Author Archive for Ramsey Hanafi

In California, Probation Violators More Likely to Commit Felonies than Misdemeanors

probationAlmost 1200 out of every 100,000 people are on active probation in California. Although lower than the national average, California has more probationers than any other state. Ideally, probation is meant to monitor people convicted of a crime without having them being incarcerated. The alternative to probation would either be reducing sentencing laws or simply locking everyone up, neither of which are likely to happen any time soon.

I was curious about who was being arrested while on probation in California, and what their history was. Every year in California, LegalMatch gets tens of thousands of clients seeking criminal defense attorneys. I decided to look at LegalMatch statistics for the last 12 months for clients who were being charged with misdemeanors and felonies in California. Particularly, I compared the figures for both misdemeanor clients and felony clients according to their probation status:

Probation Status of Felony Suspects in California:

  • No Probation: 70%
  • Yes, currently on Probation: 18%
  • I don’t know: 12%

Probation Status of Misdemeanor Suspects in California:

  • No Probation: 77%
  • Yes, currently on Probation: 14%
  • I don’t know: 9% 

More suspects were being re-arrested for felony charges than misdemeanors. Conversely, more misdemeanor suspects were not already on probation, and more were aware of their probation status.

These statistics mirror national statistics showing that of those arrested while on probation, more were being arrested for felonies than misdemeanors. Is this a sign that the system isn’t working? Not necessarily, but considering that in California there are double the arrests for misdemeanors than felonies, one has to wonder why more of those who are being arrested again are being arrested for serious crimes. As California’s prison over crowding crisis continues to shake out, how California decides to continue its probation process will have an important effect on the future of the system.

LegalMatch Data Confirms 2008 Federal Estimates for Unauthorized Immigrants

immigrant-removalFollowing up on my previous article on immigrant removal, I wanted to know where some of our LegalMatch clients were coming from. I looked at the data for 2008 in order to compare it to current Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics on estimated unauthorized immigrant populations in the United States. 

According to data, the following states are the top ten locations for immigrants seeking removal attorneys:

  1. CA: 16%
  2. TX: 12%
  3. FL: 7%
  4. NY: 6%
  5. AZ: 5%
  6. GA: 4%
  7. WA: 3%
  8. NJ: 3%
  9. NC: 3%
  10. CO: 3%

These numbers almost exactly match DHS data on the estimated US population of unauthorized immigrants. The first five states on both lists are the same. The percentages are also almost exactly the same, with a few exceptions.

Assuming a correlation between the number of people facing removal and the number of immigrants present in the state (i.e. higher removal numbers means a likelihood of higher numbers of people in general) this LegalMatch data is evidence that federal estimates are accurate.

Now that we can assume the veracity of these figures, some may wonder why some states, such as New Jersey or Georgia, have a significantly higher proportion of unauthorized immigrants (and thus, immigrants facing removal) then other states situated right next to them. Common sense already dictates that states like California or Florida would have high ratios due to simple geography. But why Colorado and not Utah? Why New Jersey and not Pennsylvania?

Further analysis of these states would be necessary, but my hunch says it’s a mixture of jobs, economic strength, the presence of large urban populations, and how many immigrants are already in the state. Colorado, for instance, may have fewer farms than Nebraska and Kansas, but it has a larger immigrant population as well as more dense urban cities. Georgia, although conservative, also has a dense urban core surrounding Atlanta. New Jersey neighbors the extremely diverse New York City. A variety of reasons may drive immigrant migration, and further examination of LegalMatch data may shed some light on these patterns.

Most Removed Immigrants Not Criminals, Data Shows

us-deportationThe numbers of illegal aliens facing removal from the United States has been on the rise since 2001. In the past 8 years there has been a 40% increase in the number of aliens removed (deported) from the United States. 

I was curious of the most common causes for removal. According to intake reports compiled from thousands of client entries in the past 12 months, these are the most common reasons cited for removal from the U.S.:

  • Convicted of a crime: 42%
  • In the United States illegally: 40%
  • Visa has expired: 16%
  • Not paid taxes: 1%

A lot of squabbling goes on in the media and the blogosphere about whether an “illegal immigrant” is actually a criminal. The point of these “debates” is usually to score quick political talking points.

Contrary to popular belief however, mere unauthorized presence in the United States is not always a crime. The above poll matches Homeland Security data showing that in fact, the majority of aliens removed from the United States were not criminals. According to Department of Homeland Security statistics for 2007, only 31% of immigrants removed were actually convicted of a crime.

Although removal can subject one to criminal sanctions, the majority of removal cases are limited to civil penalties or based on breaches of administrative laws. When an immigrant is removed without criminal consequences it is incorrect to really refer to this person as a “criminal.” The “illegal aliens are criminals” talking point is nonetheless often used to somehow justify the mass jailing and deportation of illegal aliens, but it rings hollow when statistics show that the rule being broken by most of these people is mere unauthorized presence. According to the above statistics, it would be incorrect to assume that more than 42% of those immigrants facing removal are in fact criminals.

Top Injuries from Defective Auto Products

What is an “auto product” you might be wondering? Your steering wheel, your car-seat, and your airbag are all examples of products that come together to make up your automobile. As with any other product, these things can malfunction. In the context of a moving automobile, when these things fail it can sometimes lead to serious consequences. This being America, what do people want to do when they are hurt? Sue!

In the past 12 months has been the destination for quite a few people looking for attorneys in their defective auto product claims. I decided to look at what injuries these products were causing, and here is what the data was telling me:

  • Anxiety: 19%defective-auto-part
  • Difficulty sleeping: 14%
  • Headaches: 12%
  • Nausea: 4%
  • Difficulty breathing: 4%
  • Cuts and bruises: 3%
  • Impaired vision: 2%
  • Broken bones: 1%

A little while ago, we had an article debunking the myth that car accident lawsuits were a golden ticket to retirement. In reality, insurers fight these actions tooth and nail. Common injuries that do not exhibit obvious physical marks-such as neck and back pain-make a case more difficult to win.

This sage wisdom is relevant here because most of the injuries listed above aren’t visible. Maybe these folks have a perfectly valid warranty claim, but as far as product liability goes they may have an uphill battle. 

In fact only 6% of the above are the type of injuries that a doctor (and a jury) can see. The rest are based on doctor’s opinions and trusting someone’s word. Of course we all want to take someone’s word for it, but the insurance company that is being told to pay $100,000 because someone can’t sleep at night isn’t going to go down quietly. These plaintiffs should be ready for a fight.

Top Injuries Claimed in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

medicalmalpracticeI’ve written about our dysfunctional medical malpractice tort system before. In my opinion, attorney’s fees and court costs have a disproportionate stake in the economics of medical malpractice and health insurance in general, as opposed to what really matters: compensating the injured patient and disciplining the guilty doctor(s).

I decided to take a look at the top types of injuries claimed in medical malpractice cases submitted to in the past 12 months. Here is what I found:

  • Possibility of future harm: 34%
  • Long term or permanent loss of physical ability: 29%
  • Short term loss of physical ability: 15%
  • Disfigurement or cosmetic injury:  13%
  • Minor injury: 6%
  • No injury: 3%

More than half of the above claims are potential cases of doctor discipline if the claims are taken at face value. This means that in addition to a malpractice claim, the doctor can be subject to punishment by medical licensing boards.

Unfortunately, the stunning reality is that hardly any of the medical malpractice claims won by plaintiffs will result in doctor discipline. According to a study by Public Citizens Health Research Group, of all the medical malpractice payouts between 1990 and 2004, only 5.4% of doctors were subject to discipline. Even worse, of those doctors who had three or more medical malpractice payouts to plaintiffs, only 11.4% were disciplined. 

Why does that matter? Malpractice cases cost everyone money. They raise rates and they clog the tort system. If more doctors were subject to discipline for their negligence in addition to monetary sanctions, perhaps we would see less malpractice lawsuits? It would be a double whammy for doctors; they might take discipline more seriously and they might not be able to continue to practice if their negligence is brought before the proper authorities.

In fact, maybe we can get rid of malpractice lawsuits altogether? Establish some sort of board that can not only discipline doctors but extract compensation from them, or from some general client fund (such as those run by many state bars to compensate clients, like in California).

Certainly all the categories listed above face an uphill climb to get any compensation for the simple reason that litigating malpractice claims is costly. The big winners in our current malpractice system are not patients or the medical profession-they are (surprise surprise) the lawyers. Let’s change the equation and make this about good health and good medicine, not making money.