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How Does Immigration Status Affect Child Custody?

Divorce is hard enough for anyone to go through, but add having to determine child custody, and it only gets harder. Sometimes parents are able to reach a custody agreement themselves, other times the parents may need to have a judge decide on the child custody arrangements.If you're an immigrant -- legal or illegal -- you may be concerned that your immigration status will impact a child custody agreement. After all, doesn't it seem likely that a U.S. citizen would be favored over a non-citizen when determining who gets custody? The answer is no -- immigration status is not generally a factor in determining who gets custody. How Is Child Custody Determined? Like most legal family matters, child custody is governed by state laws. There are, however, some generally accepted factors in determining child custody. The main factor in determining child custody is considering what's in the "best interests" of the child. This involves many considerations including looking at the mental and physical health of the parents, need for continuation of a stable home environment, and the wishes of the child (when he or she is old enough to capably make this decision). While the list of considerations for child custody is long, notably absent is immigration status. This is even true in the case of illegal immigrants fighting for child custody. While it may not be a factor in determining child custody, it bears mentioning that a pending deportation or an actual deportation can affect child custody, since it would impact the child's life.So, while a parent's immigration status doesn't directly factor into deciding who gets custody, there could be indirect effects, particularly if the parent is an illegal immigrant. To resolve child custody issues, contact a child custody lawyer or an immigration lawyer for help. Related Resources: Find Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How the Gig Economy Is Affecting Child Support (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 2017: The Year in Immigration Law (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Deportation Dispute: U.S. Refusing Visas for Countries Unwilling to Take Back Deported Citizens (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Amtrak Liability for Train Accident Deaths

Your legal rights don't expire when you die. Wrongful death lawsuits allow surviving family members to sue train operators for these damages and to hold them accountable. So what's Amtrak's liability for train accident deaths? Well, it's clear but complicated. Trains Are Common Carriers Trains, planes, and automobiles are what lawyers call common carriers. A common carrier is anything that transports people or goods for a fee owes passengers a higher duty of care in ensuring their safety. Common carrier liability is an old but sensible legal concept. A driver of a car is responsible for his accidents; anyone hauling many people should be even more careful. It's common for wrongful death lawsuits against train operators to cite common carrier liability (among other grounds) when suing. Amtrak's Liability It's common for train accident related deaths to rack up huge medical bills, lost income to family and dependents, funeral costs, possible property damage, and more. These costs can be prohibitive for family members and don't go away. Amtrak, despite receiving government funds, is liable for its torts like most government entities. However, there's a catch. Congress has capped Amtrak's liability at $295 million. That may sound like a lot, but when you're talking about over eighty people's hospital costs, lost income from missing work, continuing health needs and rehab bills, and more -- it adds up pretty fast. Amtrak Train Accident Lawsuits Amtrak's issues have made recent news, including a derailment in Washington State in December 2017. Two survivors of that crash have already sued for personal injuries sustained in the crash, the first of what's expected to be many similar lawsuits. Related Resources Find a personal injury attorney near you (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Laws Govern The Amtrak Crash? (FindLaw's Injured) Common Carrier Liability in Light of Amtrak Crash in PA (FindLaw's Injured)
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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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After 11 Deaths, Guardrail Manufacturer Sued for Negligence

Two lawsuits filed in South Carolina and Tennessee last week added to a manufacturer's growing woes. Lindsay Corporation, the Omaha-based maker of the X-LITE guardrail commonly used on the side of highways, has faced growing criticism that it's guardrails are defectively designed and fail to protect drivers and passengers during car collisions, resulting in several injuries and deaths. The X-LITE End Terminal The X-LITE End Terminal is installed at the start and end of guardrails along highways and roads across the country. Rounding out the sharp pointy ends of a line of roadside railing, it's easy to understand how this particular component gets hit by unwary or inattentive motorists. The lawsuits allege that the end terminal fails to slide into the rest of the guardrail during a collision, a process known as "telescoping." Telescoping can reduce the force of impact during a collision, and as importantly, prevent the guardrail's horizontal beams from penetrating the cabin of an incoming car and spearing passengers inside. Federal and State Agency Review Highway safety is entrusted to federal and state government agencies. Several have acted already. In April, Tennessee announced that it would remove and replace some 1,700 guardrail ends, at a cost of several million dollars to the state's budget. The U.S. Department of Transportation previously announced a review of the X-LITE end terminal last May. The agency noted at the time the guardrail component is installed in 29 states, but that 80% of the X-LITE end terminals are installed in Tennessee, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas, North Carolina, and Virginia. Other states are currently reviewing the guardrail's safety and performance. Injury and Wrongful Death Lawsuits Meanwhile, several victims have taken to the courtroom, alleging that Lindsay Corporation's guardrail ends are defectively designed and that the company is liable for resulting injuries and deaths. Injury and wrongful death lawsuits of this sort are common resources for people injured by defective products to recover compensation for their injuries from the product manufacturer. Related Resources Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Wrongful Death Overview (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Highway Guardrail Impalement Injuries, Deaths Lead to Lawsuits (FindLaw's Injured Blog)
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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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Elon Musk Sells Flamethrowers: Are They Legal to Own?

Watch out for flamethrower bearing BBQers this summer. Elon Musk, the attention-grabbing entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, has fired up Twitter and legions of his loyal followers with a brand-spanking new toy -- a commercially available flamethrower. The Future Is Flamethrower? Musk's flamethrower has already become a hit. Pre-sales have quickly sold out online. There's no word about future flamethrowers hitting the market, so this might be a gag gift or the start of a new trend. But it raises interesting legal questions which, yes, we're here to blog about. It's Easier to Buy a Flamethrower Than a Gun You might be surprised to learn that only two states regulate flamethrowers. California requires flamethrower users and buyers to have a permit, while Maryland bans them entirely. But you shouldn't be too surprised. There's never been a wave of flamethrower-related violence to spur states and Congress to enact flamethrower laws. Hence their absence. All flamethrowers will ship with a complimentary boring fire extinguisher February 1, 2018 That might change soon, however. California is already rumbling about a ban on flamethrower sales, and we'd expect other states to follow if necessary. Use Your Flamethrower Wisely What's always prohibited are crimes -- no matter what's used to commit them. Most criminal laws criminalize actions - murder, kidnapping, assault, etc. -- and "add on" counts or prison time for using prohibited items. ELON I BOUGHT 6 FLAMETHROWERS NOW THE TSA IS TELLING ME I'M ON SOME SORT OF WATCHLIST?!? WHAT HAVE I DONE PLEASE HELP February 1, 2018 Those definitions are flexible: a car can be deadly weapon, as can be a surgeon's hands. A flamethrower might pose an interesting case for an appellate court someday, but it's not something we'd expect to be a winning argument. Related Resources Find Your Lawyer (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Is It Legal to Own a Flamethrower? (lifehacker.com) Flamethrower Drone Draws Government Ire. Can the FAA Regulate? (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
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Accused of Domestic Violence: What to Do

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

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

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