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Tips for Students to Help Prevent School Shootings

It unfortunately seems that the frequency of school shootings has increased. Just yesterday, at least 17 people were killed during a school shooting in Florida. Every time there's a school shooting, the debate on gun control comes to the forefront of the news. While this is a valid debate, it seems that more is at play than just preventing people from being able to buy guns. There may be things that parents, staff members at school, and other students can do to help prevent these tragedies in the future. Can Anything Be Done to Prevent School Shootings? A school shooting can't always be prevented, especially if the shooter doesn't exhibit any signs of violent tendencies or indication that he or she is planning a school shooting. However, there are signs sometimes that someone is planning something, and if you notice such signs, it's a good idea to pay attention to these signs and take them seriously. This is true for parents, school staff, and students. For example, the suspect in the Florida school shooting -- Nikolas Cruz -- was described by students and neighbors as a troubled teen.Tips for StudentsTo help prevent school shootings, students should:Know the warning signs of a mass shooting.Alert a teacher, parent, of law enforcement officer as soon as you become aware of a threat.Understand that "reporting" is not the same as "snitching" because the goal of reporting a crime is to protect students, while the goal of snitching is to get someone in trouble.Remember that you can be charged with failure to report a crime if you know about a threat and don't do anything. Students can be especially helpful since they spend more time around each other than they do with school staff, and usually have access to classmates' social media accounts. In the case of the Cruz, the Associated Press reports that he threatened and harassed peers and has disturbing photos on social media. Parents Can Be Liable It's often not clear what leads a person to commit a school shooting. It could be the home environment or being bullied at school or mental illness, or a combination of all of these things. While people often have the knee-jerk reaction of blaming parents for such tragedies, it's not necessarily their fault.But it's important to note that there are times that parents can be held accountable for school violence committed by their child. One prime example is if parents are careless with their firearms and their child uses the firearm in a school shooting. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Suspect in Florida school massacre charged with 17 murders (Reuters) Weapons at School (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Do You Have to Report a Crime If You See One? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Student Loan Forgiveness Options May Disappear Under New Budget Plan

Higher education is important to many people, but it doesn't come cheap. In order to get a college or graduate degree, many people need student loans. Of course, the hope is that once you receive a degree, you'll be able to get a job, and repay your student loans.However, this isn't as easy as it theoretically seems. For this reason, there are various repayment options for people who take out student loans. But, under President Trump's new spending plan proposal, there are many changes to repayment options for those who owe money for federal student loans. What Would Be Changing? The budget plan, as currently written, would do away with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and curtail income-based loan repayment plans. The plan would also cut funding for federal work study in half, and embolden the government to go after students who aren't paying their loans. These changes to student loans would apply to those students who borrow after July 1, 2019, and would not include loans provided to borrowers to finish their current education. In regard to income-driven repayment plans, they would be reduced from four options to one option. Under the one option, a student's monthly payment wouldn't be more than 12.5% of his or her discretionary income. One positive aspect of the income-driven repayment plan under the new budget is that undergraduate students would have their loan forgiven after 15 years. For reference, these types of loans are currently forgiven after 20 years. What Happens If You Can Repay Your Student Loans? There are some options for those who can't pay back their student loans, and those options will vary depending on whether you have private or public loans. Under the new budget plan, people who fall into delinquency repaying their federal loans would be subject to more stringent enforcement. More specifically, the new budget plan calls to "streamline the Department of Education's ability to verify applicants' income data held by the Internal Revenue Service." If you're concerned about repaying your student loans, or want to find out about your repayment options, it may be a good idea to speak with a local attorney. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Higher Education (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Pennsylvania Attorney General Sues Nation's Largest Student Loan Servicer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Non-Dischargeable vs. Dischargeable Debt in Bankruptcy (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Tips for Talking to a Lawyer on the Phone

Almost everyone knows that you have a right to counsel if you've been charged with a crime. People will also be inclined to seek out a lawyer if they want to file a lawsuit, or if they're being sued. But, there are many other instances where a lawyer can be very helpful.For example, it's usually a good idea to consult with a lawyer while planning your estate because he or she can ensure that your estate plan is in compliance with your state's laws, and can advise you on how to reduce your estate taxes. But, how do you decide when to call an attorney? And how do you decide if the attorney you call is right for you? These are valid and important questions to ask yourself when you're thinking about hiring an attorney. Read on for some tips for talking to a lawyer on the phone. How Do I Find a Lawyer? If you have friends or family who have already used a lawyer (that they were happy with) in a similar legal matter, it's a good idea to ask them for the lawyer's contact information. But, maybe you don't feel comfortable asking someone you know for a lawyer recommendation because you want to keep your legal matter private. While recommendations are helpful, there are other ways to find a lawyer, including researching the attorney online. You can read reviews and it's also a good idea to research a lawyer's discipline record. The First Call Whether you found a lawyer through a recommendation or you found one through your own research, the first call can be very important. For this reason, it's important to be prepared for this conversation.First, you should have a list of questions ready to ask the lawyer, including questions about his or hers experience with legal matters such as yours. Second, you should have a fairly detailed summary of the legal matter that you're seeking counsel for. If you have any documentation related to your legal matter (such as a complaint you've been served), it's a good idea to have those documents in front of you.Finally, talking to a lawyer on the phone will help you to also get a feel for his or her personality, including the lawyer's ability to explain things clearly. Just remember that the initial conversation with a lawyer is not only the time for the lawyer to decide whether he or she wants to take the case, but also for you to decide if you want that particular lawyer for your legal issue. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Guide to Hiring a Lawyer (FindLaws' Learn About the Law) Should I Have an Annual Legal Checkup With a Lawyer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Reasons to Hire an Attorney Decades Before You Retire (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Sara Kropf Wins Inspiring Not Guilty Verdict for Protester Client in D.C. Street Riot Case

Just before year-end, Sara Kropf and her client got the best holiday gift ever –  an acquittal of all charges.  Sara, a Washington, D.C. defense attorney, was representing a street medic charged with rioting and destruction of property stemming from protests held during President Trump’s January 20, 2017 inauguration. Noting that her client attended the protests armed with bandages, Sara was quoted by Washington’s Tops News as stating, “According to the government, showing up with a fanny pack with Band Aids… is equivalent to the people who smashed the Starbucks window.” Sara’s inspirational closing argument was featured in news articles around the world.  A Washington Post article said Sara focused on a police radio report where a commander identified the demonstrators as “anarchists” and quoted her as stating“[t]his is about politics,” before the six-person D.C. Superior Court jury acquitted all the defendants on the felony charges on December 21. “This is about police and local prosecutors who work for the Department of Justice. And we know who they report to,” she said, referring to President Trump. The defendants included a nurse, a freelance photographer and a college student who were among more than 200 protesters arrested in a police round-up northeast of the White House. During the daylong protest, vandals had caused an estimated $100,000 in property damage, according to the government. Eventually, prosecutors charged 212 people in connection with the protests. Twenty pleaded guilty, and charges were dropped against another 20. In this case, federal prosecutors failed to link the six defendants with any violent or destructive acts. Instead, they argued that they had “provided cover” for the vandalism – an argument immediately challenged by Kropf and her colleagues on the defense side.  For example, they showed that the social media posts and “likes” of a detective who was one of the government’s key witnesses were critical of social protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. They also noted that the commanding officer of the police did not give a dispersal order to the protesters before encircling and arresting them – contrary to the department’s standard procedure. Most importantly, the defense attorneys pointed out that there was no evidence that any of the six participants had broken windows, caused property damage or encouraged others to commit illegal acts. Even before the government presented the case to the jury, Judge Lynn Leibovitz threw out the most serious charge – inciting a riot.  However, it took two full days of deliberations after the nearly four-week trial before the not guilty verdicts were delivered. As Kropf said in her closing, “All the government proved was that these individuals showed up and walked as protesters. And that is not a crime.”  We will always need lawyers and citizens willing to stand up against government over-reach. That is what happened here. What a courageous victory for both Sara Kropf and her client.  Huge congrats! The post Sara Kropf Wins Inspiring Not Guilty Verdict for Protester Client in D.C. Street Riot Case appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Should You Add Bitcoin to Your Estate Plan?

Even though many people may feel uncomfortable planning for death, it's an important thing to do, especially for your loved ones. In the absence of an estate plan, property will be divided based on state intestacy laws, which could result in your assets going to people you don't want them to go to, and it can be a hassle for your loved ones.Assuming that you've decided to plan your estate, you may wonder what you should include. Well, the more detailed you have, the better. And, if your property changes -- maybe you added new investments, such as Bitcoin -- it's best to add that to your estate plan as well. It's All in the Details Probate issues can easily become overly complicated because family members often end up fighting with each other over their deceased relative's assets. To avoid this, it's important to be as detailed as possible in your estate plan, both in listing beneficiaries for particular items or sums of money, and making sure to list all of your assets. This includes any investments, such as real property, stocks, or Bitcoin. When it comes to Bitcoin, or other types of cryptocurrency, it's important to be a little more detailed than you may be with other property. For example, when you have an investment account at a bank, it'll list the particular stocks you have in your portfolio and will usually allow you to designate a beneficiary. The nature of cryptocurrencies is secretive, so it can be much more difficult to get access to it once the investor dies. For this reason, it's important to not only list that you own Bitcoin, but also list where it was bought and how it can be accessed. Show You Care It's hard enough to grieve the death of someone you love, but also trying to sort through his or her assets, and possibly deal with greedy relatives, can make it unbearable. So, show your loved ones you care about them by planning your estate, or updating your estate to include any new assets. And, if you don't know where to start or need professional help to plan your estate, you can contact a local attorney who can guide you through the estate planning process and make sure you have a solid estate plan. Related Resources: Find an Estate Planning Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Estate Planning (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Digital Estate Planning: How to Prepare Digital Accounts for the End of Life (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Bitcoin and Estate Planning: Top FAQs (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Amtrak Liability for Train Accident Deaths

Your legal rights don't expire when you die. Wrongful death lawsuits allow surviving family members to sue train operators for these damages and to hold them accountable. So what's Amtrak's liability for train accident deaths? Well, it's clear but complicated. Trains Are Common Carriers Trains, planes, and automobiles are what lawyers call common carriers. A common carrier is anything that transports people or goods for a fee owes passengers a higher duty of care in ensuring their safety. Common carrier liability is an old but sensible legal concept. A driver of a car is responsible for his accidents; anyone hauling many people should be even more careful. It's common for wrongful death lawsuits against train operators to cite common carrier liability (among other grounds) when suing. Amtrak's Liability It's common for train accident related deaths to rack up huge medical bills, lost income to family and dependents, funeral costs, possible property damage, and more. These costs can be prohibitive for family members and don't go away. Amtrak, despite receiving government funds, is liable for its torts like most government entities. However, there's a catch. Congress has capped Amtrak's liability at $295 million. That may sound like a lot, but when you're talking about over eighty people's hospital costs, lost income from missing work, continuing health needs and rehab bills, and more -- it adds up pretty fast. Amtrak Train Accident Lawsuits Amtrak's issues have made recent news, including a derailment in Washington State in December 2017. Two survivors of that crash have already sued for personal injuries sustained in the crash, the first of what's expected to be many similar lawsuits. Related Resources Find a personal injury attorney near you (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Laws Govern The Amtrak Crash? (FindLaw's Injured) Common Carrier Liability in Light of Amtrak Crash in PA (FindLaw's Injured)
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When Is It Illegal for a Nursing Home to Evict Residents?

There are broad legal protections for nursing home residents. Federal and state laws prevent nursing homes from arbitrarily evicting patients, a process called 'involuntary discharge.' Yet complaints about wrongful nursing home evictions are rising. It's a problem that wraps up the care needs of resident patients with the difficult realities of running a nursing home. Prohibited Nursing Home Evictions Federal law protects against abusive nursing home practices, including unjustly evicting sick patients. Often complaints center on homes making room for more desirable (paying) patients, which is prohibited under law but affects a home's bottom line. Nursing homes are required to ensure that discharged patients have someplace to go as well. These federal requirements are tied to a nursing home's receipt of Medicare and Medicaid certification and funds -- which are important to the industry's credibility and business viability. Federal enforcement of violations is out there. Many states have similar legal protections and enforcement agencies. Protecting Nursing Home Rights While legal protections exist, it's important to understand their limits. Nursing homes can involuntarily discharge patients in specific situations. Patients whose needs can't be met or whose presence poses risks to other patients can be discharged. Failure to pay is another reason. It's not uncommon for patients to come in on Medicare only for their benefits to run out. When that happens, costs aren't covered and eviction becomes possible. Wrongful Evictions: What to Do? You and your loved ones have rights against wrongful eviction from a nursing home. You can file a complaint with a federal or state regulatory agency, or else contact a local elder law attorney for help. Related Resources Find Elder Law Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Nursing Home Residents: 5 Legal Rights (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life Blog) Protecting Nursing Home Residents from Eviction (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) As Nursing Homes Evict Patients, States Question Motives (NPR)
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Accused of Domestic Violence: What to Do

Domestic violence doesn't discriminate -- it can occur in rich homes and poor homes, and can affect people of any race. While domestic violence laws vary from state to state, it's usually classified as a serious crime in all jurisdictions. Unfortunately, sometimes someone may accuse his or her partner of domestic violence even though it's not true. A person may do this out of spite or to gain the upper hand in a divorce. However, even if the domestic violence charges are dismissed, just being accused of domestic violence can have a negative impact on your life. How Can Being Accused of Domestic Violence Affect You? There are various ways that an accusation that you have committed domestic violence can affect you. First, an accusation alone can ruin your reputation, which in turn can negatively impact your personal and professional life. If your partner reports it to the police, it can result in criminal charges, even if your partner recants.Your partner has other recourse under the law as well, such as filing a civil lawsuit. If you're involved in a divorce or legal separation, a domestic violence accusation can also affect child custody decisions. Finally, even though not everyone wants to own a gun, a domestic violence offender (if convicted or if the alleged victim has a restraining order) is prohibited from buying a gun under federal law.What to Do to Protect YourselfEvery person's situation is different, but there are some general things you can to do protect yourself if you are being accused -- especially if the accusations are completely false. First, don't say anything that may be used against you in court, and don't escalate the situation.Then, contact your family to let them know of the situation. It's possible your accuser could try to turn your family against you. If the accusations are false, you should get out ahead of them so that your family doesn't turn against you.Also, you should consider protecting your valuables and changing your passwords. This will help prevent your accuser from substantiating false claims. For example, an accuser could send threatening text messages or emails from your device in an attempt to establish evidence of your abuse. Don't let this happen.Most importantly, you should talk to a legal professional.Seeking Legal Help Considering the consequences of being convicted or even accused of domestic violence, the best course of action is to contact an attorney near you to discuss the circumstances of your case and come up with the best defense.Even if the police have not gotten involved yet, you may want to contact a legal professional if someone has threatened to accuse you of domestic violence. A legal professional can help you understand your situation and may even be able to mitigate your domestic disputes before they become more serious. Related Resources: Find Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Domestic Violence (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Can a Domestic Violence Conviction Be Expunged From Your Record? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Still Own a Gun After a Domestic Violence Conviction? (FindLaw's Blotter) Top 5 Domestic Violence Questions (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Woman Sues Doctor for Bias in Denying Injury Claim

When you suffer an injury at work or in an accident, you're usually entitled to insurance benefits to cover the expenses related to treating your injuries. Unfortunately, collecting insurance benefits isn't as easy as simply filing an insurance claim. After filing a claim, the insurance company will usually investigate the claim to make sure you qualify for insurance. This investigation can include anything from talking to you to having a doctor provided by the insurance company to examine you. If you think that having a medical examination by a doctor recommended by the insurance company investigating your claim seems a little biased, you're not alone. In fact, one woman has filed a lawsuit claiming that she was denied benefits because the doctor who examined her was biased in favor of the insurance company that recommended him. Do Insurance Companies Hire Biased Doctors? According to an article published in Argus Leader, which is part of the USA Today Network, Kristi Thompson suffered a debilitating neck injury at work, but was denied benefits because, according to her, the insurance company specifically hired a doctor that would dispute her injury claim.More specifically, Thompson's lawsuit accuses the insurance company of bad faith, including hiring a doctor that the company knew (or at least should have known) "was biased in favor of insurance companies." Thompson's claims aren't unfounded as there has been growing scrutiny of insurance companies' use of certain doctors who routinely provide reports in favor of insurance companies. In fact, the article mentions that in 2016, the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that a doctor's opinion alone isn't enough to deny an insurance claim.Navigating Bias in Your Personal Injury Claim While it's hard to know how often this occurs, there are certain steps you can take to help increase your chances of succeeding in your personal injury claim. One invaluable step is to contact a personal injury attorney, who will know the laws and procedures for personal injury claims in your state. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Torts and Personal Injuries (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Supreme Court Tightens Injury Lawsuit Rules (FindLaw's Injured) 5 Common Questions About Which Injuries Qualify for Workers' Compensation (FindLaw's Injured)
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Past Marijuana Convictions in San Francisco to Be Wiped Clean

It's rare for prosecutors to voluntarily dismiss cases. But thousands in one swoop? That gets headlines. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced Wednesday that his office will review and move to expunge thousands of Marijuana-related convictions in the city going back to 1975. Reversing Course Requires Reversing Convictions California voters legalized the recreational sale of marijuana by passing Proposition 64 in 2016. After decades criminalizing the possession, sale, and transportation of marijuana, the Golden State's about-face has upended California's marijuana laws. It's also left decades worth of convictions for marijuana-related offenses on the books, despite many of those convictions no longer being considered crimes. Prop 64 accordingly created a legal process for people to petition a court to have their convictions thrown out, but the process can be tedious. Dismissing Decades of Drug Convictions Cue the San Francisco DA's announcement. San Francisco will apply Prop 64 retroactively, moving on its own to dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions entered prior to Prop 64's passage. As many as 4,940 felony marijuana convictions will, in due time, be recalled and resentenced as well. It's a big solution to a big problem. Individuals convicted of marijuana offenses have to petition courts individually under the new law to remove their convictions. That kind of legal work takes initiative to commence, time to go to court, and money to file and hire lawyers -- three things many people with marijuana convictions might not have in abundance. The SF DA's move does it en masse. What Happens Next? In the absence of statewide legislation or similar efforts in other jurisdictions, Californians looking to utilize Prop 64's recall route will need to petition a court. That's something a good lawyer can help with. Related Resources: Find a Drug Crime Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) San Francisco to Dismiss Thousands of Pot Convictions (Reuters) What to Do If You Have a Marijuana Conviction in California (FindLaw's Blotter)
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