Law Offices of Edward J. Peckham
Please Call: 858-354-9686
The Law Offices of Edward J. Peckham is a full service law firm that handles cases in a variety of courts throughout San Diego County . Our principal focus is Criminal Defense. Mr. Peckham is a very experienced lawyer with 30 years of practice. He has been featured in the documentary "Crime and Punishment" and served as a Judge Pro Tem for the Superior Court. He offers free initial consultations and accepts credit cards and structures payment plans for all budgets. If you are arrested and fearful of the consequences, call us. We will not use your fears to increase your fees as some others do. We care about the result and will provied you with the best defense, using our 30 years of experience.
Please Call: 858-354-9686
Mr. Peckham has a vast array of experience in Criminal Defense. He has worked as a constitutional lawyer with the ACLU, and as a San Diego County contract lawyer for criminal indigent defendants accused of felonies and misdemeanors. Mr. Peckham has tried over 100 criminal jury trials including the most serious felonies. He has tried murder cases in every jurisdiction in the county. Mr. Peckham has a reputation for being an excellent trial attorney and has the respect of prosecutors in the District Attorney's office throughout the county.
Mr. Peckham's fees are reasonable and often based upon the ability of the client to pay for the services. Our offices also accept credit cards and can develop payment plans so that no person will be left without representation. Our fees are often set in graduated payment as the case progresses. If the case settles early, the fee will be less.
Fees are dependant upon the severity of the offense (whether it is a felony or misdemeanor), complexity of the case and the time required to defend the client.
The principal difference between felonies and misdemeanors is the severity of the offense and the punishment associated with each offense. Felony crimes are more serious crimes. Felonies are often identified as capital offenses under the old English law. All capital offenses in Old England were punished by death. Modernly and especially in the United States, the range of punishment for felonies extends from the imposition of the death penalty to a suspended sentence that may include some custody time and a fine.
Misdemeanor crimes are less serious offenses and can be punished by up to one year in county jail. Most misdemeanor convictions result in the imposition of probation with terms that could include some time in jail, community service, rehabilitation classes, volunteer work or a fine.
Both the State of California and the United States prosecute persons for crimes that are identified as either felonies or misdemeanors.
Whether a person is charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, the attorney's principal goal is to minimize the impact the charge would have on the person's life. We look at each case differently and evaluate the cases based upon their facts. We defend the client and attempt to have the matter dismissed. It is our goal to fully inform the client of a possible and a likely outcome for the offense charged. Too often we find that when we meet the clients for their first appointment they have an elevated fear of possible consequences that is far in excess of reality. Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury cases are civil cases usually brought by persons who are injured in falls, automobile accidents or non-work related mishaps. Persons who are injured are entitled to recover for lost property, medical treatment, lost income and damages due to pain and suffering. Permanent injuries from accidents can be compensated based upon several factors such as pain and suffering, loss of ability to enjoy life, or diminished life expectancy.
Our firm offers a free evaluation of you personal injury claim. We will analyze your case based upon the extent of injuries, loss of income and permanence of the injury. If we decide to take your case, we will represent you without payment of attorney's fees until the case is concluded. In many cases, we will pay for the costs of your case including experts and medical evaluations.
Slip/Trip and Fall Cases:
If you are injured in a store or on some else’s property due to a slip or fall, you could be entitled to compensation for injuries sustained in the fall.
The key issue that usually arises in these types of cases is whether the owner had actual or implied notice of the potential tripping or slippery surface. When a fall occurs in a grocery store, for instance, due to a piece of fruit falling on the ground, we look to see how the fruit is retained in the bins. If the bins are over filled or if the bins are not designed for the type of fruit being placed there, the store could be held liable for their negligence. This liability is implied even if the store was unaware of the fallen fruit.
We have been successful in suing stores for slips which occurred in bathrooms, produce areas and entry ways with tripping mats or uneven surfaces.
Accidents involving motorcyclists or bicyclists and motor vehicles are very common.
Unfortunately, these accidents can be very serious. Because cyclists are relatively unprotected when compared to automobiles, even low speed accidents can be very injurious. Also, cyclists are oftentimes not “seen” by automobile drivers because auto drivers are looking for other cars and tend to overlook the smaller vehicles when turning or proceeding through an intersection.
We have obtained good results when prosecuting motorcycle and bicycle claims. No one involved in a motorcycle accident should assume that because they were speeding or changing lanes when the accident occurred that they will lose their case.
Dog Bite Cases:
If you have been bitten by another person’s dog, you could be entitled to compensation.
Dogs which are notorious for attacking people are considered to be a legal “nuisance”. Different rules apply to cases which involve a nuisance. In some cases, the legal theory of “Strict Liability” can be applied. Under this legal theory, the plaintiff need only prove that the dog or object was a nuisance and his injuries suffered will be assumed to have been caused by the nuisance. Although, these cases are rare, the damages can be significant.
Also, if the dog is not found to be a nuisance, if the owner knows or should have known that his dog is a biter, he can be held liable for the bites caused by the dog.
Dog bite cases are often associated with significant psychological injuries and trauma as well. Persons bitten by a dog often have lifetime fears of other dogs.
Slander and Libel:
You can sue another person if they say false things about you which harm your reputation.
Because this is a complex area of the law, lawsuits for slander and libel are rare. But, be mindful of your reputation. Persons who are professionals should be aware of others who harm their reputations for personal gain. Women should also be aware of their rights to sue someone who imputes their lack of virtue. These suits are often used in conjunction with Wrongful Termination lawsuits.
You can sue someone who assaults or batters you; cheats or steals from you; or, who maliciously inflicts emotional distress upon you.
All of these types of lawsuits can include an award of punitive damages. Punitive damages can be substantial. Punitive damages, in certain circumstances, are not avoidable by filing a bankruptcy.
We have been successful in obtaining punitive damages in Wrongful Termination cases and sexual harassment cases. FAQs
- What is the best way to find a good lawyer?
I get asked this question a lot. But, finding a good lawyer is a lot harder than most people think. What can you learn from an ad in the yellow pages or television commercials? There are literally hundreds of pages of attorney ads in the Yellow Pages. While these types of ads are powerful and reach a lot of people, you still end up with someone you have never seen before and whose qualifications to represent you are completely unknown. If I needed a lawyer I would look the same way I look for a good doctor, dentist or mechanic. I would ask someone else. Usually, a friend has had a good experience with a lawyer (or a bad one) and can make a recommendation. Also, I would look for a lawyer who had a broad range of experience. Often times a person thinks they need a personal injury attorney but not all injuries are the same and some lawyers are better at handling slip and fall cases or automobile cases. Another good way is to call around and see who calls you back or who you can reach on an initial call. Are you treated courteously? Can you get an appointment quickly? Will you be seeing a lawyer or a paralegal? Most importantly, what are the lawyer’s fees? Is he/she reasonable based upon his/her experience?
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- What is a reasonable fee?
I can tell you I have heard horror stories about fees that lawyers charge. I don’t think legal fees for doing a divorce between a couple in a 10 year marriage with three kids should be $100,000. Fees in that type of case should not be more than $7,500 for each client unless you, as the client, are on the phone all day and make tons of demands that generate a lot of work for the lawyer. Don’t be afraid to ask a lawyer what he charges. If he has been in practice 10 years or more, it is likely that he has sufficient experience such that he will be able to handle your matter with less work and effort. So he can justify a larger hourly fee. But, he should not charge you for ever second of every phone call. Nor should he charge you for work that his secretary does. If you think his fees are too large for the work he will be doing, say so and ask him to charge you less. Often times he will.
As far as criminal cases go, most lawyers charge a flat fee. They will ask for a substantial retainer up front and some like me, allow for payments. Those fees can be negotiated as well. My Vietnamese clients are never afraid to ask about discounts, lower fees or graduated fees. You can expect that if the charges against you are serious, and you are facing time in prison, the lawyer’s fees will be more. He will spend more time on your case making sure that noting is forgotten, nothing left to chance. In criminal cases, I would avoid the “mills”, i.e. firms that advertise heavily. Most of your fees go towards paying for advertising to get other clients.
In personal injury cases, lawyers usually charge a contingent fee. That means the lawyer gets part of the money paid out in a settlement. You don’t pay him any fees until the case concludes. Usual percentages for contingent fees are graduated: 20% before filing a lawsuit, 331/3 % after filing a lawsuit and 40% if the matter goes to trial or arbitration. This is often an awkward arrangement unless both you and your lawyer are on the same page. Nothing is worse than being divided on what your case is worth and when and if to settle or go on to trial. Often a good mediator will have a better feel for the value of your case since he has seen so many. Also, be aware that contingent fee cases do no mean that you don’t pay anything. Costs such as depositions, medical records and expert witnesses can be very high. Expect to pay $30,000 or more for cases that end up in trial.
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- Can I fire my lawyer if I don’t like him?
Yes. The attorney-client relationship is very personal You need to trust and have him/her trust you. If your lawyer does not return your calls, fails to give you updates on your case or simply does not seem to be working on your case, get a new one. It can be awkward but if you delay in making a decision you could lose your case. Also, your new lawyer will do all the contacting of your former lawyer.
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- What if I have a complaint about my lawyer?
Complaints to the California State Bar are taken very seriously. Each complaint begins with a letter to the lawyer who is asked to respond to the complaint. If the lawyer does not respond or his response is not satisfactory, further proceedings are held until the Bar gets to the bottom of the matter. You can look your lawyer up on the California State Bar web site at http://www.calbar.org/. Just type in his name and you will get lots of information about him including his status, whether he has had any discipline imposed, his address and telephone number, law school and years he has been admitted to practice.
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- What is the difference between a civil and a criminal case?
Civil cases are usually filed by a private person or company suing another person or company for money. Divorces are also civil cases asking the court to terminate the marriage and divide the community property assets and to award child or spousal support. Other types of civil cases are probate cases to settle estates, petitions for conservatorships and property disputes. In fact, most cases are civil in nature. Not all civil cases will have their outcomes determined by a jury trial.
Criminal cases are filed by a government entity, Federal, State, County, or City to prosecute persons for crimes. The goal of these prosecutions is punishment. In each and every criminal case, the defendant is entitled to a jury trial.
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- Should I try to settle my own criminal case?
No. Serious negative consequences can occur if you go to the victim in your criminal case and try to settle with him/her. This problem occurs in domestic violence cases, too often. You can be charged with a crime of dissuading a witness, another felony if you even try to talk to a witness or victim in your case. Leave it up to your lawyer to make the contacts. He will send his investigator out to interview the witnesses.
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- Should I call the bail bondsman as soon as I am arrested?
The answer to this question depends on how wealthy you are. If you use all of your assets to get out of jail, what are you going to use to stay out of jail? If you have limited means to hire a lawyer, wait for a few days. You will be taken in front of a magistrate within 72 hours for an arraignment. If you have hired a lawyer by then he can ask the judge to let you out of jail or to lower your bail. The judge will usually lower the bail substantially. Then you can bail out for a lot less money. Also, as far as bail bond agents go, ask your lawyer. He will usually have an agent he works with and can get a bond for a much lower fee, saving you more money.
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- What should I do if I have a warrant for my arrest?
Call your lawyer. The lawyer will arrange for a surrender at a time convenient for you. A bail bondsman can have a bond ready for you to bail out if the judge imposes bail. Also, there is a strong possibility that if you do a voluntarily surrender the judge will lower the bail and even let you stay out on your own recognizance (an OR release). The courts much prefer that you don’t make the cops go out and arrest you.
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- Should I have a lawyer for my traffic ticket?
Most people appear in court without a lawyer on their traffic tickets. They do a cost vs. risk analysis and decide that they can play Perry Mason for a few minutes and try to beat the ticket. Unfortunately, even though the trial is less formal in nature and most rules of evidence are not enforced, the magistrate cannot consider much of the evidence the defendant presents unless it is properly submitted so most litigants lose their case. Also, most litigants do not know how to cross examine a police officer and end up asking him the same questions all over again which just support the prosecution’s case. But, I still think it is a good idea to set your case for trial. Many, many times the police officer will not show up for your trial because he has much more important things to do, any way. The court will dismiss your ticket. So, the moral of the story is, take your case to trial and if you don’t have any confidence in your ability to present your case, call a lawyer and see if he will go to trial on your ticket for a small fee.
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- If I am stopped for a DUI what should I do?
Cooperate with the police officer up to a point. You don’t have to admit that you were drinking, you don’t have to take the field sobriety test and you don’t have to follow his finger so he can check your eyes. In fact you don't have to do anything except to submit to a breath, blood or urine test and give him basic information required by the DMV. Don’t argue with the police officer, just tell him that your lawyer told you not to talk about your drinking and not to take the field sobriety test. He will threaten you with putting your refusal to do the test in his report. But, if they never file the case because they don’t have enough evidence, what is good is the threat in the long run? Besides, lots of completely sober people cannot do these tests which are really designed to make you fail anyway.
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- Can I find out who is in jail and what their charges are?
Yes. The San Diego Sheriff has a web site that has lots of information about where the jails are and what warrants are active and who is in jail. Go to http://www.sdsheriff.net/ and you will find a wealth of information.
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- Does the San Diego Superior Court have a web site?
Yes. Go to http://www.sdcourt.cal.gov/ You can download forms, check court calendars and get lots of useful information about restraining orders, small claims and other public interest information.