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Alabama

Daycare Owners Sued for Hiring Negligence After Child’s Death

"As parents, we trust that our children are safe while they are under the supervision of organizations like Community Nursery & Preschool, and that those individuals taking care of our children are responsible, qualified, and professional care providers. When organizations and individuals betray that trust, the consequences can be tragic and heart-breaking." That sounds like some of the openings we've had to write in response to children being injured or killed while at daycare. In fact they're the words of David S. Cain Jr., an attorney representing the family of 5-year-old Kamden Johnson, whose body discovered in the driveway in Mobile, Alabama last week. The family is suing the daycare Kamden was supposed to be attending on the day he was found, claiming the company was negligent in screening and hiring Valarie Rena Patterson, who has also been charged with multiple crimes relating to the boy's death.An Avoidable Tragedy Though all the details are not yet known, it sounds like Kamden was another tragic victim of being left in a hot van for too long. Kenya Anderson, the Director of the Community Nursery & Preschool Academy, told AL.com that Patterson was in charge of shuttling children between daycare facilities. Kamden was a passenger in the morning, but Patterson allegedly told Anderson she didn't pick him up for the afternoon rounds. Anderson, along with Community Church Ministries, Inc. and owners Carl and Angela Coker, are named in the lawsuit, which claims the daycare failed to conduct a background check on Patterson before her hiring. A Knowable Past According to law enforcement, that background check would've been revealing. AoL.com reports: Mobile County jail records show Patterson's arrest history dating back to November 1991 for three counts of second-degree theft of property charges, two counts of first-degree theft of property, two counts of third-degree theft of property, no driver's license and failure to appear in court charges. She was arrested a second time in August 1999 in Florida on first-degree theft of property, giving a false name to police and fugitive from justice charges. Court documents show that Patterson used an alias name of Valarie Hardy during that arrest. She was arrested a third time in October of 2007 on a fugitive from justice charge. In this case, Patterson has been charged with corpse abuse and manslaughter. Whether the Community Church daycare performed its due diligence in hiring Patterson may be a question left to another jury. Related Resources: Find Wrongful Death Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Child Injured at Day Care: Should You Call a Lawyer? (FindLaw's Injured) 3 Most Common Injuries in Daycare (FindLaw's Injured) Signs of Daycare Abuse (FindLaw's Injured)
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Social Media and Voting: Update on ‘Ballot Selfie’ Laws

Ah, the selfie. That staple of social media. Who needs a silly little "I Voted" sticker when you can share your voting status worldwide with a few taps on your smartphone? The ballot selfie has become the most popular way to prove you participated in the political process, but some states aren't too keen on the idea. Quite a few states have banned ballot selfies, and a few state courts have overturned bans. So where does the law stand now? Here's a look. In and Out Whether you can snap a selfie at your polling place can depend on where you live. Some states explicitly bar ballot selfies, some states allow them, and quite a few states have yet to clarify matters, legally. The AP published a comprehensive list of state ballot selfie laws, and here's a quick summary: Legal: Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Not Legal: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Some of these bans are prohibitions on taking photographs of ballots specifically; others are laws against taking any pictures at polling places. And keep in mind that even in states where ballot selfies are legal, there may be limits on where you can snap your selfie and what can be included. Up in the Air There are still 13 states that have yet to decide the issue of ballot selfies definitively. Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia either don't address ballot selfies explicitly, have proposals pending, or have laws on the books that state officials have said may not prohibit ballot selfies. So before you start snapping photos of you and your ballot and post them to social media, you may want to consult with a local civil rights attorney to confirm the ballot selfie laws in your jurisdiction. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) New Hampshire Strikes Down Ban on 'Ballot Selfies' (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Snapchat Stands up for Right to Snap Ballot Selfies (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Rules Around Polling Places (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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What Can and Cannot Be Expunged From Your Criminal Record?

It's welcome news to many criminal defendants that they can have their record expunged. While expungement might not be perfect -- most law enforcement agencies will still be able to see your arrest history and any convictions -- it means potential employers will have a harder time seeing your mistakes. But which mistakes are eligible for expungement, and which will remain on your permanent record? General Information For the most part, expungement eligibility is determined by the severity of the crime and the person's criminal record. State law can vary, but expungement is normally available for crimes committed as a juvenile and most misdemeanors, so long as you don't have an extensive criminal history. Also, expungement is usually a one-time deal -- if you're convicted of crimes committed after expungement, those are likely to stay on your record. Arresting Information Just because you've been arrested doesn't mean you're guilty. But a record of your arrest may pop up on a background check. Luckily most states will expunge an arrest record, especially if there was no conviction. And expungement can be part of a negotiated plea bargain. Getting rid of that online mug shot, however, might be a tougher task. Conviction Information If you've been convicted of a crime, whether you can clear your record will come down to state and local rules on expungement. Some states allow you to expunge a DUI conviction, some do not. This can come up especially if you're trying to expunge an out-of-state conviction. And some states are more likely to expunge a conviction after a certain amount of time has passed. No matter where you live, however, felony convictions are very difficult, if not impossible, to get expunged. The main criteria for most expungement decisions is the severity and nature of the event for which expungement is sought. Felony convictions normally involve more serious crimes, making them harder to get off your record. The expungement process can be complicated, and it certainly helps to have an experienced criminal law attorney on your side. If you have questions about your criminal record or want to have it expunged, contact one today. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) The FindLaw Guide to Expungement (FindLaw PDF) Got Priors? How to Expunge Criminal Records (FindLaw Blotter) When Must You Disclose an Expungement? (FindLaw Blotter)
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How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you're accused of a crime, you need a good criminal defense lawyer. But good doesn't come in one style, and what you need will depend on you and the specifics of your case. There are all kinds of counselors with different effective approaches to defense. People pick attorneys based on reputation, experience, word-of-mouth, price, advertising, the feeling they get when meeting counsel, and more. Here are some general principles to consider so you know what to look for when exchanging with defense counsel and deciding about representation. No Accounting for Taste There are many lawyering styles from the aggressive attorney to the zealous defender. Some lawyers are soft-spoken and persuasive, some are charming arguers, others are tenacious and creative and can find a solution where other attorneys see none. The lawyer for you depends on who you are and what your criminal case involves. An articulate attorney is key, however. You need to be able to talk to your lawyer and understand what they are saying and doing for you, even if it's through a language interpreter. Is the person inspiring confidence in you or do you feel like you're being hustled? Do you feel comfortable being represented by this individual based on how they speak and their apparent understanding of the issues? You will have to talk about difficult matters with a lawyer so don't go with someone who is a bully or in a big hurry because they seem slick. Really think about this relationship. It can mean a lot in your life. If, for example, you also have immigration or other legal matters pending, alert the attorney. Lay out all the possible concerns to get good guidance. Assessing Experience When it comes to deciding how much experience is right, this too depends on you. What you need is a dedicated attorney and one willing to work for the best resolution possible in light of your life. Some new attorneys are very good and some old ones have bad habits and vice versa. Look for someone who lays out multiple options or promises to do more research, for example. If the attorney starts by quoting a price and saying you likely have to plead guilty, proceed with caution. A defense attorney works for you. Sometimes that means telling you hard truths but you need explanations of process and some options, not another prosecutor. Consult With Counsel If you're accused of a crime, talk to a few lawyers. Call a few offices and find out what you can. Make an appointment with the lawyers that seem most promising. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to talk about your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw Blotter) How Much Does a Criminal defense Attorney Cost? (FindLaw Blotter) 5 Questions for Your Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw Blotter)
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Your Significant Privacy Interest in Your Phone Doesn’t End at Border

Your phone now contains more information than ever before, more even than your home, and the courts recognize this. You do have a significant privacy interest in your phone and you can challenge a search of your tech just as you would a search of your car. Two years ago, the Supreme Court acknowledged the significant role of technology in our lives in Riley v. California. A recent case out of the Eastern District of Virginia, US v. Kolsuz, illustrates this, saying specifically that search of a smartphone at a border requires reasonable suspicion, according to legal analyst Orin Kerr. Let's consider what it means for you. Attached to our Phones Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a unanimous court in Riley v. California, was cognizant of the role that cell phones play in contemporary life, and our significant attachment to our tech. The phone are, he said, "such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy." In the more recent case, US v Kolsuz, the court rejected prosecutors' attempts to distinguish between two kinds of searches -- an extensive cell phone search from a very extensive one. The court found that either type of forensic search of cell phone data invades privacy and requires a warrant. It noted that the government can reconstruct an individual's private life by putting together the data in the phone and wrote, "Thus although the forensic search of defendant's iPhone did not involve the copying of every bit of data contained on the phone's hard drive, it nonetheless implicated significant privacy interests. To suggest otherwise is like suggesting that a strip search does not implicate a significant privacy interest so long as the government does not look between the person's toes." Search and Seizure The courts are increasingly finding we have a significant privacy interest in our technology, and recent rulings indicate that police must treat personal items like smartphones as they would your home or person. But remember that these cases arise when someone is challenging what already happened. This means that in reality when you are at the border, authorities may ask to search your phone and it is up to you to say no. Even if your phone is taken, you significantly improve your chances of successfully challenging the search by clearly refusing to consent to it. Accused? If you have been accused of a crime, don't delay. Speak to a criminal defense attorney today. Many lawyers consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Probable Cause (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Police Misconduct and Civil Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) The Fourth Amendment Warrant Requirement (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Top 9 Search and Seizure Questions

Now that the FBI has been caught bugging two California courthouses, many people are wondering about the limits of police surveillance. Recording conversations falls under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures." So what's considered unreasonable? It's been a long time since the Constitution was written, and society and technology have changed quite a bit since then. Here are some of the limits of police search and seizure today: 1. Valid Search Warrant? 3 Things to Look For If police have a warrant, the search or seizure will almost always be reasonable. But how do you know if the warrant is legit? 2. When Are Warrantless Searches OK? While police need a warrant to search, seize, or conduct surveillance in most instances, there are quite a few exceptions to the warrant requirement. 3. Can Police Read or Search Through Your Mail? The privacy of written communication was one of the leading interests behind the Fourth Amendment. But it only protects the contents of the letter, and only until you throw it away. 4. Legal for Police to Read My Text Messages? State law on electronic searches can vary, and many allow searches of cell phones if you've been arrested, but the Supreme Court has ruled that police will need a warrant to do so. 5. When Can Police Search Your Home? Police almost always need a warrant to search your home, but can come in without one if you give them permission, if they see something in plain sight, if you've been arrested at home, or there's an emergency. 6. Can My Home Be Searched If I'm on Parole or Probation? Some states require that parolees and probationers sign an agreement giving officers permission to search their homes for contraband. 7. Is it Legal to Search Based on The Smell of Marijuana? Is every officer a K-9? It may depend on whether police smell marijuana in your house or in your car. 8. Can Police Follow You Without a Warrant? What if cops are really searching you, but just keeping an eye on you? What kind of surveillance requires a warrant? 9. When Can Police Conduct a Strip Search? Strip searches and cavity searches are extremely invasive and can be humiliating and embarrassing as well. But they are allowed in some cases. In most cases, if police perform an illegal search or seizure, that evidence can't be used against you. To find out if a particular search was legal, you should ask an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What are my Rights During a Traffic Stop? (FindLaw Blotter) Can Cops Pose as Cable Repairmen and Search My Home? (FindLaw Blotter) Wrongful Arrest? ...
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Amid Controversy, Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Ala.

Alabama was the source of a good bit of controversy surrounding same-sex marriage last week, after a federal judge declared the state's law prohibiting same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Right after that, however, the Alabama Supreme Court's Chief Justice Roy Moore issued his own order telling state judges and employees not to recognize same-sex marriages or issue licenses. Moore's conflicting order led to questions about who trumps whom when it comes to federal trial courts and state supreme courts, but the U.S. Supreme Court put the issue to rest by refusing to review the case. What's going on down in Alabama? Same-Sex Marriage Is Constitutional -- Maybe On January 23, a federal trial judge in Alabama struck down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional. The state refused to allow one of the women in the case to adopt the other woman's son because it didn't recognize their marriage as valid. Citing to recent same-sex marriage decisions, including the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, Judge Callie V.S. Granade concluded that Alabama's law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and ordered the state to no longer enforce the ban. Granade's order set the stage for Alabama to become the 37th state to permit same-sex marriage -- except that, on February 3, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a memo to state probate court judges (who are in charge of marriages) indicating they weren't bound by the federal court decision, which Moore said was contrary to state law. On February 8, he ordered probate judges and state employees not to recognize same-sex marriages. Legal scholars tend to agree that Moore's opinion doesn't override a federal judge's opinion. Moore is no stranger to making controversial decisions. He was removed as chief justice in 2003 when he refused to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from outside the courthouse, but Alabama voters returned him to office in 2012. The Supremes Decide Not to Weigh In The U.S. Supreme Court implicitly affirmed Granade's order on Monday, when it refused to grant an emergency petition by Alabama's attorney general to stay Granade's decision, which would have suspended the issuing of marriage licenses in the state. Justices Thomas and Scalia dissented, arguing that the state law should have been stayed to allow a federal appellate court to weigh in. The dissent also took time to criticize the Court's recent practice of not staying a federal appeals court's order when it finds a state law unconstitutional. With the U.S. Supreme Court out of the picture, Alabama counties began issuing marriage licenses -- well, most of them, anyway. According to The New York Times, some Alabama courts protested the decision by not conducting any marriages at all. Related Resources: Confusion in Alabama as Some Defy Court Order to Grant Gay Marriage Licenses (Los Angeles Times) Ark. and Miss. Gay Marriage Bans Struck Down (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Same-Sex Marriage Returns to Supreme Court: 3 Things You Should Know (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Gay Marriage Update: Kan., Mo., and 6th Circuit (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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What Counts as Criminal Mischief?

Although many criminal charges are very specific, others, such as criminal mischief, can encompass a wide variety of criminal behavior. Criminal mischief generally includes what is commonly known as vandalism, dealing mainly with crimes committed against property such as defacing someone's building with graffiti or breaking the windows of a business. Although vandalism may be included under state criminal statutes forbidding "criminal damage" or "malicious trespass," in many states, vandalism may be charged as criminal mischief. What typically counts as criminal mischief? Here are a few examples of criminal mischief laws in different states: Texas. Under the Texas Penal Code, criminal mischief includes knowingly damaging or destroying another person's property or tampering with the property of a person if that tampering causes loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or another individual. Texas' criminal mischief statute also forbids intentionally or knowingly making markings "including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings" on another person's property. In Texas, criminal mischief is a felony if it causes a loss of more than $1,500 or involves fencing used for livestock or game animals. Alabama. Under Alabama law, criminal mischief is considered intentionally inflicting damage to property, when you have no right (or reasonable grounds to believe that you have a right) to do so. Criminal mischief is a felony in Alabama if the damages exceed $2,500 or are inflicted by means of an explosion. Otherwise, criminal mischief is either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. New York. New York also charges criminal mischief as a felony when a person intentionally damages another person's property (without right or reasonable grounds to believe he has a right) in an amount exceeding $1,500 or by means of an explosion. Misdemeanor criminal mischief in New York includes a number of different acts such as breaking into a locked vehicle to steal property or intentionally participating in the destruction of an abandoned building. If you've been charged with criminal mischief or another crime, a criminal defense attorney can explain your legal options and represent you in court. You can learn more about criminal charges, criminal court procedure, and your constitutional rights at FindLaw's section on Criminal Law. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Man Bulldozes Home Without Telling Wife; Gets Arrested (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Doughnut Vandalism Leaves Ore. Town Glazed and Confused (FindLaw's Legal Grounds) Woman Arrested for Vandalizing Florida Satanic Display (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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