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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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Florida Woman Sentenced for Kidnapping Newborn

Kidnapping is a serious crime, usually classified as a felony in most states. Just ask Gloria Williams, who was arrested in January 2017 for kidnapping Kamiyah Mobley as a newborn. Instead of going through a trial for the kidnapping, Williams has decided to plead guilty to the crime she committed 20 years ago. What Exactly Happened? In 1998, Williams, posing as a nurse, walked into University Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida and kidnapped Mobley. She changed Mobley's name to Alexis Manigo, and raised her as her own daughter. After more than two thousand tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Mobley was found in South Carolina, and her DNA matched the DNA of her birth parents. The victim has met her birth parents, but has chosen to continue using the name that Williams gave her. Kidnapping Laws in Florida Under Florida's kidnapping laws, kidnapping is defined as the abduction, confinement, or imprisonment of another person against his or her will. The kidnapping must also be committed "forcibly, secretly, or by threat" and without lawful authority. In the case of children who are less than 13 years old, "against his or her will" means that the offender confined the child without his or her parents' consent. Depending on the circumstances, a person may be committing kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping. In Williams' case, she committed aggravated kidnapping since Mobley was under 13 years old when Williams took her. Had Williams gone to trial and been found guilty, she could have been sentenced to life in prison. Under the terms of the plea agreement, she's facing up to 22 years in prison. She's set to be sentenced in May, although it's been reported that Mobley hopes that Williams gets a sentence of less than 10 years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) After 20 years, woman admits to kidnapping Florida baby (Associated Press) Criminal Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Mom Jailed for Not Vaccinating Son (FindLaw's Blotter)
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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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Florida Bill Bans Forced Child Marriage

While most people seem to be getting married at an older age these days, the age of consent under state marriage laws varies between 16 and 18. But there are instances where the age of consent is even lower, provided that there's parental and/or judicial consent. While this may seem reasonable since the assumption is that parents and judges have a child's best interests at heart, this is not always the case.Sometimes, due to various circumstances, a child is forced by his or her parents to get married. To address this concern and protect children from being forced into marriage, the Florida Senate recently passed a bill to end child marriage in the state. Why Would Parents Force Their Child to Get Married? When you think about instances of why someone would allow his or her child to get married younger than the age of consent, the first thing that comes to mind is that the child is in love and wants to get married. Unfortunately, it turns out that sometimes parents force their child to get married.This is what happened to Sherry Johnson, who, according the Associated Press, inspired the Florida Senate to pass this bill. The AP article explains that Johnson was raped by a church deacon when she was only 9 years old, gave birth at 10. And after pressure from the church, her mom gave her consent for Johnson (who was 11 at the time) to marry the deacon.Florida Bill on Child MarriageUnder Florida's current marriage laws, a person who is 16 or 17 can marry with their parents' consent. Additionally, there's no minimum age for marriage if a pregnancy is involved as long as the marriage license is approved by a judge. Under the new Florida bill, which was unanimously approved by Florida Senators, all marriage licenses would be banned for people under the age of 18.If the bill is signed into law, then what happened to Johnson will not happen to any other children in Florida. Related Resources: Find Family Law Attorneys Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Marriage Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Child Abuse (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) 3 Pieces of Parenting Advice That Might Be Illegal (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Texas Teen Arrested for Snapchat Threat

There's no messing around with threats to schools. A fourteen year old Texas teen may have learned that lesson the hard way this week, as police in Pearland, Texas (outside of Houston) arrested the student for allegedly making a threat against Berry Miller Junior High School on Snapchat. What Was the Threat? "It was something along the lines of, "Don't come to school tomorrow," alluding to the fact that he was going to bring a gun," said Officer Jason Wells of the Pearland Police, according to Click 2 Houston. Details are still emerging. Police began investigating after a parent reported that her children received a message over Snapchat, a social media platform used for messaging and sharing images and videos. An arrest followed and charges were forwarded on to the Brazoria County District Attorney's Office. The student faces juvenile charges of making terroristic threats and parents received a letter from the school district about the incident. Terroristic Threats Online? Making threats of violence is against the law. This is true for threats made online or elsewhere, and joking about such threats is never a good idea. It's one of those jokes that might sound funny to a fourteen year old texting his friends but won't sound funny at all when parents call the cops. State law may require threats to include a threat of great bodily injury or some level of specificity in to meet the high standards for a criminal conviction. Juveniles face criminal charges under a separate system and generally face lesser punishments than adults on account of their age. The idea is that kids are still kids and shouldn't be held to the same standards as adults. Related Resources Find a Criminal Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Are 'Terroristic Threats'? (FindLaw's Blotter) When Can Posts on Snapchat Get You Arrested? (FindLaw's Blotter) Juvenile Crime (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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When Can Sexual Assault Survivors Sue for Defamation?

Being a victim of sexual assault is bad enough, but finally finding the courage to speak up and then being called a liar -- or worse -- by the person who assaulted you, is even worse. There may, however, be a recourse for these types of circumstances. Women who have survived a sexual assault have been turning to defamation lawsuits to fight back against their attackers.In many instances, this is not only to clear their own name but also because the statute of limitations for filing a civil claim of sexual assault has passed. And while not every attacker who has called his or her victim a liar will win a defamation lawsuit, it's a viable option for sexual assault survivors who think they can prove the elements of defamation. The Elements of a Defamation Lawsuit Defamation laws will vary from state to state, but there are some general standards that make these laws similar to each other. In general, a person must prove the following in order to prevail in a defamation lawsuit: The defendant made a statement The statement was published The statement caused injury The statement was false, and The statement didn't fall into a privileged category Some explanation is necessary to better understand the elements listed above. The statement can be oral (slander) or written (libel), and a statement is "published" if a third party has heard, seen, or read the statement. Harm to reputation is enough to satisfy the injury element. Finally, while the other elements may be met, if the statement was privileged, a defamation lawsuit will fail. An example of a privileged statement is one given as a witness at a trial.As you can see, a sexual assault survivor isn't always going to be able to sue his or her attacker for defamation, but if may be possible if the attacker speaks badly enough about the victim. To understand if you have a legal claim, contact a personal injury lawyer for help. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Torts and Personal Injuries (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Sex Crimes (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Civil Lawsuits for Sexual Assault, Harassment: Top 10 Cases and Questions (FindLaw's Injured)
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Man Pleads Guilty to Harassing LA Islamic Center on Social Media

Mark Feigin wasn't shy about his views. According to CNN, the real estate agent and Uber driver admittedly has 'a big mouth' and strong views on Islam, telling investigators that he wasn't 'really a fan of Islam. I don't like their views.' He freely posted those views on the Facebook page of the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles back in September of 2016. Those comments, along with a mysterious, threatening phone call, launched a hate crimes investigation that pleaded out last week. It's a tale with some intrigue offering a look at social media harassment and the law. Facebook Threats and Felony Charges The case arose after a call placed to the Islamic Center purportedly threatened to "annihilate Muslims." When an employee reported the threat to police, it didn't take long for them to suspect Feigin based on comments he'd left on the center's Facebook page. The California Attorney General's Office charged Feigin with felony criminal threats; but while investigation confirmed Feigin's views, connecting him to the threatening phone call proved elusive. Feigin pleaded guilty to making harassing electronic communications and another misdemeanor, avoiding a more serious felony charge of making criminal threats. By pleading guilty, Fagan's conviction for harassment rests on his admission. When Is Social Media Harassment a Crime? There's a line to be crossed online, just as there is in person or over the phone. California law prohibits a person from "willfully threaten[ing] to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person by means of an electronic communication device." That includes your phone, tablet, or computer. While opinions can spark a social media firestorm, mere opinions (even reprehensible ones) are different from threatening a person with harm. Contact law enforcement if you believe the line's been crossed and a threat made against you. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Cyber Crimes (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Teens Arrested for Facebook Death Threats (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Vermont Legalizes Marijuana: 5 Quick Facts You Should Know

It's official! Vermont became the ninth state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Monday. The state's Republican governor, Phil Scott, signed House Bill 511 into law after it cleared the state legislature earlier this month. The Green Mountain State joins a growing number of states to remove penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The law takes effect on July 1st. Yet aspiring cannabis connoisseurs should be wary of jumping into the Vermont "bud" business prematurely. Here are five quick facts to know about the state of the law in Vermont. 1. You Can Smoke It Vermonters can possess up to one ounce of cannabis under the new law, a limitation that's in line with recent legalizations in Colorado and Washington State. This limit is intended to permit the recreational use of the drug -- but not large scale supply and cultivation. 2. You Can Grow Some of It The law further removes criminal penalties for having your own marijuana plants. Vermont allows the possession of two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants, enough to permit the green-thumb ganja lovers to keep their own fresh supply at home. 3. But You Can't Sell It The law does not legalize a state marijuana market, however. The governor previously vetoed legislation legalizing the sale of marijuana, which the state is leaving open to further action at a later date. 4. You Need to Be Old Enough to Drink Vermont's decriminalization law only applies to people twenty-one years of age and over. Minors (and a great many college students) aren't included. And there are penalties for selling recreational weed to underage persons too. 5. Federal Law Hasn't Changed Despite state decriminalization, federal law still prohibits possessing marijuana. And, at least where U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is concerned, federal prosecution remains a possibility.If you run into legal issues with marijuana in Vermont or another state, contact a criminal defense lawyer for help. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) State Marijuana Laws (FindLaw's State Laws) Vermont Becomes Ninth U.S. State to Legalize Marijuana (Reuters)
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Women Play Leading Roles in Volkswagen’s Defense

It is apparent that Volkswagen AG understands the value of having women attorneys in lead defense roles.  Sharon L. Nelles, a New York partner in Sullivan & Cromwell’s litigation group, has served as lead and national coordinating counsel for Volkswagen advising the German automaker on the $14.7 billion resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and also in the multi-district consumer plaintiff committee over diesel emissions. In addition to Nelles’ involvement in the criminal case, two women partners at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s New York office – Olivia A. Radin, who focuses on white collar and complex litigation, and Linda H. Martin, a member of the firm’s dispute resolution practice –  were also key players on the three-firm legal team that worked out a plea agreement to settle the DOJ criminal charges earlier this year. More recently, Nelles and two of her partners at Sullivan helped Volkswagen AG successfully stop the DOJ’s attempt to turn 25 million pages of discovery material related to multidistrict litigation in California over to GSK Stockman, a German law firm. At issue was whether a pretrial order in the U.S. diesel emissions civil case –Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation – bars the sharing of discovery material with attorneys litigating against Volkswagen outside the U.S.  The DOJ argued that GSK Stockmann was the “model plaintiff” and entitled to see the discovery documents. However, there are 1,600 plaintiffs suing Volkswagen in Germany, making it almost inevitable that information from the 25 million pages would be made public – a clear violation of the pretrial order, according to VW’s U.S. legal team. “In fact, there is nothing in [the order] authorizing a law enforcement or regulatory agency, including DOJ civil, to share the MDL production with non-U.S. private counsel for use in a non-U.S. private securities lawsuit against VWAG,” said the company in a statement. On September 15, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline S. Corley, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, agreed with Volkswagen’s legal team and denied the DOJ request to share the MDL information with the German firm. Volkswagen’s team that argued against this DOJ overreach in a civil case included Laura Kabler Oswell, a partner in Sullivan’s Palo Alto office and a group leader for the firm’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act practice, who was recently named a “Rising Star” by Law360 after two big litigation wins in other matters. Suhana S. Han was the third Sullivan partner on the litigation team, which included three male partners. A partner in the litigation group, Han’s practice covers commercial litigation, including securities matters.  It is almost unheard of for the women on a corporate defense team to equal or outnumber the men. Kudos to the women of Sullivan & Cromwell and to all the women involved in lead roles defending Volkswagen The post Women Play Leading Roles in Volkswagen’s Defense appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Nurse Arrested for Not Drawing Coma Patient’s Blood for Police

National news outlets have been reporting the sensational story of a Salt Lake City, Utah nurse who was arrested after refusing the command of a police officer to draw the blood of a comatose patient for an investigation. Fortunately for Alex Wubbels, the nurse involved in the incident, police body cameras recorded the entire event. The nurse cited the hospital policy of requiring a patient's consent, a warrant, or an intent to arrest, before drawing blood for police. When the officer insisted on getting the blood draw done despite not satisfying any of these conditions, Wubbels refused and was then arrested on the spot. What Happened Here? Surprisingly, the coma patient, a truck driver, whom the police were seeking a blood draw from is an innocent victim. Police were chasing a fleeing suspect, when that suspecting crashed head on into the truck driver's big rig, resulting in a fiery crash. The suspect died at the scene, while the truck driver survived, but fell into a coma. The police, in conducting a thorough investigation, were seeking a blood sample from the truck driver to rule out any liability on his end (note: police may not have a legal right to this sample thanks to the Fourth Amendment's protections). The body camera footage clearly shows nurse Wubbels explaining the policy to the officer in charge, and then the officer losing his cool, grabbing her, cuffing her, and forcefully pulling her out of the hospital. During the ordeal, Wubbels can be heard yelling that she did nothing wrong, and that the officer is hurting her. Fortunately, when the superior officer arrived at the scene, she was released. It was explained to the officer that the hospital already took a blood draw, but that they would not release it without proper legal authorization. The city's administration has been extraordinarily embarrassed, issued apologies, and has stated that it is committed to changing policies to prevent this from happening again. The arresting officer has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation into his actions (though the report he filed asserts his superior instructed him to arrest Wubbels). What's the Claim? When officers of law cross the line in performing their duties, both the officers, individually, and the municipality, state, or other government entity can be held liable. Generally, under federal law, 42 USC 1983 protects individuals from police misconduct, including false arrest or excessive force. There may also be claims under state laws, depending on the state where the incident occurred. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter) NY DMV Busts 4k Fraudsters With Facial Recognition Tech (FindLaw Blotter) Criminal Charges Following Violence, Death in Charlottesville (FindLaw Blotter)
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