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Help! I have been arrested

Help! I have been arrested

The first thing I do when I get a new client who has a problem with the police is to tell them to ignore, totally forgot, all that they learnt from “Law & Order”, “CSI”, or any other of the dozens of cops-and-robbers, court-drama programs constantly on television. Life is not like that, not even in the USA, and in any case you are in Israel: the police are not so corrupt, there is no jury, judges are not elected and you are not appearing on prime time TV. This article will try to dispel myths you have picked up from the TV!

Now let us get down to business. What do you do if you, or someone close to you, is either arrested or invited to be questioned by the Israeli Police? Here are some key points to remember.

I want to see a lawyer

Suspects have the right to consult with a lawyer before being interrogated. The police interrogators are impatient to start the interrogation and do not like to wait for a lawyer, but in recent years the police have tried to make sure that the right to counsel is kept. You will usually be allowed to make the famous “one phone call”. Call someone you can rely upon, this could be a lawyer (my number is 054-4222892) tell them (me) where you are and to send you a lawyer to the police station. The thought that a lawyer, or friend, is waiting outside is comforting, and being able to speak to a lawyer, even for a few minutes before the interrogation, can be a big psychological help. Ideally your legal consultation should be in person with the lawyer but a telephone conversation is the next best option. If you have not been arrested and are summoned to the police; call a lawyer and consult as early as possible so you come prepared.

If you and your police interrogator do not have a common language you must have an interpreter present. Insist on this. Also, get a lawyer who speaks your language. Minors and the physically or mentally handicapped also have special entitlements, such as  someone neutral being present. If you are a foreign national ask to see your consular official, but in my experience consular officials will not arrive in time for you to see them before the interrogation, the police will not wait and in any case most countries (USA, UK and others) will not send anyone, but it is still it is worth a try.

Police interrogation rooms

While in the Israeli police interrogation room, you have a limited right to remain silent because your silence, your failure to give answers to police questions, can in itself be incriminating. (I know that in the US there is the 5th Amendment but you ain’t in America.) My advice is simple: if you are guilty say nothing, if you are innocent say it out loud and clear. It is best to consult with a lawyer beforehand to know if you are innocent or not (this is very often a complex issue). If there is even a small chance you are implicated in a crime then shut up, say nothing, say you want to consult with a lawyer, say you forgot, say you do not understand, just do not say anything about what you did. Nothing at all. I know this is incriminating (the silence is incriminating), but only to a certain extent, read on. Many convictions in Israel are based on the confession of the arrested suspect with minimal external evidence. Once you confess, it is near impossible to recant. I will say that again, because people do not get it: if you confess it is all over. The police will stop gathering evidence and the case is shut. If your lawyer pleads to the judge later that the confession is no good, you can be fairly sure that that plea will not be accepted. Your confession in the police station is final.

Police interrogation rooms are furnished with cameras. Everything you say is recorded for later use. Even outside the room, in the corridor in the police van, there might be a camera and in any case a policeman can easily write down that off hand or humorous remark that you made (“sorry about all this”, “I used to be a murderer … “) and use it against you.

But, if you are really, really sure you are innocent – tell all. Where were you at the time of the crime, who was with you, your lack of motive, your lack of criminal record, your fear of knives, your hatred of drugs (pick the true and appropriate arguments). The police interrogation room is the time to say all this. If you say it enough times, and clearly enough, then maybe someone will listen and you get to go home. It is not wise to wait and plead innocence later, do it immediately and loudly, clearly and often. But, if you are not sure of something – eg if you are not sure you are innocent – then be quiet, silent, that is generally safer.

Never, ever, lie in police questioning (or anywhere else) as your lies will get you in trouble. For example avoid statements like “I have never hurt anyone in my life”, “I don’t own a knife” these simple statements  are potential lies and could be used against you. To avoid lying just keep silent.

Do not forget something very important. Respect. Police officers are human beings, treat them with respect. Speak to them as you would want them to speak to you: politely, respectfully and please no insults, shouting or anything like that. Your first interrogation is very important. You want to make a good impression (you are not the drug dealer, wife batterer that they think you are). Why antagonise with bad behaviour?

Police lies and tricks

The police are allowed to lie and trick a suspect. Yes, you read it right. So when you are told “it’s just a formality”, “we want to help you”, “cooperate and you will be out in the morning”, “if you confess now, it will be better for you later” you know these are all big, big lies, don’t you?! If someone says “good afternoon”, look out the window as it could be night, and even then maybe they blackened the windows! That friendly guy in your cell is a police snitch and every word you just told him is recorded. Do not confess, or incriminate yourself in any way, because you have been promised something. The promise will not be kept and you will be stuck with that confession. In these circumstances it is very important to wait and see a lawyer. Also remember that the friendly, smiley, helpful police officer is not your friend, he or she wants you to divulge incriminating evidence and send you down for a long time.

The record of the interrogation

What a person says under police interrogation is of primary importance. There is often not a proper record (video or audio recording) of police interrogations in Israel. A law was passed mandating this for felonies but it is sometimes not implemented because of the high costs. Whether there is or not a recording, the police officer will type all that you say and this is problematic, so you have to speak clearly and slowly and be very, very careful what you say. Do not allow anyone to put words in your mouth, only what you say should be written, and make sure anything important you do say is written. At the end you will be asked to sign the interrogation transcript, do not sign unless you read every single word, and understand it all and nothing has been missed out and nothing added that you do not want. If you cannot read Hebrew, then obviously you should not sign.

Will I get out tonight?

A senior officer at the police station will decide, usually once your interrogation has been completed, what should be done with you. The following are the common options:

(1) You could be released straight away on bail and obviously this is the best option. You should then be released on your personal recognizance (self guarantee) or a non-cash, personal, or third-party, bond (guarantee) or more rarely a cash bond (returnable deposit). Sometimes a condition will be added eg to leave town for a few days, or not to contact witnesses.

(2) You could be sent to court to be released on bail. Sometimes the police agree that a suspect should be released but asks the court to set the terms. The big disadvantage is that depending on the time of day,  you will have to wait until the court opens (in the morning, or Saturday night) and the terms will be stricter.

(3) The worst is if the police apply to the court that you not be released and this will almost always occur if you are suspected of any serious crime, or you have a police record. The police will usually apply for a few days of arrest and before those days are finished they could apply for you to be held on remand until the case is finished. A judge will decide to arrest you or to release  you on bail and in court you will be entitled to full legal representation.

Do not panic at the thought of spending the night in jail. Israel is not Chicago or Istanbul, you will be treated OK. You will breathe lots of cigarette smoke, maybe see drugs and the bed is uncomfortable and the toilet dirty but you will not be mistreated (homosexuality is exceptional in Israeli prisons and you will not be molested). Do not let the police intimidate you with the threat of a night in a cell, there are worse things. My impression is that in the last few years judges are much better at releasing on bail.

The conviction rate in Israel

Finally, I have to tell you the bad news: more than 99% of all criminal cases brought before Israeli courts end in convictions (ie a “guilty” verdict). That figure is a real statistical calculation and is not a rough estimate or an exaggeration though does not include the many plea bargains where some or most of the charges are deleted from the charge sheet. That statistic means that cases get decided in the police stations and at the district attorney’s offices. If the police think you are guilty then so will the courts. If you have persuaded the police you are innocent, they might not prosecute. So, what happens during your interrogation is crucial.

Law in Israel

שאול דיוויס עו”ד

Scottish Police 1911

Police Group – Edinburgh Police 1911 from Police Group from http://www.flickr.com/people/bruce_r/

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Recent acquittals

Worked hard to get these clients off. We know that acquittals are rare in Israel (see https://lawinisrael.wordpress.com/2013/05/13/why-is-the-conviction-rate-in-criminal-courts-in-israel-so-very-high).

זיכוי של השופטים יפה-כץ, צלקובניק וואגו

זיכוי של השופטת ש’ חביב

Small Claims in Israel FAQ

What is a small claim?

This is a quicker, simpler, lawyer-less procedure in the Israeli courts for small claims. Any individual can sue anybody in this court as long as the sum of the claim is less than 32,700 sheqel (see http://elyon1.court.gov.il/heb/agrot/ktanot.htm).

How much will it cost me?

You will have to pay an official fee of 1% (rounded up to the nearest 5 sheqel) of the sum of the claim, but there is a minimum fee of 50 sheqel (see http://elyon1.court.gov.il/heb/agrot/ktanot.htm).

Who can take a claim to the Small Claims Court?

Only individuals. That is, anyone who is not a company (including a partnership or Amutah).

Who can be sued in the Small Claims Court?

Anyone, including the government, local government, a company, any business etc.

I am a tourist, can I sue an Israeli person or company in the small claims court in Israel?

Defendants in Israeli courts including the small claims court are normally an Israeli person or company but plaintiffs can be Israeli or foreign. If the plaintiff is not in Israel this creates logistical problems. An Israeli lawyer could help by drafting the statement of claim and lodging the claim in the small claims court. Anyone with a power of attorney (lawyer or layperson) could appear in court on behalf of the foreign plaintiff. But – and this is the crunch – testimony, the actual evidence, must be given in person and not through a proxy or attorney. I have wondered if a judge would allow testimony by video conference or such like. I doubt it, at least not without the permission of the defendant, who is not likely to give it! So a foreign plaintiff would have to come to Israel and be in court on the set day for the hearing of the evidence before a judge.

What is the maximum I can sue for in the Small Claims Court?

31,900 sheqel. Be careful this figure changes periodically. Note that if you have a claim of more than 32,000 sheqel it still may be worth your while suing in the Small Claims Court and limiting yourself to the maximum sum. So if you have a claim of say 40,000, take the case to the Small Claims Court, and sue for just 31,900 sheqel as you will get your money, quicker and more cheaply in this court.

Where is the Small Claims Court?

The Small Claims Court is part of most Shalom Courts.

Which court should I go to?

You should not go to your local court. You must sue the defendant in a court that has jurisdiction in the area where the defendant lives, or where the activity you are suing for (eg the transfer of goods) was or should have been. This gives you great lee way and as a rule keep clear of the courts in Tel Aviv (Haifa is second worse).

Do I need a lawyer?

The Small Claims Court was intended to be lawyer-less but I would strongly advice you to use a lawyer at least to draft the claim. Especially if your Hebrew is not 100%. You cannot take a lawyer to the court hearing (some judges are lenient about this for people with difficulties).

What is the procedure in small claims court?

Procedure is fairly informal here. The judge will always try and get the parties to compromise, to make an out of court settlement. Some judges are very persuasive (coercive) about this, so if you do not want a compromise (because the judge or the other side have made you an offer you do not think is acceptable) you will need to be quite strong minded.

But do things happen here like in other courts?

More or less yes. Each side will make an opening statement or answer questions put by the judge. The plaintiff will give evidence or call witnesses and the other side will have the right to cross-examine them. Then the defendant will do the same and the plaintiff will have the right to cross-examine. After the witnesses, each side will be asked to summarise their case orally.

 So what should I do?

Get the form from your local court or from the web site. Fill it in. But leave the details blank. The full details of your case (the story of your claim) should be typed in Hebrew on a separate sheet. I think that it is very important to type (remember the judge may not have patience to read scribbles) and must be in Hebrew (this is Israel, Arabic would be good too). Take 3 copies of the form and the typed sheet back to the court and after you have paid the official fee you have a small claim. Now just wait for the defendant’s defence and a trial date.

Where can I get more information?

Try court.gov.il/heb/info/choveret/hesb_ktanot (sorry it’s in Hebrew). And the forms are here court.gov.il/heb/forms/ktanot.htm.

law in israel

שאול דיוויס, עו”ד

Name and Address of a Property Owner

People often ask me how to track down the owners of properties (or anybody actually). You might want to do this for a variety of reasons; and your lawyer – before you sign a lease or buy a property – must do this (usually steps 1, 2 and 4). The procedure is complicated, requires a serious knowledge of Hebrew and some internet capabilities above the average. If you just need the private address of an Israeli citizen and know either the ID number or full name in Hebrew, just skip to step 3, this will give you the address and other missing details.

1. You get the exact address and go to “איתור גוש, חלקה וכתובת”. This is a free government service to convert the address to lot and parcel (= gush and helqa) numbers.

2. Then go to any one of the sites that offer Land Registry Deeds (= nesah tabu) online, the best seems to be ” צפייה והפקת נסח מקוון “. There is a small charge for this. From the deed you will learn the name of the landowner (or the lessee as most land in Israel is owned by the state and leased), including his or her ID number.

3. Now go to the Ministry of Interior, Office of Population Control (=Misrad Hapnim) and ask for this person’s details including address (= ittur maan). Try “בקשה לאיתור מען” for the online or postal service. Of course, people, usually the problematic ones, do not update their addresses so this information is often outdated.

4. If the landowner/lessee is a company you use the company registration number (=het peh) or just the company name to get the company’s details at ” מידע מרשם החברות “. For the owner or managers of the company go to “נסח חברה” using the het peh.

Complicated? Yes.

There are other ways of tracking people down. www.google.co.il is one very good one and another is to hire a private detective!

Saul Davis, Adv.

law in israel

שאול דיוויס, עו”ד

Do I Need a Notary?

Do I Need a Notary?

A notary public is a legal officer who can witness and authenticate documents and signatures. For the purposes of authentication, many countries require commercial or personal documents which originate from,  or are signed in, another country to, be notarised. Notaries in Israel must be Israeli lawyers of 10 years seniority, with no criminal record, no complaints against them at the Israel Bar and must have undergo a one day training course. In some countries, notably the USA, notaries are not lawyers.

Do I need a notary? The answer to that question is usually “no. Actually people often do not bother asking the question and, I suspect, end up paying for a service they do not need! Rarely will an Israeli need, or an Israeli official office demand notarisation of a document or signature. Exceptions are: pre-nuptial agreements, wills, irrevocable powers-of-attorney and powers-of-attorney to a non-lawyer. If you are American or need something from American officialdom the answer will probably beyes. For some reason the US authorities (and US banks and other institutions) like to have various documents and signatures notarised. For example, when President Richard Nixon resigned he had his resignation letter notarised! You cannot have a US notary notarise a document or signature in Israel, because, as I understand it, US notaries can only act in the US state that they are licensed for. On the other hand notarisations are inherently international. So, if you are an American (or other nationality), and you need a document or signature notarised, certified or legalised in Israel for Israel or for abroad – you must go to an Israeli notary (unless you can be bothered to go to the US or other consulate).

Apostille is a French word which means certification. It is commonly used in English to refer to the legalisation of a document for international use under the terms of the 1961 Hague Convention, an international treaty that abolished the requirement of legalisation for foreign public documents (that previously might have had to be done at a consulate or the Foreign Office where the notary acted). So nowadays documents which have been notarised by a notary public and then certified with an apostille are accepted for legal use in all the nations that have signed the Hague Convention (this is most western countries, including Israel, the USA, the UK, but not Canada nor Australia). In Israel the apostille is a sticker, stuck on the back of the notary’s certificate and signed at most Magistrates’ Courts by the chief clerk. This service is no longer free and one must pay 30 NIS in stamp duty for it. The apostille just authenticates the notary’s work.

There is a fixed tariff set by the Israel Ministry of Justice for notarial services (click here, sorry in Hebrew). For other services provided by a notary (including translations, drafting affidavits and getting that apostille) the fee is set by the notary and the client (do not go to a lawyer without reading my article on this).

Law in Israel

שאול דיוויס עו”ד

How Much Do Israeli Lawyers Charge?

How Much Do Israeli Lawyers Charge?

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The answer is complex. Depends mostly on (a) what sort of case it is and; (b) who the lawyer and the client are. Let us go through this briefly.

Non-financial cases are usually fixed price. This will include administrative petitions (to the Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice “Bagats”), injunctions and other non-quantifiable cases. Difficult to say how much you should spend – anything between 1,000 sheqel per court appearance to thousands of sheqel for the whole case.

Criminal cases are also non-financial. There is a rule that a lawyer may not receive a fee in a criminal case contingent upon the result ie acquittal. The highest fees can be as much as 500,000 sheqel the lowest can be as little as 1,000 sheqel. For a regular case involving work which will include reading the evidence, a few court appearances, a meeting at the prosecution eg a small drugs case or not too serious domestic violence expect to pay +/- 20,000 sheqel.

Personal injury, including traffic and work accidents are generally a percentage, +/- 15% is acceptable. But by law traffic cases must be 8, 11 or13% (if settled before getting to court, settled in court or full judgement, respectively).

Other financial cases, labour claims or breach of contract including consumer claims, will often be mixed. Expect to pay some money up front and then a percentage of the win; about 10-20% is normal or even 30% if there is no money upfront. Often there is a separate fee for court appearances. Some lawyers take a non-returnable fee which is an advance on the win.

Another factor is the lawyer’s evaluation of your chances of winning – a higher percentage if the lawyer thinks you have good chances, more up front if bad! Lawyers must charge their expenses and VAT separately. Most lawyers waive simple expenses like postage or paper, some expenses can be substantial like doctors’ reports or foreign travel and you will be charged for these.

That leaves non-contentious (no court) cases, mostly drafting contracts and giving legal advice. For a contract for the buying or selling of land, expect to pay about 1/2% of the value of the property. This is very negotiable! Always bargain. If the lawyer represents both sides then he or she will ask for 3/4%, again you need to haggle. For rental contracts lawyers often take about 50% of one month’s rent, this is also negotiable.

For commercial and other contracts, lawyers charge about 2% of the value of the contract, this percentage will go down as the contract is of higher value (because the amount of work involved is the same).

General legal advice, written or not, depends a lot on the lawyer: 500 NIS to 5,000 NIS is a rough estimate. Proper written legal counsel, should be more expensive.

Remember: legal advice is only worth the money you spend. Pay cheap you get cheap. Be wary of cut price lawyers, They are not worth the saving. Traditionally Israeli lawyers quoted prices in US dollars but this is less fashionable. Remember that your lawyer’s price tag will rarely include VAT, currently at 15.5%. Always check if VAT is included or not.

Look here for the Bar’s recommendation for the minimal tariff (thought to be over-priced now). Never take on a lawyer or pay any money at all unless you are given a written fee agreement, this is most important but unfortunately not compulsory. I am a member of the South District Ethics Committee and I see the messes lawyers make because there was no fee agreement!

Law in Israel

שאול דיוויס עו”ד

“shtar hov” or “cheque bitahon”

A shtar hov שטר חוב is a deed or bill that is a bit like a cheque but contains more details. There are 2 types: with or without the details of the maker/payer’s bank account. You can get one at the post office for a few sheqel or download one for free on the web. The ones on the web can be edited to add or subtract the bank details. Not sure what the post office ones contain. The beneficiary/payee (typically a landlord) can cash the shtar hov at a bank if it contains the maker/payer’s bank details, or he will have to go to “Hotsah lafoal”  הוצאה לפועל if it does not have the bank details.

A cheque bitahon שיק ביטחון is an ordinary cheque upon which is written “cheque bitahon” or “שיק ביטחון” or “security cheque”. Usually the date and sum are left blank. The beneficiary/payee (usually a landlord) can cash the cheque bitahon at a bank.

To cash the shtar hov or the cheque bitahon the payee does NOT need the prior permission of the maker of the shtar or cheque or a court order. A nice bank clerk might telephone the maker of the cheque or shtar before it is cashed, to give him time to cancel it, but do not rely on this!

Very important to note that above is a rough outline. The exact details are a matter for negotiation between the parties (eg tenant and landlord) and will be subject to their contractual relationship. In other words, if you are going to give a shtar hov or a cheque bitahon make sure that the circumstances that they can be used are stated clearly somewhere in writing (usually this will be in a contract).

Law in Israel

שאול דיוויס עו”ד