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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Is It Legal to Crop a Dog’s Ears?

For many pet owners, "cropping" or surgically snipping a dog's ears can be a big decision. Opponents of the practice argue that it's unnecessary and inhumane, but is cropping a dog's ears illegal? No Nationwide Ban on Cropping Unlike many other countries, the U.S. government has not passed any law regulating the practice of cropping a dog's ears. Most laws regulating the treatment of animals as pets (i.e., not as livestock or research subjects) are left to the states. Notably, ear cropping is illegal in some parts of Canada, and all of Australia, New Zealand, and in Scandinavian countries, according to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. Despite the international disagreement over the practice, both the Canadian and American Kennel Clubs encourage and may even require cropping for show dogs. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) does not support claims that cropping ears serves to prevent medical issues in dogs, and the practice seems mostly to be for aesthetic purposes in certain pedigree breeds. State Laws on Cropping While a handful of U.S. states do have rules about ear cropping, there are no states that have an outright ban. So while it may be legal to crop your dog's ears anywhere in the United States, you may need to follow a specific procedure. The AVMA reports that there are only eight states where cropping has been regulated. Here are a few examples of those states' laws: Pennsylvania. In 2009, Pennsylvania passed a law making it evidence of animal cruelty for persons other than vets to crop a dog's ears. This law requires dogs to be anesthetized during a cropping procedure. Washington state. Cropping is exempted from animal cruelty laws as long as it's in line with "accepted husbandry practices." Since the American Kennel Club requires cropping for many breeds to show, cropping may be legal if performed by licensed breeders for certain pedigrees in addition to vets. Massachusetts. Non-vets who crop dogs' ears can be slapped with a $250 fine. Even if your state is not among those that have specifically regulated cropping, it is highly recommended to take your dog to a vet for the procedure. The AVMA reports that like any incision, cropping increases the chances for infection. Bottom line: Going to a vet for cropping can reduce your dog's risk of infection and give you the option of anesthesia -- which may be required in a handful of states. Related Resources: Ear-Cropping and Tail-Docking (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) Dog Tattoos Controversial, but Are They Legal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Cat Piercing for Goth Look is Animal Cruelty (FindLaw's Blotter) 5 Animals You Can't Keep as Pets (With Some Exceptions) (FindLaw's Legal Grounds)
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Are There Defenses to Criminal Trespassing?

You can be charged with criminal trespassing when you enter someone else's land or use someone else's chattel without permission or authorization. Police officers, sheriffs, and even park rangers typically enforce criminal trespass law. But there are a few situations in which trespassing charges may be dropped against a defendant. Here are a few common defenses to trespassing: Consent. If the alleged trespasser obtained consent to enter the property or use the chattel, then the trespass was legal. Consent can be given through words, actions, or written permission (for example, a license). The property owner's silence or inaction may also count, if a reasonable person would have spoken up. But the consent isn't valid if you obtained it through fraud (namely, by tricking or coercing the owner). You also can't get valid consent from children, people who aren't legally competent, and folks who are intoxicated. Reclaiming your own property. Under certain circumstances, you're allowed to trespass if you're in the process of recovering property or chattel that rightfully belongs to you. The initial deprivation of your property must either have been the property/chattel owner's fault or an "act of God" such as a storm or wind. Public necessity. A complete defense exists when you have to commit a trespass in order to protect the public during an emergency. There must be an immediate necessity for the trespass and you must have trespassed in genuine good faith that it was to protect public safety. You lose the protection of this complete defense when your trespass becomes unreasonable under the circumstances. Private necessity. Although not a complete defense, private necessity lets you trespass if it's to protect someone (including yourself) from death or serious bodily injury or to protect any land or chattel from serious destruction or injury (if they're animals). Though not guilty of trespass in a private necessity situation, you could still be held civilly liable for any damages that you cause during your trespass -- for example, damage to a property owner's fence if you swerved onto his property to avoid a crash. If you've been charged with trespassing, you'll want to consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer to explore any defenses that may apply to your situation. Related Resources: Is It Ever Legal to Shoot Trespassers? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Is it Ever Legal to Loot? (FindLaw's Blotter) Can Sneaking Into Movies Get You Arrested? (FindLaw's Blotter) 10 States With the Highest Rates of Property Crime (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Filing Taxes Late: What Are the Penalties?

Just like not being tardy for the party, taxpayers shouldn't be filing their taxes late because latecomers are subject to penalties. These penalties are monetary and fall under either the "failure to file" or "failure to pay" category, or both, the IRS says. Here's what you need to know about late filing and payment penalties: Failure-to-File Penalties According to the IRS, failure-to-file penalties are usually more than failure-to-pay penalties. The total late-filing penalty is typically 5 percent of the tax owed for each month or part of the month that your return is late. The IRS can charge you this late-filing penalty for up to five months or up to 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If you're late to file by more than 60 days after the due date (or extended due date), then the minimum penalty is either $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax. Failure-to-Pay Penalties For people who fail to pay the full amount owed by the due date, they're penalized by having to pay 0.5 percent of the tax owed each month or part of a month that the tax remains unpaid. Like the failure-to-file penalty, the maximum is 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. On the other hand, if you request an extension before the filing deadline and have paid at least 90 percent of your actual tax liability before April 15, then you won't be subject to any failure-to-pay penalties -- unless you don't pay the remaining balance by the extended due date. Avoiding Penalties The IRS exercises some leniency and won't make you pay the penalties if you can show that your failure to file or pay on time was based on a reasonable cause and not just plain neglect or laziness. If you foresee trouble paying the full amount due on time, consider negotiating an installment agreement with the IRS to pay off back taxes. To avoid these penalties, be sure to either get an extension to file or estimate the amount of taxes you owe and pay by the deadline. Even if you accidently overpay, the IRS will credit your overpayment. If you need more help, contact an experienced tax attorney in your area to figure out your legal options. Related Resources: What Are The Penalties For Failing To File Your Tax Return On Time? (Forbes) Who Doesn't Have to File Income Taxes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Running Late? Submit an Extension to File Taxes (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) 5 Weird Tax Deductions You May Be Able to Claim (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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3 Ways Truck Crashes Can Differ From Car Crashes

Any motor vehicle accident can lead to property damage or injury, but are there many potnetial ways in which a truck crash can differ from an "ordinary" car crash. From special insurance coverage to commercial truck laws, there are actually several factors that can make truck accidents unique. Here are three common differences between commercial truck accidents and standard car accidents: Commercial truck laws. A variety of laws impose special rules and restrictions on commercial truck drivers and trucking companies. When you're involved in a truck accident, those special commercial truck laws may come into play, such as how many hours the driver was behind the wheel, whether the driver was on a cell phone, whether the truck was properly maintained, and whether the truck was hauling hazardous material. Vicarious liability. Unlike ordinary car accidents involving individual drivers like yourself, truck accidents present a host of potential vicarious liability issues, including whether the truck driver was an employee or a contractor, whether the driver was acting in the scope of his or her employment during the accident, and whether the driver was engaging in a detour or frolic. More parties (and more lawyers) involved. When you're involved in a "regular" car accident, your lawsuit is typically limited to the other driver and his or her insurance company. But in truck accidents, you may have vicarious liability issues on the table, so you're potentially looking at many more parties involved in the case than an ordinary car accident case. Even if you can't find fault with the driver, there might be others who could be held liable, such as the truck company (for example, for negligent hiring, training, or retention) or a truck parts manufacturer (for a defective part that caused the accident). Because of these various parties, there could be many attorneys involved, representing the trucking company, the company's driver, equipment manufacturers, and others. These are just a few common ways that truck crashes can differ from car crashes. If you're ready to meet with an attorney who knows the ins and outs of truck accident cases, then head over to FindLaw's Truck Accident Lawyer Directory to connect with one today. Related Resources: Five Things to Research Before Meeting a Truck Accident Attorney (FindLaw) Proving Fault in a Truck Accident Checklist (FindLaw) Truck Accident Damages: How Much Can You Collect? (FindLaw's Injured) Truck Accident Injuries Up 18%: NHTSA Report (FindLaw's Injured)
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Top 5 Legal Tips for Your Bachelorette Party

Many a bride-to-be, celebrating her final days as a single lady, want to let loose at a bachelorette party. Whether it's a low-key dinner with friends, a pub crawl, or something a bit more -- how shall we put it? -- memorable, you want everyone to be having a good time. But before you head out to drink colorful shooters out of test tubes with your bridesmaids, make a vow to remember these five legal tips: Provide a hazard-free environment. If the bachelorette party is being hosted at your house, make sure the area is free of blatant hazards that could injure your guests. Under premises liability laws, property owners are responsible for maintaining a relatively safe environment. For example, if you and your friends decide to take dip in the pool later in the evening, you might want to consider putting rubber mats by the pool to prevent slip-and-fall injuries. You don't want your maid of honor on crutches the day of your wedding, right? The legal drinking age still applies at house parties. Although the bride-to-be should get to call the shots, she certainly shouldn't be serving shots to bridesmaids under the age of 21. If you have bridesmaids who are underage and you decide to serve them some alcohol, you could potentially get arrested: Adults who knowingly furnish alcohol to teens or should have known they were drinking while under their care can get in trouble with the law. What happens at a bachelorette party should stay at a bachelorette party. Yes, bachelorette parties are full of memories and scrapbook-worthy moments, but you should probably keep those photos off of social networks. Publicly posted party fouls could cost people their jobs or even get them arrested. Drunken injuries can result in lawsuits. While you may have immunity from your future spouse to do whatever you want on your girls' night out, bachelorette parties aren't immune to personal injury lawsuits if someone gets injured. For example, one man celebrating his impending marriage ruptured his bladder when a stripper slid down the pole and onto his abdomen. The man sued the strip club for his injuries. Don't forget about your neighbors. One final legal tip for your party is to keep the noise down. Whether it's loud music or voices, you'll want to avoid throwing a party that'll bother the neighbors. Loud bachelorette parties can get you cited by the cops. Bachelorette parties are known to get a little crazy sometimes. If something does go wrong, don't freak out. Instead, contact an experienced local attorney about your legal problem, so your status as a bride-to-be doesn't turn into defendant-to-be. Related Resources: Bachelorette Party Leaves Bride Paralyzed (FindLaw's Injured) Gay Bar Owner Insists Bachelorette Party Ban Not Discriminatory (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Destination Weddings: Legal Issues to Remember (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Getting Married? A FindLaw Legal Checklist (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Texas Abortion Law Upheld by Fed. Appeals Court

A federal appellate court has upheld Texas' recently enacted abortion laws, including requirements for abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision overturns a lower court's ruling which found that the Texas law was unconstitutional because it placed an "undue burden" on a woman's right to legally terminate a pregnancy. What does this ruling mean for women in Texas and nationwide? Abortion Law May Close Texas Clinics Passed in July, the challenged Texas abortion law -- which State Sen. Wendy Davis famously filibustered -- added several new requirements for abortion clinics to remain in operation. A Texas federal district court struck down portions of the law in October, including the requirement that doctors have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility. The lower court reasoned that this requirement had no rational relation to the state's interest in protecting women's health and substantially burdened a woman's legal right to end her pregnancy. While the decision was being appealed, the U.S. Supreme Court even stepped in to ensure that the law remained in effect, leaving about two dozen counties in Texas' Rio Grande Valley without an abortion provider. With the 5th Circuit upholding Texas' law on Thursday, its provisions are still in effect, and any clinic that cannot meet the admitting privileges requirement may be forced to close. Other Abortion Laws in Question In response to Thursday's ruling, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said the law would "force women to have abortions later in pregnancy, if they are able to get a doctor at all," reports CNN. For its part, the 5th Circuit didn't find any evidence that Texas' government had the intent of making it more difficult to get an abortion with the new restrictions. That may be a bit of a different story with an upcoming Mississippi case also involving an admitting privileges requirement. The 5th Circuit may not feel the same way when it considers what Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said in January: that his goal was to "end abortion in Mississippi," according to The Associated Press. Meantime, women can still legally seek abortions in Texas, but it may be somewhat more difficult to find a licensed local provider. Related Resources: Appeals court upholds new Texas abortion rules (USA Today) TX Teen Sues Parents Over Abortion 'Coercion' (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Arkansas' 12-Week Abortion Ban Faces Legal Fight (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) N.D.'s 'Fetal Heartbeat' Abortion Ban Blocked (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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When Can You Sue for Loss of Consortium?

Loss of consortium is a personal injury claim that can lead to damages for loss of affection and normal marital relations. In some cases, loss of consortium can also apply to a relationship between parents and children. So when can a loss of consortium claim be made, and what will you have to prove in order to prevail in court? Here are some general guidelines: Who Can Sue? Loss of consortium is usually limited to the loss of love, sexual relations, and services of a spouse. The loss of these services can result from another person's negligence, medical malpractice, assault, battery, wrongful death, or other forms of actionable personal injury claims. Loss of consortium claims are usually initiated by the uninjured spouse, who may be able to join the injured spouse's lawsuit. However, the injured spouse may also be able to sue for loss of consortium. For example, a man whose genitals were burned while using a urinal at a fast-food restaurant sued the chain for failing to make sure the premises were safe. His wife joined the lawsuit claiming loss of consortium because her husband's burned genitals prevented them from having sex. In some cases, parents can sue for loss of consortium with their child. This damage is usually limited to circumstances in which minor children are severely injured. Generally speaking, the injuries must be serious enough to interfere with the normal relationship between parents and their kids. Proving Loss of Consortium To prove loss of consortium for married couples, the court will consider the "value" of the loss by considering several factors including: How stable the marriage is, The couple's individual life expectancy, and The extent to which the benefits of married life were actually lost. For example, a spouse who's in a coma after an accident will likely be seen as losing a greater amount of marital benefits than a spouse who suffered a broken leg. Depending on the type personal injury case, the damages awarded for loss of consortium may differ. Loss of consortium is a form of non-economic damage. Unlike calculable costs like hospital bills, non-economic damages are more abstract and usually account for one's pain and suffering. Although it depends on your state's laws, there may be a cap on personal injury actions for non-economic damages in certain types of cases. But these laws can potentially be challenged. In Florida, for example, a $1 million cap on non-economic damages for medical malpractice wrongful-death claims was recently struck down by the state's Supreme Court. As the amount of damages awarded for loss of consortium is determined on a case-by-case basis, an experienced personal injury attorney can give you a better idea of what to expect in your case. Related Resources: Accident & Injury Law (FindLaw) Walmart Dress Caused Sexless Marriage, Lawsuit Claims (FindLaw's Legally Weird) NYC Citi Bike Injury Lawsuit Seeks $15M (FindLaw's Injured) Kentucky Court Expands Spousal Right to Sue for Loss of Consortium (FindLaw's Knowledgebase)
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3 Ways Unsecured Home Wi-Fi Can Link You to Crime

Unsecured home Wi-Fi is a terrible idea. Not only does participating in an unsecured network leave you wide open to potential cyberattacks, but it can also get you mixed up in a serious criminal case. Here are three reasons to avoid criminal investigation by securing your home Wi-Fi: 1. Pedophiles Can Use Your Wi-Fi, You Get Arrested. Think that title is a bit far-fetched? Just imagine how one New York resident felt in 2011 when federal agents raided his home, leveled assault weapons at him, and accused him of being a child pornographer. What actually happened? A neighbor had used the man's unsecured Wi-Fi to download child porn; agents had incorrectly assumed that the online activity emanated from the Wi-Fi owner's house. Still, the unsuspecting homeowner watched FBI agents search and confiscate his and his wife's computer and mobile devices -- only to be cleared of the charges three days later, reports The Associated Press. The lesson: Protect your home Wi-Fi so that you don't get blamed for criminal activity of your Internet-mooching neighbors. 2. Neighbors Downloading Illegally, but You Get Charged. It may be a long time since the days of Napster piracy suits, but lawsuits over Internet piracy are still alive and well. Ask the 31 Internet users (who have yet to be identified) who are being sued for illegally downloading copies of "Dallas Buyers Club." Not alright, alright, alright. Production companies seek out the IP addresses of downloaders from their Internet service providers (ISPs) -- companies like Comcast and AT&T. These IP addresses, even with unsecured Wi-Fi, are tied to a physical location, typically your router's location. This means that legal demands for copyright infringement will probably be sent to your house. College students often get nabbed by their colleges for using school Internet for piracy because they have a system for tracking down individual users. But without any protection on home Wi-Fi, most homeowners will be stuck defending themselves against piracy charges. 3. Like Hackers? They Love Your Wi-Fi. Although there are some ways to identify unwelcome strangers on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, sophisticated criminals can potentially use homeowners as a shield to mask their illegal activities. There are some ways to protect yourself while surfing public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, but your home network shouldn't be unsecured. If it is, you leave yourself open to being the target of a state or federal investigation you'll wish you never knew about. Like the hapless New Yorker with unsecured Wi-Fi, you may eventually untangle your innocent self from a legal mess, but why invite the hassle? Secure your home Wi-Fi today. Related Resources: Pa. man sentenced for porn using neighbor's Wi-Fi (The Associated Press) The 10 Most Pirated TV Shows of 2013 (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Illegal Downloads: What Are the Penalties? (FindLaw's Blotter) Apple Security Flaw: Update Software to Thwart Wi-Fi Hackers (FindLaw's Common Law)
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9/11 Crash Site Undervalued in Eminent Domain Case

The 9/11 crash site of United Flight 93 is actually worth nearly $1 million more than the federal government paid for it, according to a court ruling in an eminent domain case. A federal district judge ruled Wednesday that the site of the downed flight near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, originally valued at $610,000, was actually worth more than $1.5 million, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The federal government scooped up the land from its owner in 2009 under eminent domain, with plans to create a national memorial at the site. But both the original owner and the feds disputed how much it was worth. Flight 93's Final Resting Place On September 11, 2001, United Flight 93 was one of four hijacked aircraft which crashed as part of a terrorist plot. Flight 93 was unique in that it missed its intended target and instead landed in a rural area of Pennsylvania, after a movie-inspiring passenger intervention. The plane's final resting place was in a field originally owned by Michael Svonavec, but the U.S. government took possession of the site in 2009 under the doctrine of eminent domain. Taking land through eminent domain requires that the government take the land for "public use" and compensate the land's owner for its fair market value. Owners have the right to challenge eminent domain actions, and typically the argument boils down to how much the land is actually worth compared to the government's compensation. In Svonavec's case, he believes his land is worth "at least $5.7 million," reports the Tribune-Review. Under this estimation, the federal government would owe Svonavec more than $5 million, but a federal judge decided differently. Commission Made Correct Valuation The "fair market value" of a piece of land with a unique character -- like historical value -- can often be difficult to pinpoint. Typically the government would approximate the land's value based on its size and comparable sales of land in the surrounding area. Perhaps this is how the government came to its original $610,000 figure to compensate Svonavec for the Flight 93 crash site. However, a court-appointed commission in December valued the property at $1,535,000 -- a finding which a federal judge upheld on Wednesday. Part of its valuation included the property's "national significance and intrinsic value," which made it unique from similar parcels of land, reports the Tribune-Review. Svonavec may be upset that he didn't get the $5 million he requested for the 9/11 crash site, but it's more than double what he originally received. Related Resources: Flight 93 memorial site correctly valued at $1.5m, judge rules (Metro) Find an Eminent Domain Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw) Can I Lose my Property to Eminent Domain? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can Eminent Domain Actually Help My Business? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
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1 in 4 Car Crashes Involves Cell Phone Use: Report

More than one in four car crashes involves cell phone use, according to a new report by the National Safety Council. Perhaps even more surprising, only 5 percent of cell phone-related crashes involve texting, while 21 percent involve drivers talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones, according to the report. The findings serve as a grim reminder than talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel -- even on a hands-free device -- can be incredibly dangerous. Distracted Driving Is Underreported, NSC Believes In 2012, 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. According to the National Safety Council's report, 26 percent of crashes involved cell phone use. It is believed cell phone use (even hands-free use) contributes to so many car accidents because drivers get wrapped up in their conversations and stop paying attention to the road -- the exact definition of distracted driving. As far as crash data collection goes, nearly all states include at least one category for distraction on police crash report forms, although the specific data collected varies. The Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria guideline provides best practices on distraction data collection, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Nevertheless, the NSC believes the data on distracted crashes is underreported, WCBS-TV reports. If so, that means cell phones could be involved in far more car accidents than most people realize. Distracted Driving Laws Here is a breakdown of state laws on distracted driving, as provided by the GHSA: Hand-held cell phone use. Twelve states and Washington, D.C., prohibit drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. These are "primary enforcement" laws, meaning an officer can cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place. All cell phone use. No state has a complete ban on all cell phone use while driving, but 37 states and the District of Columbia ban all cell phone use by novice drivers (for good reason); in addition, 20 states and D.C. prohibit cell phone use by school bus drivers. Text messaging. Currently, 42 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit text messaging for all drivers. Another five states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and three states restrict school bus drivers from texting as well. So if you find yourself receiving text messages while behind the wheel, do everyone a favor and pull over to the side of the road to catch up, gossip, and figure out dinner plans. Otherwise your next call may be to an experienced car accident lawyer near you. Related Resources: Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Cell phone use increases accidents (Nebraska City News Press) Texting and Driving? There's an App to Stop That (FindLaw's Injured) What's More Dangerous Than Texting and Driving? (FindLaw's Injured) Driver Tweets '2 Drunk 2 Care,' Then Kills 2 (FindLaw's Blotter)
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