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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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Is the President Immune From Defamation Lawsuits?

Before he was President Donald Trump, he was host of the reality TV series "The Apprentice" Donald Trump. But his actions then may come back to legally haunt him now. Summer Zervos, a former "Apprentice" contestant, is suing the president, claiming his denials of her sexual harassment claims amounted to defamation. But Trump's attorneys are planning to argue that the president is immune from this and other civil lawsuits while he remains in office. Is that argument going to work? Defamatory Statements Zervos appeared on Trump's TV show in 2006, and was seeking a job with the Trump Organization when the president allegedly groped her breast and began to kiss her aggressively against her will. Trump denied the allegations, calling them a "total fabrication" and a "hoax," while calling Zervos a "phony" and labeling other women making similar claims of sexual harassment "liars." Zervos then sued in New York state court, claiming Trump's attack caused her emotional distress and lost business, and that Trump knew his denials of her allegations were defamatory, because he knew the truth of their interactions and "engaged regularly in this kind of unwanted sexual touching for years, and that was, in fact, how he treated women routinely and how he lived his life." Defamation, legally speaking, refers to any false statement that hurts someone's reputation. In order to win a defamation lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that someone made a statement, the statement was published, the statement caused an injury, the statement was false, and the statement did not fall into a privileged category. Presidential Immunity Bill Clinton attempted to mount the same immunity defense when he was sued by Paula Jones for sexual harassment. Back then, the Supreme Court ruled that litigation against a sitting president can proceed if it is over conduct unrelated to his public office. While conceding that point generally, Trump's attorneys are asking for deference in scheduling and for the court to stay the lawsuit until after Trump's presidency. Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz also wrote: "Defendant Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, intends to file a motion to dismiss this action on the ground, among others, that the United States Constitution, including the Supremacy Clause contained therein, immunizes the President from being sued in state court while in office." As the Washington Post points out, this issue of presidential immunity in state courts remains unresolved, as the Paula Jones case involved federal sexual harassment claims. So while the president might not be immune to defamation claims, those claims may need to be filed in federal court. In an interesting twist to the case against Trump, one of the lawyers who successfully argued against Clinton's immunity was George T. Conway III, husband of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway and nominated by Trump to lead the Justice Department's civil division. Related Resources: Find Defamation Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Trump Claims Immunity From 'Apprentice' Contestant's Lawsuit (USA Today) Do You Know How Slander, Libel and Defamation are Different? (FindLaw's Injured) Is It Worth Suing for Defamation to Protect Your Reputation? (FindLaw's Injured)
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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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Georgia Judge Who Blocked Transgender Name Changes Overruled by Appeals Court

When Rebecca Elizabeth Feldhaus and Delphine Renee Baumert attempted to legally change their names -- to Rowan Elijah Feldhaus and Andrew Norman Baumert, respectively -- they were told by a Georgia judge that their choices weren't gender-neutral enough to suit his taste. "I do not approve of changing names from male to female -- male names to obvious female names, and vice versa," Columbia County Superior Court Judge J. David Roper, said in denying Feldhaus's request. "I think it is misleading to the public and think that it is dangerous in some circumstances for one -- for the public not to know whether they're dealing with a male or a female." But an appeals court has ruled that Judge Roper abused his discretion in denying the name change petitions, and ordered that the changes be granted. Names You Can Live With Both Feldhaus and Baumert were born female but identify as male. Under Georgia law, if a person follows the proper procedure to petition for a name change, "there is nothing in the law prohibiting a person from taking or assuming another name, so long as he does not assume a name for the purpose of defrauding other persons through a mistake of identity." And in rejecting Feldhaus and Baumert's petitions, he wrote that "[n]ame changes which allow a person to assume the role of a person of the opposite sex are, in effect, a type of fraud on the general public," and that "third parties should not have to contend with the quandary, predicament, and dilemma of a person who presents as a male, but who has an obviously female name, and vice versa." Roper also said that name changes that were not to more gender-neutral names "offend the sensibilities and mores of a substantial portion of the citizens of this state." When it came to Baumert's request, Roper suggested several names he said he "can live with," including Morgan, Shannon, Shaun and Jaimie, and when Baumert rejected those options, Roper denied his petition. Sound Legal Discretion In a terse opinion, the Fourth Division Court of Appeals overruled Roper's decisions, reiterating that "a trial court's conclusions about any person's 'confusion' or 'embarrassment' was 'not a valid basis for denying' a petition for a name change," and that the only basis for denying a petition for a name change was evidence that "showed that the petitioner was acting under an 'improper motive,' such as intentionally assuming another person's name for the purpose of embarrassing that person or avoiding the petitioner's own criminal past." Absent that evidence, the appeals court ruled, Roper should not have denied the name change requests. Name and gender change petitions are becoming more common in courts, even if some judges remain resistant. If you need help with a name change or a gender change petition, or if yours has been denied, contact an experienced civil rights attorney in your area. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Oregon Residents Can Be 'Agender' as Well as 'Non-Binary' (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) DMV Sued by Transgender Woman Over Privacy (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can Parents Block Children's Gender Transitions? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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College Students Arrested Allegedly Selling Xanax to Undercover Officers

Four college students at DePaul University in Chicago have been arrested for selling over 100 Xanax pills to undercover officers. The sales occurred on four separate occasions, for various quantities and prices, over the last few weeks. While Xanax is commonly used to help individuals with serious anxiety or other mental health issues, the drug is also sought after by recreational users. Despite the fact that it is legally available to individuals with a prescription, an individual cannot legally distribute or sell Xanax, or any other prescription drug for that matter, to any other person. Unfortunately for both legal and illegal Xanax users, the drug is reportedly highly addictive, which can lead to severe dependency issues. Selling Prescription Drugs Is Illegal Although individuals can legally purchase prescription drugs if their doctor provides a prescription, without the prescription, it is illegal to buy, or even possess, prescription drugs. This is because prescription drugs are considered controlled substances, similar to the traditionally illegal drugs, like cocaine or heroin. As such, they're regulated by the federal government, as well as state law. Like most state and federal drug laws, penalties for possession and illegal sale of prescription drugs will vary depending on the type and quantity of the drugs involved, as well as the circumstances surrounding the sourcing of the drugs. For instance, if an individual is discovered manufacturing an illegal prescription drug, they could be facing much more severe penalties than for simply possessing, or buying, an illegal prescription. Penalties for Selling Prescription Drugs Since prescription drugs can be legally obtained via a prescription, many times individuals will steal prescription pads in order to get their supply from a legal drug store. However, doing so can result in serious related criminal charges for fraud, or even conspiracy. Also, doctors who are found to be complicit in prescription drug schemes can face censure and serious penalties from medical licensing boards, in addition to serious criminal charges related to drug dealing. For first-time possession offenders, frequently the penalties will not be severe, or rise beyond the level of a misdemeanor. The penalty may not even include any jail time, unless there are extenuating circumstances, like a stolen prescription pad. For first-time distribution offenders, penalties usually will include jail time, and are likely to be charged as a felony. Related Resources: Hit with a drug charge? Have the charges reviewed free. (Consumer Injury - Criminal) If Roommate Sells Drugs, Can You Get Arrested? (FindLaw Blotter) Ice Cream Truck Driver Sold Oxycodone Pills from His Truck (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Drug Trafficking/Distribution (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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Federal Criminal Prosecutions Fall to 20 Year Low

According to new research released by the PEW research center, federal criminal prosecutions are on the decline. The new numbers show that federal criminal prosecutions have been on a consistent decline since 2011, and have even fallen to a 20 year low. Much of this is credited to the visionary approach implemented by former Attorney General Eric Holder to not prosecute every federal crime, but to focus on those where there is a substantial federal interest. Since 2011, there has been an approximate 25 percent reduction in new federal criminal cases. Federal prosecutors have gone from charging over 100,000 new cases a year, to charging about 77,000. The most common type of federal crimes that get prosecuted involve drug charges. Despite the recent trend among states to legalize marijuana, there are many other types of illegal drugs, and federal drug charges still account for the majority of federal prosecutions. However, over the past 5 years, there has been nearly a 25 percent reduction in drug prosecutions alone. Federal Crimes Prosecuted Less Most criminal prosecutions are handled by state and local prosecutors. However, when an individual violates federal criminal laws, such as those related to drugs, guns, or financial crimes, federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges in the federal court system. Also, deportation cases are also considered to be federal criminal prosecutions. Although violent crimes make up only a very small percentage of federal criminal prosecutions, that does not mean violent criminals get a pass. Typically, violent crimes are prosecuted by the states. According to the PEW research center, over half of all state prisoners have been sentenced due to violent crimes, compared to less than 10% of federal inmates. The only area where federal prosecutions were noted to have increased involved a small increase in prosecutions for gun and violent crimes. Looking Forward Although the newly appointed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is taking a strong stance and wants to increase federal criminal prosecutions for drug and gun crimes, he will have to do so with a shrinking budget as the DOJ is one of the many agencies that has impending budget cuts. Related Resources: Daylight Savings Time Could Reduce Crime Rates (FindLaw Blotter) 10 States With the Highest Rates of Violent Crime (FindLaw Blotter) Gang Membership Up, Violent Crime Rate Down (FindLaw Blotter) What Is a Special Prosecutor? How Does It Relate to Recusal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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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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7 Common Surgical Errors: When to Sue for Injuries

Any surgery can be dangerous. First, a medical condition that necessitates surgery is generally a serious one. And even mild anesthesia carries risks. After that, a surgeon has to successfully complete the procedure, and then there's closing the wound up and recovery. That's a lot of things that can go wrong, causing serious and even life-threatening injuries. Here are seven of the most common surgical errors that can lead to patient injuries, and when you might have a case for medical malpractice. 1. Catholic Hospital Refuses Transgender Man's Surgery, Gets Sued Can doctors get in legal trouble before a surgical process ever happens? A few lawsuits have caused hospitals with religious directives to alter their stance on transgender and women's health procedures. 2. Robotic Surgery Injury Lawsuit FAQ It's 2017, meaning that not all of your surgeons are human. Robots can offer steadier hands and less fatigue than their human counterparts, but who's liable when they malfunction? 3. Botched or Wrong-Site Surgery Lawsuits: 3 Legal Questions Surgeries on the wrong limb or organ are, tragically, more common than you'd think. These obvious mistakes are clearly grounds for medical malpractice lawsuits, right? 4. 3M Bair Hugger Lawsuits: Surgical Warming Blankets Causing Deadly Infections It goes without saying that you won't be wearing much during your surgery. So how to you stay warm in those notoriously could environments? And what happens if staying warms goes wrong? 5. Man Sues After Waking During Cataract Surgery It might be every surgery patient's nightmare -- waking in the middle and perhaps even feeling what's going on. Anesthesiologists are held to the same standard as any other medical professional. 6. When Can You Sue for Scarring or Disfigurement? Even if the surgery was success overall, the devil may be in the details. Careless suturing of surgical wounds or even malicious scarring can be grounds for a lawsuit. 7. Can You Sue for Plastic Surgery Results You Don't Like? Results matter in any surgery, especially in elective surgery where the goal is perfection. But is being less than perfectly satisfied with the results of plastic surgery grounds for a lawsuit? Related Resources: Injured during surgery? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) 3 Common Medical Mistakes That Can Lead to Malpractice Lawsuits (FindLaw's Injured) 5 Ways Surgery Errors Can Lead to Lawsuits (FindLaw's Injured) Preventable Mistakes Still Happen in Surgery (FindLaw's Injured)
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