(844) 815-9632

ADA

Federal Agents Raid Los Angeles Casino for Allegedly Laundering Money, Again

An ongoing investigation against the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens, a city in Los Angeles, resulted in federal agents raiding the casino and closing the gambling floor this week. Since the warrant issued for the raid by a federal district court judge was filed under seal, there are only a few details about the investigation. However, this same casino was found, after a 1991 investigation, to have been built using drug money. Although numerous gamblers speculated that the raid was a result of rigged gaming tables, unnamed media sources clarified that the casino is under investigation for money laundering. Casino patrons holding stacks of chips will be pleased to know that the casino reopened this week after investigators finished their search. However, there may be some more legal trouble in their future, depending on what the search discovered. What is Money Laundering? The crime of money laundering occurs when a person exchanges illegally obtained money, such as the proceeds from the sale of drugs, stolen goods, or other criminal activities, for "clean" money. Many financial institutions are regulated in such a way that certain transactions are monitored for suspicious activity. However, businesses that operate with modest, or even sometimes large amounts of cash can sometimes fly under the radar of authorities, as we learned in Breaking Bad. Penalties for Money Laundering Money laundering is a relatively common type of white collar crime. Depending on whether charges are brought by federal or state authorities, the penalties for money laundering can vary. State laws tend to mirror federal laws, but vary from state to state. Typically, the penalties will increase with the amount of money laundered as well as the number of transactions. While one-off offenses can result in only misdemeanor charges, simple fines and short jail sentences, multiple money laundering transactions can lead to multiple offenses and felony jail sentences of several years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How Stacks of Cash Get People Arrested (FindLaw Blotter) Founder of For-Profit College Gets Prison Time (FindLaw Blotter) Feds Punish NY Corruption: Sheldon Silver Sentenced to 12 Years (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

Study: Payouts Are up in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Insurance companies might be seeing fewer medical malpractice claims, but they seem to be awarding more money to the injured patients that do make them. A new study found that paid medical malpractice claims declined almost 56 percent between 1992 and 2014, but the average payout for a successful malpractice claim jumped over 23 percent, reaching $353,000 for the 2009-2014 time period. So what accounts for the decline in claims and rise in payouts? And what does it mean for future medical malpractice plaintiffs? Fewer Claims = More Money The research comes from physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital, who analyzed numbers from a centralized database of paid malpractice claims: Researchers report that the overall rate of claims paid on behalf of all physicians dropped by 55.7 percent. Pediatricians had the largest decline, at 75.8 percent, and cardiologists had the smallest, at 13.5 percent. After adjusting for inflation, researchers found that the amount of the payment increased by 23.3 percent and was also dependent on specialty. Neurosurgery had the highest mean payment, and dermatology had the lowest. The percentage of payments exceeding $1 million also increased during the same time period. Dr. Adam Schaffer, an instructor at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study, speculated that recent tort reform, which places statutory limits on medical malpractice damages, could be responsible for the decline in paid claims. "Fewer attorneys could be interested in taking claims if there's going to be a smaller potential payout, given that most attorneys are paid on a contingency basis," he explained. Schaffer also pointed to claim screening panels and additional procedural hurdles to explain the decline in claims, but this could also account for the rise in payouts -- if only the most ironclad malpractice claims are being made and meeting the procedural requirements, the average payout per claim would be expected to rise. What Does It All Mean? The study could mean that lawyers are more skittish about taking on medical malpractice cases, but those that they do accept might be in for a bigger payday at the end. Medical malpractice claims are complicated, and even just dealing with a physician's insurance company can be difficult. If you've suffered an injury in a medical context, contact and experienced attorney near you. Related Resources: Think you have a medical malpractice claim? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Fewer Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Succeed, but Payouts Are Up (CBS News) Getting Paid: Collecting on a Judgment or Jury Award (FindLaw's Injured) How Much Is Your Personal Injury Case Worth? (FindLaw's Injured)
continue reading

Can the Feds Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint?

You might've thought enabling Touch ID on your iPhone made it more secure. After all, it's harder to fake your fingerprint than to guess a passcode. But when it comes to the law enforcement searches, your smartphone might've gotten a lot more vulnerable. According to Forbes, federal law enforcement officers recently served a warrant on a California home which gave them "authorization to depress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be the user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant."Essentially, cops could force everyone in the residence to open their phones. Is this really legal? Fourth Amendment Concerns The Fourth Amendment protects people "against unreasonable searches and seizures," and generally requires law enforcement officers to get a warrant before searching someone's home or personal effects. In order for the Fourth Amendment to apply, a person must show that he or she has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the place being searched or thing being seized. But courts have consistently found that a person has no expectation of privacy in physical characteristics like fingerprints, and that a police may therefore require that a person give fingerprint samples. So requesting a fingerprint to open a phone likely doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness requirement. In terms of search warrants, they must be based on probable cause, and "particularly [describe] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." This has generally been interpreted to mean the warrant must be narrow in scope, but, as Electronic Frontier Foundation staff Andrew Crocker told the Washington Post, a warrant that "extended to include any phone that happens to be on the property, and all of the private data that that entails" could stretch those limits. Fifth Amendment Concerns The Fifth Amendment, on the other hand, protects people against self-incrimination and could apply to warrants for biometrics in certain circumstances. In general, courts have not found fingerprints, by themselves, to be self-incrimination because they aren't "testimonial" in the sense that they don't amount to a statement about something. But does that necessarily mean that officers can force you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone? Law professor and blogger Orin Kerr looked at three such scenarios and opined that, as long as the officers already know that the phone is yours, the answer is probably yes. At that point your fingerprint would not be telling officers anything they didn't already know, or, as Kerr put it, "No testimonial statement from the person is implied by the act of placing his finger on the reader." But when -- as in the case above that involves a search of a residence with multiple phones and multiple people -- cops don't know which device belongs to whom, being forced to unlock a phone could be testimonial: It amounts to testimony that says, "yes, this is my phone," or at least, "yes, this phone was set to recognize a part of my body as a means of access." It further says: "I am familiar enough with this phone to know that the fingerprint reader was enabled and which part of me was used by me to program the fingerprint reader." According to Forbes, the warrant in this case is "unprecedented," but we may see similar warrants as more people use their fingerprints to secure their smartphones. If you've been subject to a similar search, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Do You Have to Let Cops Search Your Cell Phone? (FindLaw Blotter) Cell-Phone Fingerprint Ruling: 5 Things You Should Know (FindLaw Blotter) Geo-Tracking: Should Phone Location Info Require a Warrant? (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

How to Fight a Speeding Ticket Based on Radar or Laser Evidence

When a person fights a speeding ticket, the same basic principle of criminal defense apply: the prosecution must prove the case with evidence. Therefore, it makes sense that the best way to win a speeding ticket case is to knock out the evidence the ticket is based on. Since most tickets are based on evidence gathered by radar or laser speed detection devices, the following will focus on the main challenges to these two types of evidence. Recent and Reliable Calibration Generally, radar and laser speed detection devices require regular calibration to ensure that the devices remain accurate. State traffic laws and rules of evidence will vary as to what is considered both recent enough of a calibration as well as how accurately they must be calibrated. In some jurisdictions, you may be able to make requests for documentation about the device’s calibration history prior to the appearance date on your ticket, or at the first appearance in court. If you are not able to get the documentation regarding the device calibration, you may be left with having to question the officer on the stand to get that information. You can ask the court to dismiss the case if the radar or laser speed detection device was not properly or recently calibrated, and depending on your jurisdiction, a court can dismiss the case for lack of reliable evidence. Frequently, officers are aware of which jurisdictions will dismiss for lack of calibration proof, and those officers will bring the calibration and testing logs for their speed detection devices to every hearing. Officer Training to Use Device Another area that you may be able to successfully challenge is the officers training to use the device. While this may seem like a hail Mary pass, occasionally, it happens that an officer does not get properly trained. Again, establishing improper training may not automatically equal a dismissal, as different jurisdictions handle matters differently, but it can. This argument tends to be more plausible if you believe the officer pulled you over instead of another vehicle that was passing you at the time. If you establish the officer’s training is insufficient in conjunction with a circumstance that shows the lack of training, a court can dismiss the case. You may want to investigate getting dash cam footage from the officer’s vehicle prior to the hearing if you believe this to be the case. Related Resources: Charged with a crime? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Criminal) Speeding Ticket: Should I Fight it or Pay it? (FindLaw Blotter) Legal How-To: Fighting Out-of-State Traffic Tickets (FindLaw Blotter) Getting Pulled Over (FindLaw Learn About the Law)
continue reading

DUI Checkpoints on Halloween: Laws to Remember

Welcome to FindLaw's DUI Law series. If you have been charged with a DUI, know someone who has, or just want to know about the law and how to protect your rights during a DUI stop, please come back each week for more information. Want to hear something truly scary? You had a few drinks, are on your way home, and there are police lights on the road up ahead. Do you look too drunk to drive? What's your blood alcohol content? Are you going to jail tonight? DUI checkpoints can be a frightening experience. With 55 deaths last Halloween in drunk driving accidents, and promises of more DUI checkpoints this season, the prospect of a DUI is even more horrifying. So make sure you remember these laws if you run into a DUI checkpoint this Halloween. Know What to Expect According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Knowledge is the antidote of fear." And knowing what happens at a DUI checkpoint can assuage your fear of them. You should know that most DUI checkpoints are legal, and officers are allowed to stop your car and request license, insurance, and registration information.Based on your interaction, they may ask you to perform field sobriety tests or submit to a breathalyzer or drug swab. So the stop will resemble a normal DUI stop, only officers don't need a good reason to pull you over -- they just need a neutral formula for stopping motorists. Know What to Do No, it's not illegal to turn around before a DUI checkpoint. However, the police may still stop you for other reasons. If they see you driving erratically, making an illegal turn, or otherwise violating traffic laws you can still get pulled over. Once a drunk-driving investigation is started, it will be similar to any other, so make sure you follow some handy tips for DUI checkpoints. Know What Not to Do Sometimes, knowing what not to do at a DUI checkpoint is better than knowing what to do. Obviously, you don't want to drink and drive, but if you're reading this post, we're guessing that's not an option. You should also avoid driving or acting erratically, being disrespectful of police, and having lose bottles of alcohol rolling around in your car. Oh, and not having a gun in your lap can help as well. If you've been spooked by a DUI charge this Halloween, contact a local DUI attorney today. Related Resources: Don't face a DUI alone. Get your case reviewed by a lawyer for free now. (Consumer Injury) Halloween DUI Checkpoints Should Scare Adults (KPCC) Halloween 101: Halloween DUI Checkpoints Planned (FindLaw Blotter) Can You Turn Around at a DUI Checkpoint? (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

Social Media and Voting: Update on ‘Ballot Selfie’ Laws

Ah, the selfie. That staple of social media. Who needs a silly little "I Voted" sticker when you can share your voting status worldwide with a few taps on your smartphone? The ballot selfie has become the most popular way to prove you participated in the political process, but some states aren't too keen on the idea. Quite a few states have banned ballot selfies, and a few state courts have overturned bans. So where does the law stand now? Here's a look. In and Out Whether you can snap a selfie at your polling place can depend on where you live. Some states explicitly bar ballot selfies, some states allow them, and quite a few states have yet to clarify matters, legally. The AP published a comprehensive list of state ballot selfie laws, and here's a quick summary: Legal: Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Not Legal: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Some of these bans are prohibitions on taking photographs of ballots specifically; others are laws against taking any pictures at polling places. And keep in mind that even in states where ballot selfies are legal, there may be limits on where you can snap your selfie and what can be included. Up in the Air There are still 13 states that have yet to decide the issue of ballot selfies definitively. Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia either don't address ballot selfies explicitly, have proposals pending, or have laws on the books that state officials have said may not prohibit ballot selfies. So before you start snapping photos of you and your ballot and post them to social media, you may want to consult with a local civil rights attorney to confirm the ballot selfie laws in your jurisdiction. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) New Hampshire Strikes Down Ban on 'Ballot Selfies' (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Snapchat Stands up for Right to Snap Ballot Selfies (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Rules Around Polling Places (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
continue reading

Chemical Spill in Kansas Hospitalizes Over 100 People

Last week, a Kansas-based manufacturer of food and beverage products accidently released a toxic chemical gas, a mixture of sodium hypocholorite and sulfuric acid, which sent over 100 people to the hospital. Fortunately, of the 125 people who sought medical attention, only two required an overnight stay in the hospital. MGP Ingredients, which was responsible for the spill, explained that the gas spill had dissipated after only a few hours. Additionally, the company has reported the incident to the EPA and plans to fully cooperate with the investigation. The company is also taking additional measures to avoid any future spills by engaging outside experts to investigate and assess the situation. How a Gas Spill Leads to Hospitalization While large gas spills are not everyday news, it is not an uncommon occurrence for people to be hospitalized for exposure to toxic gases. Most commonly it is due to carbon monoxide, which nearly everyone has been warned that it is the silent killer. Unfortunately, when a large gas spill happens near populated areas, individuals in the surrounding areas can have their health impacted. Usually, it is just for a short duration and only effects people within a certain radius from the spill. When the air that people breath has its chemical concentration changed, people can begin to notice problems, such as: Shortness of breath Light-headedness or dizziness Headache Nausea The symptoms can vary from severe to mild, from person to person, and in type or duration. For instance, a person with asthma, or another respiratory condition, will likely be more severely affected than someone without a respiratory condition. Can a Company Be Held Liable for a Chemical Gas Spill? When a toxic gas spill occurs, manufacturers can not only be held liable to the public for violations of anti-pollution laws, but can also be held liable to individuals who were injured, and/or affected, on a negligence theory. Since public gas spills tend to be atmospheric, meaning that a company released gas outside and not inside their buildings or buildings own by others, people generally are not severely affected. Nevertheless, companies can still be held liable for injuries or damages that an accidental release of gas can cause. The numerous people who went to the hospital as a result of the recent Atchison, Kansas gas spill may have potential claims or lawsuits against MGP Ingredients as a result of the spill. While injuries of a very short duration may not be valued very highly, medical bills as well as incidental or special damages can also be assessed, in addition to damages for pain and distress. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) Health Hazards (FindLaw’s Injured) Samsung Hit With First U.S. Lawsuit for Exploding Note 7 Smartphone (FindLaw’s Injured) Student Slips in Vomit, Suffers Brain Damage, Sues School for $1.3M (FindLaw’s Injured)
continue reading

Can You Give Someone Marijuana as a Gift?

'Tis the season for giving, and some of you may be wondering if your gifts can be a little ... greener this year. And while we would love to give you a clear-cut answer on giving the gift of marijuana, the fact remains that pot laws and your ability to give someone pot as a gift will depend on where you, and that person, live. So before you put a bow on that bud, here are some drug laws to keep in mind: State-by-State Statutes Currently the legal status of marijuana is a patchwork of varying state laws overlaid with a nationwide prohibition. (Although federal authorities have said they will allow states to prosecute their own drug laws, you should know that any marijuana cultivation, possession, or distribution remains illegal under federal drug laws.) And even among states that do allow recreational pot sales, regulations may differ: Alaska restricts plant possession: Residents may have six marijuana plants, but only three can be mature and flowering at one time; Colorado sales depend on your residency: Coloradans can purchase 1 ounce of marijuana, out-of-staters can only purchase half an ounce; D.C. doesn't allow sales: While you can possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to six plants in the nation's capital, the district didn't legalize pot shops or sales; Oregon bans weed delivery: You can possess up to eight ounces of marijuana, but delivery of pot is a felony; Washington pot limited to in-store sales: The state hasn't approved home ownership of marijuana plants. So don't do anything with weed this holiday season before you know the marijuana laws in your state. More Marijuana Mandates Obviously whether you can even legally purchase marijuana will be the first concern when it comes to giving pot as a gift, but even if you can buy it, there are some other restrictions and regulations you may want to be aware of. First off, the feds are still in charge of postal service, so you can't just mail the marijuana to your friends or family. Second, there are legal limits on travelling with pot, and crossing state lines with marijuana is generally a no-no. So just because it's easier to get weed doesn't mean it's easy to give weed. While that special person may appreciate the gift of marijuana, make sure your giving is legal. Related Resources: Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Overview (FindLaw) Seven States Struggling With Medical Marijuana (FindLaw Blotter) Snoop Dogg Invests in Medical Marijuana Delivery Service (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Does Indiana's Religious Freedom Law Cover Marijuana Church? (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
continue reading

5 Reasons Travel Insurance Policies Are Invalidated

You are planning a holiday trip and looking forward to it. Everything is ready from your bags to your mini toiletries and travel insurance. So now you can just relax, right? Well, not quite. You can relax, but maybe not with a drink, and certainly not with any illegal drugs, and probably not if your plans include any extreme sports. Here is a list, adapted from the Consumer Insurance Guide, with the top five reasons that insurers give for invalidating travel insurance. Traveler Top Five 1. Failure to disclose. Although trip insurance is for a much shorter time period than your regular health insurance, you still must disclose your medical status. Pre-existing medical conditions, including mental, nervous, or emotional disorders, that are not disclosed can invalidate your insurance. 2. Failure to prepare. If you do not take your prescribed medication while traveling, or ignore a doctors' orders to avoid travel, that may invalidate trip insurance. It is also possible that any claims will be denied if you seek treatment resulting from a tropical disease for which there was a vaccine that you did not take. Similarly, claims resulting from sexually transmitted disease or self-inflicted injuries will likely end up denied. 3. Alcohol and Drug Use. Almost every insurance policy has a clause stating that there is no coverage from injuries resulting from use of illegal drugs or excessive drinking. Be particularly wary of these clauses and read the fine print on your trip insurance very carefully. You may not consider the amount of alcohol you consume "excessive" but you can probably bet that an insurer's standards are more strict than your own. As for drugs, even if a substance is legal in the locale you are visiting, it is possible and even likely that an insurer's policy will be used to invalidate a claim. 4. Extreme sports and general adventurousness. While extreme sports fans see their activities as thrilling, an insurer sees almost any adventurousness as risky. That means if you have plans to ride mopeds, jet ski or bungee jump, among other activities, you need to check that insurance will cover these in advance. If you plan to skydive, speak to a specialist, the Consumer Insurance Guide recommends. 5. Reckless or illegal behavior. This is a kind of catch-all category on almost every policy that allows an insurer to deny a claim with some ease. Even if your behavior does not end with you charged with a crime, an insurer can nonetheless invalidate your policy based on behavior it deems reckless. Need a Drink? If you find all those limitations on your insurance confusing and you need a drink now, do not despair. You are not alone. Insurance is very complicated and policies are often deliberately difficult to understand. Talk to a lawyer if you need a hand with your trip insurance or any other policy. Counsel can help ensure that you are covered to the full extent. Related Resources: Find a Lawyer (FindLaw Directory) Air Travel Rules FAQ (FindLaw) Hotel Questions and Answers (FindLaw)
continue reading

Can I Sue for Being Overworked?

You’re lucky if you work 40 hours per week. Many other employees work 50, 60, or even 70 hours per week. Constantly working too many hours can have serious negative impact on your health, your state of mind, and even your social life. Are you overworking yourself because you need extra money? Or, is your employer overworking you because the business doesn’t want to hire another employee? Can you sue for being overworked? No Law Limits an Employee’s Hours There is no law limiting the total number of hours an employer can make an employee work. So, there is no cause of action for you to sue for being overworked.However, there may be other issues that can enable you to sue or to seek compensation. Overtime Pay An employer can require you to work as many hours as they want as long as they pay you. Federal and state labor laws require overtime pay for hours worked above a certain level. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must pay overtime if an employee works more than 40 hours per week. Any hours worked over 40 hours must be paid at one and one half the employee’s regular rate of pay. Sadly, this rule currently does not apply to exempt employees who perform executive, professional, or administrative duties. Some state laws are even more generous to employees. In California, employers must pay overtime if an employee works more than eight hours per day, even if they do not eventually work more than 40 hours per week. If your employer is making your work more than 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day, in certain states, without paying overtime, consult an experienced wage and hour law attorney for help. Workers’ Compensation In addition to suing for overtime, you may be able to make a workers’ compensation claim if overworking affects you physically. According to the Mayo Clinic, working too much can cause headache, neck pain, back pain, depression, or chronic fatigue. Also, if you work more than 10 hours per day, you have 60 percent higher chance of getting a heart attack than someone who works only eight hours per day. When you are injured at work by your work duties or the conditions of your work, workers’ compensation pays you for your medical bills and lost wages. If you suffer an injury because you are overworked, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for help. Related Resources: Hurt on the job? Have your injury claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury) Ca. Overtime Laws Apply to Nonresident Workers (FindLaw’s Free Enterprise) Could Young Associate’s Death Have Been From Overworking at Firm? (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates) Did Long Hours, Overwork Kill Skadden Associate, 32? (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)
continue reading
12