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

December 2013 Archives

The 10 Most Pirated TV Shows of 2013

The Internet is laden with pirated TV shows and movies, and it turns out that the 10 most pirated shows of 2013 are also among the most viewed.

But for anyone caught illegally downloading one of these shows, the consequences can potentially be quite costly.

So which shows made it onto the Top 10 most-pirated list? And how can illegally downloading these shows make a pirate's 2014 anything but tops?

For Lotto Winner, 'Finders, Keepers' Means $1M

The adage "finders, keepers" couldn't ring truer for one New York lottery winner.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, Long Island landscaper Marvin Rosales-Martinez was clearing debris with a leaf blower when he chanced upon a soggy "Win $1,000 a Week for Life" scratch-off ticket. To his surprise, it was a valid winning ticket for $1 million -- and he was able to claim it.

But how was Rosales-Martinez able to claim the winnings when he never even purchased the ticket?

Legal How-To: Collecting Money Owed to You

Have you ever loaned out money to a friend or loved one and they just never quite got around to paying you back? It's certainly an awkward situation, but there are ways to "mean business" and possibly get your money back.

Here are a few ways to collect money that's owed to you:

Statute of Limitations for Debts Can Vary

If you have old, unpaid debts, you may be safe from a lawsuit to collect debt if the debt collector waited too long to file a lawsuit. Every state has enacted its own statute of limitations, requiring any lawsuit be filed in court within a set time frame.

But the rules vary widely depending on the type of debt you have and where you live.

NSA Phone Surveillance Is Legal: Federal Judge

It's been an uncertain year for NSA surveillance, but a federal judge ruled Friday that the Agency's phone surveillance program was and is legal.

From the Southern District of New York, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley dismissed a case by the American Civil Liberties Union which attempted to halt the NSA's phone spying program, finding that phone records were not protected by the Fourth Amendment, reports The New York Times.

Is the NSA's continued surveillance of phone records really legal?

Yes, Bad Twitter Jokes Can Get You Fired

Justine Sacco, a former PR executive at a large media company, learned the hard way that a bad Twitter joke can lead to more repercussions than rotten tomatoes being flung at you.

Dubbed "the tweet heard 'round the world," Sacco sent the following message to her followers before she boarded a flight for Cape Town last week: "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" By the time she landed, the tweet had gone viral. Soon after, Sacco was sacked.

Sacco's story confirms people can -- and often do -- get fired for their social media posts.

In Utah, Gay Marriage Facing More Legal Challenges

What's going on with Utah and same-sex marriage? It's been a tumultuous couple of days since a federal judge ruled that Utah's anti-gay marriage laws were unconstitutional, but many Utah gay couples are still being blocked from legal marriage.

In Utah County, officials on Monday turned away same-sex couples attempting to get marriage licenses, citing the "need for legal clarification from the county attorney," reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

With some counties refusing to issue licenses, what legal challenges lie ahead for same-sex marriage in Utah?

Living Will May Not Be Valid If You're Pregnant

As a Texas husband has learned, a living will may not be valid if the person on life support is a pregnant woman.

Erick Munoz, whose wife Marlise is in a coma, faced frustration when he asked doctors to fulfill his wife's wishes to pull the plug, reports Dallas-Fort Worth's WFAA-TV. While Marlise had discussed the issue of a "Do Not Resuscitate" order with her husband, even this legal protection would be void in light of Texas state law, because Marlise is pregnant.

Are living wills still valid for pregnant women?

What's the Difference Between J.D. and Esq.?

When you're looking for an attorney, you may be confronted by a confusing slew of letters after someone's name, including "J.D." and "Esq."

While those abbreviations are both associated with legal professionals, their meanings aren't exactly the same.

The difference between J.D. and Esq., as commonly used in the United States, is the ability to practice law.

Promised a Raise? Is It Legally Enforceable?

Did your boss ever promise you a raise, but then fail to follow through on it? If so, you will want to find out whether that promise was enforceable.

Depending on the circumstances of your situation, your employer's promise may actually be an enforceable term of your employment contract.

5 Ways Instagram Can Lead to Legal Trouble

While Instagram can be a fun photo-sharing app, it can also lead to legal trouble in a snap.

Perhaps the anonymity of the Internet lulls people into thinking they're immune to the consequences of sharing incriminating information. Regardless of which social network you're posting to, remember that nothing is sacred online.

As the following cases show, there are many ways Instagram can either land you in jail or make you vulnerable to a lawsuit. For example:

Top 10 NSA Advisory Board Recommendations

Now that many Americans are sufficiently freaked out about the NSA's domestic surveillance, a few new recommendations might help average citizens keep their cool.

A White House advisory committee, perhaps catching a whiff of terror sweat from the American people, is officially recommending 46 changes to the National Security Agency's surveillance tactics.

Here are 10 of the most important recommendations:

What Is a Postnup? Do You Need One?

Prenups are pretty common nowadays, but what is a postnup? Unlike prenups, which are entered into before a marriage, postnuptial agreements are signed after the wedding has taken place.

Even if you're happily married, a postnup can be a good financial tool that can help smooth out money-related tensions in a relationship.

Since financial disagreements tend to cause heartache, postnups could be the key a happy marriage.

Planning a Skype Wedding? 5 Legal Questions

Not every marriage needs wedding bells. Some just need the "chirp chirp" of an incoming Skype call.

It may not sound romantic, but in some parts of American society, marriages over the Internet video-calling service Skype have become more commonplace. For example, certain immigrant communities are using Skype as a bridge between spouses who may have never met in person, reports The New York Times.

But before you kiss your webcam bride, here are five probing legal questions about Skype weddings:

Legal How-To: Giving a Gun as a Gift

With Christmas just days away, many gun-toting Americans may be wondering how to legally give a gun as a gift.

Because a gun is, after all, a weapon, gifting a gun may trigger a legal issue or two. But it's not impossible.

While gun laws vary by state, there are some general guidelines you should keep in mind. So before ye plinkers embrace the spirit of giving this holiday season, consider these five questions:

Yes, You Can Get Fired for Being a Good Samaritan

A Michigan employee was fired for leaving his post to help a man extinguish his car fire, and those who support Good Samaritans want to know why.

David Bowers, 62, is a retail greeter at Meijer, a Midwest chain retail store. He was fired after he left his designated area during a shift in mid-November to help extinguish a car fire in the parking lot. The man whose car he saved, Ken Kuzon, wants to know why a do-gooder like Bowers should be punished, reports The Associated Press.

Can someone like Bowers be fired for being a Good Samaritan?

Joint Bank Accounts: A Few Pros and Cons

Whether you're a couple, a parent and a child, or business partners, the decision to open a joint bank account is a personal one that will depend on your particular circumstances.

A joint account offers both advantages and drawbacks, so the decision should be taken with some careful thought.

Here are six pros and cons of opening a joint bank account:

Is It Legal to Bet on a Poker Game?

Since the early 1990s, gambling laws have been in a constant state of flux, leaving poker players scratching their heads. Legislation at both the state and federal level highly regulate the activity.

But under current law, is it legal to bet on a poker game?

FDA Issues New Guidance on Farm Antibotics Use

The FDA has issued new guidance regarding antibiotic use on farms, but some skeptics suspect that the new recommendations are little more than a smokescreen.

While many have touted this as a victory in the fight against increasing antibiotic resistance, only "10-15 percent" of antibiotic use on farms may be phased out by following the FDA's guidance, reports Forbes. Technically, the "rules" are actually just recommendations, and are not "legally enforceable responsibilities," the FDA explains.

So what does the new FDA guidance on farm antibiotics use actually mean?

Is It Ever Legal to Shoot Trespassers?

The laws on whether or not it’s legal to shoot trespassers vary greatly depending on what state you’re in. Generally speaking, there are certain circumstances where an occupant may be able to legally shoot trespassers.

But the legality of pulling the trigger depends on so many circumstances that dialing 911 may be a safer bet.

How to Complain About Work And Not Get Fired

Complaining about work is as American as apple pie or Walmart, but there are very few legal protections that keep angsty employees from being fired.

If you must rant about your work, but don't want to be fired, keep these legal principles in mind.

What Is Michigan's 'Rape Insurance' Law?

Michigan lawmakers passed a controversial bill on Wednesday that will ban insurance plans in the state from covering abortion unless the woman's life is in danger. The law, dubbed "rape insurance" legislation, will require residents who want health insurance coverage for abortions to purchase an extra policy, even in cases of rape and incest.

Because of the way the legislation was introduced, it is set to become law despite the objections of both the state's Democratic minority and the veto of the Republican governor.

Is It Legal to Drive With Dealer Plates?

Whether it’s your neighbor or a complete stranger, you may have spotted a car or two on the road with dealer plates.

But is it legal to drive with dealer plates?

Legal How-To: Disputing a Credit Card Charge

When purchases don't go as planned, disputing the charge on your credit card can be an effective way of winning the consumer v. merchant battle.

Sometimes, though, the fault lies not with the merchant but with your credit card company, which may have billed you twice for a product or service.

In either case, there is a legal and simple way to dispute credit card charges:

EEOC Age-Discrimination Claims Up 38% in 6 Years

As members of the post-World War II baby boom enter their 60s, age discrimination claims filed with the EEOC are on the rise. Last year, 22,857 people filed age-related complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), compared with 16,548 in 2006, according to new data compiled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

But what exactly is age discrimination and what can you do about it?

Bankruptcy Discharge, Dismissal Are Very Different

There are two ways a bankruptcy case can end: through discharge or dismissal. 

But while the terms "dismissal" and "discharge" may sound very similar, their meanings are actually worlds apart.

So, what's the difference between a bankruptcy dismissal and a discharge?

2M Stolen Passwords: How to Protect Yours

Researchers have uncovered a jaw-dropping (and deeply disturbing) database containing 2 million stolen login credentials -- both usernames and passwords -- associated with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and other online services.

Even more troubling, many of the victims had the worst passwords ever, such as "123456" and "password." (Seriously, people?)

Here's what happened, why it happened, and how you can prevent it from happening to you:

In Wash., 1 in 6 Marriages Are Same-Sex

In Washington state, approximately one in six marriages in the past year were same-sex marriages, according to new numbers released by the state's Department of Health.

Between December 2012 and September 2013, gay and lesbian weddings made up 17 percent of the total marriages in the state, The Seattle Times reports.

These recent statistics offer concrete evidence that same-sex couples are taking advantage of the changes in marriage laws.

9 Ways Nelson Mandela's Legal Legacy Lives On

Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president and a lasting icon of dogged humanity in the face of racial oppression, died Thursday after a prolonged illness. Mandela was 95.

America's first black president, Barack Obama, mourned the loss of Mandela on Thursday, and took the moment to express his deepest gratitude to the South African leader who inspired his own involvement in politics. "He no longer belongs to us," President Obama said. "He belongs to the ages."

Here are nine ways Nelson Mandela's legal legacy will live on, even here in the United States:

For Lottery Winners, a Trust Can Really Pay Off

Lottery hopefuls may be elated with the idea of hitting the jackpot, but a trust can really keep those potential winnings from becoming "easy come, easy go."

The Mega Millions jackpot for Friday's drawing is an estimated $291 million, while the Powerball jackpot is nearing $100 million, reports Philly.com.

The lucky winners of either game will need a way to protect their prize money, and for that, a lottery trust is the legal way to go.

Musical Instruments on Planes: Any Strings Attached?

Are musical instruments allowed as carry-on items on airplanes?

Whether you chanced upon a nifty banjo during your travels or dug up that dusty violin from your childhood, you, like many other musically inclined jet-setters, may be wondering if your instrument will be allowed in the overhead compartment -- especially since many instruments exceed the posted dimensions for carry-on luggage.

As expected, special rules exist for traveling with musical instruments -- but it is possible to bring them on board without having to pay extra fees.

Obama's Uncle Gets Green Card Despite Legal Run-Ins

President Obama's uncle won his battle for a green card on Tuesday, after a federal immigration judge ruled that 69-year-old Onyango Obama could remain in the United States permanently.

Judge Leonard Shapiro made his decision based on proof of Onyango's good moral character and a federal law granting green cards to immigrants who entered the country before 1972, reports Reuters. The decision was made in spite of Onyango's history of dodging immigration authorities, as well as his criminal record.

With so many undocumented Americans attempting the same thing, how did Obama's uncle get a green card?

Legal How-To: Claiming a Hardship for Jury Duty

How do you claim a hardship for jury duty?

Most of us don't look forward to appearing for jury duty, but skipping out on it can lead to some serious consequences. However, depending on which court has summoned you, you can still try to be excused because of a hardship.

Many potential jurors will have a legitimate enough reason for not serving on a jury that they'll be excused from jury duty. If you want to attempt to claim a hardship for jury duty, here are some general steps you might be able to take:

What Is the Undetectable Firearms Act?

A federal law barring plastic and ceramic guns is set to lapse in less than a week, and its absence may create a law enforcement nightmare.

On December 9, Congress will vote on extending the Undetectable Firearms Act, a law that has been on the books for more than 25 years. It prohibits guns that can pass unnoticed through a metal detector, reports The New York Times.

What might keep this law from being renewed?

For Cyber Monday, 7 Simple Security Tips

These days, it's more convenient than ever to do all your holiday shopping online. What better day to start than on Cyber Monday, when sales are abundant and plentiful?

Before you start getting click-happy, though, beware of online traps that may be set up for you this Cyber Monday.

Here are seven simple cybersecurity tips to keep in mind:

Can You Sue Over Deceptive Holiday 'Deals'?

To keep up with consumer demand for massive holiday deals and discounts on Black Friday, many retailers have begun to offer "fake discounts."

In cahoots with their suppliers, these businesses set starting prices that, after all the markdowns, will yield the profit margins they want -- but still give customers the impression of a blowout sale, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But fake holiday discounts and deals can potentially constitute a deceptive business practice. Here are five Black Friday discount schemes that shoppers may be able to sue over: