NYC Open Container Tickets and Summonses: A Lawyer’s Guide

What Is an Open Container Violation?

Open Container laws are state or local laws that prohibit the drinking of alcoholic beverages in either public places such as parks and streets or in private places such as vehicles.

Nearly all states have some type of law against possessing an open container of alcohol in a public place. For the most part, these laws are selectively enforced. For example, police will ignore thousands of people publicly drinking while tailgating at a sports or music event, but enforce the law against students in a college town or pedestrians on the streets of New York City.

In New York City the Open Container law (Section 10-125 of the NYC Administrative Code) states in part, as follows:

§ 10-125 Consumption of Alcohol on Streets Prohibited

b. No person shall drink or consume an alcoholic beverage, or possess, with intent to drink or consume, an open container containing an alcoholic beverage in any public place except at a block party, feast or similar function for which a permit has been obtained.

e. Any person who shall be found to have violated any of the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five dollars ($25) or imprisonment of up to five (5) days, or both, or pursuant to the provisions of the family court act of the state of New York where applicable.

How to Handle the NYC Open Container Summons

The NYPD is one of the most prolific law enforcement agencies in the world in its voluminous issuance of Open Container tickets, issuing upwards of 40,000 summonses each year for the 10-125 (b) charge.

One of the issues facing those charged with Open Container tickets is that they are often issued the summons while visiting New York City. In fact, nearly half of the summonses that I review each year are issued to non-residents of New York. Unfortunately, those summonses usually require people to come to 346 Broadway Criminal Court 2-3 months after the issuance! For most people from out of New York, returning to NYC to personally appear in court is simply not feasible.

Fortunately, the Criminal Courts in New York tend to be relatively lenient on the requirement that the defendant appear in person. Nearly all NYC Courts will permit a defendant on an Open Container case to appear via his or her attorney and also permit the lawyer to accept a non-criminal violation disposition on his client’s behalf (provided that the lawyer presents an authorization to the judge).

If you happen to live in New York City, you’ll probably choose to go to Court for yourself, but be forewarned: You could wind up spending several hours waiting in line (in the snow or rain) just to gain entry to the Courthouse (particularly at 346 Broadway) and several more hours waiting for your case to be heard.

For both non-New York residents who can’t be bothered to travel back to New York and NYC residents who would rather not take a day off work or spending an entire day among the ‘undesirables’ of criminal court, having an open container attorney appear on your behalf makes a lot of sense.
346 Broadway – Manhattan Criminal Court Location
A marker346 Broadway New York NY – 346 Broadway, New York, NY 10013, USA
get directions

The Manhattan Criminal Court building at 346 Broadway is the main arbiter of justice for NYC Open Container violations issued in Manhattan.
Tricks to Beat Your NYC Open Container Summons

In order to beat your New York Open Container ticket, here are a few tips:

If you’re going to consume alcohol in public, be aware that there are exceptions for street festivals, certain park events, and stadiums.
Be careful about bars and restaurants that have ambiguous boundaries — the Central Park restaurants and bars are notorious for having people step down a step and get ticketed by passing park police!
If consuming alcohol on the city streets, one would be wise not to carry an easily identifiable beer bottle or can. These are the easiest for the police to spot.
Placing said alcoholic beverage in a paper bag is also a bright, red flag for police. There is no exception for bottles and cans that are inside a paper bag.
Police DO NOT TEST for alcohol nor will they TASTE the beverage. A beverage in a paper or plastic cup that smells alcoholic can only be identified as alcohol by YOU.
There are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages that smell exactly like beer and liquor.
A sealed alcoholic beverage is not subject to the prohibitions of 10-125(2)(b). The law requires that the container of alcohol be OPEN.
Merely being WITH a person consuming alcohol on the city streets should never subject a person to being cited for that same offense. The only person who can legally be charged with an open container of alcohol violation is the person in POSSESSION of the open, alcoholic beverage.

How I Know What I Know

I am an attorney that has been practicing criminal law and representing defendants in New York for 15 years, during which time I have also served both New York City and New York State as an Impartial Hearing Officer, Administrative Law Judge and Small Claims Arbitrator.

As an expert and media personality, I have appeared on or been featured in The New York Times, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, CNN, US News & World Report, Headline News, Huffington Post, ABC, Dallas Morning News, Men’s Vogue, BBC Radio and countless other media outlets.

What Does It Mean To Have Your Bond “Forfeited” in Texas?

Getting Arrested and Sued

It means two things. First, it means that you’re going to be arrested. Second, it means that you’re going to be sued.

The “you’re going to be arrested” part doesn’t require any more explanation. So let’s talk about what you’re going to be sued for. When you sign a personal bond, you’re promising at least two things.
Court Forfeit
Promise that you will show up in court

First, you promise that you’ll show up in court on time on the dates you’re supposed to show up.

Second, you promise that if you don’t show up like you promised, then you’ll pay the county a certain amount of money.

For example, suppose you have a personal bond for $5,000 and that you don’t show up. If you don’t show up, the court will “forfeit” your bond. When the Judge forfeits your bond, that means the Judge called your name in open court when you were supposed to be there, and you didn’t answer.
The County Attorney Will Sue You
Fight the Lawsuit or Pay the Penalty

The forfeiture of your bond is what starts the process of the County Attorney suing you for $5,000. If you don’t timely file an answer and successfully fight the County Attorney’s lawsuit, the civil court will order you to pay $5,000 plus court costs to the County Attorney.
Your Obligation to the Bondsman
What happens when you do not show up in Court

Let’s suppose you have a surety bond for $5,000. When a surety bondsman posts a bond, both you and he are making some promises, both to the Court and to each other. The promises you make to the Court is the same as with a personal bond.

The promise your bondsman makes to the Court is that if you don’t show up, then the County can sue him on the bond and collect $5,000. The promises you make to you bondsman are that: (1) you’ll show up in court on time on the dates you’re supposed to show up; and (2) that if you don’t keep the promise to show up, and the County sues the bondsman on the bond, then you’ll pay the bondsman back.
Collateral for your Bond
You could lose your House or even your Car.

Often times, before the bondsman even writes the bond in the first place, he will require you to provide some kind of collateral to secure payment on the bond. Sometimes he’ll put a lien on your house or take the title documents to your car, plus a key to your car.

Now, if you’re really interested in the technicalities of all this, read on. If you just wanted the basic point of it all, stop reading.
Capias VS. Arrest Warrant
If the Judge orders a Capias you are going to Jail

If the judge forfeits your bond, the judge will generally order a “capias” issued for your arrest. A “capias” is a court order that commands any peace officer of the State of Texas to arrest you and take you to court either immediately or at a later time. If it is at a later time, then as soon as they find you’re going to jail to wait until that later time.

A “capias” is a little different from an “arrest warrant.” An “arrest warrant” has to be supported by a probable cause affidavit, which is usually sworn to by a peace officer in front of a magistrate, explaining why there is probable cause to believe that a particular crime was committed and why there is probable cause to believe that a particular person committed that crime.

A “capias” requires no explanation from anybody. If the judge thinks you didn’t show up for court, then the judge issues a court order for your arrest.

The bottom line, though, is it doesn’t matter whether your name is on a “capias” or on an arrest warrant; if the police stop you, you’re going to jail.

Caught Shoplifting: A Lawyer’s Guide

Help! I was Arrested for Shoplifting in New York!

In New York and many other states, the word ‘larceny’ is synonymous with Theft or Stealing. Therefore, if you have received a New York Petit Larceny summons (in New York under CPL 155.25) or New York Criminal Possession of Stolen Property ticket (CPL 165.40), it means that the state or jurisdiction you live in is alleging that you have stolen something. A shoplifting offense is charged as a larceny crime. In most states, the degree with which you are charged depends on an estimate of the value of the property you are alleged to have stolen.

If you made a mistake, don’t be too hard on yourself. A competent criminal lawyer can try to fix the problem so that you wind up with the minimum penalty possible. Everyone makes mistakes, does things they regret, and our court system in the United States is set up to ensure that most people get a second chance.

And of course, if you aren’t guilty, then it is important for the courts to hear your side of the story and make sure they are getting their facts straight. It can be extremely frustrating to be accused of something you didn’t do, but the New York criminal justice system and those of other states can often make you feel like you’ve been sucked into a black hole. Sometimes you have to fight just to defend yourself against bogus charges.

The worst thing you can do is compound the problem by trying to go it alone. Chances are, that you’ve already confessed to the crime and have signed a statement to that effect AND a letter of restitution agreeing to pay the store far in excess the value of the item you may have shoplifted. That means you’ve already made several mistakes that have cost you a substantial amount of money. Don’t make another one by trying to save a few dollars. Shoplifting is a serious crime — one that can prevent you from obtaining future employment and going to college.

Whatever happened, you deserve fair treatment by the courts. Hiring a good criminal attorney will ensure that you receive a fair hearing, and an opportunity to resolve the charges as quickly as possible.
Shoplifting: New York Punishment Table
Value of Stolen Property

You should always be aware of the charges pending against you and speak with a criminal defense lawyer before pleading guilty to ANY crime.
How to Beat a Shoplifting Charge
There are several ways to successfully fight and challenge a petit larceny or shoplifting arrest.

For shoplifting cases, a criminal lawyer may be able to dispute intent to shoplift, if it was inadvertent (accidental), and you meant to pay for the item. For example, let’s say a mother is with her young daughter waiting on line to pay for a candy bar when her daughter suddenly runs out of the store. If the mother instinctively runs after her child and inadvertently forgets to drop the candy bar before leaving the store, a lawyer would argue that she did not have the intent to commit the crime of shoplifting.
In some petit larceny and shoplifting cases, a criminal lawyer can argue that it was a case of mistaken identity (that someone wearing similar clothes or of a similar race or ethnicity was the shoplifter and not you) and make the prosecutor prove that it was you. If you were caught by a security guard, that security guard must be willing and able to come to court to testify against you. In many cases, witnesses are inaccurate, unreliable or simply unwilling to take the time to cooperate with the police.
For first-time offenders charged with shoplifting in New York and many other states, there are special education programs that Courts may require shoplifters to attend as part of your sentence or punishment. In many cases, you may be able to participate in a program and get your charges reduced or dismissed.
In most cases, the best option for your lawyer is to negotiate hard for either an ACD (Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal) or a fair plea bargain in which the charges are dismissed in exchange for a reduction in charges down to a less serious penalty or in some cases, restitution (paying back the business owner).
Unfortunately, you may not be treated fairly without the representation of a criminal lawyer who is willing to take a case to trial if necessary.
The most important thing is this: NEVER plead guilty to any shoplifting or larceny charge without speaking with a qualified, experienced criminal defense lawyer. A defense lawyer who has represented people charged with larceny or shoplifting in New York courts will know exactly what a fair deal is and will be able to guide you accordingly.

About the Author

Criminal Defense Lawyer Jason Stern has been practicing criminal law in New York for more than 15 years. He has appeared on Good Morning America, Fox News, CNN, Headline News, ABC, and been featured or quoted in the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, Bottom Line Magazine, Men’s Vogue, and countless other publications.

If you have been arrested for a shoplifting charge (petit larceny) in New York, you should visit his criminal defense website Petit Larceny Defense.

And yes, he will be happy to provide a FREE consultation and fee quote for your New York shoplifting case.

Criminal Defense Attorney Free Helpful Guidepost

Finding specific information about criminal defense attorney might not be easy but we have gathered very helpful and relevant information about the general subject matter, with the ultimate aim of helping you out. Even if your search is about other criminal defense attorney information, such as aventura police, child abuse lawyer, san diego criminal attorneys or even massachusetts criminal defense attorney, this article will prove very helpful, to say the least.

Criminal cases are sometimes complex and long driven cases which sometimes make you undergo tremendous mental trauma and stress. It is therefore, important to hire the services of a criminal attorney who understands your situation, and also makes you understand the legalities involved in the case in simple layperson terms. This is the problem with most of the attorneys. Most of them don’t bother about explaining to you the complex laws, which everyone may not be in a position to understand. If you already had knowledge of these laws, why there would be no need to hire the services of an attorney.

Next, he will know the prosecutors and the Judges for the state. He should be able to tell you ahead of time what kind of plea bargain to expect and whether the Judge is the sort who makes people out on their sentences. This will give you a good idea about whether you should settle early on or press ahead for a jury trial.

Criminal defense advice is counseling given by criminal defense lawyers or attorneys that help resolve legal issues. Criminal defense advisors are experts in criminal law who will be able to provide thorough and competent legal representation to the accused. They provide services to the accused in every stage, from arrest to trial and to appeal. Criminal defense advisors will also be able to explain weak points to the prosecutor concerning the case after studying it thoroughly and reviewing the facts. They will also provide information on the probability of success and the requirements needed to fight the case. They will be able to provide all the information on criminal justice procedure in every single stage of the case. They will also be able to explain in detail the rights and possible legal consequences of different criminal behavior. The criminal defense lawyer will teach what the accused can do in certain cases.

If this article still doesn’t answer your specific criminal defense attorney quest, then don’t forget that you can conduct more search on any of the major search engines like Search. To get specific criminal defense attorney information.

Framing the case in such a way to avoid future legal problems to the defendant; educating the defendant about his status and the outcome of the trial with the defense strategy adopted; helping the accused from low self esteem and fear factor being an outcome of the legal procedures; knowledge and awareness about the legal provision and defense loop holes; familiarity with the court formalities; knowledge about the hidden cost of pleading guilty; hiring investigators and gathering the facts of the case are the various steps adopted by a defense attorney to defend the accused.

There are many experienced criminal attorneys. Their job involves meticulously preparing cases considering the risks of trial that may happen in each case. Their wide experience in an intricate state as well as federal criminal affairs in San Antonio will help a lot.

The role of a criminal attorney is to represent the accused in the court of law. There are times the law accepts physical abuse against people, when it is done in self defense, to protect someone else, to protect one’s property. All these cases are acceptable by the court.

We discovered that many people who were also searching for information related to criminal defense attorney also searched online for related information such as criminal offenses, criminal attorney, and even michigan criminal attorney.

Why Become A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Many everyday people are unsure of how to interpret the legal field of criminal defense. What would drive an attorney to the world of criminal law? Why would they want to defend a criminal? What does this say about the attorney? As a matter of fact, most criminal defense attorneys did not see themselves entering the specific field when they first entered law school.

Criminal defense attorneys, such as Koenig Criminal Defense, are no different from any other lawyers in the fact that they crave justice. “Justice” is a word that can have a subjective meaning. For criminal defense attorneys, this meaning is that everyone gets a fair trial. Their job is to be sure that their clients are properly represented in court, as it is every person’s right to be.

Criminal defense attorneys also learn that not every client fits society’s definition of a criminal. When people think of a criminal, they usually picture someone in all black and a ski mask, up to no good in the middle of the night. Attorneys find that most of the time, their client may be someone who is inherently a good person who made a mistake or a poor decision, such as driving under the influence of alcohol. Perhaps their client is being charged with tax evasion. It is also possible that the client is being falsely charged for something they didn’t even do at all.

The bottom line is that a criminal defense attorney is someone who is often full of empathy and can see more than one side to an issue. Attorneys like those at Koenig Criminal Defense make their living on the moral basis that everyone is represented well and is tried fairly. One who is being charged with a crime, small or large, must have access to a criminal defense attorney to help with the long legal process ahead.

5 Characteristics To Look For In A Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you find yourself in need of a Houston criminal defense lawyer, you need to know that you have the best possible person working for you. He or she will fight to keep you out of prison or reduce your sentence and limit other things that the prosecution will try to throw at you. Before you hire just any attorney, make sure that you find someone with the following characteristics:

Experienced

You may be able to save money by hiring an inexperienced attorney who has more time on their hands to work on your case and try to make a name for him or herself. On the other hand, you may get what you pay for. You need to find someone who has experience in your area with your specific charges. With a lot of experience, your attorney should be able to review your charges and discuss the case with you to determine the right course of action to take. Ask your attorney about his or her record, the number of cases that he or she has worked on, and the outcomes of the cases. Make sure that the attorney has a good record and a great reputation in the area.

Knowledgeable

Along with experience, your attorney should have lots of knowledge about the intricacies and complexity of the law. He or she should know legal theory and the various court rules to represent you effectively and draft important documents that can help you work with the prosecution. With the knowledge that your attorney has, he or she can also figure out ways to reduce your sentence and get the best results possible.

Personable

When you’re sitting in court, there will be a lot of information that you may not understand. You may have a lot of questions then or before you even head to court. You want to hire someone who can answer your questions in a manner that will help you understand. Find someone with good communication skills who will care about you and want to help you as much as possible.

Professionalism

You need to find someone who knows how to handle him or herself in the courtroom and when negotiating with the prosecution. Since the proceedings are formal, your attorney should handle him or herself in a professional manner that will make him or her credible to the judge, prosecution, and jury. You can speak with former clients, read online reviews, or find out if there is a current case that you could sit in on to find out what you can expect from the attorney in court.

Determined

You may need to go to court several times before the verdict is reached. You may also need to go to court and be tried by a jury of your peers. Whatever the case may be for you, you need to have an attorney who will fight for you from beginning to end. Your attorney should be determined to win the case for you and work diligently to defend you and sway the judge and jury in your favor. From initial investigations to hearings and negotiations to court, find someone who will work tirelessly to make sure that everything is done that could possibly be done to protect your rights and fight for you.

From the moment that the handcuffs go on to the time that the verdict is read in court, you need to find a Houston criminal defense lawyer who will stand by your side and protect your rights. Do your research to find someone with these important characteristics and others that will make sure that you are properly represented.

Guidelines in Hiring a Richmond Criminal Defense Lawyer

Criminal defense lawyers are the very people you will call in times of unfortunate incidents such as being arrested or being charged with a crime. Legal advices and representations are what you require during these trying instances.

Getting a criminal defense lawyer at once is also essential because you got to know your rights. And there is a proper way of responding to the police and to the court officials. You should know those as well. Criminal defense lawyers would be able to help with these.

The criminal defense lawyers from Richmond are always ready to discuss your case with you. They are more than willing to protect you, your family, your properties, your freedom, as well as your reputation. The lawyers of Richmond would be there to help.

But there are countless of Richmond criminal defense lawyers that you can go to, all with good honors and numerous laurels to boost. To give you an idea who to contact in times of trouble, here are the things that can serve as a guideline.

Are these defense lawyers expert in the field of criminal law?

Criminal cases are very much different from civil cases. And the expertise of a lawyer is usually either of the two. Seldom would you see a lawyer who specializes in both fields at the same time. The laws governing a criminal case is more strict than that of a civil case. So make sure that the lawyer you are getting are real-deal criminal defense lawyers.

Do these lawyers have a good winning percentage?

It really doesn’t matter if you go to a big law firm or a small one. What matters is the main person who will handle your case. Has he won a lot of cases lately? Do you have faith that he can take your case towards acquittal or settlement? A good criminal defense lawyer is a winning lawyer. He should be able to effortlessly win the case.

Does the criminal defense lawyer new to his job?

Experience counts. If the lawyer you are going to get has just handled a case or two, you are gambling on his abilities to represent you. Anyway, good lawyers, no matter how short time they had spent, has the power to win any case. But you’ve got to request for a mentor for that lawyer should you feel uncomfortable with him handling your case single-handedly.

Has the criminal defense lawyer handled a similar case before and has won?

A case always is different from another, even though the may seem to be very similar. But the lawyer’s attack on the defense is usually the same. They just change tactics slightly, depending on the merits of the case. A lawyer that has handled a case similar to yours before is a good option because he, more or less, knows how the entire proceeding will head to.

Is the criminal defense lawyer knowledgeable with the case and the law?

This is very important. The criminal defense lawyer that is going to represent you in court should be well-schooled as well as well-informed of the case. He should know by mind and by heart, the articles of the constitution that are applied against you. While it is true that he cannot memorize the whole constitutional provisions, he should at least research on similar cases and matters before hand.

These are what you should ask yourself if you are in the stages of hiring a criminal defense lawyer. Better answer these questions right now, than do it when necessary, as you might not have time to prepare.

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The Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Today’s Time

Criminal defense lawyers sometime get a not-so-flattering portrayal because people assume that they defend guilty people. However, if you are a defendant in a criminal proceeding, you need the assistance of a qualified criminal defense lawyer, regardless of your guilt or innocence. As the protectors and advocates of the accused, defense lawyers play a pivotal role in the United States justice system to see that everyone charged with a criminal act has an opportunity to defend themselves.

Defense Lawyers Protect the Rights of the Accused

First and foremost, a criminal defense lawyer’s role is to protect the rights of the accused. Upholding your rights under the Bill of Rights as set forth in the United States Constitution, criminal defense lawyers are bound by law to assist their clients by making sure you are treated fairly by the United States criminal justice system. Specifically, your criminal defense lawyer’s job is to see that you are allowed:

·The right to a trial by a jury of your peers;

·The right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”;

· The right to a speedy and public trial;

· The right to remain silent;

·The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; and

·The right to legal counsel.

All these rights are guaranteed by the United States Constitution and are applicable to all states through the Fourteenth Amendment as well as United States Supreme Court case opinions. As such, a criminal defense lawyer is obligated to provide clients with protection against the overreach of the government in meting out punishment to any individual accused of a criminal offense. An experienced, qualified lawyer accomplishes this by challenging any government or law enforcement conduct that violates the rights of any United States citizen accused of a crime. Should a criminal defense lawyer fail to make reasonable efforts to protect your rights or provide effective assistance, he/she risks losing his/her license to practice law or other penalties (some of which could include jail time).

Criminal Lawyers Defend the Innocent

The second most important role of a criminal defense attorney is to defend the innocent. We see daily about overturned criminal cases where new evidence verifies the incarceration of an innocent person who has served time as a result of an incorrect guilty verdict. And, while for the most part, most clients of criminal defense attorneys are somewhat criminally culpable in the crime they have been charged with, on rare occasions, some of a lawyer’s clients are truly innocent. Though a rare occurrence, innocent people are accused and convicted of criminal offenses.

To combat the prosecution of the wrongly accused, criminal defense lawyers must be diligent in holding prosecutors and police accountable for every stage of their investigation in every case they handle. Thus, defense lawyers must take seriously their role as advocates for the innocent and the not-so-innocent to assure that the guilty don’t escape while the innocent are punished.

Therefore, to accomplish the task of upholding a client’s constitution rights and acting as a watchdog to oversee the conduct of police and prosecutors, a criminal defense lawyer must zealously pursue independent investigations into the crime for which a client has been accused to assure that at trial, that client is either completely exonerated or that there is enough evidence to prove that reasonable doubt exists to warrant his/her client’s release from custody.

And, while for the majority of instances, a person who has reached the point of a jury trial is guilty, defense attorneys are mandated to provide every client an opportunity to a fair trial. Guilty or not, everyone has the constitutional right to have a fair trial. With a strong belief in the adversarial nature of the criminal justice system, reputable criminal defense attorneys recognize the right of every citizen to have representation and sometimes must put aside their emotions to represent those who have committed very serious crimes.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Defend the Guilty

In general guilty clients that criminal defense attorney’ represent fall into two categories:

·Those who deny criminal culpability; and

·Those who take responsibility for their criminal behavior

Most lawyers agree that the most difficult criminal client to represent is one that takes some responsibility for the crime as it is much easier to establish innocence or reasonable doubt when you don’t think your client is guilty. Facing ethical and moral dilemmas daily, a criminal defense lawyer must deal with situations where they have knowingly facilitated the release of a guilty person, risking their reputation and a clear conscience. On the other hand, defense lawyers get a great deal of satisfaction when their representation of an accused individual has a positive impact on society. For instance, when a criminal defense lawyer helps a client avoid more serious legal consequences by intervening in lives to affect positive change (i.e., plea bargains of rehabilitation instead of jail time, community service and probation instead of jail time etc.). As a trusted advocate, criminal defense lawyers have a great deal of influence on their clients’ lives as opposed to a judge, prosecutor or probation officer.

Lawyers are a Necessary Part of the United States Judicial System

Sometimes portrayed as villains who help criminals run free, criminal defense lawyers are necessary for the United States legal system to run smoothly. Without the availability of qualified legal representation for those accused of crimes, the potential for overreach by government would be great. A balanced system where all parties are represented and where one side isn’t given free rein to rule over the other is what our judicial system is all about. And, while every system has its flaws, the United States judicial system is still the best available in the world.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6674674

Health MEC breaks her silence on psychiatric patients

In June 2015, Gauteng health MEC, Qedani Mahlangu, announced that the department would terminate its contract with private hospital group, Life Healthcare.
The private healthcare provider had housed almost 2,000 long-term, state-funded psychiatric patients at its Life Esidimeni facilities in Johannesburg.

Patients would either be sent home or transferred into the care of community–based nongovernmental organisations, said Mahlangu. At least 36 patients have died following the move.

Source: M&G/Felix Dlangamandla
Source: M&G/Felix Dlangamandla

Last week, dozens of activists from organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and public-interest law organisation Section27 joined affected families in a protest outside the Gauteng health department and handed over a list of demands.

This week, Mahlangu discussed the department’s response to the deaths and why the matter may prompt court cases on both sides.

Can you explain the rationale behind the move?

We’ve been through that. I should start by saying we have met with a lot of people and the majority of them were at the march.

When people take things to the street as if there is no engagement with the department, it worries me as to what exactly is the intention of this.

A number of patients … because their psych conditions could not be managed at NGOs (nongovernmental organisations), those [patients] were sent to Sterkfontein [psychiatric hospital], to Weskoppies [psychiatric hospital] and some to the Cullinan [care and rehabilitation] Centre.

We’ve employed additional nurses … and we are also reviewing the amount of money we spend on patient care.

How were NGOs identified and vetted?

From September, I started visiting the NGOs. Before that … I would not have visited NGOs and I don’t think it would be my responsibility as an MEC.

The mental health team would have decided [on] these NGOs. The report we received would say something like: “This NGO qualifies.”

How will the department improve the monitoring of mental health facilities?

These scheduled weekly visits by our team are important but [we will be doing] more unannounced visits. I have said to some of the NGOs like the TAC that I am going to invite you to the NGOs when I go there. We’ve also said to our hospitals that where they have a [nearby NGO operating], medical doctors, not only psychologists, must … visit those places to medically assess patients.

A memo delivered to the department asked for a list of the NGOs housing former Life Esidimeni patients and the number of patients who have died. Will you be responding to the demands?

We will respond to the issues that are practical to respond to. One thing that is impossible to do is to share details of family members without their consent — that we can’t do. Section27 has asked us for the list [of NGOs and patients].

Section27 wants to sue the department, so they want the list for that purpose. They’ve said it in our formal meeting with them. They came with their lawyers; we came with ours.

How many NGOs still house former Life Esidimeni patients?

Sho, I wouldn’t know off the top of my head … Probably more than 10.

You’ve mentioned possibly taking legal action yourself. Why?

Where my name has been used inappropriately in certain things, I will definitely be able to do so. I am working with lots of people who work exceptionally hard and sometimes they will make mistakes. Things go wrong sometimes, [but] the question is how do you learn from the mistake?

Prasa maladministration ‘a very serious matter’

The maladministration that occurred at the Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) is a “very serious matter”, according to its chairperson.
Prasa maladministration ‘a very serious matter’Popo Molefe told parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday that the board was “rigorously going through the issues raised by Public Protector” Thuli Madonsela, after her investigation into Prasa three months ago revealed large-scale maladministration and targeted former CEO Lucky Montana.

“It is complex,” he said. “We can’t give timeframes. It is unfortunate that we cannot disclose details of what is emerging, because it needs follow-up investigations.

“We have National Treasury working with us and a team of forensic and IT experts as well as criminal lawyers and police working with us.”

“It is a multi-disciplinary committee led by very senior police officer,” he said.

Molefe said he would make announcements regarding the investigation as soon as the board has all the facts. “I accept we are the successor and, therefore, assume assets and liabilities of our processors,” he said. “We don’t want to be absolved. We have to deal with this problem.”

Many of the issues raised by the parliamentarians were subject to the investigation and so Molefe could not answer them. This resulted in the meeting being cut short. Ending the meeting short, Scopa chairperson Themba Godi instructed Prasa officials to compile a list of the various investigations that are underway, and to include how long each probe is likely to take, EWN reported.