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Is It Illegal to Let a Friend Borrow Your Gun?

Your gun, your rights, your problem? It's pretty common in America to let someone borrow, use, try, or otherwise handle a firearm. Hunters do it in the woods, shooters at the range, purchasers at trade shows, and kids at summer camps. Put those scenarios to one side, then consider the other side: criminal defendants arguing about who used whose gun to shoot so-and-so, or an otherwise responsible owner having to explain how his gun ended up in a kid's backpack at school. So what's the law on letting someone borrow your gun? America's Patchwork Gun Laws There's an old legal adage that everything is legal unless prohibited. While it's not necessarily true, it's a fairly good guide when it comes to gun laws. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Constitution grants individuals a right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, and this applies to states as well. Federal Gun Laws Federal law bans anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm. That's one of the more common federal criminal prosecutions out there. It's also illegal to ship a firearm out of state without a license. Certain types of firearms - assault weapons, military grade hardware, etc. -- are either banned or tightly regulated. It's important to know who you'd be giving your gun to. Note any specific laws about the type of weapon as well. State Gun Laws From there, it really depends where you live. State gun control laws vary considerably. Buying, selling, or transferring ownership of a gun might be regulated where you live. Virtually all states prohibit possessing a gun near a school. Big cities and urban areas may have more restrictive policies than the countryside. Gun laws are for the most part state and laws, and it's difficult to generalize. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) America's Gun Culture in 10 Charts (BBC News) State Gun Control Laws (FindLaw's State Laws) Legal How-To: Giving a Gun as a Gift (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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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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Is It a Crime to Mail White Powder Even If It’s Harmless?

You can never be too careful, opening your mail. Sure, much of it is junk and some of it may include requests for money from your long lost third cousin you never knew you had. But the U.S. Postal Service delivers 506.4 million pieces of mail each day, sent by and to people of all walks of life. So some crazy stuff can get sent through the mail. Including stuff sent by crazy people, like ricin, anthrax, narcotics ... and corn starch, as Donald Trump Jr.'s wife has recently discovered. What Can't Be Mailed? It's (obviously) a crime to mail deadly chemical and biological weapons to people. And using the postal service to commit a crime -- any crime -- is never smart. It is the federal mail, and doing it across state lines can make it an interstate crime. That can land you in federal court facing federal charges. The postal service also has detailed regulations on what and how to mail stuff. Explosives, ammunition, gasoline, and air bags are prohibited. Other items are restricted, and may have to be clearly marked or shipped in limited quantities. These include firearms, propane, alcohol, and prescription drugs. What About Threatening or Suspicious Letters? Threatening, disturbing letters sent through the mail can constitute criminal threats, terroristic threats, stalking, and similar crimes related to making threats. That's the kind of behavior lower-level criminal offenses are designed for, to stop someone before threats become attacks, and are illegal under state laws. Federal crimes cover some specific threats, such a threatening the President or other officials. What About Harmless, Suspicious White Powder? Turns out, there's a handy federal offense covering this sort of thing. 18 U.S.C. section 1038 makes it a crime to "engag[e] in any conduct with intent to convey false or misleading information [that] may reasonably be believed [to indicate] that" a biological agent is present. It also makes doing so a civil action, i.e. allows someone to sue. Which is lawyer-talk for: no, you can't send threatening letters and add sugar, flour -- or corn starch -- to make it legal. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) USPS Logs Mail for FBI, and It's Legal (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life) Is It Legal to Mail Marijuana? (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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Teen Arrested for Throwing Kitten in Water, Joking About Abuse

There seem to be a lot of videos of animals doing cute or funny things on the internet these days. Unfortunately, that's not the case in one video that was posted on social media. The video is of Garratt Haile throwing a kitten into a body of water while joking about it. Shot about a year ago, it was recently shared on social media, at which point several people contacted the police, and Haile was arrested. Animal Abuse and the Law While it seems pretty clear that Haile's conduct constitutes animal abuse, it's important to note that animal abuse laws vary by state. However, animal abuse generally includes both intentionally hurting an animal and neglecting an animal. Many states treat animal abuse as a fairly serious crime, although there are a few that have weak animal abuse laws. Since the teen was arrested in California, let's take a look at California's laws on animal abuse. California Animal Abuse Laws California Penal Code Section 597 defines animal abuse as "maliciously and intentionally" torturing, maiming, mutilating, wounding, or killing an animal. This section also prohibits overworking an animal and depriving an animal of food, water, or shelter. Violation of this statute can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, and can result in imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $20,000.The statute doesn't provide much guidance on when animal abuse is charged as a felony versus when it's charged as a misdemeanor; however, it's safe to assume that the degree of abuse is what determines how to charge someone. In Haile's case, he has been charged with felony animal cruelty. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Is Considered Animal Cruelty Under the Law? (FindLaw's Blotter) Is It Legal to Hit Your Pets? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Are There Any Defenses to an Animal Cruelty Charge? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Ohio Lethal Injection Execution Method Ruled Constitutional

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection protocol. In a unanimous ruling, a three judge panel upheld the district court's previous decision denying death-row inmates Raymond Tibbetts and Alva Campbell their request to enjoin their pending executions. It's the latest case in a string of stories concerning the state's method of execution. Ohio's Death Penalty Drama The Buckeye State's execution protocol has been a recurring news item. In November 2017, the state's attempted execution of Alva Campbell (one of the plaintiffs here) was cancelled when prison officials couldn't find a vein to inject the lethal mixture of drugs. Campbell was sentenced to death in 1998 after killing 18-year-old Charles Dials during a jail break attempt. Campbell's legal team has also requested execution by firing squad on numerous occasions, a request that state officials are (extremely) unlikely to grant. According to the state's current execution schedule, Raymond Tibbets's execution will occur next week, on February 13th, 2018. That's a date subject to change, however, as eleventh hour postponements are common. Tibbetts was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of his wife and landlord in 1997. Death Penalty and the Law State death penalty cases are among the most heavily-litigated cases. Trials commonly take years, appeals generally go through state and federal courts for decades, and last minute stay requests or clemency petitions are common. Challenges to the method of execution as violating the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause have been common in recent years. An approaching execution is a common time for reigniting America's long-running debate over the wisdom -- and constitutionality -- of capital punishment. Related Resources In re Ohio Execution Protocol Litigation (FindLaw's Cases and Codes) Appeals Court Say Ohio Lethal Injection Execution Method Constitutional (Cleveland.com) Ohio May Give Botched Execution Another Try (FindLaw's Blotter)
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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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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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How the Gig Economy Is Impacting Child Support

Each state has its own formula to determine what amount of child support the noncustodial parent will pay. But, even when an amount is determined, it's not always easy actually getting child support payments. Sometimes the parent may feel that the money is going to his or her ex-spouse and not actually to the child. Other times, a parent may have a new family and feel that he or she can't afford to make child support payments and support the new family.Regardless of the reason, a parent is obligated to pay child support, and if he or she doesn't pay, there are ways to force payment. However, forcing someone to pay child support has become increasingly difficult with the new gig economy, where people are working in temporary positions as independent contractors. Why Would the Gig Economy Affect Child Support? If a noncustodial parent doesn't pay child support, there are a few options for enforcing the payment of child support. One option is wage garnishment, which is when a portion of a person's wages are withheld by the employer and sent to the agency in charge of enforcing child support. While this seems simple in theory, it's not always easy to implement in reality.It has become harder to collect child support in the gig economy because the income from "gig" positions aren't always disclosed or easy to uncover. Thus, there isn't a true accounting for the parent's income. In addition, certain employers may not feel obligated to deal with garnishing wages for workers who are independent contractors and not regular employees.Making Child Support Payments It's important to make child support payments -- both legally and for the well-being of your child. Whether you're finding it difficult to make child support payments, or you're having a hard time getting child support payments, an attorney can help you. Related Resources: Find Child Support Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Child Support (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) How Is Post-Secondary Child Support Determined? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Common Myths About Child Custody Disputes (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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