BKM’s Number One Rule About DUI: Don’t Do It.

It’s the hap-happiest season of all

With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all

Attorney David Betras
BKM Managing Partner David Betras

Andy Williams is right. This is the hap-happiest season of all unless one of the friends who comes to call drinks too much, gets in their car, and drives away. That is when the most wonderful time of the year can become the most dreadful and tragic time of your life.

During my legal career I have represented hundreds of clients who have been charged with Operating a Motor Vehicle while Impaired. While every case is different, I have formulated one hard and fast rule about drinking and driving based on my experience:

Do not do it. You could kill yourself. You could kill someone else. You could go to jail. You will spend lots and lots of money trying to stay out of jail.

I could and probably should stop right there, but I will continue because I know a lot of people will violate the Betras Rule between now and New Year’s Day. With that fact in mind, here are the steps you should take when blue and red lights are flashing in your rearview mirror because you did not listen to your old buddy Dave.

First things first: within moments of pulling you over the police officer will approach your car, stick his or head through your window, shine a flashlight in your eyes, ask for your license and registration, and then pose some variation of the $64,000 question: “Have you been drinking?”

Now, pay attention, this is very important: you do not have to answer that or any other question. Tell the officer you are asserting your Constitutional right to remain silent. In short, shut up.

Unfortunately, most people do not exercise this fundamental right. Instead, they say “Well, officer, I only had a couple of beers.” I have no idea why folks believe those are magic words that will make the cop disappear when the phrase is actually an incantation that makes driver’s licenses and thousands of dollars disappear. Uttering those words gives the officer probable cause to proceed so please do not say them or anything else.

While you are not required to answer questions, you must exit your vehicle if directed to do so. If you refuse, the officer has the right to exit you, forcibly if need be, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Mimms v Pennsylvania. This is not a point to be argued, especially on the side of the road. If the officer asks/orders you to get out of your vehicle, do it.

You may also be asked to submit to a field sobriety test. You can and should refuse because you are not obligated to incriminate yourself. You may also be asked to blow into a breathalyzer in the field or at a police station. This is where things get complicated. You have the right to refuse to take the test, but doing so triggers an automatic one-year license suspension. On the other hand, if you take the test and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or higher you stand a very good chance of being convicted of OVI.

Which means there is only one answer to the “blow or no blow” question: Abide by the Betras Rule and do not drink and drive. Sleep it off. Call an Uber. Call a friend. Call your dad even if it means you will get yelled at. Believe me, I am a dad, I would rather drive to a party to pick up my inebriated kid than drive to the morgue to identify his body.

Think about that the next time you think about getting behind the wheel after you have had a few because a few is always too many.

Jury finds that 20-year-old died as a result of medical negligence. Betras, Kopp & Markota secures $2,000,000 wrongful death award for family of Megan Clay

Attorney David Betras files civil suit against Cameron Morgan’s attacker, vows to hold white supremacists accountable for racially motivated assault

Cameron Morgan, the 23-year-old woman who was brutally assaulted by David Walls in Akron, Ohio on Feb. 28, 2022, is suing her attacker. The incident garnered nationwide media attention after video of the racially motivated assault went viral. Attorney David Betras, who represents Ms. Morgan and her father David, filed the lawsuit in Summit County […]

Betras, Kopp & Harshman founders say addition of new equity partner Justin Markota demonstrates prominent law firm’s continued commitment to the Valley

Attorney Justin MarkotaSixteen years after founding what has become one of the region’s most respected and successful multi-disciplinary, multi-state law firms Attorneys David Betras, Brian Kopp, and Mike Harshman announced today that Attorney Justin Markota will become an equity partner in the firm which will now operate as Betras, Kopp, and Markota (BK&M). Atty. Harshman will continue to serve as a senior advisor to BK&M.

“Since joining us in 2015, Justin has become an integral and essential member of our legal team,” BK&M Managing Partner David Betras said. “His outstanding performance in multiple areas of the law impressed us, the legal community, and most importantly his clients. His partnership is hard-earned, well-deserved and signals our ongoing commitment to the Valley.”

Atty. Markota, a Girard, Ohio native who graduated from Ursuline High School, Youngstown State University, and Capital Law School in Columbus said he is both pleased and proud to be a part of the firm Attorneys Betras and Kopp worked tirelessly to build and expand.

“In 2015, two of the area’s most prominent lawyers took a chance on local kid who had just passed the bar exam,” Atty. Markota said. “They gave me a desk, a chair, a computer, some business cards and immediately began teaching me what you can’t learn from a textbook or by sitting in a lecture hall: how to practice law in the real world.”

“David and Brian mentored me, generously shared their experience, insight, and knowledge, and allowed me to work alongside them on high-stakes criminal and complex personal injury and business litigation cases,” he continued. “The extraordinary amount of time they devoted to my continuing legal education helped me become the attorney I am today and prepared me to be their partner. I am grateful for the trust and confidence they placed in me over the past seven years and I look forward to practicing alongside them for many, many more.”

“It did not take David and I long to recognize Justin’s intellect, talent and potential,” Atty. Kopp said. “He was eager to learn, more than willing to put in hundreds of hours doing research and preparing exhibits, and he actively sought to be involved in and take responsibility for the toughest, most complicated criminal and personal injury cases being handled in the office.”

As a result of his work on those cases, which included gaining an acquittal in federal court for a client charged with a serious firearms-related offense and securing millions of dollars in settlements and jury awards for accident and injury victims, he was named to BK&M’s Complex Litigation Practice Group in 2020 and offered a partnership this year.

“Justin has repeatedly proved that he can take on and defeat the white shoe law firms, giant insurance companies, and prosecutors we regularly face in court and at the negotiating table,” Kopp said. “He can’t be intimidated or deterred from zealously pursuing justice for our clients. And that makes him both an incredibly effective attorney and valuable member of our team.”

David Betras noted that Justin’s partnership will extend a family tradition that began in 1929. “For nearly a century residents of the Valley have relied on us to meet their legal needs,” he said. “It started in 1929 when my Uncle Pete opened a small law office in downtown Youngstown. When my dad, Joe, returned from serving in World War II, he used the GI Bill to go to law school and joined him. After being immersed in the law our entire lives my cousin Brian and I launched our first firm in 1999, and now, two decades and thousands of satisfied clients later, Brian, I and our cousin Justin are ready to write a new chapter in our family’s legal legacy.”

Both Betras and Kopp said that Mike Harshman’s decision to step away from day-to-day involvement in the firm, while understandable, is bittersweet. “In 2005 Mike, David, and I began building a dynamic firm that has made a real difference in thousands of people’s lives,” Kopp said. “We will always be grateful for the advice and counsel he provided along the way, and we are pleased that he will continue to serve in an advisory role as we move forward.”

Atty. Markota’s biography may be viewed here: https://bkmlaws.com/team-members/justin-markota/. He may be reached by phone at 33-746-8484.

BKH Welcomes Attorney Arturo T. Uzdavinis , Tampa Native, Jesuit High Graduate Is Newest Member Of Firm’s Impressive Legal Team

Attorney Arturo UzdavinisAttorney Arturo Uzdavinis is the newest addition to Betras, Kopp & Harshman’s impressive, multi-talented legal team. A native of Tampa, Florida, Attorney Uzdavinis graduated from Tampa Jesuit High School before attending Tulane University where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Management Degree. He received his Juris Doctorate from Barry University’s Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law, graduating Cum Laude in December 2020.

A standout football player at Tulane where he appeared in 48 games and was named to the schools 3.0 Club and the 2014-15 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team, Arturo was signed as a free agent by the NFL’s Houston Texans in 2016. He spent time with five other NFL squads over the next two years before being encouraged by Atty. Brian Kopp to pursue a legal career. He clerked at BKH while attending law school and joined the firm after passing the Florida Bar Exam in February 2021.

Arturo brings a distinguished legal pedigree to BKH.  His great grandfather, Hector Reichard Zamora, was the oldest practicing attorney in Puerto Rico when he passed away in 2008. His grandfather, Hector Reichard de Cardona, served as Attorney General of Puerto Rico from 1981 through 1983 and is now senior partner at Reichard & Escalera, LLC, a multi-disciplinary law firm headquartered in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“Identifying, recruiting, and mentoring young, talented attorneys who have a zeal for the law is one of BKH’s primary goals,” Atty. Brian Kopp, leader of BKH Complex Litigation Practice Group said. “In addition to those attributes, Arturo’s deep roots in, devotion to, and understanding of our community are incredibly valuable assets that will strengthen our firm and benefit our clients. Chris Knopik, Doug Titus, David Betras, and I are all pleased that he accepted a position with us and we look forward to practicing with him for many, many years.”

“I could not have found a better place to begin my career,” Arturo remarked. “Because BKH is a ‘boutique’ rather than a large, tall-building firm I will have the opportunity to observe and learn from attorneys who possess an extraordinary depth and breadth of knowledge and experience in multiple fields each and every day. Working with Chris, Doug and Brian will enable me to hone my skills and become the type of lawyer my great-grandfather and grandfather would want and expect me to be.”

Arturo is a member of the Florida Bar Association, National Football Players Association, and Knights of Colombus. He and his wife, Sydney were married in February 2020 and reside in Tampa, Florida with their six-month-old daughter, Ruth Beatriz.

M.J. Joseph Development, Corp files complaint for Declaratory Judgment against city of Youngstown, denies default and restates commitment to project

For Immediate Release
Monday, May 24, 2021
Contact: Atty. Brian Kopp, 330-502-8825

In response to public statements made by city officials regarding the M.J. Joseph Development, Corp (MJJDC) and the Chill Can project, Attorney Brian Kopp today filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment in the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas on behalf of the company.

In the Complaint, MJJDC denies that it has either defaulted or abandoned the project and asks the Court to declare that the city does not have a right to recover grant funds for the alleged default, has no right to title and possession of the company’s property, and does not possess a right to monetary damages under the Enterprise Agreement contract.

“Representatives of the city have repeatedly claimed Youngstown has powers and avenues of recourse that are not explicitly spelled out in the contracts,” Atty. Kopp said. “To counter those statements, we are asking the Court to clarify the rights and obligations of both parties so MJJDC can move forward.”

“Unfortunately, the city’s rhetoric makes it extremely difficult for MJJDC to achieve its stated goal: completing the facility, hiring local residents, starting production, and making Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley a center of the company’s operations,” Atty. Kopp said.

“The future is bright for our company and we are excited about the opportunities that will accompany the end of pandemic-related restrictions,” MJJDC President Mitchell Joseph said.  “We have committed millions of our own dollars to this project and we want and need it to become an integral part of our operations. We acknowledge that there have been delays, but our global business partners continue to work with us, and we hope the city will do the same.”

It was necessary to file the lawsuit to secure my client’s investment and to ensure that this project will pay dividends to the city and MJJDC for years to come,” Atty Kopp concluded. The Complaint for Declaratory Judgment may be viewed here: Joseph Complaint File 5-24-21

For more information, please contact Atty. Brian Kopp at 330-502-8825.

Can employers ‘out’ unvaccinated employees?

Attorney David BetrasRecently one of our Facebook followers messaged us this important and interesting question:

“Can an employer ask workers if they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and are they allowed to ‘out’ those who have and have not?”

Like most employment issues related to the pandemic, the answer to that straightforward question is complicated, multi-faceted, and evolving. But I am certainly willing to take a shot at responding.

I want to preface the discussion by reminding everyone of two critically important facts: First, employers are generally permitted to require all workers to be vaccinated. Second, workers who refuse may be disciplined and/or fired unless they are protected by a union contract, have a disability or object to getting a shot due to sincerely held religious beliefs.

Employers must offer people who fall into the latter two categories “reasonable accommodations” that will enable them to continue to work.

Now let us consider whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) permits employers to ask workers if they have been vaccinated. According to guidance issued late last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the answer is yes as long as inquiry does not elicit information about a disability that would trigger the ADA’s requirement that all inquiries be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

Tip for employers: You do not want to do that.

To avoid running afoul of the ADA, employers should do the following when requesting vaccination information:

• Design the request so it is not likely to elicit information about a disability;
• Do not ask why a worker was not vaccinated;
• Warn employees not to provide any medical information when providing proof of vaccination.

Employers also have the right to ask for any number of reasons: to verify compliance with a vaccine mandate; prove that an employee has qualified for a vaccination incentive; to determine if an employee can return to work on-site; to comply with a customer’s demands that a vendor’s workforce has been vaccinated; or to inform the public that workers at a restaurant, store or other type of business that involves interaction with patrons have received their shots.

In fact, I can envision “Guaranteed COVID-19 Free” becoming a popular advertising slogan in the months ahead.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what employers may do, it is time to address what they may not do: They cannot “out” or identify workers who have or have not been vaccinated.

While it is generally legal to ask the question, it may be considered a medical inquiry which would make each employee’s response confidential medical information protected under statutory and common law. The law also obliges employers to protect workers’ personal and health information including their vaccination status.

I urge employers to take all steps necessary to meet that obligation.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the column, COVID-19 employment law is evolving rapidly so businesses and workers should protect themselves by keeping up to date with their rights and obligations.

While the pandemic is, hopefully, coming to an end, it may take years to resolve the legal issues and lawsuits it has spawned. I will do my best to keep my readers informed.

Sunshine Laws enable citizens, media to expose government corruption, mismanagement, and malfeasance

Attorney David BetrasOhio’s Open Meetings Act enacted in 1954 and Public Records Act passed in 1963 known collectively as the state’s “Sunshine Laws,” are based on the belief that government belongs to the people. I couldn’t agree more, and, as a member of the Mahoning County Board of Elections a public body subject to those laws, I believe anyone and everyone should have access to our meetings and the documents we produce.

I’m in good company. The Founders including James Madison, one of the primary architects of our Constitution, clearly understood that public trust was critical to the survival of our democracy:

“A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”

Over the 66 years since their enactment, Ohio courts have repeatedly recognized the importance of open government when asked to arbitrate Sunshine Law disputes. In 1976 Justice William B. Brown writing for a unanimous Ohio Supreme Court in Dayton Newspapers, Inc. v. Dayton set the standard for record production that has also been applied to cases involving public meetings:

“The rule in Ohio is that public records are the people’s records, and that the officials in whose custody they happen to be are merely trustees for the people; therefore anyone may inspect such records at any time…”

Given the Dayton Newspapers decision and the fact that both laws empower “any person” to enforce their provisions, one could assume that obtaining records or forcing public bodies to actually meet in public would be a simple, straightforward process.

One would, of course, be wrong.

That’s because we’re dealing with government and the legal system which means these critically important acts are wrapped in miles of red tape. For example, the Sunshine Law Manual published by the Attorney General’s office contains 35 pages of exemptions to the open records law that have been enacted by the General Assembly—including the one that exempts the General Assembly itself from the law. In addition, the courts and the AG’s office have issued numerous opinions that shield records and officeholders from public scrutiny. As a result, forcing government officials to operate in the open can be an arduous, time-consuming endeavor.

But it’s an endeavor that is well worth the effort. In case after case, citizens and the media have used the Sunshine Laws to expose government corruption, mismanagement, and malfeasance and to ensure that bad actors are held accountable for their misdeeds. Ohio is a better state, our democracy is stronger because a concerned resident or inquisitive reporter exercised their right to examine what our elected leaders are doing and how they are doing it.

Because we believe transparency and accountability are essential to the efficient operation of government, you can access a readable/downloadable version of the Sunshine Law Manual here: 2020-Sunshine-Manual_WEB  It’s an A to Z guide that will enable “any person” in our community to utilize the Open Records and Public Meetings acts.

Take a look and then let the sunshine in…

Ohio Department of Health Stay at Home Order

Dr. Amy Acton, the Director of the Ohio Department of Health issued a comprehensive “Stay at Home” order on Sunday, March 22. Beginning March 25, Betras, Kopp & Harshman will conduct free Covid-19 legal clinics every Wednesday via Facebook Live for the duration of the crisis. You can ask questions by calling 330-746-848 or 800-487-2889, by emailing dbetras@tb5.ddf.myftpupload.com, or by DMing us via our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BetrasKoppandHarshman

As a public service we are posting the ODH order by clicking on this link: DirectorsOrderStayAtHome

As a reminder, we are considered an essential business under the order so our offices are open. We have established new protocols for in-person client meetings. We will observe social distancing protocols at all times and the number of visitors who may be present in the office will be limited to ten or less.  We ask any client who has a previously scheduled appointment or may have a hearing or trial pending to confirm the day and time by calling 330-746-8484 or 800-487-2889.

As an alternative to in-person meeting the firm’s attorneys and staff are prepared to conduct initial consultations, meetings, and conferences via telephone, Facetime, and/or Skype. This situation is not going to prevent us from aggressively representing our clients. That is why we are prepared to take extraordinary measures to protect our clients during these extraordinary times.

David Betras, Christopher Knopik, Douglas Titus, Jr. named Ohio, Florida Super Lawyers for 2020

We are pleased to announce that three members of our firm: BKH Managing Partner David Betras, Chris Knopik, Managing Attorney of BKH Florida, and Doug Titus, a member of our Complex Litigation Team, are among the five percent of attorneys in Ohio and Florida named to the “Super Lawyer” list for 2020. This prestigious designation is reserved for attorneys who excel in their field, contribute to their community, and abide by the highest professional and ethical standards.

Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multi-phase process that combines peer nominations and evaluations with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of professional achievement. Those who score highest then undergo a “blue ribbon” peer review by practice area. Only the highest-rated attorneys make the Super Lawyer list for each state. We are proud that David, Chris, and Doug are among them.

Atty. Betras was recognized as one of Ohio’s best personal injury attorneys. Atty. Knopik was cited for his civil litigation work. Atty. Titus was named one of Florida’s best white-collar criminal defense lawyers.

You may contact our “Super Lawyers” via our national toll-free line, 800-457-2889. Atty. Betras may be reached in our Ohio office at 330-746-8484. Atty. Knopik’s direct line in Tampa is 813-333-9420. Atty. Titus number in Tampa is 813-988-1331.

To learn more about our team check out their bios by clicking on their names: David Betras, Chris Knopik, and Doug Titus.

Super Lawyer selection process emphasizes peer recognition, accomplishment, performance, experience