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Is Police Body Cam Footage Public Record?

Over the past few years, more and more police departments have adopted the use of officer body cams. The devices attach to an officer's uniform and record what the officers do while on duty. However, there is no uniform law of the land when it comes to the public's right to access the footage from the body cams. Depending on the local jurisdiction, or state, different standards are used for the release of the footage. Some will only allow the footage to be released publicly as part of a criminal or civil trial (as the law requires the disclosure then), while others allow the recordings to be released on YouTube (after private and identifying information is edited out). Video for the People, Not of the People The purpose of police body cams is to engender the public's trust. The idea is essentially that officers will be less likely to not follow the rules, and will be more likely to do everything exactly by the book, if there is a video record of all their actions. These cams can also provide evidence of corrupt police practices, at least when the corrupt officers are not selectively recording with their body cams. The recordings are not just of public civil servants (police officers), but the individuals they encounter are, naturally, caught on camera too. This complicates public disclosure as private individuals have privacy rights, even when they are out in public. Those privacy rights can be violated by allowing the public unfettered access to the footage. A simple example involves a traffic stop. If an officer is not careful when handling a pulled over driver's documents, or the footage is not redacted/edited before it is released publicly, a person's driver's license number, address, height, birth date, and (alleged) weight, could all be captured by a body cam. Who's Watching? Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of police body cam footage, it would likely be impractical, or a drain on police resources, for all of it to be reviewed. Instead, generally, departments review the footage when necessary to review high profile incidents, arrests that lead to prosecutions, or sometimes when officers need help to remember what happened for their reports. Also, when complaints against officers are made by the public, or other officers, the body cam footage can be reviewed. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police Body Cameras: What Defendants, Victims Need to Know (FindLaw Blotter) Body Cams Embraced, But Who Will Have Access to Footage? (FindLaw's California Case Law) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter)
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NY DMV Busts 4k Fraudsters With Facial Recognition Tech

Identity theft often involves multiple pieces of identification. That means multiple driver's licenses, all with the same face. So in 2010, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles began using facial recognition software to flag the same face applying for multiple licenses. Turns out it pays off. The New York Post reports the DMV's facial recognition technology has led to 4,000 arrests and ID'd a total of 21,000 cases of identity theft or fraud. Hey, You Look Familiar The facial recognition program looks for the same faces applying for driver's licenses under different names. Yes, in rare instances, the software can uncover identical twins put up for adoption and raised in different parts of the state. But more often than not, as the Post reports, the tech is tracking identity thieves: Among those ensnared in the new high-tech net was Randolph Robinson who tried to obtain a New York driver's license of a man he moved furniture for, authorities said. When the state system flagged him and he realized his license wasn't mailed in a matter of days, Robinson flew to Florida, where he could get a license immediately at a DMV counter, officials said. State investigators tracked him down and busted him after they say he used the Florida identification to withdraw $50,000 from the victim's bank accounts and buy a new Honda. Numbers Game "The use of this facial recognition technology has allowed law enforcement to crack down on fraud, identity theft, and other offenses - taking criminals and dangerous drivers off our streets and increasing the safety of New York's roadways," Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "We will continue to do everything we can to hold fraudsters accountable and protect the safety and security of all New Yorkers." Along with those 4,000 arrests, another 16,000 people are facing administrative action as a result of the technology. A DMV investigation discovered that half of those flagged as having multiple license records were trying to get a second license after their original one had been suspended or revoked. "New York has a simple policy: one driver, one record," Terri Egan, DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner, added. "If your license is suspended or revoked, the days of getting a second one to try to keep driving are over." Related Resources: Driver's License Facial Recognition Tech Leads to 4,000 New York Arrests (Ars Technica) How Are Police Using Facial Recognition Software? And Is It Accurate? (FindLaw Blotter) Legal for Cops to Use iPhone Facial Recognition? (FindLaw Blotter) Can I Get Arrested for Not Having ID? (FindLaw Blotter)
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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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Is Road Rage a Crime?

We've probably all been guilty of road rage at least once in our lives. However, when road rage escalates from stewing in your car to aggressive driving or vicious assaults, road rage can get you arrested. Just this week, a case of road rage was caught on camera in Yuma, Arizona. A motorcyclist, wearing a GoPro camera on his helmet, allegedly cut off another car. When both the car and motorcycle were stopped at a light, the driver got out of his vehicle, walked straight up to the motorcyclist and punched him in the face! The driver proceeds to shove a passenger on the motorcycle and try to punch the motorcyclist several more times before being taken down. The driver was taken to the hospital with an apparent broken ankle, and has been charged with endangerment, threatening, and assault. Could he also have been charged with road rage? Road Rage Laws In most cases of road rage, a driver is often charged with a slew of violations and other crimes, such as speeding, unsafe lane changing, endangerment, or assault, as happened in this case. However, some states also have laws or vehicles codes punishing road rage: Arizona -- According to Arizona's Department of Public Safety, road rage is defined as "an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway." California -- California's Vehicle Code section 13210 allows for a court-ordered suspension of your driver's license if you are convicted of assault with a deadly weapon caused by road rage. Massachusetts -- If you have a junior operator's license in Massachusetts and you speed up in competition with another driver, you could be convicted of drag racing and be ordered to complete a court program against road rage. If you ever find yourself getting angry while driving, take a few deep breaths and calm down. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road rage and aggressive driving cause 66 percent of traffic fatalities. In a seven year period, 218 people were murdered and 12,610 injured because of road rage. If you are charged with road rage or any other crime in conjunction, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney for help. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Video: Motorcyclist Attacked in Arizona Road Rage Incident (ABC 7) 'Road Rage Lady' in Viral Video Arrested, but for What? (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Road Rage Tips: How to Not Get Shot (FindLaw's Injured)
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After a DUI Arrest, Don’t Forget Your DMV Hearing

In the aftermath of a DUI arrest, it's important to remember that in addition to the criminal charges you are facing, you may also have a limited amount of time to request a hearing with your state's DMV in order to avoid a lengthy driver's license suspension. In most states, immediately following a driving under the influence arrest, a person essentially has two different cases to deal with: the criminal case in criminal court and the administrative case through a state's Department of Motor Vehicles or equivalent vehicle registration agency. Why is it important to know about this administrative hearing process? Driver's License Suspension In most states, a driver who's been pulled over and cited for suspected DUI will have his or her driver's license automatically suspended. In order to have your driver's license reinstated, a person arrested for DUI must file a request for a hearing within a specific number of days, typically 10, although the exact deadline varies by state. In Colorado, for example, drivers who have their license revoked following a DUI arrest only have 7 days to request a hearing. Even if your criminal DUI charges are dropped or you negotiate a plea to a lesser charge -- such as a "wet reckless" -- failure to request a DMV hearing may mean that your driver's license will remain suspended or revoked (although in some states, such as California, you may be able to regain your driving privileges if you are acquitted in criminal court). What Happens at a DMV Hearing? The DMV hearing is an administrative, not criminal, proceeding, but you still have the right to have an attorney present. You can also present evidence and testimony on your own behalf. Unlike in criminal court, where a person must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, DMV hearings generally operate under a lower "preponderance of the evidence" standard of proof similar to that often found in civil trials. The DMV hearing is not conducted in front of a judge, but rather a hearing officer. However, the hearing is similar to a criminal trial in that the law enforcement officer who made the arrest must show that you were lawfully arrested for operating a vehicle over the legal limit of intoxication or that you refused to submit to a chemical test in violation of a state's implied consent laws. If you have questions about DMV hearings in your state, a DUI attorney will know the law and may be able to help you regain your driving privileges. You can also learn more about DUI arrests, charges, and penalties at FindLaw's section on DUI Law. Related Resources: Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) How to Reinstate a License After a DUI (FindLaw's Blotter) Top 5 Questions to Ask a DUI Lawyer (FindLaw's Blotter) What Happens If You Refuse a DUI Breath Test? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Spring Break in Mexico: 5 Legal Tips to Know

According to the U.S. State Department, 100,000 American teenagers and young adults travel to Mexico for Spring Break every year. While the vast majority of them enjoy their Mexico vacations without a hitch, the State Department cautions that "several may die, hundreds will be arrested, and still more will make mistakes that could affect them for the rest of their lives," Examiner.com reports. Here are five legal tips for spring breakers in Mexico: Drinking in public. Technically, it is illegal to walk the streets of Mexico with an open container of alcohol, though images of blacked out college kids meandering through Tijuana might suggest otherwise when it comes to actual enforcement of the law. Still, be careful. Using drugs. In 2009, Mexico decriminalized the possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis (roughly four joints), but people caught with that amount can still be detained by police, The Associated Press reports. The same law also decriminalized up to half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams for LSD. Anything more than that can lead to imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is even tried, according to the State Department. Taking a taxi. While in Mexico, only use the licensed and regulated "sitio" taxis (pronounced SEE-tee-oh). Just like in any other place, using an unlicensed taxi in Mexico increases your risk of getting robbed, raped, or kidnapped. Driving in Mexico. Carry your U.S. driver's license with you when driving in Mexico and make sure the owner of the car is in the car with you. If you get into a car accident, know that you may be taken into police custody until it is determined who is at fault and whether you have the ability to pay any penalty. The State Department therefore strongly recommends purchasing a full coverage insurance policy that will cover the cost of bail. If you rent a moped or car, make sure to purchase third-party insurance (your credit card insurance might not cover you in Mexico). Swimming. Standards of security, safety, and supervision may not reach the levels expected in the United States. Watch for safety warnings of rough seas. If black or red flags are displayed, stay out of the water. It's best to swim where there's a lifeguard (and that applies to swimming pools too). Beware undertow and rip tides in some areas of Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Mazatlan and Oaxaca. There are plenty of perfectly safe historic, cultural, and culinary travel adventures to be had in Mexico. It ultimately comes down to being smart and playing by the rules. Related Resources: Mexico: Safety tips for young adults going south for spring break (Los Angeles Times) Spring Break Abroad? Get a Power of Attorney (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What to Do If You're Arrested in a Foreign Country (FindLaw's Blotter) Spring Break Stabbing Leads to Coca-Cola Suit (FindLaw's Injured)
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3 Ways a Misdemeanor DUI Can Become a Felony

The lowest level of DUI is a misdemeanor, and most first-time DUIs are charged that way. However, there are certain circumstances that can turn a misdemeanor DUI into a felony. Whether you get charged with a misdemeanor or felony can greatly affect your punishment. Felonies are considered much more serious crimes and can result in more than a year in prison and hefty fines. On the other hand, misdemeanors usually result in less than a year in jail and potentially lesser fines. Drunken-driving laws vary by state, but in general, here are three ways that a misdemeanor DUI can become a felony: The DUI causes injury or death. In some states, a DUI or DWI charge becomes a felony if the intoxicated driver causes bodily harm or death to another person. For example, under California law, prosecutors can elevate a misdemeanor DUI to a felony if the intoxicated driver kills someone in a crash (otherwise known as vehicular manslaughter). Driver's license issues. Another way a misdemeanor DUI can become a felony is if it occurs while the driver has a suspended, restricted, or revoked license. For example, in Illinois, committing a drunken-driving offense when you already have your license suspended for whatever reason can become a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. Prior DUI/DWI convictions. Habitual drunken-driving offenders can also face felony charges if they're caught drinking and driving again, within a certain time frame. For example, in New York, first-time offenders can face up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor DWI. However, if you get a second DWI conviction within 10 years, you can be charged with a felony DWI and incarcerated for up to four years in prison if convicted. Depending on your state's laws, there could be other ways in which your misdemeanor DUI becomes a felony. And there are other factors -- like whether you were convicted of DUI as a juvenile or whether your DUI conviction was expunged -- that can also affect the outcome of your case. That's why, if you're facing a drunken-driving charge, it's best to consult an experienced DUI attorney in your area as soon as possible. Related Resources: Lawmakers face long odds in expanding felony DUI definition (The Seattle Times) DUI Habitual Offenders: What Are the Consequences? (FindLaw's Blotter) What Is a DUI Causing Injury in Arizona? (FindLaw's Phoenix DUI Blog) At DUI Checkpoints, Are Drug Swabs Legal? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Get a Different Name Day: Why and How to Do It

It's Get a Different Name Day! As Juliet famously proclaimed to Romeo, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But what if you feel otherwise and believe names carry special significance? You certainly wouldn't be alone. People change their names for a variety of reasons. And the legal process for doing so may be easier than you think. Here are a few reasons why people change their names and how you can change yours: Why People Change Their Names People change their names for a wide variety of reasons, including: Marriage and divorce. It's common for one spouse to adopt the other spouse's name after marriage. On the flipside, when things go south, ex-spouses change their names back after divorce. It's also not unheard of for custodial parents to change their kids' last names after a divorce, particularly after a contentious one. Personal preference. If your parents bestowed upon you a name that's a little too special for your liking -- like, ahem, North West -- you can change it. But you generally must wait until you're 18 or get emancipated. Publicity. Folks with a flair for eccentricity might change their names as a publicity stunt. For example, cannabis connoisseur Ed Forchion tried to change his name to "NJWeedman.com." Unfortunately for Forchion, your name change may not pan out if it risks creating unnecessary confusion or condoning illegal activity. Notoriety. Some people with notorious last names, including members of the Sandusky and Madoff clans, have sought to change their names to get a fresh start and to distance themselves from negative associations. Personal or political reasons. Sometimes a name change can carry personal, professional, or political significance. For example, San Francisco 49ers' safety Donte Whitner plans to change his name to "Hitner" for his fans (but it's been delayed until he can be present in court, ESPN reports). New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio changed his name twice to honor his mother's side of the family. How People Change Their Names The most important thing to do to legally change your name is to just start using your new name. Use it on forms and with friends, family, employers, and schools. Though most states don't require court proceedings to make name changes official, it can be helpful. Common forms include a petition to legally change your name, an order to show cause for the legal change, and a final decree. Not all name changes will be approved, however. For example, you can't change your name to hide from creditors or police, and you can't take another person's name to create confusion. Courts also won't approve name changes deemed obscene or offensive. Since every state varies on their name change rules, you may want to consult an experienced family law attorney on your state's requirements. Related Resources: Changing Your Name (FindLaw) What's In a Name? How to Legally Change Your Name (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Fla. Man Takes Wife's Last Name, Accused of Driver's License Fraud (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Baby's Name Can't Be 'Messiah,' Tenn. Judge Rules (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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