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

January 2012 Archives

A Georgia mom arrested for letting her 10-year-old son get a tattoo claims she didn't know it was illegal. But police have an inkling that's not completely true.

Chuntera Napier, of Acworth, Ga., faces charges of child cruelty and being a party to a crime in connection with her son's tattoo. "I always thought that if a parent gave consent, then it's fine," Napier told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

But when it comes to tattooing children, Georgia's law states otherwise -- and police say Napier probably knew it.

School Bans Ugg Boots Over Cell Phone Smuggling

Pottstown Middle School has started a unique clothing ban for an even more unique reason. The Philadelphia-area school recently instituted an Ugg ban over cell phones.

The ban actually encompasses all "open top boots." Students may still don the fur-lined footwear but must change into different shoes before class.

Apparently some clever teens were using the boots to smuggle in prohibited items -- including cell phones. Cell phones are permitted in the school. Except students must turn them off and keep them in their locker between 7:55 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., reports The Mercury.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's tax returns have called attention to capital gains. As you probably now know, capital gains are usually taxed at a lower rate than other types of income -- but they're not just for the super-rich.

Anyone with a capital asset can claim a capital gain when that asset is later sold, according to the Internal Revenue Service. A "capital gain" is how much money you made by selling the asset. (However, if you lost money in the deal, and it's investment property, it's called a "capital loss.")

So what is considered a capital asset? And can you claim the sweet 15% capital-gains tax rate like Mitt Romney does?

New York Gets First Contested No-Fault Divorce

Gloria Sorrentino's 56-year marriage to her husband was dissolved this week courtesy of New York's no-fault divorce law. It is likely the first time the year-old law has been applied in a contested divorce case. Some readers might be wondering what no-fault divorce law is.

No-fault divorces are cases where neither party needs to take the blame for a marriage's dissolution.

For example: the marriage was simply "irretrievably broken." This is the reason that Gloria Sorrentino cited for her divorce.

In a video clip that's gone viral, Pat Sajak of TV's "Wheel of Fortune" admits to an HWI -- hosting a game show while intoxicated.

"Yes. When I first started and was much younger and could tolerate those things," Sajak said during an ESPN2 talk show on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Pat Sajak and co-host Vanna White routinely tossed back "two or three or six" margaritas between tapings of "Wheel of Fortune" in the early 1980s, Sajak said. (When pressed for the actual number of drinks, Sajak replied, "I think the average number was cuatro.")

When to Opt-Out of Class Action and Go to Small Claims

Class action settlement offers tend to be disappointing. Five dollars is not adequate compensation for that $80 power cord. But what are you going to do about it? Opt-out of the class action?

Heather Peters did, and then she filed a lawsuit in small claims court. If she wins, she'll likely be awarded more than the $100 and rebate offer that form the Honda Civic hybrid settlement.

Her plan can be applied to almost any class action settlement out there.

Do You Make These 5 Landlord Mistakes?

Renting out property is not easy. You have to deal with a wide web of laws, a variety of professionals and tenants. It can be a lot to manage.

Which is why landlords often make mistakes -- and the same ones, at that. Most try to stay on top of the law, but things change. Other laws are just open to legal interpretation.

Not sure if this applies to you? Consider the following landlord mistakes to see if you need to modify your behavior.

Cop Fired for Smoking in Police Precinct

Tennessee police officer James Bishop was fired last week for smoking inside the precinct. Bishop had been a veteran of the force for about 17 years.

As a police officer, Bishop was employed to uphold the law. It turns out he might have been breaking the rules himself.

A city ordinance passed in 2007 forbade smoking inside municipal buildings. This includes the police precinct, according to the AP.

What Can You Do About a Neighbor's Car Alarm?

Beeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

If it's not your alarm clock, you don't want to hear it. And even if it is your alarm clock, you probably want it to stop now.

Which is kind of the point -- beeping car alarms make it impossible to sleep. They wake you up at all hours, and continue on for minutes at a time.

So how do you make them stop? Doesn't incessant beeping break some sort of car alarm law?

Pot Mouth Spray Seeks FDA Approval

GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to approve a pot mouth spray -- the world's first marijuana-based prescription drug.

The spray, called Sativex, contains THC and cannabinoids. These chemicals are said to have anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant and anti-tremor properties. They also stimulate appetite.

Sativex is currently available in Canada, New Zealand and 8 European countries. But marijuana is illegal in the United States.

Can the pot mouth spray be approved?

Can Your Parents Disinherit You?

Disinheritance. It's a common threat -- sometimes wielded as a joke, and sometimes said in complete seriousness. But what happens when your parents actually carry through? Can you legally be disinherited?

Outside of Louisiana, you have no legal right to inherit from your parents. However, you do have a right not to be accidentally disinherited.

What does this mean for you?

Should Your Prenup Include a Sex Contract?

Would you ever sign a sex contract?

A British woman pondering this question recently wrote to the Daily Mail for advice. Her boyfriend refuses to marry her unless she agrees to have sex with him at least twice a week. It seems he'd like to put the agreement in writing.

She wants to know whether it's a good idea for a prenup to include sex. But what she should be asking is whether a prenup can include sex -- legally?

Popular file-sharing website Megaupload has gone dark, but not in protest of SOPA. Feds shut down Megaupload on Thursday, and accused the site of violating Internet piracy laws in a so-called "Mega conspiracy."

Megaupload's alleged piracy cost copyright holders more than half a billion dollars in revenue, while raking in $175 million in illegal profits, the Justice Department claims in its indictment.

It's such a big deal, some Megaupload executives and the website's founder -- who goes by the name Kim Dotcom -- were arrested in New Zealand at the Justice Department's request, the AP reports.

So what allows the federal government to shut down Megaupload, which is technically based in Hong Kong, and arrest its New Zealand-based executives?

Great Nurse-In: Breastfeeding Moms Take to DC

Breastfeeding mothers will unite on August 4, 2012 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Mother of two Rachel Papantonakis is organizing what will either be dubbed "The Great Nurse-in" or "The Million-Boob March." The event will focus on shedding more awareness on public breastfeeding laws.

It will also take place during World Breastfeeding Week, which this year falls on August 1-7.

Papantonakis told The Washington Post that she has never been pressured not to breastfeed in public. But she personally felt angered whenever she heard of other mothers' plights and stories.

An international child custody battle ended with a joyous reunion at a New York City airport, as cab driver Eugene Pothy hugged the son he hadn't seen in eight years.

"Why are you crying?" Pothy's 10-year-old son, Philippe-Emmanuel, asked his father in French. "Just for you," Pothy replied, according to the New York Daily News.

Philippe-Emmanuel's return to the United States marks an end to an international child-custody battle between his father in New Jersey and his mother's relatives in the African nation of Ivory Coast.

Hiding Money Offshore? IRS Amnesty Program Starts

If you're squirreling away money in an offshore account, 2012 may be the right year to come clean. The IRS' amnesty program will be in full swing again later this year.

The IRS started the voluntary program in 2009 and opened it again in 2011. The 2009 program has already collected around $3.4 billion. A total of more than 15,000 taxpayers came forward.

The 2011 program brought in $1 billion. This figure is expected to grow as the IRS processes more cases. And it seems clear that the government believes there are more wealthy Americans hiding their assets overseas.

A Pennsylvania woman considering a sex change operation was wrongfully fired for wearing a fake penis to work, a lawsuit claims.

Pauline Davis, 45, of Clifford, Pa., wants back pay and damages for humiliation and suffering in connection with her alleged wrongful firing, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. She also wants punitive damages.

Davis wore a prosthetic penis while working as a line inspector at a J&J Snack Foods plant in Moosic, Pa., the Daily News reports. No one could tell what Davis was packing in her pants, her lawsuit claims.

You’ve been served with a summons to appear at a child support court hearing. But what happens at a hearing, and what are your rights?

Child support laws differ by state, but here are some general guidelines about what to expect at a hearing.

A child support court hearing can be triggered when one parent requests a child support order, or wants to change an existing order. Even if both parents agree to a change, they must still appear at a court hearing to convince a judge it’s in the best interest of all parties — especially the children.

Not all child support hearings happen in court, however.

Blind Advocates Sue Redbox Over DVD Kiosks

Advocates for the blind have sued Redbox. The Redbox lawsuit alleges the company's DVD rental kiosks are inaccessible to the visually impaired.

Redbox kiosks can be found in several different grocery chains across the nation. The rentals are usually only $1.

The self-serve kiosks are convenient. They are also at the heart of the lawsuit. The touch-screens are difficult for blind individuals to use.

'White Only' Pool Sign Ruled Discriminatory

An Ohio panel affirmed its initial ruling that landlord Jamie Hein violated the state's Civil Rights Act. Hein erected a "White Only" sign outside her duplex's pool.

Hein posted the sign last May. An African-American teenager had visited the complex to see her parents. The girl's father, Michael Gunn, filed a complaint after he saw the sign.

He said Hein told him his daughter's hair products made the pool "cloudy." The sign went up a few days later.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) was not sympathetic.

An Alabama judge declared Natalee Holloway legally dead today, more than six years after the teenager's unsolved disappearance in Aruba.

After the court hearing, Holloway's divorced parents said they expect the prime suspect in Natalee's disappearance, convicted murderer Joran van der Sloot, to be extradited to the United States to face justice in a separate matter, the Associated Press reports.

The legal declaration of Natalee Holloway's death allows Holloway's father to stop paying medical insurance for his missing daughter, and to use $2,000 in Natalee's college fund for her younger brother's education, the AP reports.

Legal to Put Children on Sex Offender Registry?

How should we punish child sex offenders? Do they deserve to go to prison? Should they be placed on the sex offender registry? Or do their crimes warrant a different, more rehabilitative approach?

Though this is not a pleasant question, the fact is that about one-quarter of all sex offenders are under the age of 18. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but are mostly male and between the ages of 12 and 14.

Still, some are as young as 6.

Okla. Anti-Sharia Law Not OK: 10th Cir

Oklahoma's anti-Sharia law amendment is not okay, according to a panel of judges on the 10th Circuit.

Attorneys for the state argued the "Save Our State Amendment" only bans judges from applying international law. But the amendment's language singles out Sharia law, specifically banning its judicial application.

One clause even allows state judges to apply "the law of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia Law"

Who Must Comply With HIPAA Regulations?

If you've heard of HIPAA -- the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 -- you probably know that it protects private medical information. But beyond that, most people are understandably clueless.

HIPAA actually ordered the Department of Health and Human Services to create standards for the protection of electronically stored and submitted personal health care information. Those standards limit the use and dissemination of personal data; create a system for submitting electronic information; and dictate security standards.

Still, what information does the law cover? And who must comply with HIPAA regulations?

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired millions with his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, hoping that one day people would "not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

In the nearly five decades since King's "Dream" speech, the U.S. Supreme Court has grappled with the issue of racial discrimination in a series of cases. Here are five important decisions that reflect King's call for change.

Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States (1964)

The Atlanta Motel case challenged the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations. The motel's owner refused to rent rooms to blacks, and claimed Congress exceeded its authority in enacting the Civil Rights Act.

Who Wins in an Embryo Custody Battle?

As the age of first child becomes later and later, more couples are turning to invitro fertilization. Others -- including men -- face medical treatment and choose to freeze embryos as a precaution. But as the popularity of the technology grows, so do the associated legal problems.

What happens during a divorce? If the parties can't decide what to do, who will win custody of the embryo?

It depends.

A child support lawsuit seeks to provide free legal representation for poor parents facing enforcement actions in Georgia. It also seeks to stop Georgia's practice of throwing thousands of deadbeat parents behind bars.

A judge in Atlanta has cleared the way for a class-action child support lawsuit, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Five parents filed the suit after they were thrown in jail for unpaid child support.

Because the parents were in jail, they had no way to pay their child-support debts, the lawsuit asserts. Some lost their jobs, while others were disabled and could not find work, according to the Journal-Constitution.

Martin Luther King's Civil Disobedience Legacy

Every year, we set aside the third Monday of January to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a leader of the civil rights movement, he holds a special place in this country's past.

But he also plays an important role in the country's present and future. Some would argue that Martin Luther King embedded civil disobedience into the modern American consciousness.

And if 2011 was any indication, Americans have renewed their faith in these teachings.

Is Early Voting Allowed in My State?

Along with hours-long lines and historical precedent, the 2008 presidential election brought renewed attention to the availability of early voting. Voters cast early ballots in record numbers that election. And afterwards, policy advocates pushed for its adoption across the country.

Despite the amount of attention given to early voting, many voters are still unaware that it exists. We're here to change that. Early voting, along with the absentee ballot, is perhaps the best option for those who want to exercise their right to vote.

Here are the laws regulating both processes.

TX Teen Used Fake Name, Deported to Colombia

Jakadrien Turner, the Texas teen deported to Colombia, is returning home this weekend after spending months abroad.

The 15-year-old runaway was referred to U.S. immigration officials earlier this year after she gave police a fake name . The name coincidentally was that of an undocumented 20-year-old Colombian woman.

Her grandmother tracked her down on Facebook and was surprised to learn she was in Bogota.

WA Voters May Soon Legalize Recreational Pot

Will Washington legalize marijuana? Supporters sure hope so. A group called New Approach Washington has turned in more than 340,000 signatures to the state legislature in support of Initiative 502.

Initiative 502 will legalize marijuana and create an infrastructure of state-licensed growers, processors and stores. The initiative would also impose a 25% excise tax.

After the initiative is sent to the Washington State Legislature, representatives must take action during the 60-day legislative session. The session starts January 9.

If the legislature does not take action, the initiative will appear on the state's November ballot.

As marriage rates continue to decline in the United States, unmarried couples may be looking to the IRS for an excuse to stay unhitched.

That's because in this day and age, love and marriage also go together with adverse tax consequences, attorney and tax planner Jeff Schnepper writes for MSN Money. Unmarried couples who cohabitate may end up paying less in taxes than married couples, Schnepper suggests.

How does that happen? The answers can be found in five of Schnepper's top tax reasons not to get married.

Are Voter ID Laws Legal?

Voter ID laws have been around for quite a while, but they're back in the news recently thanks to South Carolina. The Justice Department has rejected the state's new voter ID law, which requires government-issued photo identification at the polls.

The legislation is designed to prevent voter fraud, but some say it discriminates against minorities, the poor and the elderly. Even so, about half of all states impose similar requirements. So aren't voter ID laws legal?

Rick Perry Gets Court Hearing on Virginia Primary Ballot

Rick Perry's lawsuit against the state of Virginia has grown in recent days, adding Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum as plaintiffs. The group of Republican presidential candidates has been left off the state's primary ballot -- a move they say violates the First Amendment.

Perry filed suit last week, but the judge refused to halt the printing of the ballots. Instead, he scheduled a hearing for January 13 during which he will consider the larger merits of the case.

It's the new year, and new gay-rights laws are now in effect in a handful of states. Here's a summary of the most significant changes.

Civil Unions

Hawaii and Delaware are now the seventh and eighth states to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot.

A new Delaware law allows for same-sex civil unions with the same legal protections and benefits as marriage, USA Today reports. Delaware's governor signed the bill in May, after both houses of the legislature approved the bill by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Man, 99, Files for Divorce from 77-year Marriage

A 99-year-old Italian man is filing for divorce from his wife of 77 years. The split started after the husband, Antonio C, discovered a secret cache of letters. His wife, 96-year-old Rosa C, had an affair in the 1940s.

Antonio confronted Rosa about the relationship. She confessed, but was unable to salvage their marriage.

Some might wonder why he'd end the marriage when he's so far into his golden years. Or if the fact that one spouse cheated on the other will impact their divorce.

FL Homeless Get One-Way Bus Tickets

Fort Lauderdale, Florida has instituted a new homeless bus ticket program. It's dubbed the "Homeless Reunification Program." Eligible participants will receive a one-way bus ticket out of town.

The program is intended to reunite homeless individuals with their friends and family.

Homeless who want to take advantage of the free bus tickets must show they will have someone waiting for them when they arrive in their new city.

New Year, New Cell Phone, DUI Laws

As it does every year, January 1st marks the changing of the guard. New laws will become effective, and others will phase out. Sometimes you'll notice, and other times you won't. It usually depends on your state.

But January 1, 2012 will bring high-profile changes at both the federal and state levels. Parts of the Affordable Health Care Act will come into force, and 100-watt incandescent light bulbs will cease to exist. Statewide voting restrictions are widespread, and hands-free cell phones are becoming the norm.

Here's what you have to look forward to in 2012.