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

March 2011 Archives

Facebook Sued Over Photos of Strangled Daughter

Being part of the Facebook generation is apparently not a requirement for venturing into inappropriate picture territory on the site.

At age 48, Mark Musarella posted a photo of Caroline Wimmer on his Facebook page. She was dead at the time, and he was the EMT sent to the scene.

Now Wimmer's parents are suing Facebook over that photo. Facebook vows to fight.

Arizona Outlaws Racial or Gender-Based Abortions

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law yesterday a bill that makes it a felony for any health professional to provide an abortion if the mother's choice is based on the sex or race of the fetus.

The Arizona abortion law, which is the first of its kind in the nation, also allows the father to bring a civil action for monetary damages against offending providers.

Top 5 Tax Deductions for 2010 You Might Miss

When it comes to tax deductions, 2010 is the same as every other year: you will undoubtedly miss out on at least one tax deduction that can save you a chunk of money.

In the spirit of the tax season, we're going to give you a heads up. Here are our top 5 tax deductions--2010 only--that you shouldn't miss.

MTA Wants to Put NYC Welfare Recipients to Work

One of the foremost problems with the nation's welfare system is that it often fails to provide recipients with the skills necessary to find and maintain employment.

New York City's Work Experience Program is designed to do just that--place welfare recipients in "unpaid" city jobs to build employable skills.

The news on the street is that WEP will be getting an influx of new positions, as the money-challenged Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has plans of hiring welfare recipients to clean the city's subways and buses.

Do 'Deadbeat' Dads Have Right to a Free Lawyer?

Michael Turner happens to be one of those deadbeat parents who, year after year, fail to pay child support. Like many a deadbeat dad, that failure has repeatedly landed him in jail.

Despite being indigent, he has never been provided counsel to help fight incarceration.

The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Turner's case. The question?

Are indignant deadbeat parents entitled to free counsel if they face jail time?

Top 5 Ways to Fight a Parking Ticket

There's nothing like returning to your car after an errand to find a piece of paper stuck to your windshield.

Sure, you can hope that it's a junk flier advertising something you don't need, but it's probably a parking ticket. An evil, evil parking ticket.

A parking ticket may be a strict liability offense, but that doesn't mean you can't fight it. In fact, there are dozens of ways to fight a parking ticket. Here's our top five.

Emily Ruiz, 4, Deported: 'Anchor Baby' Debate Ensues

Four year old Emily Ruiz is a United States citizen, though her parents, who reside in New York, are not.

The little girl took a trip to Guatemala with her documented grandfather earlier this month, reports The New York Times. But, upon return to the U.S., she was sent back.

What is a sad and traumatic experience for Emily Ruiz is now fodder for the U.S. "anchor baby" debate.

South Dakota Abortions: Mandatory 3-Day Wait

For the last five years, South Dakota abortion law has been at the center of the national reproductive health debate. Lawmakers have continuously passed laws banning most abortions, even when state residents disagreed with their choices.

Well, the state just got even more strict.

Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed into law a bill that requires women to attend a "pregnancy help center" and then wait an additional 72 hours prior to having an abortion. This is the most restrictive law in the country.

How do Property Tax Rates Work?

It's that time of year again and some of you should be expecting your property tax bill for the first half of 2011.

If that's the case, then you'll probably be wondering just how the government calculates property tax rates and just why your bill seems to change every year.

Well, here's an answer to your questions.

What are These Traffic Ticket 'Points' About?

With gas prices soaring, driving has become more expensive than ever. The last thing anyone needs at this point is a traffic ticket.

The worst part about a speeding ticket (and other moving violations) is that it doesn't come and go--it stays with you for at least a few years.

In fact, with the help of the traffic ticket points system, your infraction or accident can cost you a lot more down the line. Like your license.

IRS Wants Piece of Man's Year of Free Doughnuts

Nothing in life is free.

No, not even Oprah-provided cars and Australian vacations.

Bob Choate learned this the hard way last month when he received an IRS Form 1099 telling him he had to pay taxes on $927.61 worth of supposedly free doughnuts.

Wisconsin's Judge Sumi Blocks Anti-Union Law

The first hurdle has been surpassed for Democrats and pro-union activists who oppose the Wisconsin collective bargaining law. The judge in the case has temporarily halted its enforcement.

After Republicans stripped the bill and voted in less than 24 hours, Governor Scott Walker signed it into law, prompting an immediate lawsuit. Plaintiffs are alleging that Republicans violated the state's open meeting laws when they altered the bill with less than two hours notice.

This lawsuit must still make its way through court, but now that a temporary restraining order has been granted, what's next for union supporters and Scott Walker?

How to Change Your Immigration Status After Marriage

Over on FindLaw Answers, we get a lot of questions about marriage, immigration, and legal status. To help you get started on the spousal immigration process, here's a quick primer on how to go about changing a spouse's legal status.

The United States' immigration system is family-based, which means that a person who marries a U.S. citizen is given priority when filing for a permanent residency. This, however, is not absolute, so it's important to pay attention to dates and filing requirements so as not to be denied entry or get deported.

Montana Medical Marijuana Stores Raided by Feds

Twenty-six Montana marijuana dispensaries were raided earlier this week by federal authorities after an investigation into potentially illegal activity.

Montana marijuana law permits medicinal use, meaning that the dispensaries were legally operating under state law.

If distributing for medicinal purposes, then why exactly were the dispensaries shut down?

Which US Nuclear Plants Most at Risk of Quake?

The world is watching as Japan tries to keep its nuclear plant from entering meltdown mode. Already leaking radiation, the nuclear plant would cause severe damage if the situation were to get any worse.

For U.S. energy activists and officials, the situation with the Japanese nuclear reactor raises a lot of questions. With local plants built in a similar fashion, there's a lot of speculation about whether the United States is destined for the same fate.

If you're wondering the same thing, consider the following: the government actually knows which of the country's 104 reactors are the least safe.

Prenuptial Agreements: Top 5 Ways to Invalidate

Prenuptial agreements, or "prenups," are a popular topic here at FindLaw.

Questions that come up often are, "Is my prenuptial agreement valid?" "Can my prenuptial agreement be invalidated?"

NYC Mom Sues Preschool: Not Ivy League Enough

Blair and Serena didn't make it into the Ivy League without first attending a top-notch preschool.

Okay, fine. We don't know where the Gossip Girl characters first attended school, but we do know that to some parents, an Ivy League education is a matter of life and death.

And this, of course, is why it's not surprising to hear that Nicole Imprescia, a Manhatan mother, is suing York Avenue Preschool for ruining her daughter's chances at the Ivy League.

The girl is only four.

Ex-Cop Hired Women to Get Divorcing Men Drunk

Dirty cops and scheming divorce attorneys are nothing new. But when you put them together with a private investigator, fake dates with sexy blondes, and lots of alcohol, you might feel like you've landed squarely in conspiracy theory territory.

Beware anyone going through a divorce: this is a cautionary tale on what not to do to your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Christopher Butler, the mastermind behind what is being referred to as the "Dirty DUI" scam, hired women to get divorcing husbands drunk and then arrested.

Marrying a Foreign Citizen: What is a Fiancé Visa?

We here at FindLaw get a lot of questions about immigration law and the fiancé visa. What is a fiancé visa? How do you get one? How do you apply? When do you apply? There is never a shortage of immigration questions in this country.

Fear not, we're here to help. Here is some background and information on immigration laws for individuals coming to the United States to marry American citizens.

School Bus Driver Fired for Confederate Flag

Can a school district restrict the display of the Confederate flag on a car owned by the bus driver? Ken Webber considers himself a proud redneck, and says there is nothing racist about his love for the Confederate flag. Webber has tattoos that say "100 percent American," and a Confederate flag and the words "Pure Redneck."

Webber, 28, drives a bus of kindergarten to Talent Elementary School every school day. Webber also has a Confederate flag that flies inside his pickup truck. He was told by the school superintendent to either lose the flag or be suspended. "My flag will fly ... No one here is gonna tell me what I can and can't believe in," Webber said, the Associated Press reports.

Legalese 101: What is a Plea Bargain?

We here at FindLaw know that legal jargon can be confusing. We hear people misusing legal words and phrases all the time. So we've decided to help you better understand all the legal phrases tossed around on Law & Order. Here is a new educational series we like to call FindLaw's Legalese 101.

If you've been watching the news lately, chances are you've been bombarded with anchors talking about some sort of plea bargain. It's been reported that Lindsay Lohan rejected an offered plea bargain on charges she stole a necklace. Plus Mel Gibson accepted a plea bargain related to charges that he battered baby mama and alleged blackmailer Oksana Grigorieva.

If you think only celebrities are offered plea bargains, you'll be happy to know that an overwhelming majority of criminal cases are resolved well before trial with a plea bargain. And here is how it's done.

Texas to Require Ultrasound Before Abortion

Texas is moving ahead with a controversial Texas abortion law that would require women to have an ultrasound before they can receive an abortion. The bill already passed the Texas Senate. It has now been reconciled with the Texas House of Representatives, which had significant differences in their version. Republican Governor Rick Perry called passing the Texas sonogram bill an emergency priority, after Republicans failed to pass the sonogram proposal in 2007 and 2009.

"We want to make sure that they're fully informed, that they understand the medical consequences, the psychological consequences and everything involved in the procedure," said the Texas abortion bill author, Republican state Rep. Sid Miller, CBS News reports.

Facebook to Blame for 1 in 5 Divorces, Lawyers Say

Of all the potential reasons not to like Facebook: divorce. That's one you may not have heard before.

The omnipresent website is at least partially responsible for 1 out of every 5 divorces in the U.S., and 81 percent of the country's divorce attorneys have seen an increase in divorce cases using the social networking evidence.

The former study was conducted by Loyola University Health System and the latter by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. In addition, Facebook was the No. 1 source for online divorce evidence at 66%.

Texas Immigration Bill: Maids, Gardeners Can Stay

Arizona may be the hotbed of immigration reform, but Texas Tea Party darling Debbie Riddle wants her state to take center stage in the debate.

The headline-hungry state representative has submitted a Texas immigration bill that puts to shame anything that has come out of Arizona.

The proposed Texas immigration bill begins like one would expect it to, reports CNN. Anyone who "intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly" hires an unauthorized immigrant can be fined up to $10,000 or placed behind bars for up to two years.

But then comes the unique, only in Texas loophole:

HS Teacher Tericka Dye Exposed as Ex-Porn Star

Missouri high school teacher Tericka Dye can’t escape her pornographic past. The former science teacher left her teaching job after students discovered X-rated films she starred in the mid 1990s.

Tericka Dye, who also taught under the name Tera Myers, is under administrative leave and does not plan to return to teach at Parkway North High School in St. Louis, CBS News reports.

This isn’t the first time Dye, 38, has been in the news. Her X-rated films, under stage name Rikki Andersin, also cost her a job in Kentucky in 2005.

Retailers Requiring Applicants Disclose Their Age

As more and more Americans at or above retirement age continue to work, age discrimination is a growing concern. Despite age discrimination laws, many workers are concerned that employers will not want to hire them if they know how old they are.

Ruth Lyons, 59, went two and a half years without a job interview, before deciding to start listing her birthdate as 18 years earlier to see if it made a difference.

Legalese 101: Quid Pro Quo

We here at FindLaw know that legal jargon can be confusing. We hear people misusing legal words and phrases all the time. So we've decided to help you better understand all the legal phrases tossed around on Law & Order. Here is a new educational series we like to call FindLaw's Legalese 101.

Quid pro quo is a phrase that seems to come up around here quite frequently. It's fun to say and sounds kind of cool, at least in some circles. But like many legal terms, it is often misunderstood. The phrase is Latin, and translates to "this for that," meaning an exchange or trade is being made.

Labor Unions: How to Start a Union

As state legislators fled Wisconsin to protest the governor's attempt to deny state workers collective bargaining rights, state labor unions in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan also came under attack. If the apparent assault on collective bargaining in the Midwest has caused you to consider unionizing your workplace, here's a quick primer on how to start a union.

The National Labor Relations Act is designed to encourage and protect collective bargaining rights in the public sector. This means that unless you are a government employee, what's going on in the Midwest probably can't happen to you. The Act guarantees the right to form a labor union in a private workplace, as well as engage in union-related activities.

Top 5 Landlord Tips: Property Management 101

Catering to the demands of multiple tenants makes property management a tough job. While fielding complaints and handling maintenance, papers get lost and things get overlooked. 

To help the landlords out there get through (and hopefully prevent) some of the more difficult situations, here are our top 5 property management tips.

Offshore Offices to Avoid Immigration Law?

Immigration law and the lack of H1-B visas prevent many foreign nationals from settling down and getting jobs in the United States. Now, there might be a solution: Blueseed, a Silicon Valley startup, is in the process of raising funds to create a "Googleplex of the sea."

Confused? Broken down, Blueseed's idea is relatively simple.

In order to avoid all the hassle of obtaining visas for immigrant workers, they hope to raise enough funds to send off a massive, floating ship into international waters off the coast near San Francisco. That far offshore, U.S. law would no longer apply.

We've written a lot about employees' use of social media, and what employers can and can't do in response. But a report on Facebook firings shows exactly which kinds of words the NLRB has considered "protected" by law.

What's protected? A status update calling your boss a "scumbag," according to The Wall Street Journal.

What's not protected, according to the National Labor Relations Board? Calling bar patrons "rednecks" and saying you hope they choke on broken glass.

Haunted Real Estate: Must Disclose Haunted House?

If you owned haunted real estate and wanted to sell it, would you have an obligation to tell potential buyers of paranormal activity?

It's a difficult question to answer that will play out differently state by state. Most real estate laws require sellers to disclose "material facts." But what is a material fact? Do they have to disclose a haunted house?

Living Together? Own Property as Joint Tenants

Before you buy property with your unmarried partner, it's important to consider how you want to own it. Many unmarried couples fail to consider how the property will be divided if the relationship doesn't work out. That's a mistake, because the law will treat an unmarried couple as if they are separate legal entities, which differs from when a couple is married.

Therefore, if you are going to buy a home, owning it as joint tenants, or tenants-in-common are smart options. But what are the differences?

Facebook the Labor Union of the Future?

Is social media going to replace labor unions? Will there be Facebook labor unions?

After recent developments in the Middle East with groups of people banding together on sites like Facebook and Twitter, it seems that the revolution may not be televised. Instead, the revolution might come in the way of a status update on a Wall.

Are the social media tools making unions and collective bargaining groups obsolete?

Walmart of Weed: Marijuana Megastore Opens

Times are definitely changing. To imagine even ten years ago that there would be mainstream marijuana megastores in the United States would have seemed laughable. But with the passage of medical marijuana laws, marijuana is going mainstream. Now the latest development is weGrow, the so-called Walmart of weed.

The 10,000-square-foot store Sacramento store will contains everything you need to grow marijuana, as well as marijuana-related products. But the store will not sell any marijuana, the Associated Press reports. The store calls itself a "supply and training destination for legal pot growers."

Unborn Fetus to Testify in Abortion Hearing

Although it has been legal since 1973, abortion remains a controversial topic. The states and federal government are constantly pushing boundaries, asking the Supreme Court just how much they can legislate the procedure. The newest of these pushes involves a proposed Ohio abortion law.

Though it undoubtedly infringes upon constitutionally protected abortion rights, a newly proposed Ohio abortion law seeks to prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be medically detected. Its effect would be to outlaw abortions not performed within a few weeks of conception.

Laid Off: Should I Sign a Severance Agreement?

Upon termination, an employer may offer you a severance agreement. The intent of these agreements is to compensate a laid off employee in exchange for a promise not to sue the employer in the future. Because severance agreements are not mandatory, employers may choose to offer laid off employees a severance agreement with the terms of its choice.

If you've been laid off and presented with a severance agreement, it is important to understand the terms that you may be agreeing to. Here are a few things you should consider before you sign.

How to Choose Good Tenants: Landlord Tips

When choosing new tenants, landlords have a host of valid concerns. Besides needing someone who can pay the rent (and on time), a landlord wants a tenant who is respectful of his neighbors and the property, does not engage in criminal activity, and won't necessitate a trip to a landlord-tenant lawyer.

If you rent property, or are simply looking for a new roommate, here are a few landlord tips to help make sure you get a good tenant.

Common Law Marriage or Just Living Together?

We've all heard of common law marriage--where the state deems two people married despite their never having had a marriage ceremony or filed a marriage license. The truth is that only fifteen states and the District of Columbia recognize common law marriages, some of which only recognize marriages created before a certain date.

Common law marriage is not merely cohabitating while in a relationship. Every state has specific requirements that a couple must meet before they are considered to be in a common law marriage. The following are the most common requirements.