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Connecticut May Soon Employ Deadly Police Drones

A Connecticut bill that originally focused on simply banning all weaponized drones recently had a controversial exemption carved out that's garnering national attention. That controversial legal exemption to the ban on weaponized drones would only apply to law enforcement agencies, allowing only police in the state to use weaponized drones. While it may seem logical to only allow police to use weaponized drones, if the bill passes, it would be the first law in the nation that actually authorizes police to use drones equipped with lethal weapons. North Dakota passed a law in 2015 that permits law enforcement to use drones equipped with non-lethal weapons like tear gas or pepper spray, and other law enforcement agencies use drones for surveillance purposes. Standard Drone Protocol If the bill passes, the state's law enforcement training council will be required to devise a standard operating procedure for when and how law enforcement can use weaponized drones. The bill itself contains some regulations regarding drone use, but leaves the specifics on training and use to be determined by the council. This type of regulatory framework will allow some leeway in how law enforcement use drones as the technology advances over time. Proponents have rallied their support around the contention that allowing law enforcement the right to use weaponized drones could help stop a terrorist attack, or other serious threat. However, there are equally strong contentions that allowing the use of drones will result in civil rights violations against certain segments of the population, as well as misuse by police. Police Drones While there have been plenty of other concerns raised about law enforcement's use of drones, particularly when it comes to surveillance and searches, equipping drones with weapons is a new frontier for policing. Although there is clearly a benefit to sending in a robot over a human in a situation where gunfire is likely to be exchanged, anyone who's seen RoboCop or any other similar fictional work involving robotic police, is aware of the ethical dilemma that can be expected when the human element is removed from policing. Related Resources: N.D. Farmer Convicted in 1st Domestic Drone Case (FindLaw Blotter) No First Amendment Right to Drone Surveillance, Conn. Court Holds (FindLaw's Technologist) Who's Afraid of Domestic Drone Strikes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Drone Operator Attacked: Are They the New 'Glassholes'? (FindLaw's Legal Grounds)
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So You Married a Criminal? 3 Legal Tips

While accidentally marrying a criminal sounds more like the subject of TV drama (or comedy) than a real life occurrence, it does happen in real life. Unfortunately, even when a person marries a criminal on accident, there could be real life consequences. Most often, legal consequences for uninvolved spouses stem from organized, or white-collar, criminal activities. For instance, spouses that agree to put things in their names, or sign checks, or take other relatively passive roles, can find themselves looking at actual jail time. Alternatively, spouses that merely reap the financial benefits, completely passively, without being involved at all, can usually expect to minimally have those benefits seized and forfeited. Here are three legal tips on what to do if you accidentally marry a criminal: 1. Annulment May Be Possible If you were tricked into the marriage, you may be able to qualify for an annulment based upon fraud. Unlike a divorce, an annulment will dissolve a marriage and treat it like it never happened. There may be some complicated issues when it comes to separating joint property, but it could potentially protect an innocent spouse from liability. State laws differ about how and when a person will qualify for an annulment, but generally state laws require a showing that the innocent spouse materially relied on a significant misrepresentation in agreeing to marry. If an annulment isn't possible, divorce or legal separation can be pursued. 2. Consult and Retain an Independent Attorney So long as you are not actively involved in the criminal enterprise, you can consult with an attorney on how to keep on the right side of the law. Depending on your situation, this may involve legal separation, divorce, annulment, or maybe not. If you get involved with the criminal enterprise, an attorney will not be able to assist you in continuing to break the law, but may be able to help keep you out of trouble if you are arrested. It is also important to retain your own attorney, rather than rely on joint representation, particularly for a spouse that is not actively engaged. 3. Maintain Separate Accounts Maintaining sufficient separation of financial accounts may not be possible if the criminal enterprise is the sole source of income. However, if there are premarital assets, or you earn legitimate income, these should be maintained separately and diligently tracked. In the event that a criminal prosecution occurs against the criminal spouse, depending on the jurisdiction, being able to trace separate legitimate income may be what prevents it from being seized by the authorities. Related Resources: Find Family Law Attorneys Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 5 Potential Ways to Get an Annulment (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Is the Spousal or Marital Privilege? (FindLaw Blotter) How Marriage Annulments Differ from Divorces and the Grounds for Obtaining a Marriage Annulment (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Study: Payouts Are up in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

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

Technically, the law permits a child to sue their parents as a result of child abuse. There are no special rules preventing this type of lawsuit. However, what a child considers to be abuse may not actually be legally considered abuse. Parents are generally permitted to punish their children, which can include depriving children of luxuries such as video games, computers, internet access, a car, dating, seeing friends, or even dessert. A parent can make a child sit in the corner, go to their room, do chores, or worse, babysit their siblings. Depending on the manner in which it is done, even corporal punishment or spankings can be okay in the eyes of the law (so long as they are not excessive) . Why Children Sue Parents Even though it seems rather out of character for a child to sue their parents, it happens. Most frequently, like all lawsuits, it’s about money. Recently, the Canning family’s case in New Jersey made national headlines.The 18-year-old daughter, still in high school, was suing her parents after moving out over disagreements over the house rules. However, the legal complaint that was filed alleged all sorts of objectionable, questionable, and downright deplorable parenting, ranging from crude comments to irresponsible boozing. The matter did not make it very far, particularly after the judge denied the child’s request for an emergency child support order of $650 per week. When to Sue? In every state, the statute of limitations for a minor’s legal claims do not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of majority. That means that if a state provides a two year statute of limitations on a particular claim, and a child is injured at age 12, they will have 2 years to file their claim after they turn 18 years old. Even if an adult child is suing a parent as a result of sexual abuse, or rape, there will likely be a short statute of limitations of no more than a few years after the child turns 18. Worthwhile to Sue? Regardless of whether the law supports an abused child’s case for damages against their parents, a prospective plaintiff may want to think twice before filing suit. Even assuming that the case is winnable, whether or not a judgment can be collected from a defendant is a wholly different issue. If a parent was convicted of a criminal act related to the abuse, or is presently incarcerated, there is a strong likelihood that any judgment a plaintiff secures won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.To find out if it’s worth your time to pursue a legal claim, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) Student Suing Parents Loses 1st Round, but Case Isn’t Over (FindLaw’s Legally Weird) Son Sues Mom, Pop for Overtime at Family Biz (FindLaw’s Free Enterprise) Homeless Man Sues Parents for Not Loving Him Enough (FindLaw’s Legally Weird)
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How Much Is a Dog Bite Injury Lawsuit Worth?

When it comes to evaluating the value of any injury case, most people understand that bigger injuries correlate to bigger settlements. When it comes to dog bites and animal attacks, the owners will usually be held liable, barring extraordinary circumstances. Not all animal bite cases will be severe injuries, or equate to large monetary damages. Typically, larger monetary awards occur if an animal attack leaves visible scarring, requires surgery extended medical care, or results in the need for mental health therapy, such as PTSD counseling. What’s a Dog Bite Case Worth? An injury settlement or award will generally reimburse an injury victim for their medical bills, out of pocket expenses, lost wages, and other consequential damages. However, if a person receives a settlement that includes reimbursement for medical bills, they may be required to pay back a health insurer, or even pay outstanding medical bills (if any). A person can also receive monetary compensation for pain and suffering. Usually awards for pain and suffering will depend on the severity of the injury and the extent to which the recovery and injury disrupted a person’s regular life. There is no standardization to the valuation of pain and suffering. When to Sue? After being bitten by a dog, you may be very upset, to the point where you may consider suing simply as a matter of principle. But all strong feelings aside, when should you actually take steps to bring legal action? Is it worth your time to sue? Here are a few points to consider:Frequently, a pet owner’s home-owner’s insurance will provide coverage for dog bites. But, if the pet owner responsible for your injuries is uninsured and has no assets, then there may be no way to actually collect a judgment.The decision not to sue for this reason, however, should be carefully evaluated with the help of an attorney. Also, if you decide not to sue, you may wish to re-evaluate that decision down the road. But be forewarned, most injury claims must be brought within one or two years, depending on your state law. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) How Much is My Pet’s Injury Worth? (FindLaw’s Injured) Housemates Could Be Liable for Dog Bites (FindLaw’s Injured) Dog Bite Injuries: Do You Have a Case? (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Stronger, Kinder, and Gentler

As I let the results of the election sink in, one of the biggest fears that I have is that it will now be socially acceptable for people to be mean to others based on their membership in a group, whether it be women or minorities or immigrants or gays or anybody else who is not part of the white male establishment. Nobody can deny that the recent presidential election has been one of the ugliest in our lifetimes with women being called names and being publicly criticized for their appearance and for speaking out against assault and Hispanic politicians being called liars and having their judgment questioned based on their cultural heritage. I have heard people praise the Donald Trump campaign for making it okay not to be politically correct and for him saying things that others think but are afraid to say, and I fear his affirmation through the election will make such hurtful and regressive discourse even more common and tolerated than it already is. Although we can debate whether political correctness has gone too far, I think we can agree that it is not okay to vilify and hate others based on their gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. So what can we as female criminal defense attorneys, who see the debilitating effects of stereotyping on a daily basis, do for the next four years? I suggest that we become stronger together to fight to make this nation kinder and gentler despite our divisions. We must speak out against hatred of all types, whether it be in the form of racial or religious profiling or gender stereotyping. We must raise our voices even louder to speak out against injustice when we see it and fight harder in our local communities to eradicate it. We must speak up publicly in and out of court when our clients have been victims of hate or are being judged in whole or in part because of their membership in a group. And when our clients are the haters, advocate for the punishment designed to rehabilitate rather than lead to recidivism by embedding the hatred even further. I also suggest that we use our economic power to make changes. We must support local women and minority-owned business (and lawyers) and boycott businesses associated with those who hate. We must spend our charitable dollars on local organizations which work to empower girls and immigrants rather than on charitable foundations which make their officers and directors richer. We must support candidates at the local level who will fight for the values we believe in. Let politicians see that we will vote with our purses as well as through the pulpit and polls. I suggest strongly that we work together to be stronger and to make this country kinder and gentler every day in our local courts and communities and that we show the public and the Government and its officials that smart, kind, strong, and gentle female criminal defense lawyers can make a difference. The post Stronger, Kinder, and Gentler appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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DUI Checkpoints on Halloween: Laws to Remember

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

It happens all too often. A person hires a lawyer right after an accident, then months later when the medical treatment is all done, the lawyer they hired decides they no longer want the case. Don’t read into it too much. Some lawyers only handle cases if they are of a certain value or above. So unless your lawyer has ceased communicating with you, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your case can be smoothly transitioned over to a new attorney. However, if your lawyer has ceased communicating with you, it might be a good idea to get a new lawyer, and have your new lawyer attempt to connect with the old lawyer. On rare occasion, lawyers get sick, die, or just plainly go missing without warning, just like any other human being. The most important thing is to find out your statute of limitations date, because if you don’t file a lawsuit by that date, your claim will expire. 1. Ask Your Old Attorney to Delay Withdrawing Until You Find a New Attorney Attorneys will often recommend that you find a new attorney before they formally withdraw from representation, even when there has been a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship involving anger and animosity. Attorneys are generally agreeable to this arrangement because it will avoid injuring a client’s case. If you are firing your attorney, however, this request will likely not go over well. 2. Figure Out Your Lien Situation Personal injury cases, if handled on a contingency basis (which they typically are), may have lien provisions included in the attorney fee agreement. When an attorney drops your case, if your contract had one of these provisions, you need to get a letter from the attorney clearly stating whether they have a lien, or not, and if so, for how much. A lien is a typical contract term in a contingency fee contract that allows an attorney to place a claim for payment on your case, and requiring that they be paid from any eventual settlement or judgment issued in the case for the work they did on your case. When an attorney drops a case, they usually do not assert a lien, unless they have expended a significant amount of money or time on the case. Even then, some attorneys will release their liens in order to make it easier for a client to retain a new attorney, as a second attorney may be hesitant to take a case that has a lien attached to it. However, any new attorney will likely ask and want to know about liens before formally accepting representation. 3. Find and Hire a New Attorney Don’t delay. The longer you wait to find a new attorney, the less time the new attorney will have to prepare your case. FindLaw has a personal injury lawyer directory that you can browse for free to find an experienced injury attorney in your area. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) 5 Controversial Medical Treatments Still Used Today (FindLaw’s Injured) Chemical Spill in Kansas Hospitalizes Over 100 People (FindLaw’s Injured) Is Apple Liable for Distracted Driving Accidents? (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Dear President Obama

Dear President Obama, I am a criminal defense attorney, and at the prodding of one of my colleagues, Marjorie Peerce of Ballard Spahr, I have volunteered my time to screen clemency petitions through the Clemency Project, a project to provide free legal assistance to federal prisoners serving longer sentences than they would have received if sentenced today.  In this role, I review multiple clemency petitions and evaluate whether an executive summary should move on to the project’s steering committee.  It is overwhelming how many individuals are languishing in prison with life sentences who are low level drug offenders with no history of violence. Being a small part of helping to right the wrongs created through overcriminalization has been rewarding beyond belief. But it has also been a stark reminder of the injustice endured by so many of our nation’s prisoners. In my work with the Clemency Project, I agreed to prepare an executive summary to support a petition for clemency for an old CJA (Criminal Justice Act) client of mine who received a 200 month sentence for selling 58 grams of crack. The importance of this responsibility cannot be overstated.  It feels different than defending someone facing a charge – this is a person’s last chance in my hands. To get to know the personal story again behind this human being is both tragic and disturbing. He grew up with parents plagued by addiction and witnessed both his mother and father using cocaine in the family home from an early age.  His father died when he was twelve, a tragedy that sent him into a downward spiral.  He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and became so addicted to narcotics himself that, for the six years leading up to his arrest, he spent every day getting high on drugs to feed his crippling addiction.  Eight months after he was sentenced in this case, his mother died from HIV.  My heart broke when I discovered that, in the close to ten years he has been incarcerated, no one has gone to visit him. I wanted to get in my car and go visit him myself. The facts of the case and his criminal history don’t even begin to justify a double-digit prison sentence for a 23 year-old young man. I am disturbed and outraged at how our system has hurt this young man. All I can think about as I am finalizing the executive summary to submit to the Clemency Project is that my work is not enough. I am consumed with the thought that I must reach out directly to you, Mr. President. My hope is that I can express to you the magnitude of the injustice that occurred here, and that I can implore you to use your discretion to right this wrong.  My hope is that I can help you see what I see about this young humble and kind man who never had a chance in life to be more than a small time street level drug dealer. My fellow defense attorneys who’ve seen these kind of injustices might say that no one is ever going to see this letter, that it is a useless effort.  We know that we are up against steep odds whenever we represent a defendant charged with a drug offense.  We tell ourselves these are the crack guidelines, and we can’t change that.  We tell ourselves that this is a tough judge, and we can’t change that.  And in spite of our pleas for leniency or even just a fair sentence, we walk away having to swallow our outrage, understanding that we can only do so much to change the system. Our cynicism, shaped by years of injustice, makes us think that no one in power is ever going to care about the cause of an insignificant young man like my client, certainly not the President of the United States. I am writing to you, Mr. President, because I believe you do care. I have been troubled by this case for ten years and although I am grateful that, in your presidency, you have shown concern for these issues, I somehow want you to hear that a young man was designated a career offender for selling 58 grams of crack when he had previously been charged with having sold cocaine on only two prior occasions of such small quantities that in one instance he only made $15.00. And as this was unfolding, like in so many other cases, those entrusted as officers of the court stood by and acted as if it was normal and commonplace: simply our criminal justice system at work. I want to ask you to meet my client and learn the tragic story that brought him to where he now sits, in prison. I want you to be the one that finally visits this young man, not as a PR opportunity but to truly see him and talk to him. This act would serve as an acknowledgment that his life really does matter.  I want you to bear witness, with me, to the severity of what our criminal justice system did to him.  In my mind, this would be a meaningful step in repairing the injustice, which could change his life forever. The post Dear President Obama appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Controversial Louisiana Law Makes Targeting Police a Hate Crime

A new law in Louisiana makes it a hate crime to target law enforcement and emergency personnel. The bill making these professions a protected class -- dubbed Blue Lives Matter -- was reportedly proposed in response to the Black Lives Matter movement criticizing police brutality in the black community. It is the first of its kind in the country. Hate crime legislation makes punishments more severe when crimes target a protected class, such as age, race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability. Critics say that adding law enforcement to this list of protected classes dilutes the value of this type of legislation by basing it on a mutable or changing characteristic, such as a profession, rather than an unchangeable one like race or national origin. Protecting Blue Lives According to NPR, crime statistics show an overall decline in officer killings. Still, the Louisiana law making police, firefighters, emergency medical crews, and other first responders a protected class reportedly passed easily. Anyone convicted of intentionally targeting someone in this protected class will be punished more severely than previously based on the now-protected status. "Coming from a family of law enforcement officers," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement. announcing the signing of the bill into law, "I have great respect for the work that they do and the risks they take to ensure our safety." State Police Superintendent Colonel Mike Edmonson expressed his support of the law, too, pointing out the heroism of law enforcement and first responders who run toward trouble when others are running away. Edmonds said, "For those individuals who choose to target our heroes, the message formalized in this legislative act should be clear and the consequences severe. On behalf of first responders throughout Louisiana, we thank the legislature and the governor for helping to make this law a reality." Diluting Hate Crime Legislation? Critics say, however, that this legislation dilutes hate crime laws by enlarging the protected class to include people who are not targeted for what they are but for what they do for a living. The Anti-Defamation League, for example, opposed the legislation and explained the basis for its opposition to what it called the "Blue Lives Matter" bill before it was signed into law. In a statement issued earlier this month, it wrote, "The ADL strongly believes that the list of personal characteristics included in hate crimes laws should remain limited to immutable characteristics, those qualities that can or should not be changed. Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable ...This bill confuses the purpose of the Hate Crimes Act and weakens its impact by adding more categories of people, who are better protected under other laws." There is something to that argument. After all, people can choose to be blue. But there is little choice about being foreign or black or having a handicap or any of the more traditional protected classes. Accused? If you are accused of a crime of any kind, talk to a lawyer. Get help with your defense. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Understanding Criminal Law -- How to Read a Statute (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Are Judges Becoming More Critical of Excessive Force? (FindLaw Blotter) Top Legal Questions on Hate Crimes (FindLaw Blotter)
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