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Monthly Archives: February 2014

‘Hot Convict’ Sues Website Over Mugshot Ad

A Florida woman is suing a background check website for using her mugshot in a "hot convict" ad that went viral. Meagan Simmons, 28, of Zephyrhills, has filed a lawsuit accusing InstantCheckmate.com of using her image for financial gain without her permission -- and especially without giving her a cut of the profits, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Does this "hot convict" have a case? Mugshot Turns Into Meme Although Simmons is suing InstantCheckmate.com for the use of her mugshot in its advert, the mother of four wasn't ignorant of the photo before this suit. In an interview with The Huffington Post in April, Simmons was described as "making the most of her newfound fame," and even reposting the meme versions of her mugshot on her Facebook page. According to the Times, the photo came from a July 2010 booking photo of Simmons, taken when she had been arrested for DUI. Despite its use as a meme, Simmons' suit alleges that her mugshot's use in an InstantCheckmate.com ad caused her anguish and invaded her privacy. Invasion of Privacy Like someone who uses a celebrity's picture in an ad without permission, InstantCheckmate.com may be guilty of appropriating Simmons' likeness without her permission -- an invasion of her privacy. Although Simmons is not a famous actor or celebrity, InstantCheckmate.com likely did take advantage of her Internet fame in order to make a buck using her image -- without paying Simmons a dime. Simmons attorney explained to the Times that the issue of commercial profits is what separates InstantCheckmate.com from the thousands of "hot convict" memes propagated with Simmons' mugshot. Those meme-creators weren't using Simmons' face to make money, but InstantCheckmate.com was. Getting a Mugshot Taken Down In addition to monetary damages, Simmons is seeking an injunction to prevent further use of her mugshot by InstantCheckmate.com. Other arrestees have had to travel down long legal roads to get their mugshots taken down by similar websites -- with some sites charging huge "takedown" fees to remove a mugshot photo. If you find your mugshot online, you can choose to contact the website and request the photo be removed. However, you may wish to take a page out of Simmons' book and contact an attorney first. Related Resources: Florida Woman Meagan Simmons Sues Website Over "Hot Convict" Mug Shot (The Associated Press) Mugshot Websites Sued Over Takedown Fees (FindLaw's Injured) Samantha Ronson' DUI Mugshot: Lohan's Ex Arrested at 10 am (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Patrick Tribett Sues Those Turning Gold Mugshot into Mugshot Gold (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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Kerry Kennedy Found Not Guilty of Drugged Driving

After a five-day trial, a New York jury found Kerry Kennedy not guilty of drugged driving on Friday. In 2012, Kennedy -- daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- was arrested and charged with driving while impaired after she crashed into a tractor-trailer while under the influence of a sleeping pill. Why was she found not guilty? Sleep Driving and DWIs On July 13, 2012, Kennedy drove her Lexus SUV. erratically after taking Zolpidem, a generic form of the sleep medication Ambien. She "sideswiped a tractor-trailer on a highway before she was found, slumped over her steering wheel, her car stalled on a local road," The New York Times reports. One of the common side effects of sleeping pills is sleep-walking and performing other actions while unconscious. Unfortunately for Kennedy and the other 60 million Americans who take prescription sleep aids, "sleep driving" isn't a defense to driving under the influence when a defendant voluntarily takes a sleeping pill. But Kennedy was able to successfully stave off her misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated because of an affirmative defense called a mistake of fact. Mistake of Fact Kennedy testified that she took the pill accidentally, mistaking it for medication she took for a thyroid condition. This type of defense is called a mistake of fact. The case ultimately turned on whether Kennedy should have been aware that she was feeling the drug's soporific effects -- as she was swerving and driving erratically -- and stopped the car. Prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kennedy did realize she accidentally took Zolpidem and knew she was under the influence of the sleeping pill, but continued to drive. Kennedy claimed that she did not realize her mistake until well after the accident. Ultimately, jurors determined there was enough doubt in the case to reject the prosecution's case and find Kennedy not guilty, which is good news for Kennedy: She could have faced up to a year in jail if convicted, the Times reports. Related Resources: Kerry Kennedy 'Incredibly Grateful' for Not Guilty Verdict (ABC News) Are There Any Defenses to Drugged Driving? (FindLaw's Blotter) Can You Get a DUI Driving On Cold Medicine? (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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How Common Is Cyberbullying? Survey Says…

A new FindLaw.com survey reveals nearly one in 12 parents say their children have felt the effects of cyberbullying. In a survey that polled hundreds of adults, FindLaw.com found that 7 percent said their children had experienced some form of cyberbullying. That suggests millions of children have dealt with the pervasive issue. Still, many more parents may not be aware of how cyberbullying may be affecting their child. Here's a general overview of what parents need to know about cyberbullying and how to deal with it: Cyberbullying Comes in Many Forms When children are harassed or victimized via the Internet or mobile technology, it's called cyberbullying. And while some are skeptical that cyberbullying is more than just a buzzword, it has been linked to several deaths. The serious and potentially criminal consequences of cyberbullying make it all the more important to understand its impact on children and their families. Key to this understanding is acknowledging its myriad forms: social media attacks, vicious texts, and even hurtful emails. Cyberbullying even can encompass disseminating sexually explicit photos of a teen in an attempt to shame or humiliate that person. Majority of Parents Report Cyberbullying Of the parents who told FindLaw.com that their children have been cyberbullied, 75 percent say they reported the bullying to others. Like other forms of bullying, cyberbullying cannot be addressed unless it is reported to someone in power to act -- like a school administrator or the police. Three out of four parents told FindLaw.com surveyers that they reported these incidents typically to "friends, school, relatives, law enforcement, and church or clergy." Reporting the incident to law enforcement may be more effective now than in previous years -- 19 states now boast cyberbullying-specific laws, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center. What Can You Do If Your Child Is a Cyberbullying Target? Aside from involving school authorities or law enforcement, parents may wonder if they can sue for cyberbullying. Although this field of law is still evolving, there are now examples of victims and their families suing cyberbullies. If you need answers about how the law can help in your personal cyberbullying case, you may want to consult an education attorney or an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options. If the results of the FindLaw.com survey are any indication, your family and your child are not alone in the struggle with cyberbullying. Related Resources: 10 Strategies for Stopping Cyberbullying (The Huffington Post) 2 Teens Cleared in Fla. Cyberbullying Case (FindLaw's Blotter) Alleged Bullies Arrested in Fla. Girl's Suicide (FindLaw's Blotter) Social Media Posts Costing Jobs: FindLaw Survey (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Public Sleeping Day: Is It Ever Illegal to Snooze?

Stop yawning and perk up: It's National Public Sleeping Day! There are a variety of creative ways to get your Z's on in public spaces to celebrate the occasion. But is sleeping in public ever illegal? The answer may surprise you and be quite the rude awakening. When, Where Public Sleeping May Be Illegal There are certain situations when you can get into legal trouble for drifting off into la-la land. Here are three ways you can snooze your way into legal trouble: Sleeping in a public building after hours. Remaining in a public building after hours is typically considered a form of trespassing. That means that it would be illegal to sleep in City Hall or the public library or another public building after operating hours. Sleeping in violation of a curfew ordinance. Similar to the situation described above, it could be illegal for you to sleep in a public place if there's a local curfew ordinance in effect. Such ordinances deem certain public places off-limits at specific times. Curfews may apply only to juveniles or to specific locations such as entire parks or sections of them, neighborhoods, or entire cities. Sleeping in violation of "anti-homelessness" laws. Several cities across the country have laws that specifically target sleeping or resting outside. Also known as "anti-homelessness" laws, these very controversial laws restrict a person's ability to sleep on sidewalks and other areas. For example, San Francisco's so-called "sit-lie" ordinance bans sitting or lying on sidewalks citywide between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. ZzZzZz... In observance of the lighthearted occasion, some may be tempted to catch a quick catnap after hours in a public space or building. Though enforcement of the above-mentioned laws can be lethargic at times, try not to take too much advantage of the public sleeping "holiday." After all, the last thing you would want is for your public sleeping dream to turn into a legal nightmare. Related Resources: National Public Sleeping Day: Let's all choose to snooze (Examiner) Is It Legal to Live in Your Car? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Landlords Can't Dictate Where Kids Sleep (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Car Burglar Shot At By Sleeping Driver (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Can Adults Sue Over a Parent’s Wrongful Death?

For an adult child, filing a lawsuit over the wrongful death of a parent can be a tricky matter. Generally, surviving members of a victim's family can sue for wrongful death when the victim dies from the negligence or misconduct of another. But because of the way damages are calculated, recovery for a parent's wrongful death can get complicated when adult children file suit. Here's why: Who Can File for Wrongful Death? The vast majority of wrongful death suits are filed by immediate family members such as spouses, parents, and children. Some states have laws that specify exactly who can file a wrongful death suit and limit it to those people listed. But others allow a more pragmatic approach. That would permit non-traditional families or large extended families to file wrongful death suits as well. For adult children, the more pressing issue is the way wrongful death damages are calculated. Will Adult Children Be Awarded Damages? Wrongful death claims are designed to help plaintiffs deal with current and future financial losses resulting from the victim's death. To win a wrongful death suit, surviving relatives must demonstrate they suffered a cognizable monetary injury as a result of their loved one's passing. That can be a difficult burden to meet for adult children who are no longer financially dependent on their parents. That being said, adult children might be able to recover damages for the loss of his or her relationship with the parent. Because the surviving spouse typically has a stronger wrongful death claim, a better option might be to split the surviving spouse's wrongful death damages with the children. Depending on state law, each adult child may have a right to equally share in the recovery that results from a wrongful death claim. But that's not the rule of thumb in every state. For example, a Wisconsin appeals court ruled in 2012 that a surviving spouse cannot pass ownership of a wrongful death claim to a decedent's adult children. In addition, the court ruled the state's wrongful death statute bars a decedent's adult children from recovering for loss of society and companionship if the wrongful death claim belongs to a surviving spouse, The State Bar of Wisconsin reports. Because the state rules vary significantly when it comes to adult children and wrongful death lawsuits, you'll want to consult an experienced wrongful death attorney in your area for additional guidance. Related Resources: How Do Survival Statutes Affect Injury Lawsuits? (FindLaw's Injured) Bullied Girl's Mom Files Wrongful Death Suits (FindLaw's Injured) Girl, 13, Wins $150M Wrongful Death Verdict (FindLaw's Injured) Dump Truck Hits, Kills Mom Putting Kid in Van (FindLaw's Injured)
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Top 9 Legal Tips for Your Oscars Party

The Oscars are a great excuse to get your friends together and throw a fabulous party. But social hosts will want to take a few precautions to avoid potential legal drama. We know you're probably busy with party preps, so here are nine legal tips to make sure your Oscars party doesn't involve any unexpected legal plot twists. And the "Best Legal Tips for an Oscars Party" are...: Make sure your Oscars pool is lawful. You should be in the clear if your state allows social gambling. When it comes to Oscars pools at work, you may still want to double-check with your employee handbook or HR department to make sure it won't get you fired. Is that apple cider or champagne, young lady? Teens love the glamour of the Academy Awards as much as adults, and may want to sip their beverages out of classy glass flutes like the stars. However, make sure they're drinking apple cider, not champagne, because if the teens or their friends get drunk, parents can potentially pay the price. Keep the adults in check, too. Many states hold social hosts who serve alcohol responsible for the drunken actions of their guests, regardless of whether or not the guests are old enough to drink. No one likes babysitting grownups, but perhaps hand your friends water instead of vodka if they're getting rowdy. Consider confiscating the keys. And speaking of keeping adults in check, if you have a feeling some guests may have a problem controlling their booze, here's a party tip: Collect their car keys as they come in and call cabs at the end of the night. This could help them avoid a DUI. Provide a hazard-free environment. When hosting an Oscars party, be sure to survey the premises for blatant hazards that could hurt guests, because homeowners can be held responsible for injuries that occur on their property. Be prepared for party crashers. Uninvited guests are so not chic. If they show up and refuse to leave, try to avoid a physical confrontation. You may even want to call the cops to get the trespasser removed from your property. Practice safe food-handling techniques. If you aren't careful when preparing appetizers for your guests and one of them gets food poisoning, a personal injury lawsuit could potentially be served on you. Avoid tagging your friends in embarrassing photos. Even if your friend is only mimicking the drug bender scenes in "The Wolf of Wall Street," you may want to resist the urge to post pics online because it's possible not everyone will understand that it's a joke. Keep the noise down. It's fine to cheer if your Oscar nominee wins, but avoid throwing an over-the-top celebration that could annoy your neighbors. Loud party animals can get cited by the cops. An Academy Awards party is usually good, harmless fun, but mix it with too much booze and you could win the prize for "Most Negligent Host at an Oscars Party." If anything goes wrong, don't panic -- finding legal help for your particular issue is just a click away. Related Resources: Oscars: How we ended up with 9 best picture noms (The Associated Press) 2014 Oscars: 7 Legal Issues Depicted in 'Best Picture' Nominees (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) 'Wolf of Wall Street' Lawsuit: Lawyer Wants $25M for Defamation (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) 31 'Dallas Buyers Club' Torrent Downloaders Sued for Piracy (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
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Ariz.’s SB 1062 Vetoed; States Debate Similar Bills

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062 on Wednesday, explaining that the bill -- which would have effectively allowed business owners to refuse service to gays on the basis of religious freedom -- "does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona." While insisting that she had worked hard to represent the voters of Arizona, Gov. Brewer expressed concern that the controversial bill -- which had been cast as "anti-gay" -- was simply too broad, reports the Los Angeles Times. What other reasons did Gov. Brewer offer for vetoing SB 1062? And what does her veto mean for states considering similar "religious freedom" bills? Not a Real Problem in Arizona According to the Times, proponents of SB 1062 feel the bill has been misinterpreted. But the deeper problem seems to lie with the "problem" the bill intended to address. Taken at its best, the bill sought to protect Arizona business owners who wished to refuse service to certain customers. If that refusal was based on the business owners' religious beliefs, the bill would have insulated their businesses from discrimination lawsuits. Critics saw this as a reactionary measure to ensure that Arizonans would not need to do business with same-sex couples, who have been gaining legal recognition in nearby California, Utah, and New Mexico. But the ironic part about SB 1062 is that private businesses in Arizona can already legally discriminate against gay couples, who have no legal recourse under Arizona or federal law. In fact, Gov. Brewer said she hadn't heard of a single example of a business owner in Arizona who had his or her religious liberty violated, the Times reports. Since SB 1062 was very broadly worded, opponents worried that it could have created any number of troublesome scenarios -- for example, religious business owners refusing to serve single mothers. Gov. Brewer's veto seemed to echo these concerns, but what does this reasoning mean for similar bills in other states? Other States' Bills Pending Politico reports that Georgia, Kansas, and Missouri have legislation in the works which may allow businesses to deny service to same-sex couples, and six more state legislatures are considering similar bills. One of those states is Oklahoma, where a restaurant owner recently made waves for explicitly refusing to serve gays and other minorities. Perhaps other states will learn from the failure of SB 1062 by reworking their own bills' language to avoid alienating support. As The Associated Press recounts, huge corporate bodies like Apple and American Airlines had urged Brewer to veto SB 1062, and no one can doubt their influence -- or capital. If bills like SB 1062 are to pass, they'll need to overcome these hurdles. Related Resources: What Jan Brewer's veto of SB 1062 tells us (The Washington Post) Ariz.'s SB 1062: Gov. Brewer Has 3 Options (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Arizona Immigration Bill Signed by Governor Brewer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Arizona Passes Bill Restricting Ethnic Studies (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Police Dashcam Video Can Be Key to Your Case

Police dashcams are tiny eyes on almost all law enforcement encounters, and they may be key to winning your criminal case. In the past, police misconduct might go unreported because there was no evidence -- like the classic "your taillight is busted" scenario. Now officers who act illegally are being caught by their own dashcams, and defendants are using them to dismiss cases. How can a dashcam video affect your defense? Here are three ways they can potentially be used in litigation: 1. To Prove No Law Was Broken. Especially in DUI cases, it is important for the prosecution to prove that a suspect's car was pulled over on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. If the officer states that a defendant was pulled over on suspicion of breaking a traffic law (e.g., changing lanes without signaling), then a dashcam video should confirm that. However, if the dashcam video shows that a defendant made no traffic violations before police pulled him or her over, any charges may be dismissed. If a traffic stop was performed illegally, any evidence which was obtained after the stop can be excluded from trial. If the evidence which would be excluded is the primary evidence in the case, a defense attorney can move for dismissal. 2. To Illustrate Police Misconduct. Dashcams can be useful to clear a defendant of wrongdoing and also to prove that the cops did do something wrong. In a New Jersey case, Marcus Jeter, 30, was cleared of resisting arrest and assault charges after a dashcam video revealed that two police officers were the actual aggressors, ABC's "Good Morning America" reports. Not only can dashcam evidence of police brutality and excessive force be key to getting your own criminal charges dismissed, it can be the smoking gun in a police brutality lawsuit. 3. To Highlight Problems With Your Case. Obtaining a dashcam video may also help your criminal defense attorney to better understand the flaws in your defense. If the dashcam video shows you drunk and belligerent, your attorney may attempt to file a motion to exclude that evidence. Failing that, you and your attorney can strategize about how the prosecution will use the dashcam footage -- possibly painting you in a poor light -- and can plan accordingly. For better or for worse, dashcam footage is compelling evidence and may make all the difference in your case. Related Resources: Dashcam Clears Bloomfield Man Of Resisting Arrest; 2 Officers Charged (New York's WCBS-TV) Family Releases Video of Man Being Run Over by Cop (FindLaw's Blotter) N.M. Cops' Minivan Shooting Comes Under Fire (FindLaw's Blotter) Randy Travis Sues Over DWI Dashcam Video (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
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