injured, if you are in an accident and are unconscious at the scene, the officer can request medical staff to perform a blood test to determine your BAC.

Once you refuse an officer cannot make you take the test, but the fact that you refuse can be used against you later in court. At the time of your refusal the officer can take your license and give you a temporary permit which is good for 30 days. If you refuse to take the test, your license can be suspended by DMV for up to a year and you could be required to pay a fine of $500.00 to $1,000.00. These are DMV fines and are in addition to other fees that the court may charge. If this not your first time refusing to submit to a breath test, your license could be suspended by the DMV for up to 3 years.


When you are pulled over, in addition to charging you for DUII, the officer may also give you a ticket for speeding, reckless driving, hit and run, or other applicable crimes or traffic offenses. It is important to pay attention to these other tickets and the appearance dates noted on each ticket as the court date may be different for each ticket. While the DUII may be the most serious charge you are facing, it is equally important to deal with the other tickets. If you ignore the other tickets or forget about them, they can affect the successfulness of Diversion. If you do not pay the fines promptly the amount you are required to pay can increase quickly. Make sure when you are paying fines and fees that the court is applying them to the correct case. Having an attorney assist you with your DUII can lessen the confusion and often an attorney is able to get of all your charges to track together. An attorney can also help to combine all the charges, negotiate reduction in fines and potentially have some charges dismissed or dropped.


If you fail a breathalyzer you have 10 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing. If you refuse the take a breathalyzer you have 10 days from the date of your arrest or citation to request a DMV hearing.  You may request a hearing online at If you meet with an attorney prior to the ten day deadline, make sure you are clear as to whether or not the attorney is assisting you with the DMV hearing. To avoid missing the request deadline, make sure you know whether or not they are going to request a hearing on your behalf. It is important to follow up with DMV to make sure that your request for a hearing is received. If your request is not timely received, regardless of attempts to make the request on time, you may be denied the option of have a hearing.


If your license is suspended, you may be eligible to apply and obtain a hardship permit. A hardship permit will allow you to drive while your license is suspended. Your permit will allow you to drive only during very specific times and only to and from very specific places such as your place of employment. If you are caught driving during times not permitted or at places not permitted (Grocery Store) your hardship permit may be revoked and you may face additional charges. If you are in a Diversion program, additional traffic tickets may get you kicked out of the program and you may end up going to jail.

If you have a job with normal set hours, that is not easily accessible by public transportation or is a very long distance from your home to your place of employment, a hardship permit can usually be obtained without issue. If you travel during the day or for work as a salesperson, delivery driver, or if you are not employed, obtaining a hardship permit is can be more difficult and the court may not be granted your request.


If this is your first DUII offense, you may be eligible to participate in a program called “Diversion”. Diversion requires you to complete a drug and alcohol assessment, attend a victim’s impact panel, and complete certain drug and alcohol treatment. If you successfully do this, the DUI will be dismissed and will not go on your record.



If your blood alcohol levels were higher than 0.14% the fines you are required to pay may double. The doubling of the fine is referred to as “Enhanced” provisions. BAC levels higher that 0.16% (double the permissible blood alcohol limit) will almost always result in enhanced provision. The enhanced provisions are enforced because it is believed that if someone has a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood, there is a correlation with the the seriousness or the potential for serious and deadly related consequence.


If you are allowed to drive and are in a Diversion program you will be required to install an interlock device on your car. An interlock device requires you to blow into the device prior to starting your vehicle. If you are not intoxicated you will be allowed to start your vehicle. If you are intoxicated or alcohol is detected, your vehicle will not start, the failure will be recorded. If you have been consuming alcohol, your Diversion may be revoked as Diversion requirements state that you may not consume alcohol while in the Diversion program, this would include medication that contains alcohol such as cold and cough syrup.

There is an initial installation fee for the interlock device as well as a monthly fee. It is also important to remember that the interlock devices can be very sensitive. Some interlock devices detect alcohol even if you have not blown into the device. If the interlock device detects alcohol in error you will need to acquire a urine analysis or blood test to prove that you have not consumed alcohol. Those test results should be given to your attorney and/or submitted to the court as soon as possible.

We have discovered that certain air fresheners can set off the device, specifically Febreeze air freshener’s or canned air cleaning products such as DustOff. We recommend avoiding using these products, vent clips or liquid type air freshener while an interlock device is installed on your vehicle.


If Diversion is not available and you take your case to trial and lose, you could face up to a year in jail and be required to pay a minimum fine of up to $1,000.00.

Even if you are not eligible for Diversion an attorney may be able to negotiate a lower fine and possibly other alternatives to jail time.



If this is not your first DUII or if you have completed a Diversion program in the past 10 years, Diversion will not be an option for you. There are still options available for you that could avoid jail time. In some circumstances, clients can enter into a plea the required more intense treatment as well as community service, but that still avoid jail time.


A first offense for DUII is a class A misdemeanor. The maximum fines for a class A Misdemeanor are $6,250.00 and the maximum jail time is 1 year.

A second or third DUII offense occurring within 10 year of the first offense may be classified as a Class C Felony. A Class C Felony is punishable with up to 5 years.

The maximum fine that the court may impose on a person convicted of DUII is $10,000.00. A third DUII may also result in a permanent loss of your driving privileges or a suspension of us to 10 years.


 YOU SHOULD NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE. The consequence may not only be deadly to you but also to others.

  • If you are caught driving under the influence, refusing a breathalyzer or field sobriety test could result in up to a year- long suspension of your driver’s license.
  • If you have previously refused a breathalyzer test, you could have your license suspended for up to 3 years.
  • If you fail or refuse a breath test, you have 10 days to request a DMV hearing.
  • If your blood alcohol concentration(BAC) is higher than 0.14% you could face higher fines and penalties
  • If this is not your first DUII or you have completed a Diversion program in the past 10 years, you are likely not eligible to participate in the Diversion program.
  • Don’t lose hope there are still options available that can help you avoid jail time and that may reduce your fines.


Getting Organized: Cleaning out the clutter

Getting Organized:

Tips on Cleaning Out your Clutter.

Should it go or should it stay? What you really need to keep.

What did you do on New Year’s Eve? Did you go out to a fancy restaurant or grab drinks with friends? Perhaps you put in some old movies or played board games with your kids. All of this is by far more exciting that what I did, or so it may seem…

I spent the majority of the day and evening on New Year’s Eve cleaning. I am one of those people that likes to start the New Year off right and right means CLEAN. I started by putting away the remaining Christmas decorations, after this I turned my attention to files. I like files. I like being organized, a place for everything and everything in its place. Each year I start a new file for taxes, bank statements, and other important paperwork and try and clean out and shred any paperwork that I no longer need. While this took me most of the day and night, I was most excited to wake up on January 1, 2017 with a clean and organized house and with my files ready to go. When I am organized I feel empowered and I am ready to take on the world.

So, what papers should you keep and how long should you keep them? More importantly, which papers are you going to potentially need should a legal issue arise in your future. There are some documents you should never get rid of the original, despite the fact as a population we are moving to a paperless, more environmentally friendly era there are certain documents that originals and original signatures are still required on.


Estate Planning Documents – Wills, Trusts, Advanced Directives, Powers of Attorney,

Original Deeds to Real Property

Titles to Vehicles

Birth Certificates

Death Certificates

Records of Paid Mortgages

Adoption Papers


The exception being that the document is no longer active, warranties have expired, etc.


  • Insurance Documents (Life Insurance)
  • Stock Certificates
  • Property Records
  • Property Tax Records
  • Stock Records
  • Record of Pension and Retirement Plans
  • Home Improvement Records -(Especially if claimed on taxes for rebates or qualified deductions, if claims on taxes keep the records as supporting documents to your taxes and keep for as long as you keep the applicable tax return)


  • *Federal and State Tax Returns
  • **Records of Loan Satisfactions
  • Records regarding the sale of real property
  • Record regarding the sale of stock
  • ***Receipts or cancelled check regarding support income that was paid by you
  • Annual Investment Statements

*Tax Records –Many people believe that they only need to keep tax records for three years, however the Federal Government has 6 years in which to collect money that they may be owed and for that reason it is recommended to hold Federal and State Tax Returns as well as supporting documents for a period of 7 years from the date of filing.

**Records of Loan Satisfaction -Most state have a statute of limitation on contract claims that spans 6 years. That statute of limitation runs from the time the contract was formed or since the last payment whichever is more recent. For those reasons it is recommended to hold records regarding Loan Satisfactions for at least 7 years.

***Receipt of Cancelled Check regarding Support- There are a lot of people that trust their ex-spouse or partner and even pay them support in the form of cash. Some people have support withheld via wage withholding from their check, but never keep and ongoing record. Do yourself a favor, keep track of this. If you are paying a ex-spouse or partner cash, make sure you get a dated receipt. While state government can be reliable, remember it is never a perfect system. Everyone working there is human and humans make mistakes. By being proactive and keeping track of your payments, should and issue ever arise, you will have your record of payments and that will save you time and money in the long run.


 Paycheck Stubs

  • Utility Bills
  • Bank Statements
  • Cancelled Checks (Unless for Support Payments)
  • Credit Card Receipts (Unless for tax purposes)
  • Quarterly Investment Statements
  • Sales receipts (Unless there is applicable warranty, then retain for the length of the warranty)

If there is any doubt, keep your records or at the very least keep a digital copy of them.


 There are some documents that should be reviewed and updated as necessary, specifically Estate Planning documents. We often put a Will in place and forget about. Certain life events, births, deaths, divorces, marriages all can effective the validity of certain estate planning documents. In addition you may have acquired new items or accounts or your feelings about someone you once wanted to appoint to act on your behalf may have changed. Perhaps the person you once thought would have been a great person to act as your representative has now moved far away making them a less favorable option. For those reason we recommend reviewing your estate planning documents at least every 2 years and sooner if you have had an immediate family member pass away, gone through a divorce, gotten married or re-married, or have had a child either biologically or adopted.

Should you find that you need to update one of your documents and would like assistance doing so, please contact our office. We would be happy to meet with you and discuss potential changes and any of your other estate planning goals.

We understand that many of our client may not feel the need for a will. We respect your choice, but recommend and urge you to at the very least complete a Health Care Advanced Directive. A Health Care Advanced Directive leaves instruction for what type of medical treatment you would like to receive if you are unable to communicate or make those decisions for yourself. This form traditionally also has the option to appoint someone to make medical decision for you should you be unable to do so. The value of these documents is immeasurable when it comes time to make those very difficult end of life decisions. Completing one of these forms will lessen the stress on your loved ones and will make sure that your wishes are known and honored.

We hope that you have found these tips useful. We wish you a New Year filled with happiness, health, and peace.

The Attorneys and Staff of


Harmless Error Wills

Oregon, like most states, has laws regulating what sorts of documents constitute a “will” and how to execute such documents so they are valid and enforceable. Some examples of the kinds of things different states require are whether every page needs to be signed or initialed, whether it needs to be signed in front of witnesses or a notary, whether a witness can be someone who benefits from the will, and whether witnesses must also sign the will. You can find Oregon’s specific requirements encoded in various provisions of Oregon Revised Statutes (“ORS”) Chapter 112.

Too bad, So sad frc0gbsw

Prior to March of this year, I referred to Oregon as a ‘too bad, so sad’ state with regard to purported wills that failed to meet statutory requirements in one or more respects. Your father wrote a will and signed it but there were no witnesses? Too bad, so sad; it’s not a will and your father’s estate will be administered under the laws of intestacy (what happens without a will in place). This is no longer the automatic result because, effective March 14, 2016, Oregon adopted what has come to be known as the Harmless Error Wills statute, ORS 112.238.


New law

Under ORS 112.238, which applies to the estates of decedents dying after the effective date (03/14/16), when a decedent leaves behind a writing a petitioner can offer it to a court and the court will accept it as the person’s ‘will’ on a showing of clear and convincing evidence that it embodies the decedent’s testamentary intent. A petitioner can also use this statute to offer a writing that appears to partially or completely revoke a will, or to make additions or changes to a will.

If you are considering undertaking some estate planning, the will formalities haven’t changed and still hold so it is best to have an attorney assist you in the preparation of a will or any other estate plan to minimize problems after you are gone, as some view this statute as an open invitation to a flood of probate litigation.

If you are a beneficiary under a ‘will’ that might not meet all of the ordinary requirements, it is important that you consult with a probate attorney who is aware of these changes in Oregon law to discuss your legal options. The clear and convincing standard is a high bar and there are procedures to follow for submitting the purported will to the court, and if a probate case has already been opened your time to do so may be short.

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by Brook D. Wood

Protecting Deceased Loved Ones from Identity Theft

probate attorney portland oregonIdentity theft is a growing problem and horror stories of the problems suffered by victims are all over the news and the internet.  Unfortunately, it also seems the perpetrators of this kind of fraud are just as clever as those trying to stop them, inventing new and ingenious ways to obtain your private financial information.  And, it isn’t just the living that are affected.  Each year in the United States alone approximately 2.5 MILLION dead people’s identities are stolen.  This is more than a final disrespect to your late family member or friend.  It can wreak havoc on the estate and cause tremendous problems for the heirs or beneficiaries.

What can the family do?

There are steps that the family can and should take, however, to minimize the risk to a deceased loved one’s identity.  The Internal Revenue Service recommends the following:

  • Send the IRS a copy of the death certificate, this is used to flag the account to reflect that the person is deceased
  • Send copies of the death certificate to each credit reporting bureau asking them to put a “deceased alert” on the deceased’s credit report
  • Review the deceased’s credit report for questionable credit card activity
  • Avoid putting too much information in an obituary, such as birth date, address, mother’s maiden name or other personally identifying information that could be useful to identity thieves


What can the estate representative do?

In Oregon and many other states the person applying to the court to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate MUST include the deceased’s Social Security number in that initial application (see ORS 113.035(1)).  Fortunately, Oregon courts offer a procedure for filing that information in a protected manner, by ‘segregating’ it from the public record.  This procedure is outlined in the Uniform Trial Court Rules (UTCR’s) under rules 2.100 and 2.110.

When the person seeking appointment as the personal representative first meets with an attorney, he or she should ask the attorney about protecting this information.  Using UTCR 2.100 and 2.110 to segregate Social Security numbers from probate petitions is not a part of all attorneys’ regular practices.  By making sure your attorney understands that you want to take advantage of this procedure to protect the deceased’s identity and the estate, you can potentially avoid serious difficulties down the road.  And, because in the law serious difficulties often mean serious expense, avoiding problems can mean saving more estate assets to distribute to the heirs or beneficiaries.

For more information on how to protect your deceased loved ones or yourself from identity theft, visit

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by Brook D. Wood

The ABC’s of Automobile Insurance Coverage – Part 2 – UM and UIM Claims

"Car crash" by La Cara Salma - Own work Nel vero senso della parola! (sic!). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - a previous personal injury article, we discussed how Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance works in Oregon.  We reviewed this system of no-fault automobile insurance coverage developed by the Oregon state legislature to get people quick medical benefits to pay for their auto-related injuries. This week we will be discussing another aspect of personal injury protection related to automobile accidents:  uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage

What are Uninsured (UM) and Underinsured (UIM) Motorist Insurance?

In the typical car accident case you get into a collision with another driver, you exchange insurance information, and you make an insurance claim with either your own insurance company or the other driver’s.  However, in some two-automobile accidents the only insurance available to pay for your damages is your own.  This could be because:

  • the other driver involved in the accident did not have insurance at the time of the accident,
  • the other driver fled the scene of the accident without giving you his or her insurance information,
  • the other driver’s insurance company becomes insolvent.

These are all situations where your own insurance company would pay you benefits under an uninsured motorist (UM) claim.  UM claims are claims pursued against your own insurance company when there is no other insurance policy to draw upon.  An underinsured motorist (UIM) claim is a bit different.  This claim arises when another driver who is at fault hits you and has insurance but the amount of their insurance coverage is not enough to pay for your damages.  In this situation your own insurance may pay for the excess coverage that you require to pay your bills.

Why is it important to have UM and UIM coverage?

Without this type of insurance coverage you can end up paying the medical bills and property damage that were a result of another person’s bad driving.  There are irresponsible people out there who will drive without a valid license or insurance.  They may be driving without insurance because they cannot afford it, forget to pay it, cannot get it (if their license is suspended), or simply choose, against the law, not to purchase it.  There are also individuals who would rather flee the scene of an accident in order to avoid civil or criminal liability than face the consequences of their actions.  Suffering an injury from a negligent driver is bad enough, but having to pay for the treatment yourself is even worse.  It is important to have an experienced attorney represent you on uninsured or underinsured motorist claims because these types of claims are particularly complex and they are the types of claims that the insurance companies love to deny.

What laws regulate UM and UIM insurance in Oregon?

Thankfully, the Oregon legislature understands the importance of this type of insurance and mandates that every auto insurance policy in Oregon include uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.  This is designed to protect Oregonians from going bankrupt paying the often extremely high medical bills that can result from a severe auto accident.  ORS 742.504 mandates that all Oregon drivers have uninsured and underinsured motorists protection.  Auto policies must provide a $25,000 minimum in coverage for UM/UIM claims.

How are UIM claims different from ordinary auto accident claims?

It is very important to know that in Oregon you must get permission from your own insurance company to settle a UIM claim with an underinsured driver’s insurance company.  If you take a settlement from the other driver’s insurer without first getting permission from your own then you cannot collect money under your own insurance’s UIM policy, thus limiting the total amount of money that you can recover.  If you do get permission from your own insurance company then you may be able to collect from the at-fault driver’s policy and your own, thus maximizing the amount available to cover your costs.

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by David M. Mitchell, John A. Pinzelik, and Brook D. Wood

Hiring the Right Personal Injury Attorney

Personal InjuryThe Road to Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

Accidents happen. As nice as it would be to think that the person whose negligent actions caused your injuries would simply offer to compensate you, or that their insurance company would offer a fair settlement, the reality is that almost never happens. More often than not, people fail to take responsibility for their actions, and insurance companies end up profiting by paying victims less because they know that most are unaware of their legal rights. The key to avoiding falling victim to the schemes of insurance companies is to find an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help advise you of your options and take further legal action if necessary. After all, do-it-yourself lawyering can only take you so far. The following steps will guide you through the process of choosing a personal injury lawyer that will best meet your legal needs.  At Owens / Pinzelik, P.C., we are confident our personal injury attorneys can help you tick all the right boxes in your search.

(1)  Understand your case.

Before seeking the help of a lawyer, it is important to know what you are looking for first. Ask yourself: what do you hope to get out of this at the end? Before meeting with any attorney, it is important to know and understand why you are pursuing a lawyer, and what exactly you want to accomplish with their help. How were you injured? Car accident? On the job? The answer to these questions will shape which attorneys you choose to get to know before making your final decision.

The question of cost is an important consideration. Consider whether you would be able to negotiate and recover more than half of what a lawyer would be able to get for you. If you hire an attorney, you will likely end up paying a portion of your recovery to the lawyer. But, chances are, if you have a serious injury or significant financial loss, an attorney will be able to recover a lot more than an unrepresented victim.

(2)  Build a list.

Family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues are your greatest resources when it comes to finding a lawyer. Ask other attorneys for recommendations. Lawyers know other lawyers, and although a family member’s business attorney may not be able to help you with your personal injury case, he or she will probably be able to refer you to an attorney who can.  Your employer or a union you belong to might offer a referral service that even covers your initial consultation or provides some discount on the fees you will pay.

Don’t want to share your legal woes with your inner circle? Hunt on your own and make the most of other resources.  A simple Google search will yield a number of online resources, such as FindLaw, Martindale-Hubbell, and Avvo.

(3)  Do your homework.

Research. Research. Research. Now that you’ve compiled a short list, your next step is to research the potential attorneys, check their backgrounds and evaluate their track records and qualifications as they pertain to your case. Check the websites of the attorneys you are considering and learn about their areas of expertise. Use the Internet to search for blogs written by the attorney that can give you a sense of their personality.

Remember, size matters. As you conduct your research, keep in mind the types of firms the potential attorneys are practicing in. Do they work at a large firm? Small firm? Solo practice? In the case of personal injury, a small firm such as ours can handle your case in a more personal and direct manner.

As you near the point of setting up an initial consultation, do your final due diligence. Some lawyers offer free consultations, others do not. Although personal injury lawyers rarely charge for initial consultations with potential clients, if they do, you will be obligated to pay that fee even if you do not hire them. At Owens / Pinzelik, P.C., we never charge an initial consultation fee to discuss your personal injury matter.

(4)  Schedule the consultation.

If you haven’t already, make sure you create a list of questions to ask each attorney during your meeting. Important questions to consider are:

–      Have you handled similar personal injury cases before? How many? What were the results?

–      Will you be the only attorney who works on the case? If not, who else will work on it?

–      How will I be kept informed about the progress of my case and how often will you communicate with me about my case?

–      Will I be able to speak directly with you if I need you? How quickly do you respond to phone calls and e-mails?

–      How long will it take for this case to be resolved?

–      If I don’t want to accept a settlement offer and you want to settle, will you still go to trial? If I want to accept an offer, but you think we can win more at trial, what will you do?

After you’ve received the answers to all of your questions, at some point before leaving the meeting, make sure you understand how you will be charged. Attorneys generally charge in one of three ways: by the hour, a one-time flat fee or with a contingency fee (a percentage of the recovery amount). Most personal injury lawyers charge a contingency fee. If this is the case, you’ll want to know:

(1)  How likely you are to recover (keeping in mind that there are no guarantees)

(2)  An estimate of how much you will recover

(3)  The percentage the attorney will charge for the contingency fee

(4)  Any additional related expenses you might incur

(5)  The impact to your fees if the case settles immediately or goes to trial

We think you’ll be more than happy with the answers our personal injury attorneys give you for these and any other questions you might have.  If you’ve met with other attorneys that weren’t the right fit for you, contact Owens / Pinzelik, P.C. today to schedule your free personal injury consultation.

(5)  Hire your attorney.

You’ve done your research, met with potential attorneys, and by this time, should generally have an idea of which lawyer will best meet your legal needs. After you make your decision, the next step will be to sign the engagement letter, the contract between you and your lawyer. Be sure to read carefully, as this document will describe the nature of your legal cause, the terms and conditions of your working relationship with your attorney, and any other matters you agreed to. If you are still unsure about anything, ask your questions before signing the letter.

Happy personal injury lawyer hunting.  If you choose to go elsewhere, we understand and respect your decision.  We’d appreciate the chance to earn your business and help you reach the right result with your personal injury matter.

Owens / Pinzelik, P.C. is an Oregon law firm with attorneys licensed to practice in the states of Oregon and Washington.  This article is for informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by Rachna Hajari, John A. Pinzelik, and Brook D. Wood

How to Keep your Legal Fees Down

For most, if not all, clients, minimizing the expense of litigation or other legal services is one of the top priorities.  What many fail to do, however, is to take positive steps to help realize that goal.  Sometimes this can be attributed to highly charged, emotional situations in which it is difficult for the client and make it hard to think about the simple things like “how much is this going to cost me?”  More often than not, though, this failure is simply the result of not knowing HOW they can help themselves in this regard.  Here are 6 key tips to help you keep your legal fees down.

1. Read and Understand the Fee Agreementlegal-fees

The fee agreement is a contract entered into by the client and the lawyer or law firm, and it should be very clear about what charges the client is responsible for, how those charges are calculated, and how they are supposed to be paid.  Do not be afraid to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand or is not worded clearly.  If you are not satisfied with the attorney’s answers, perhaps that is a signal that you should look for representation elsewhere or at least ask another attorney to review and explain the agreement to you before you sign it.

2. Ask about Alternative Billing Methods

Rightly or wrongly, the standard legal billing method is by the “billable hour.”  Attorneys charge clients for the time dedicated to working on their cases and that time is multiplied by the attorney’s hourly rate.  Increasingly, however, lawyers and firms are offering alternatives to the billable hour.  Before you hire your attorney ask him or her if your case would be appropriate for either “flat-fee” or “contingency” consideration.

3. Consider a Limited Representation

For many disputes that are not yet in the litigation/arbitration stage, one option I have found many of my clients to appreciate is the opportunity to hire our firm on a “limited representation” basis.  In this kind of representation, the client hires the attorney to perform very specific services, which are explicitly listed in the fee agreement, such as drafting and mailing a demand letter to a debtor; preparing and recording a deed or other document with county offices; reviewing and providing advice regarding a contract.  the attorney is then not responsible for handling potentially related issues that the client deems unimportant.  this type of representation can then be handled hourly, flat-fee, or contingent.

4. Know if your Attorney Uses MBI’s

Many lawyers use minimum billing increments (MBI’s) to make up for the negative impact on productivity that interruptions can have when one client’s matter necessarily takes attention away from another.  MBI’s are a set minimum amount of time for which a client is charged for an activity regardless of how long the activity actually took for the attorney to perform.  The most common example is for emails and phone calls, where it is fairly standard practice to bill clients a minimum of 0.1 hours (six minutes), 0.2 hrs (12 mins), or even 0.25 hrs (15 mins) for each phone call or email to or from the attorney, even if that phone call lasted only a minute or two, or even less.  Also common are MBI’s of 1 hour for court appearances and of 0.1 or 0.2 hours per page for drafting legal documents.

5. Prioritize and Consolidate your Questions

Many clients simply do not understand the impact of their own communications with their attorney on the bottom line cost of representation, especially if MBI’s are in play.

Example: Steve hires Joan to represent him.  Steve has LOTS of questions.  Steve emails Joan 4 times per day, 5 days per week, for a month.  If Joan’s hourly rate is $200 and her firm bills an MBI of 0.2 for each email, Steve’s bill for these emails alone is $3,200!

Before calling or emailing your attorney, ask yourself if the issue is urgent.  If it is go ahead.  If it’s important but not urgent, write your question or comment down for later.  Once you’ve got a few notes, or the next time something urgent does come up, call or email about ALL of your issues.  In our example, if Steve had emailed Joan once per week instead, his bill would potentially be as low as $160 if the answers to his questions were simple.

6. Listen to your Attorney

When you hire an attorney to represent and advise you in a matter, presumably, you do so because you intend to listen to the advice you are given.  Ultimately, the client does make a lot of decisions about what is important to him or her, how he or she would like to proceed, and whether or not to settle a case, among others.  If your attorney recommends one course of action and you choose another, or if your attorney advises you not to do X and you do X, you can expect your legal fees to increase.  This is not because your attorney wants to punish you but because those are the natural repercussions of your decisions.  In some cases, not only will your own fees increase but you may be made by the court to pay the opposing party’s fees, too.  The only thing worse than paying one attorney is paying two.

In addition to these tips, don’t hesitate to ask your attorney if there are other things you can do to keep your legal fees down.

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by Brook D. Wood

Oregon Small Claims Court – Getting Started

At our firm we often get calls from people who want to file or need to defend a lawsuit in small claims court, and who want  some basic information regarding the process.  While we do not mind taking these calls, we thought we could help many more people by publishing some of this information here.  Here, then, is some basic information on how to start your Small Claims case.  Mind you, we are aware much of this information is already available elsewhere on the internet but, apparently, it isn’t as easy to locate as it should be.

If you still have questions and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss your small claims case, as plaintiff or defendant, click here.Mult.Co.Crthse. Plaque

1. What is ‘Small Claims Court’ anyway?

Small Claims Court is a simplified venue for civil cases in which the amount in dispute is relatively low.  The rules of evidence are relaxed and there are no attorneys to appear on behalf of the parties (though you are permitted to seek the advice of an attorney outside of the courtroom before the hearing).  The purpose of Small Claims Court is to quickly and fairly resolve modest claims, while minimizing the financial burden on the parties often associated with legal disputes and making efficient use of limited judicial resources.

2. What cases can be brought in Small Claims Court?

For a case to be eligible for Small Claims Court in Oregon the amount in dispute, including the value of any property, must be $10,000 or less.  So, if you are a contractor, suing a non-paying client for $10,001, you may not file in Small Claims Court.  If you are suing for more than $10,000, you must file your suit in the Circuit Courts.

Additionally, in Oregon, with some few exceptions all claims of less than $750 must be filed in Small Claims Court.

(So, if the matter in dispute is between $750 and $10,000, you can file in either Small Claims Court or Circuit Court.  Consider discussing your case with an attorney, who can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each system which may impact upon your case.)

Also, to file a Small Claims Court action you must first genuinely attempt to resolve the matter with the opposing party and swear to the Court under penalty of perjury that you did so.

3. Who are the parties in a Small Claims suit?

Just as in Circuit Court civil suits, the party that files the lawsuit is called the Plaintiff and the party being sued is the Defendant.  The Defendant can bring counterclaims against the Plaintiff but is still called the Defendant.

4. How do I file a Small Claims case?

The Plaintiff begins the Small Claims case by filling out a Small Claim and Notice of Small Claim form.  (For Multnomah County forms, click here.)  The Plaintiff files this form with the Small Claims Court of the county where: a) at least one Defendant resides; b) the injury or damage occurred; or, c) the Defendant was supposed to perform some contractual obligation.  In Multnomah County this form is filed at the Small Claims counter in Room 210 of the Multnomah County Courthouse, 1021 SW 4th Avenue, in Portland.

There is a filing fee that must be paid when the form is filed with the Court.  The fee is $53 for claims of $2,500 or less, and $95 for claims between $2,500 and $10,000.

5. What else do I need to do?

Before the Defendant(s) can be made to show up to Small Claims Court, the Plaintiff must serve (provide notice to) the Defendants regarding the lawsuit.  There are a few ways this can be accomplished but generally if you know the Defendant’s home or work address the easiest is to take a true copy of the Small Claim and Notice of Small Claim form to the sheriff’s office of the county where the Defendant resides or works.  The sheriff’s office will deliver the copies to the Defendant and provide you with a Proof of Service that you must file with the Small Claims Court.  There is a fee charged for this service that varies by county.  In Multnomah County, you can call the sheriff’s office at (503) 988-3291 or simply stop by their office on the first floor of the Multnomah County Courthouse.

After doing all of the above, the Plaintiff must then wait to see if the Defendant will voluntarily pay the claim, request a hearing, demand a jury trial (if you are suing for $750 or more the Defendant can demand that you file your suit in Circuit Court), or ignore the whole thing and hope it goes away.

Obviously, this isn’t everything to know about Oregon Small Claims lawsuits.  For more , feel free to check out the information provided by the Multnomah County Circuit Court here, or by the Oregon State Bar here.

Again, if you wish to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss your small claims case, as plaintiff or defendant, click here.

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by Brook D. Wood

Oregon DUII Part 1 – Potential Benefits of the Breathalyzer

A Good Night Suddenly Turned Bad

You’ve just left your friends behind after an enjoyable night and are headed home to the comfort of your own bed.  Then that sinking feeling as you see the red and blue flash in your rear-view mirror.  You have just been pulled over and, though you may feel fine, you know you’re probably in trouble.

This is the first post in a short series of Oregon DUII-related topics.  In future posts we will look at Oregon’s DUII Diversion Program, the “McShane” Plea, and other issues.  For now, however, we  will examine the potential benefits of agreeing to undergo breath analysis, commonly referred to as ‘Breathalyzer.’

Continuing the above scenario, the officer approaches your car and begins to ask you questions.

Do you know why I stopped you? Have you been drinking this evening? How much have you had to drink? When was your last drink?

It all happened so fast and you don’t even remember what you said.  What you do know is that at the end of the conversation the officer indicated he was arresting you for DUII.  You are cuffed and in the back of a squad car on your way to the station.  When you arrive you are asked to voluntarily submit to breath analysis to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC).

intoxilyzer-8000Many people instinctively refuse to ‘blow,’ thinking that if the cops can’t determine their BAC they may have a better chance of getting out of this.  There are situations in which not submitting to the test might be beneficial, given a person’s unique circumstances.  What many people don’t realize, however, is that there are potential benefits to submitting to the Breathalyzer.

Some possible benefits to voluntarily submitting to breath analysis include:

  • Implied Consent Suspension – Under ORS 813.100 and 813.420, refusal to submit to the test will automatically result in suspension of your license for a period of from one to three years.  Compare this to the automatic suspension that results from a ‘failed’ test of only 90 days to one year.
  • Low BAC – Under ORS 813.010 a person is guilty of DUII if the results of breath (or blood, again a different topic) analysis indicate that you were operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.  If the Breathalyzer demonstrates that your BAC is below 0.08% you might not be charged with DUII.  Another future topic will discuss how you may still be charged with DUII even if your BAC is below this limit.
  • High BAC – Under ORS 813.010(6)(d) a person convicted of DUII with a BAC of 0.15% or higher must pay an enhanced fine.  This, obviously, is not a benefit.  However, a high BAC can be indicative of a ‘problem condition involving alcohol’ – legalspeak for alcoholism.  Oregon laws and courts recognize that alcoholism is a problem that may be beyond a person’s control alone and the system allows for people with genuine difficulty, who genuinely wish to receive treatment, to be provided both some measure of leniency and assistance in receiving much-needed treatment.

Only a competent, licensed Oregon attorney can explain your options under these laws to you if you have refused to submit to breath analysis or have submitted and still face criminal prosecution.

To be contacted by an attorney at Owens / Pinzelik, P.C., click here.

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by Victoria Timbrook, David W. Owens, and Brook D. Wood

Understanding the Legal and Practical Risks of Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, blogs, vlogs – today’s social media outlets provide any number of ways for people and businesses to connect, from sharing photos and recipes with friends and family, to planning vacations, to building your customer base or hyping a new song, movie, or product.

Most people and businesses, however, are too busy enjoying this ‘golden age’ of digital inter-connectivity to think about the legal and practical dangers inherent in social media.  The following information is provided as a courtesy to help you understand, and hopefully avoid, some of the more common personal and business pitfalls of social media.


Personal Risks of Social Media

  • Confidentiality –  Information communicated between you and your lawyer, doctor, priest, and others, may be protected by confidentiality or privilege laws.  This means it may not be accessed by others or used against you in court.  Sharing this information online, however, might be seen as a waiver of those protections.  Be careful and think twice about what you are posting.
  • Anonymity –  Many have the false impression that comments posted to online forums, news outlets, or blogs are anonymous.  Just post it under hamm3rtime1981 and nobody will know it’s you, right?  Wrong.  There is no such thing as anonymity on the internet.  Everything online can be traced back to its source.  Any time you post anything online, do so on the assumption that everybody in the world may find out it was you that wrote it.
  • Children –  Nowadays everyone uses the internet to find whatever it is they are looking for, even child predators and bullies.  Be aware of your children’s internet activity and talk to them about online safety and how to handle and report inappropriate behavior.
  • Other Legal Risks –  Increasingly, Facebook updates and Tweets are being used as evidence in divorce, child custody, and criminal cases.  No matter how innocent you may think your posts are, consider what it may look like to others, like a judge or jury.  That photo of you pretending to shotgun a beer outside the football stadium may cost you in court later.

Business Risks of Social Media

  • Intellectual Property and Likeness Rights –  Thought should be given and care exercised before using content created by others to promote your business without their permission.  Using another’s words or graphic designs may violate copyright laws.  Additionally, using someone’s photo (or other identifiable feature) may violate his or her rights of publicity and/or privacy.  In today’s digital age it is easier than ever to fall into these traps.  If you are uncertain, don’t do it until you can speak to your attorney.
  • Company Reviews –  Finally getting around to creating that company Facebook or other site’s page should be considered carefully.  On any site that allows customers to post reviews, sometimes just one bad review, even if undeserved, or worse, completely fabricated, can devastate your business.  Before signing up, be sure to look into things like: Who controls what users see, you or the site?  How long do negative reviews or ratings stay on your business profile?  Is there a way to remove or dispute negative comments?
  • False Advertising and Defamation –  In promoting your own business or products, think twice before engaging in comparisons to your competitors.  In advertising, not only must you speak honestly about your own business but you must also be honest about your competitors.  Opinions about your own products and services are generally okay – “the best full-service laundry in Oregon” – but don’t chance it with your competitors’ – “John Doe’s laundry is the worst.”  Any false claims boosting the qualities or attributes of your business may violate false advertising and/or unfair trade practice laws, while false statements about a competitor that harms his/her/its reputation me be grounds for a defamation suit.
  • Account Ownership –  When you asked your assistant to create social media profiles for your business you probably didn’t think about who would own those profiles when he or she is no longer with the company.  The same is probably also true of content posted on those profiles by your employees.  These are new issues and no bright line rules exist yet in the law.  To protect your business it is generally best, however, that these profiles are set up independent of any actual person’s account if possible, or as alter-egos of your own profile, where necessary, and your employee handbook or employment contracts should explicitly define who owns what.  Additionally, consider provisions stating that it is against company policy to use company social media outlets to discriminate, disparage, defame, or engage in other tortious conduct.

For informational purposes only and not to be relied upon as legal advice.

by Brook D. Wood