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Sandy Hook Victims’ Families’ Lawsuit Dismissed Against Gun Maker

Recently, a Connecticut judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by the families of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre against the gun manufacturer of the weapon used for the killings. Pursuant to a 2005 act signed into law by George W. Bush, the Protection of Lawful Commerce of Arms Act (PLCAA), the case was dismissed as the judge ruled the gun manufacturer could not be held liable. Under the PLCAA, a gun manufacturer or dealer cannot be held liable for how a gun is used if the gun was sold legally. The families of the victims based their lawsuit on a theory of negligent entrustment, which is one of the few exceptions to the PLCAA. Gun Manufacturers and Dealers Are Immune The PLCAA protects gun manufacturers and dealers from liability for how their guns are used so long as the sale of the weapon was lawful. In the Sandy Hook case, the shooter did not purchase the weapon, but rather obtained it from his mother, whom he killed. As such, making the argument that the dealer was negligent by entrusting the weapon to the killer just does not work as neither dealer, nor manufacturer, had any interaction with the actual killer. The judge in the matter also explained that the 2005 PLCAA intended to give gun dealers and manufacturers broad immunity. A Never-Ending Battle The attorney for the families has pledged to file an appeal and continue fighting. While the fight may seem futile, especially given the PLCAA broad protections for gun dealers and manufacturers, the attorneys and victims’ families believe very strongly that the gun manufacturer should be held liable. As part of their negligent entrustment theory, they claimed that the manufacturer and dealer were negligent by entrusting anyone with the weapon as it is designed to kill people. The manufacturer denies that claim, and convinced a court that the PLCAA prevents them from being liable at all. As a counterpoint, gun groups view this lawsuit very differently. They point out that the AR-15 rifle, which was the one used in Sandy Hook, is one of the most common rifles sold in America, and that it is not an automatic assault rifle, despite the aggressive, militarized look. Additionally, pro-gun groups argue that the PLCAA protections are reasonable, and that the person who pulls the trigger, not the company that makes the trigger, should be liable. Related Resources: Injured by a gun? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) Chemical Spill in Kansas Hospitalizes Over 100 People (FindLaw’s Injured) When to Sue a Chiropractor for Injury (FindLaw’s Injured) Is Apple Liable for Distracted Driving Accidents? (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Can the President Bypass Congress on Gun Control?

Gun control advocates have long sought to close the so-called gun show loophole that allows people to buy firearms without submitting to the same background check requirements imposed on licensed dealers. But congressional attempts at passing such legislation have thus far been fruitless. So President Barack Obama may decide to take matters into his own hands. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Obama administration is considering the use of an executive order to expand background checks on gun sales. How do these orders work? And can the president really pass gun control laws without congressional approval? Going Solo It's no secret that Obama wants stricter gun controls. The president pushed for expanded background checks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting three years ago, but that legislation died in the Senate. He tried again after the Umpqua Community College shooting in October, but measures for more background checks and bans on sales to people on the government's anti-terrorist "no fly" list both failed. Now the White House is looking to circumvent the legislature altogether. According to reports, officials have been working on an executive order that would use existing laws to require all (or nearly all) gun purchases to be cleared by the same background check system.While the order has not been finalized, Obama is said to be looking at expanding license requirements by defining what it means to be "in the business" of dealing guns -- those deemed in the business are required to perform background checks while those that aren't don't. If occasional sellers like those at gun shows are required to obtain a license to sell firearms it would also expand background check requirements. Chief Executive Order Leaving to one side the question of whether tougher gun control laws will lead to fewer shooting deaths (even though evidence suggests that they do), the issue becomes whether this exercise of presidential power is even legal. An executive order is a policy statement that interprets and directs the implementation of existing federal statutes, congressional provisions, or treaties. Executive orders aren't so much new laws as they are changing or clarifying the policy on existing laws, and generally aren't used without some congressional approval. And executive orders are still subject to judicial review for constitutionality. Hence Obama's delay in formally announcing or implementing an executive order on gun control. Despite his desire to make it more difficult for violent people to purchase firearms, drafting an order that will accomplish that and appease enough congresspeople to be successfully implemented may prove as politically intractable as the legislature. Related Resources: Obama Looks to Expand Background Checks for Gun Sales (Time) Obama's Gun Proposals Target Mental Health Too (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Will Obama's Executive Order on Student Loans Pay Off for You? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Obama's Executive Order on Immigration: 5 Things You Should Know (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Was Your Privacy Compromised by the OPM Hack?

The recent hack of the Office of Personnel Management exposed the personal information of some 21.5 million people. That's almost 15 percent of the country. So understandably, it may take some time to notify all those people. Could you be one of them? Here's what the OPM does, and why they may have your personal information. Federal HR The OPM handles job postings for the federal government, sets policies for hiring those positions, and conducts the background investigations for prospective employees and contractors. So not only would they have personal information for federal employees, but also for references and contacts those employees listed for their background checks. As noted by The Hill, "The total includes 19.7 million contractors and employees who went through security clearance checks going back to 2000 and 1.8 million non-government workers, such as spouses and relatives, named in those checks." And the information for those individuals includes everything from the standard Social Security Numbers, addresses, and employment history to criminal records and even (1.1 million!) fingerprints. You, Too? So if you work for the federal government, or you know someone who does, it's possible your information was compromised. While many think hackers in China are responsible for the data breach, the source remains unknown, as do the motives behind the hack. The number of affected people as also varied. Initially, the government said 4.2 million personnel files were exposed, and almost of those have been notified already. A month later, the total number exploded to over 20 million, and OPM is still not sure how it will contact everyone. If you've never applied to a federal government position, worked for the feds, or been contacted regarding someone else's application, you're probably safe. In the meantime, you should take steps to protect your privacy, and keep a close eye on your bank records and credit report. Related Resources: 22 Million Affected by OPM Hack, Officials Say (ABC News) OPM Hack: Overview of the Long Term Implications (FindLaw's Technologist) Snapchat Hacked: 4.6M Users' Data Published (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Anthem Hack Spurs 'Phishing' Email Scam: How to Stay Safe (FindLaw's Common Law)
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Strippers: San Diego Cops Violated Civil Rights

A group of San Diego strippers is accusing the city's police department of civil rights violations after a raid at the club that employed them. Twenty-five dancers employed by Cheetahs, a "gentlemans club," have filed a claim against the city, alleging that 10 San Diego police officers held them for about an hour and forced them to "pose in various positions and expose body parts" while being photographed, reports U-T San Diego. Police maintain the investigation was routine. But do the strippers have a case? Invasion of Privacy Alleged Although Cheetahs is a place where you might go to see female dancers expose themselves, it's a different story when these women are forced to reveal themselves outside of work. According to the claim filed by the dancers, San Diego's boys in blue raided Cheetahs on March 6 in order to "check 30 dancers' permits," San Diego's KNSD-TV reports. In San Diego, like many other cities and states, adult entertainers (including exotic dancers) need to have special permits in order to legally work at a licensed strip club. Under the city's municipal code, police are authorized to regulate adult entertainment businesses and perform background checks (including fingerprinting) on all permit applicants. The San Diego cops in question allegedly went well beyond asking these women for their permits, telling dancers to "smile" as they took revealing photos of dancers' tattoos. San Diego Police Lt. Kevin Mayer explained that recording tattoos is "an important part of the inspection process" because dancers can often change their appearances through wigs and makeup, reports U-T San Diego. But when does a routine investigation cross the line into police misconduct? Have Civil Rights Been Violated? Law enforcement officers need probable cause and/or a search warrant in order to search a person's body, and regardless of the evidence, the search must be objectively reasonable. Anything more could be a violation of a person's civil rights. Even if police were at Cheetahs for a legal permit inspection, it could arguably be unreasonable for officers to take an hour to photograph the dancers' tattooed bodies to properly identify them. Especially since all permitted adult entertainers should have undergone fingerprinting, a quick fingerprint test would have sufficed. KNSD reports that the dancers' claim against the city of San Diego asks for more than $10,000 in damages. Because there is a particular process in place for suing government entities, the strippers must first wait for their claim to be denied before they can file a lawsuit. Related Resources: Strippers file claim against city of San Diego after Kearny Mesa strip club raid (San Diego's KGTV) Club's Strippers Are Employees, Kan. Supreme Court Rules (FindLaw's Decided) When Can Police Conduct a Strip Search? (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse Civil Rights Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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What Happens After a DUI in a Foreign Country?

Getting a DUI in a foreign country is bad news -- just ask "Star Trek" actor Chris Pine, who had to pay more than $400 in fines and court costs after a drunken-driving arrest in New Zealand, Reuters reports. Although it's unclear how Pine's out-of-country DUI will affect him back in the United States, generally speaking, a foreign DUI can still have an impact after you return to your home country. Here are four things that could potentially happen after getting a DUI in foreign country: Your immigration status may be affected. Although foreigners who are first-time DUI offenders in the United States probably won't get deported unless there are other factors that make it a crime of violence or aggravated felony, the conviction could hurt their immigration status. For foreigners who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens, a DUI could be a roadblock to meeting the "good character" requirement. Expungement may not be an option. Expungement is a legal process that allows a past arrest or conviction to be erased from an individual's criminal record. Depending on the law of the country where your DUI conviction occurred, you may not be able to expunge the crime from your record. If the record isn't expunged, it can come up in background checks. It may impact sentencing for other crimes. Although the DUI occurred in a foreign country, that conviction or arrest can be considered if you're being sentenced for another crime in the States. Repeat offenders tend to get harsher punishments than first-time offenders, so a DUI in another country can still follow you back home and count against you. You may be barred from going back to the foreign country. Visitors with a criminal record may be denied entry into a foreign country. Even high-profile celebrities aren't immune from this: You may recall Mike Tyson was barred from entering the United Kingdom because of a rape conviction. Under UK law, travelers who've been convicted of an offense that includes a prison term of at least four years can potentially be denied entry. Several other countries have similar types of entry laws. Perhaps it's the anonymity of being in a foreign country that causes some people to forget to follow drunken-driving laws. If you're concerned about how a DUI in a foreign country will affect you back home, consult an experienced DUI attorney for more help. Related Resources: Chris Pine Drunken Driving: 'Star Trek' Actor Pleads Guilty To DUI Charges In New Zealand (The Associated Press) Victim of Crime Abroad? Here's What to Do (FindLaw's Blotter) Can You Expunge Out-of-State Convictions? (FindLaw's Blotter) What to Do If You're Arrested in a Foreign Country (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Legal How-To: Becoming a Guardian

Legal guardians can be appointed to take care of children and incapacitated adults. So how does one become a legal guardian? Becoming a legal guardian requires a court order. Once the guardianship relationship is established, the guardian will be legally responsible for the care and supervision of minors or adults who are unable to care for themselves. Here are the basic steps toward becoming a guardian: Fill out and file forms with the court. The first step you need to take to become a guardian is to fill out the appropriate forms and file them with the court. You should obtain forms from the county where the person needing a guardian lives. For example, in California, a potential guardian will need to fill out a Petition for Appointment of Guardian (among other forms), file the forms, and give notice to the appropriate people and agencies. This will probably include relatives of the person you're seeking guardianship over. Provide proof that the person needs a guardian. In some scenarios, like if a child's parents pass away, it's evident that a guardian is needed to step in. For children, the court will look at the child's best interests in deciding if you're the best guardian choice. However, for incapacitated adults, you'll need to provide proof that the person has a disability that imposes great limitations upon his ability to take care of himself, earn a living, or live independently without the care of others. For incapacitated adults, the court will likely only give guardians the power to oversee the things the individual can't accomplish by himself. Prepare for a court investigation. Once the forms have been processed by the court, a court investigator will prepare an investigative report. When minors are involved, a court investigator will likely visit the home and interview the child and her family and conduct background checks on the guardian. For adults needing a guardian, they'll likely need to undergo a psychological evaluation that will be presented to the court. Attend a court hearing. Guardianship issues are usually decided by a family court or probate court. Some cases are straightforward. But if there are unresolved issues -- including questions about your fitness as a potential guardian or the capacity of the person to be placed under guardianship -- a judge may order a trial. If that happens, you may want to seek help from a legal professional. Need More Help? While you're allowed to represent yourself at a guardianship hearing, it's a good idea to at least consult a family law or probate and estate planning attorney for more guidance on how to present your case. Local attorneys will be familiar with your local courts and judges, and will be able to offer advice tailored to your unique situation. It may also be wise to call an attorney when you're beginning the guardianship process, to make sure you're going through the steps correctly. To learn more, check out FindLaw's comprehensive section on Guardianship. Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo. Related Resources: How to Establish Guardianship of a Child FAQs (FindLaw) What is Guardianship of a Child? The Legal Battle Over Michael Jackson's Kids (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 3rd Party Guardianship Petition OK in "Octo-mom" case (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Sign Up for Our Free Legal Planning Newsletter (FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up)
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Facebook Posts New Rules for Gun Sales

Facebook is cracking down on posts for illegal gun sales, and other social media outlets may soon follow suit. On Wednesday, Facebook announced that it would step up its enforcement efforts regarding gun sales on its social network -- especially when the seller is trying to evade the law. What are Facebook's new rules for gun sales? Stopping 'No Background Check' Gun Sales Facebook's head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, laid out several "educational and enforcement efforts" that Facebook and Instagram would be implementing as part of a shift in policy. Among those efforts is a prohibition against posting offers to sell firearms with "no background check required." Although there are some loopholes that allow private sales of guns without a background check, Bickert stated that Facebook will encourage users to follow the law. Since there are no laws requiring background checks in these "loophole" private gun sales in most states -- more than 30 states to be exact, according to Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence -- Facebook may be requiring more of sellers than their states' laws might. Facebook will also be cracking down on offers that support gun sales across state lines. These federal regulations on interstate gun transfers won out over challenges in federal court in February, and Facebook seems happy to side with them. Not Just Guns, 'Regulated' Items Covered Too Although Facebook's new rules are aimed at curtailing questionable gun sales, the new rules technically cover private sales of any "regulated items." Surprisingly, some drug dealers have taken to social media to sell their illegal wares, and Facebook and Instagram have been popular venues. Despite the sale of pot being illegal (outside of a state-licensed retail center or medical marijuana distributor) in every state in the nation, Facebook's ad policy doesn't allow advertising for any "recreational" or illegal drugs. While that may sound provincial to some, Facebook is a private company and can determine what types of content it chooses to host. When Facebook tackled hate speech last spring, it faced claims of First Amendment and free speech violations, and no doubt gun advocates will not be far behind. Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said he was not deterred by Facebook's new rules. Cox noted the NRA and its members "will continue to have a platform to exercise their First Amendment rights in support of their Second Amendment freedoms," reports Reuters. Related Resources: Facebook to delete posts for illegal gun sales (The Associated Press) NY Passes 1st New Gun Laws Since Sandy Hook (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Is It Legal to Mail Marijuana? (FindLaw's Blotter) Legal to Buy Prescription Drugs Online? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Brady Gun Law: What a Background Check Entails

Because of the Brady gun law, which went into effect 20 years ago this week, background checks are typically necessary for a civilian to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer. Although some states will have different procedures with regard to gun background checks, the NICS system is the standard in all states and is often administered by the FBI. What does an NICS background check entail? What Is NICS? While "NCIS" is a thrilling TV program about crimes in the Navy, NICS stands for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System -- the standard for background checks under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have pooled their resources to develop the NICS. According to the FBI, NICS provides an "almost immediate response" to background check inquiries by licensed gun retailers -- in as little as 30 seconds for most inquiries. Depending on the state of purchase, licensed gun sellers will either contact NICS directly or make a request to the state, which will serve as the point of contact for the NICS background check. If a potential match appears from an NICS check, a gun retailer may be told to either delay or deny a sale. If a licensed firearm retailer is told to delay the sale, the NICS examiner will inform the seller of a date three business days from that time. If no official response has been given within that date, it is up to the individual seller to decide whether to sell the firearm. Licensed gun dealers are required to record the results of the NICS check for every sale. What Appears on a NICS Check? Any number of red flags may come up in an NICS background check, which would cause a gun sale to be rejected. Some common red flags include: Felony convictions (or even indictments), Active warrants, Drug convictions or failed drug tests, Mental incompetency or insanity findings, Mental health evaluations (called "5150" holds in California), Illegal aliens or non-immigrant visas, Military dishonorable discharges, Restraining orders, and Domestic violence convictions. If any one of these arise during an NICS check, a seller will likely be told to deny a gun sale. Buyers denied because of NICS can appeal the determination using either the State Transaction Number (STN) or NICS Transaction Number (NTN). Related Resources: National Instant Criminal Background Check System (Federal Bureau of Investigation) Brady Gun Law Turns 20: A Brief Overview (FindLaw's Blotter) What Is the 'Gun Show Loophole'? (FindLaw's Blotter) Can Felons Legally Own Muzzle Loading Guns? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Brady Gun Law Turns 20: A Brief Overview

The Brady Handgun Violence Act -- aka the "Brady Act" or "Brady Law" -- went into effect 20 years ago this week, so it may be time to review the famous gun law. What triggered the law to begin with, and what are its key provisions? Here's a general breakdown of the gun law and its impact: Reagan Assassination Attempt Spurs Brady Bill On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. attempted to shoot and kill President Ronald Reagan using a gun he'd purchased at a pawn shop. Hinckley wounded President Reagan and three others, including Reagan's press secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head -- a wound that partially paralyzed him for life. Hinckley would later be found not guilty by a jury by reason of insanity -- he allegedly shot Reagan in an attempt to impress actress Jodie Foster -- and he is still under supervision by St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., NBC News reports. Brady's wife Sarah became a strong advocate for gun regulation, especially background checks for mental illness, after her husband's shooting. She argued that if a background check had been performed prior to Hinckley's gun purchase, her husband and President Reagan may never have been placed in danger. The Brady Bill Becomes Law Based on a need to tighten gun sales, the "Brady Bill" was first introduced to Congress in 1987. According to the Brady Campaign, the bill took a number of turns and revisions around the House and Senate before it arrived on President Bill Clinton's desk in 1993. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act went into effect on February 28, 1994. The act's key provisions include: Waiting periods and background checks for handgun purchases. Brady provided a background check structure for most states which lacked one for gun sales. The FBI still maintains the National Instant Criminal Background Check System under the Brady Act, and checks are either initiated by dealers or the state itself. A remedy for the erroneous denial of a handgun. Anyone denied a handgun under the Brady Act based on erroneous information can potentially sue the government over the error. One possible remedy would require the government to correct the inaccurate information. So what does a background check for gun sales entail under the Brady Act? We'll discuss that part of the law tomorrow. Editor's Note, February 26, 2014: This post has been revised to correct an editor's error regarding the key provisions of the Brady Act. Related resources: As 20th anniversary of Brady Bill looms, another bill set to expire (MSNBC) Supreme Court Rejects NRA's Gun-Law Appeals (FindLaw's Decided) What Is the Undetectable Firearms Act? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 10 States With the Toughest Gun Laws (FindLaw's Blotter)
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