Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

August 2013 Archives

Is it Illegal to Remix Music?

Aspiring DJs and music enthusiasts everywhere love original music, and they love it even more when it's remixed. But is it illegal to remix music?

Whether you're making mash-ups for your own personal playlist or getting ready to spin your first set at the club, your remix could end up being quite costly if a copyright holder sues you for infringement.

Here's what you need to know about music remixes and the law:

Top 10 Labor Day Travel Tips

As the economy is recovering, more households than ever are packing up their vacation gear and taking off for the long Labor Day holiday weekend.

AAA Travel has projected that 34.1 million people -- nearly 11 percent of Americans -- will be traveling more than 50 miles away from home this Labor Day weekend.

To help keep you safe and ensure a happy vacation, keep these Top 10 travel tips in mind:

All Married Gay Couples to Get Tax Breaks: IRS

Same-sex married couples can file as "married" on their federal taxes no matter what state they live in, the IRS and U.S. Treasury Department clarified on Thursday.

This official announcement was prompted by the recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion that struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The ruling requires the federal government to recognize legally married same-sex couples as married for taxes and other federal benefits, reports The Huffington Post.

What changes does this bring for the 2013 tax year?

Multiple Roommates? 5 Common Legal Problems

Living with multiple roommates is always an exciting move to make, but of course it raises many legal issues.

While you may feel like you're prepared, having been a tenant in the past, it may be a different situation when others are involved in the process too.

So before you break out those invites to your housewarming party, here are five legal issues to keep in mind if you're going to have multiple roommates:

Legal How-To: Canceling a Contract Within 3 Days

Many of us have buyer's remorse after completing a purchase or closing a deal. But luckily, there are some situations in which you can cancel the deal within three days.

Caveat emptor (buyer beware) no more with these easy steps to cancel a recent contract:

'I Have a Dream': MLK's Estate Has a Copyright

With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington upon us, you may wish to revisit the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, which he famously delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the march.

But don't expect to easily find it online, because the speech is actually copyrighted.

3 N.M. Counties to Issue Gay Marriage Licenses

Gay marriage is now legal in New Mexico's most populous county, after a state court ruled Monday that denying the right to marry is unconstitutional.

Bernalillo County, where the city of Albuquerque is located, joins Santa Fe and Doña Ana counties as the third jurisdiction in New Mexico to offer gay marriage licenses. The court's ruling has set the stage for expanding gay and lesbian rights statewide, reports Reuters.

Will New Mexico soon be the 14th state to legalize gay marriage?

College Student Credit Cards: 5 Tips to Avoid Debt

As college students head off to school, it's important that they develop solid credit card habits. If not, their poor pinpad decisions and damaged credit scores can potentially haunt them for years to come.

This is especially true for incoming freshmen who will soon be tempted by free T-shirts and other knick-knacks that come with applying for credit cards on campus. If students aren't careful, they could charge their way into personal bankruptcy.

Here are five tips to avoid a credit card catastrophe:

5 Potential Pitfalls of an Uncontested Divorce

Divorce can often be complicated, but for some couples, a more streamlined, uncontested divorce may be an attractive option.

Perhaps you and your spouse don’t have any property and/or children to speak of, and a cut-and-dry divorce agreement seems best.

Not so fast, Mr. or Ms. Soon-to-be-Single, there are a number of potential pitfalls to consider before getting a quickie divorce. Here are five you’ll want to think about:

For Students, Labor Laws May Limit Work Hours

Whether it's high school or college, students are working themselves to the bone, according to a new survey by Citigroup and Seventeen magazine. Nearly 80 percent of students are rolling up their shirt sleeves at least part-time during the school year, the study found.

The findings on student employment -- which included high school and college students -- raise legal issues and concerns about the educational future of our country's youth.

Jury Duty Text Alerts Now Available in N.J.

New Jersey is now offering jury duty text alerts. So if you're terrible with dates and glued to your phone, you're in luck.

The new system will send text and email messages to prospective New Jersey jurors to remind them of their summons date and to advise petit jurors about whether they need to report for jury duty.

Here's why the prospective jurors should be counting their legal blessings -- and their spare change.

Legal to Ride a Bike on a Sidewalk?

It is legal to ride your bike on a sidewalk? The answer depends on where you’re doing your sidewalk biking, and perhaps surprisingly, maybe even how old you are.

While riding a bike may seem less complicated than driving a car, bicyclists also have to follow the rules of the road (and the rules of the sidewalk). In some states, for example, bicyclists can even get arrested for biking under the influence just as drivers can get arrested for DUIs. Biking with traffic (not facing it) is also required by law in most states.

So what about biking on a sidewalk? Here’s a general overview:

50 Years Later, MLK's Dream Still Not Realized

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream" speech. The line that has particularly resonated over the years is the one in which King muses about the day when his children would "not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

No doubt, we have certainly made strides since the March on Washington, which culminated in King's speech on August 28, 1963. But here are three race-related civil rights issues that continue to hinder our national dream for equality:

Texas Sued by Justice Dept. Over Voter ID Law

The Justice Department filed suit against the state of Texas in federal court Thursday, claiming the state's voter identification law illegally discriminates against racial minorities.

This suit follows the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision which substantially weakened the Voting Rights Act of 1965 -- a decision that allowed the Lone Star State to implement a previously blocked voter ID law, reports Reuters.

As the U.S. government sues Texas, the old battle lines of federalism will inevitably be drawn on this new ground.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner Set to Resign: Report

Disgraced San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is prepared to resign over issues related to a sexual harassment lawsuit -- and it only took a mere 18 alleged victims and evidence of allegedly misused city funds to get to this point.

One of Filner's former aides filed the suit last month, and many more alleged victims have since stepped forward. Filner wanted the city to help pay for his legal defense, and had refused to step down before entering closed-door mediation talks with city officials, San Diego's KGTV reports.

Here's what his mediation was all about:

'Tuff' Lessons From Ga. School Gunman 911 Call

Antoinette Tuff made an incredibly difficult 911 call and helped to prevent a mass shooting at an elementary school near Atlanta on Tuesday. What can we learn from Tuff's heroic call and how she handled the situation?

Tuff, who works in the front office at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, called 911 when a gunman, later identified as Michael Brandon Hill, walked into the school, armed with an assault rifle.

Tuff did not sound hysterical or panicked in the 911 call, obtained by CNN. Instead, she calmly followed all the dispatcher's instructions and engaged in conversation with the gunman, even offering to walk him outside so he could properly surrender. Though shots were fired, no one was hurt in the ordeal.

Here are some lessons we can learn from Antoinette Tuff on how to handle a scary hostage situation:

Can Homeschoolers Play Sports in Public Schools?

Homeschooling is an attractive option for many families who prefer their own method of teaching to that of public schools. But it often can exclude homeschoolers from participating in extracurricular activities like school sports.

Since there is no federal regulation governing homeschool participation in interscholastic activities like sports, homeschoolers' place on local school teams may depend on evolving state laws.

Kodak to Exit Bankruptcy, Refocus Its Business

A judge has approved Kodak's bankruptcy exit strategy. The once towering photography giant is now slated to become a much smaller digital imaging company that will focus on commercial and packaging printing.

Kodak filed for bankruptcy last year after struggling for years with digital photography competitors and growing debt.

But what does a Chapter 11 bankruptcy exit plan entail and how does it work?

Unenforceable Contract? 5 Common Errors

Under certain circumstances, a seemingly valid contract may be struck down as unenforceable. It can potentially happen even if both parties seemingly agree to all of the contract's terms.

Courts may refuse to enforce a contract for a number of reasons. So how does the law determine which promises are enforceable contracts and which are not?

Here are five common errors that can make contracts unenforceable:

Legal How-To: Using a Child Support Calculator

It may be a surprise to some recent divorcees, but child support can take a large -- and mandatory -- chunk out of any parent's annual income.

Most states have resources available to give parents a ballpark figure for child potential child support payments. Each resource, however, requires a bit of background knowledge about how child support works.

Here is a general overview of how a parent can navigate and successfully use a child support calculator to get a better idea of her future child support obligations:

School Cell Phone Policies: 7 Common Rules

With baby iPhones and children's mobile apps gaining popularity, it's no surprise that school cell phone policies are becoming increasingly comprehensive.

Schools across the country have different approaches to the possession and use of personal technology on school grounds. Some schools celebrate cell phones as a powerful new classroom tool, while others deem them ADD-inducing disruptive machines.

Here are seven common cell phone policies, some of which may be in effect at your child's school:

N.J. Is 2nd State to Ban Gay Conversion Therapy

New Jersey has banned so-called gay conversion therapy. Gov. Chris Christie signed a measure into law Monday that prohibits licensed therapists from trying to turn gay and lesbian teens straight.

Following a similar effort in California, New Jersey is now the second state to ban gay conversion therapy for people under 18.

But also similar to the Golden State, the Garden State may soon face lawsuits challenging the new law.

Who Can Give Insulin Shots at School?

Parents, do you know who can give insulin shots at school? A recent California Supreme Court case discussed this exact question.

The issue of insulin shots being administered at school may be on the minds of parents as the new school year gets underway. Consider that 8.3 percent of Americans, including many children, have diabetes.

While parents and physicians may administer insulin shots at home or at the doctor's office, who can give insulin shots for a diabetic child at school? Here is a general overview:

N.M. Jurors Don't Have to Speak English: Court

The New Mexico Supreme Court has affirmed that jurors do not need to speak English, following the dismissal of a juror with limited English skills from a criminal jury.

Non-English speakers have a constitutional right in New Mexico to serve on juries, according to the high court, and both attorneys and judges are charged with protecting those citizens' rights, regardless of English competence, reports Reuters.

How did the court reach this conclusion, and is this the case for jurors in all states?

Gmail Privacy? Don't Expect It, Google Says

Do you use Gmail? If so, don't expect to have a "legitimate expectation of privacy" in any email messages that you send or receive.

From secure email services shutting down to Google claiming you should have no privacy rights in your Gmail messages, Internet privacy is beginning to feel like a pipe dream.

Google's privacy scandal is driving a campaign by Microsoft to win you over -- but is it worth jumping the Gmail ship?

Legal to Keep 'Hipster' Farm Animals in a City?

As the demand for locally grown produce and livestock increases, more and more city dwellers are left wondering whether they can raise farm animals in their tiny backyards.

Whether it's chickens, goats, or even pigs, state and local laws may keep eager hipster Farmer Browns from realizing their agri-dreams in an urban setting.

Top 5 Reasons to Update Your Will

There are many reasons to update your will. Maybe it seems morbid to actively be thinking of when you should be making changes to your will, but the truth is, you're smart to do so.

For a will to be most effective, it should reflect the additions, modifications, and significant changes to your life. As you know, those changes can happen at any time, without warning.

Because it's always a good idea to plan ahead, here are five of the most common reasons you may want to update your will:

Mistakes on Traffic Tickets: License to Dismiss?

When an officer pulls you over to issue a traffic ticket, you may be upset. But receiving a citation that lists incorrect information can be even more frustrating.

Despite many myths surrounding traffic tickets, clerical errors on a traffic citation are generally not sufficient cause for a judge to dismiss your case, even if the officer fails to spell your name right, according to the privately owned website DMV.org.

However, there may be some cases in which traffic ticket mistakes can help in your defense.

CA's Transgender Student Law Is 1st in U.S.

A new law accommodating transgender students in California was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday, making the state the first to expand transgender rights in public schools.

Backed by numerous equality organizations, the law will allow transgender public school students in California to choose which bathroom to use and to participate in either "boy or girl sports," reports Fox News. It goes into effect January 1, 2014.

Supporters see this law as a good step forward for transgender equality, but its detractors argue that this is a move in the wrong direction.

N.C. Sued Over New Voter ID, Reform Laws

North Carolina's new voter ID law, along with other voting reforms, are already facing lawsuits from civil rights groups.

The Tar Heel State's sweeping voing reform law will require voters to present one of three particular types of photo identification in order to cast a ballot beginning in 2016. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law on Monday.

Almost immediately afterwards, civil rights groups including the ACLU and NAACP filed lawsuits in federal court to challenge the law.

Legal How-To: Opting In to a Class Action Suit

How do you join a class action suit? Do you have to formally opt in, and what happens if you don't?

Class action suits occur fairly often. They're typically used when a group of people suffers similar injuries or by the same source. Common examples of class action suits involve defective products or employment discrimination, to name just a few.

So if you get a notice to join a class action suit, how do you opt-in? Do you have to? What about opting out? Here's what you need to know:

5 Back-to-School Issues to Discuss With Your Kids

Before your kids head back to school, you may want to have an honest chat with them about peer pressure and all the legal risks that come with it.

They may look apathetic and roll their eyes at you -- but rest assured, it's important. If you take the easy way out and keep mum, consider yourself warned: In many states, parents can be held civilly liable for their kids' actions.

Here are five back-to-school legal issues you need to talk to your kids about:

Child Custody Exchanges: 5 Helpful Tips

Child custody exchanges can be stressful for children and parents alike. Exchanges often involve logistical issues, safety concerns and intense pangs of hostility.

The process can be emotionally exhausting, but there are ways to help minimize the tension.

Here are a few child custody exchange tips you may want to consider:

Prayer at Public Meetings Gets Obama's Support

The Obama administration has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of prayer at public meetings.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Obama administration and Republican lawmakers are on the same side of this issue. Both sides have filed amicus briefs with the Court supporting the town of Greece, New York.

Here's what they're arguing and how it could affect our laws on religion:

Illegal to Ride a Bike Against Traffic?

Is it illegal to ride your bike against traffic? The answer may not seem so obvious, especially since riding a bike seems so casual compared to operating a motor vehicle.

Even so, bike laws are fairly strict when it comes to certain rules of the road. This includes things like riding a bike while inebriated -- which can potentially get you busted for a DUI-related offense in many states -- and, yes, riding your bike against traffic.

Here's what you need to know about the law:

Students Win 'I Love Boobies' Free Speech Appeal

"I Love Boobies" that are cancer-free, and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals does too. The court has struck down a Pennsylvania school district's ban on "I Love Boobies! (Keep a Breast)" bracelets as an unconstitutional restriction on students' freedom of speech.

A major takeaway from the case is that the context of the students' speech "fleshes out" the First Amendment's "boobies" boundary.

5 Strategies to Manage Your Student Loans

When it comes to managing student loans, you're far from alone when you lay awake at night, wondering how you're going to dig yourself out of debt.

An analysis released this week by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows a staggering number of borrowers are struggling to repay their loans and are seemingly unaware of options that could them help avoid default or forbearance, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Here are five strategies for managing your student loans:

Paint Your Apartment, Forfeit Security Deposit?

Thinking about painting your apartment? You may want to pause before you start purchasing primer and comparing swatches at your local hardware store, or you could end up forfeiting your security deposit.

If you own your home, painting any part of it is no problem. But if you're renting, it may cost you in the end -- as in, at the end of your lease.

Before you decide to give your room or whole apartment (or any part of it, really) a facelift with from fresh color, be sure to double check a couple of things first.

Gay Couple Forced to Back of Bus, May File Suit

A gay couple from Oregon may take legal action after an airport shuttle driver told them to sit at the back of the bus for holding hands.

Chris Bowers, 38, and Ron McCoy, 47, of Metzger, Oregon, had flown to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to attend the city's gay pride events in June. But their airport shuttle driver told them that their "inappropriate behavior" was the reason they needed to move to the back of the bus, reports The Huffington Post.

How do current laws reflect on transport drivers' treatment of gay couples like Bowers and McCoy?

3 Potential Ways to Enforce a Divorce Decree

How do you enforce a divorce decree? Unfortunately, there may be situations in which you’ll need to know how to enforce the agreed-upon terms that ended your marriage, even long after your divorce has been finalized.

A divorce decree is the final judgment in a divorce proceeding that spells out each party’s obligations. But if your ex-spouse is not making the proper payments or fails to follow the terms of the decree, how can you get it enforced?

Here are three potential ways to go about it:

School to Randomly Test Kids' Hair for Alcohol

School is full of tests -- multiple choice tests, English tests, AP tests and so on. Well, at one school, you can now add alcohol tests to the list.

A Catholic high school in a Chicago suburb will begin randomly testing all students for alcohol consumption starting this fall by analyzing hair samples, officials said.

But is the new alcohol policy legal?

Legal How-To: Applying for a Marriage License

Before the sound of (your) wedding bells can start ringing, remember that you need to apply for a marriage license. So exactly how do you apply for a marriage license?

Getting "married" without a license can lead to all sorts of unnecessarily complicated legal issues -- problems that can potentially be avoided by taking the right steps.

So with that said, here's a general overview of the steps you'll need to take before you walk down the aisle:

Red-Light Camera Settlement: $4.2M for N.J. Drivers

Some recipients of red-light camera tickets in New Jersey are set to receive compensation for their trouble after a class action lawsuit against 18 municipalities settled for $4.2 million.

Included in the class action suit was the red-light camera operator, American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which the suit alleged had failed, along with the 18 New Jersey cities, to comply with the requirements of the state's Pilot Red Light Camera Program, reports the South Jersey Times.

Will this settlement signal the end of red-light cameras?

Is It Legal to Limit Smartphone Use at Work?

As more and more offices are accepting the reality of smartphones as integral to business, companies have begun to implement detailed smartphone policies to limit the devices' use at work.

Whether you use your own smartphone for work purposes or your office has provided you with a company-owned device, most limits to your smartphone use are completely legal.

Here are a few issues to keep in mind:

What Is a Voidable Contract?

Even if a contract exists, it may not necessarily be enforceable. There are a number of reasons why a court might not enforce a contract. Often, it's to protect people from unfairness in the bargaining process, or in the substance of the contract itself. In such circumstances, a contract may be voidable.

But what is a voidable contract?

Is It Legal to Live in Your Car?

For many Americans who are down on their luck, their cars have become a permanent home away from home.

But not all localities are welcoming of what some lawmakers are calling "vehicle vagrants."

For those who intend on making their car a very cheap hotel, take these legal issues into consideration before living in your car:

5 Legal Issues With Your Kid's Lemonade Stand

When life gives you lemons, you can make lemonade -- but you may not be able to sell it at a lemonade stand, at least not without jumping through some legal hoops.

There is an inexplicable war on lemonade stands, as a Forbes headline so eloquently put it, and your kids are losing the battle. Giving moonshine a run for its money, many kids' lemonade stands are getting shut down.

Here are five legal issues that can potentially stand in the way of your kid's lemonade stand:

Fast-Food Workers' Strike: 5 Legal Take-Aways

Thousands of fast food workers from well-known chains have gone on one-day strikes across the nation to demand higher wages -- namely, $15 an hour.

The movement started in New York City earlier this year and soon spread to Chicago and Washington, D.C., The New York Times reports. This week, the strikes hit various cities in the Midwest.

The national campaign is unique in that it doesn't involve one particular company or store. Rather, the goal is to mobilize all low-wage workers at two dozen fast-food chains where unions do not currently exist.

Here are five things you should know about the fast food workers' strike:

Medical Marijuana Legalized in Illinois

Illinois has become the 20th state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana after Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law Thursday.

The new law is one of the strictest medical cannabis regulations in the nation. Its signing marks the launch of a four-year medicinal marijuana pilot program that will begin on January 1, 2014, reports the Chicago Tribune.

What are the protections and limits of this newly approved law?

What Is Custodial Interference?

What is custodial interference? Generally, custodial interference occurs when a parent tries to disrupt the custody rights of the other parent.

Interference with custody orders can be a huge point of contention for some couples, and can lead even to criminal consequences. But there are a few situations in which it may be legally OK to interfere with another parent's custody rights, at least temporarily.

Here's what you need to know about custodial interference and what to do about it: