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

August 2012 Archives

What Happens When You Get Evicted?

Maybe you just fell behind on your rent payments. Or, maybe you broke multiple rules handed down to you by your landlord. For tenants, the eviction process is daunting. Not only are you about to lose the place that you call home, but the whole process can be confusing.

This is especially true when you throw in legal terms like "unlawful detainer."

If you're facing eviction, there are several things you should know:

New Alcohol Laws Put Adults on Hook for Teen Drinking

Teenage drinking is a crime in all 50 states since we all have a drinking age of 21. But it's not just a crime for the teenager doing the drinking.

In some states it's also a legal issue for the adult who does the serving.

Illinois has just passed a law that goes into effect next year and makes it a misdemeanor for adults to serve alcohol to underage persons. It isn't the only state with these 'social host' laws on the books.

Can Airline Toss You Off Plane Over Clothes?

Airline dress codes are increasingly making the news with stories of people getting kicked off flights for a variety of style choices.

This spring, a woman flying from Las Vegas was confronted by an airline employee for showing too much cleavage, reports The Associated Press. Another woman was told to cover up a four-letter word written on her t-shirt. And both of these incidents follow the famous episode last year when a college football player was escorted off a flight for wearing his jeans too low.

So in light of these incidents, you may be wondering just whether an airline can throw you off a flight for violating their dress codes.

Will Samsung Smartphones Get Banned in US?

It didn't take very long for Apple to seek an injunction against Samsung to ban eight of their smartphones from the market.

Apple is actively seeking the ban of several old-model Samsung Smartphones including its Galaxy S2 and Droid Charge, reports Reuters.

As no one is likely looking at buying one of these smartphones anymore anyway, is there a chance that the possible Samsung ban will have an effect on you (the consumer)? Here's a look at three scenarios:

Can you include your iTunes or MP3 music library in your will? What about your eBooks and other digital purchases?

The answers aren't entirely clear, as digital estate planning is a new realm for virtually everyone. But it's increasingly becoming an issue.

The average American spends about $30 per month on eBooks and digital music purchases, according to a survey cited by MarketWatch. (Compare that to the self-proclaimed owner of the world's largest iTunes collection: He touted 170,000 MP3s in his possession, and that was back in 2007.)

With so much money invested in digital purchases, what's the problem with giving away your iTunes or eBooks when you die, perhaps as part of your will?

Are Radar Jammers Illegal?

If you're thinking of using a radar jammer to avoid speeding tickets, think again. Radar jammers are illegal.

Jammers are different from the more popular radar detectors. The detectors allow you to know when cops are using radar guns on the highway. They aren't illegal for passenger vehicles but they also aren't necessarily effective since they only alert you once they detect radar. That may be too late.

Radar jammers work by effectively overcoming the radar guns used by police. The radar signals can't "see" the car which means they can't monitor your speed. The idea is that it can help you avoid a ticket but in reality, they can make the situation even worse.

It's bad news to get caught on an interstate highway with a radar jammer. We're not just talking a $100 ticket or increased insurance premiums either.

The Top 5 Renter's Rights

Renter's rights will be on the minds of many college students with the school year getting under way. Students across the country will be signing leases and moving into their own places perhaps for the first time.

While having your own apartment can be an exciting time, it can also lead to serious legal consequences.

A lease is a legal contract that binds you and your landlord together. While your landlord has rights to collect rent and tell you not to blast music at midnight, you should know that tenants have rights too. Here are the top five renter's rights you should know:

Jurors Wanted to Send Samsung a Message

In a sweeping victory for smartphone and tablet patents, Apple beat out Samsung in a U.S. federal court.

For Samsung's infringement of Apple's patents, the jury gave a damage award of $1.05 billion to Apple. While this amount may sound high, Apple had sought $2.75 billion in damages, reports Reuters.

If you're wondering how the jury came up with the $1.05 billion figure, you should know that the calculation was not random by any means.

Divorce is so expensive, many poorer Americans seem to be opting for long-term separations instead, a new study finds.

The study followed a nationally representative sample of more than 7,200 people over a 30-year period. Results, to be presented at an upcoming American Sociological Association meeting, suggest socioeconomic and racial differences in how Americans pursue divorce.

After a marital separation, 80% of people ended up getting a divorce, most within three years of separation, researchers found. Just 5% tried to reconcile.

But the most significant finding involved the 15% who remained separated but didn't pursue a full-fledged divorce.

Can My Dog be a Service Animal?

Having your pet around can be a comfort but what if you need it for more than that? Seeing-eye dogs are a common and accepted form of service animal, but they aren't the only one.

The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes two categories of service animals. Service dogs, which are trained to help with physical, emotional, and mental disabilities, and assistance animals, which covers other animals trained to assist their owner.

The ADA requires private businesses to accommodate service animals if the business serves the public, such as a restaurant, hotel, or grocery store. You don't have to have any documentation but your service animal has to fit within the rules.

FL Sued by Feds Over Kosher Prison Meals

Florida's prisons stopped serving kosher meals to inmates several years ago but now the federal government is taking notice.

The state was sued in federal court over its decision to stop providing kosher meals to inmates in the general population. The state previously provided kosher meals to about 250 inmates, according to Reuters. That program ended in 2007.

The government claims that Florida's decision to stop offering kosher meals to prisoners is a violation of Constitutional rights.

Concealed carry laws are a hot topic, as the nation reels from a series of recent mass shootings. But concealed handgun laws have also led to some common misconceptions.

Laws in 49 states and Washington, D.C., allow certain citizens to apply for a license to carry a concealed weapon (often referred to as "CCW"); only Illinois does not, according to the website USA Carry.

With the aim of clearing the air, here are five common myths about concealed carry laws:

Sex Ed Without Condoms May Not Meet CA Law

Sex ed without a mention of condoms violates California law according to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Clovis Unified School District.

California's Department of Education guidelines require that sexual health education in public school provides comprehensive and accurate information on sexual activity. The ACLU and the parents they represent claim that Clovis's program fails to meet those standards, reports The Washington Post.

The problem isn't what the program says but rather what it doesn't.

LA's medical marijuana dispensary ban is set to take effect Sept. 6, but a lawsuit and a petition drive are aiming to stop the law in its tracks.

Los Angeles' city council in July passed an ordinance that prohibits medical marijuana businesses, LA's KNBC-TV reports. At the time, more than 760 pot clubs were registered to operate in the city.

In preparation for the new law, the city has sent letters to more than 1,000 locations believed to be pot clubs, warning them about potential fines and jail time if they don't shut down by the deadline.

But what the city is trying to do is unlawful, one lawsuit asserts.

Man Fights to Keep Wife Buried in Front Yard

When Patty Davis was asked whether she would like to be cremated at death, she responded that she was terrified by the idea and said she would like to be buried in the front yard of her home instead. Being a good husband, Jim Davis put his wife's grave in the front yard when she died in 2009.

Jim Davis lives in downtown Stevenson, Alabama. While the city is not big, Davis reportedly lives in the heart of the city, and not some rural area sitting on acres of land.

As a result, his putting his wife's grave in the front yard sparked outrage from neighbors and local government officials, reports The Associated Press. The city even sued Davis and a county court ordered that Davis disinter his wife. However, Davis appealed the decision and he may be able to keep his wife's grave in the front yard after all.

Is it legal to sell a kidney or other bodily organ? You may have heard of it happening in China, where a 17-year-old boy allegedly sold his kidney and used some of the money to buy an iPad and iPhone.

Chinese authorities arrested nine people and put them on trial for the allegedly unlawful operation, CNN reports.

But what if the teen's kidney sale had happened in the United States?

License-Plate Scanners: Are the Cops Tracking You?

Federal and state governments are using license-plate scanners to monitor cars on the road but is that legal?

The ACLU isn't so sure it is and they've launched an investigation into how states are using and storing the information.

License-plate scanners are automated readers that photograph your license plate and send that information to law enforcement. Officials say the information is used to deal with crime, reports U.S. News.

The real issue is how long they're keeping that information.

Burning Man Lawsuit Filed, Show May be in Jeopardy

The organizers of Burning Man have filed a federal lawsuit against a Nevada county to prevent an ordinance from taking effect that would have the effect of buttoning up the popular arts festival.

Pershing County has an ordinance in place that could require Burning Man participants to wear clothing and enable sheriff's deputies to regulate activities they consider to be "obscene, indecent, vulgar, or lewd," reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Given that Burning Man embodies naked people doing naked things, the ordinance would have a serious impact on the wild everything-goes nature of the Burning Man festival.

How Attorney Fees Work: Contingent Fees

Ads for attorneys sometimes include something like "we don't get paid unless you win" as a way to explain their fee system. Most lawyers call it a "contingency fee."

The attorney's fee is based on the contingency or condition that your case wins at trial. If you win then the lawyer gets his fee. If not then he won't make a profit. These kinds of billing systems are common in personal injury cases and forbidden in certain legal areas, like divorce.

But just because the lawyer isn't profiting doesn't mean you get away without spending a dime.

Top 5 Dumb Mistakes Sure to Get You Pulled Over

We all know you can be pulled over for a broken tail light and possibly ticketed if the cop throws the rule book at you.

Those kinds of tickets are often called mechanical violations. It's a non-moving violation but police can also use it to give you a ticket for something else. In some circumstances, what police see when giving you that ticket can lead them to search your car.

A broken tail light isn't the only thing that can get you pulled over. Here are 5 other common car defects that could result in a ticket.

It May be Time to Write a Will

There are plenty of how-tos for when it comes time to write a will, but that doesn't answer the question of when "when" becomes "now."

Having a will can make things easier for those you leave behind but it's often not done. More than half of U.S. adults don't have a will according to a 2007 study by Harris Interactive.

People who are young and healthy don't want to think about dying. People who are dying often aren't in a position to write a will.

It's time to stop thinking of wills as only for the elderly. There are key points in your life when writing or updating a will should be important to you.

Can a lawyer son represent his dad in a divorce case against his mom? It may sound like a conflict of interest, but Nevada's highest court says it's OK under the law.

The Nevada Supreme Court's 3-0 ruling reverses a lower court's decision that barred lawyer Mark Liapis of Reno from representing his dad Theodore, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Mark Liapis' mom Marie objected to her son's involvement in the case, and offered several legal arguments -- all of which Nevada's Supreme Court rejected.

NJ Kids Forced to Eat on Floor Win $500K

Students forced to eat on the floor as 'punishment' have settled for $500,000 in a lawsuit against the school district.

In 2008, fifth grade students at an elementary school in Camden, New Jersey were disciplined by then-Vice Principal Theresa Brown. The bilingual class was forced to eat on the floor for two weeks when one student accidentally spilled water, reports the Chicago Tribune.

The bizarre punishment was bad enough. But the administration's way of handling it makes it look much worse.

Winning the lottery often means stepping into a cache of legal conundrums that can cost you a lot of time and money in court. That's where planning ahead can pay off.

The most common legal issues involve disputes over office lottery pools and ownership of winning tickets. But there are other potential problems too.

Here are our Top 5 legal tips for winning the lottery:

TX Dog 'Lucky' Inherits Master's Huge Estate

Lucky dog! A Texas dog stands to inherit the estate of his former Texas master.

Kenneth Bortz accumulated a sizable estate during his life including enough furnishings to fill ten homes, reports the New York Daily News. However, when he passed away, none of his family members wanted his collection of china, furniture, and other collectibles.

As a result, the items went up for sale and the proceeds will be used to care for his dog. Fortuitously, the lucky dog's name happens to be "Lucky."

Top 5 Legal Pitfalls for College Students

College students don't often think about the legal consequences of their actions until it's too late and that can lead to trouble. This fall get a jumpstart on recognizing situations where things are likely to go wrong.

No, the issue isn't with studying too much or doing too well in class. It's that other part of college life where people start having too much fun that things go wrong.

If you have a college student (or you are one) make sure to know the top 5 situations that can result in legal trouble.

Supreme Court to Hear Intl. Custody Dispute

The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear an international custody dispute between a U.S. military father and a Scottish mother.

The international child custody dispute centers around a five-year-old girl who currently lives with her mother in Scotland. The case has wound its way through the state and federal judicial system with a state court first ruling that the girl should remain in the U.S. and then a federal court sending the girl away to Scotland, reports Reuters.

The U.S. citizen husband seeks to overturn the ruling by the federal court. However, even with a favorable Supreme Court ruling, it's unclear how the U.S. government could force the Scottish government to return the child.

Boston Airport's Racial Profiling Problem Probed

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials at Boston's Logan International Airport are accused of engaging in racial profiling when determining who to target for security checks.

This is probably not that surprising in the eleven years since the 9/11 attacks as many still stereotype terrorist threats as young men belonging to certain ethnic groups. And if you've spent any time in an airport, you've probably noticed that people of certain ethnic groups are much more likely to be stopped for additional checks than people of other ethnic groups.

Still, the accusations are disappointing as racial profiling can be illegal and Logan International Airport took affirmative steps to stop the practice, reports The Boston Globe.

How Child Support Calculations Work

Child support calculations is a popular question both for custodial parents who would receive the support and non-custodial parents who would have to pay.

The difficulty and confusion surrounding child support calculations can partly be explained by the fact that there are no uniform national rules for how much someone has to pay.

Instead, each state has its own rules on how much child support is owed, and calculating payments generally depends upon individual circumstances like how much someone makes and how many children they have.

So two neighbors could both owe child support for one child, but the amount one neighbor pays could be drastically different than what the other neighbor pays.

It's fodder for many jokes, but seriously speaking, is it legal to marry your cousin? The answer depends on where you live, and how closely related your cousin is.

Some famous historical figures married their cousins. Outlaw Jesse James married his first cousin Zerelda. Scientist Albert Einstein married his second cousin Elsa. And several presidents married cousins of more distant relations.

While some states allow these kinds of marriages, others do not. In general, laws about whether it's legal to marry your cousin fall into three categories:

Your Legal Rights During a Job Interview

You may not know it, but employment laws play a big role in the job hiring process long before you even become an employee.

Some laws affect what kind of advertisements the employer can place in looking for a qualified candidate. Other laws affect the legal rights a candidate has as soon as an interview begins. And even if you're never hired, this may have no effect on your legal remedies.

Here are three common legal issues that come up during a job interview:

NJ's Medical Marijuana Program Finally Takes Off

New Jersey approved a medical marijuana program more than two years ago but the program will finally begin to go into effect on Thursday.

That's the day when qualified patients can first register to receive an ID card for purchasing medical marijuana. That doesn't mark the start of any drug availability which is likely to come sometime next month.

Creating a patient registry is an important first step in allowing patients to use medical marijuana. But that doesn't mean people who participate in the system are safe from legal consequences.

Get Flood Insurance Before You Need It

The best time to get protection against a flood is before it happens. That means if you keep anything in a basement or live on the ground floor, it's important to have flood insurance.

Floods are the most common natural disaster and they can cause significant damage.

Buying flood insurance is always a good idea but in some cases it's also mandatory. It's important to understand how and when to buy flood insurance so that you're prepared before disaster strikes.

Deferred Action Program May Help 1.8M Young Immigrants

Almost 1.8 million young illegal immigrants may qualify for temporary legal status under President Obama's deferred action program. This is more than double what experts initially expected when first Obama announced the program.

A big reason for the increase in numbers of people affected is that the guidelines for the deferred action program are far more expansive. It includes young people under 30 who did not graduate high school or receive a G.E.D. Previously, an applicant needed one of these degrees to be eligible.

Here is an overview on the deferred action program, as reported by the New York Daily News:

Westboro Vows to Defy Military Funeral Protest Law

Military funeral protests by members of the Westboro Baptist Church may be the target of a bill President Obama's signed into law Monday.

The bill, known as The Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, is a general package of veteran's affairs laws. It deals with many aspects of care for veterans and their families, covering healthcare, housing, and education.

It also covers memorial services and funerals which is where Westboro Baptist Church comes in.

Is it Legal to Grow Weed in California?

If you're looking for a career change, you may have wondered at some point whether it is legal to grow weed in California. But before you become a drug dealer or open a cannabis club, it's probably a good idea to become familiar with the marijuana laws.

To start off, it is illegal to grow or sell weed for recreational use. This is true even in California. So discard the rumors that you can legally grow one or two marijuana plants or grow weed for your own personal use. If you cultivate any weed, and it is intended for recreational use, you just committed a felony.

But while there are strict laws against recreational marijuana growing, it may be legal to grow weed in California for medicinal purposes.

Therapists May Be Required To Report Threats

Therapist-patient conversations are confidential until something happens that the therapist is required to report.

Unlike attorney-client confidentiality, therapists don't have a complete duty to keep therapy sessions private. In some cases they are required by law to break confidentiality and inform police of the content of a therapy conversation.

One of those situations is known in legal circles as the 'duty to warn.'

When a member of Team USA scores an Olympic medal, the IRS scores gold by collecting taxes on the win, an anti-tax lobbying group reports.

For Olympic winners like swimmers Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte, and members of the "Fab Five" women's gymnastics team, their newly acquired gold medallions -- and the accompanying prize money -- must be reported as income to the IRS, according to Americans for Tax Reform.

So what's the Olympic tax bill for each type of medal?

Most U.S. Counties Are Now Disaster Areas

The U.S. Department of Agriculture listed another 218 counties as disaster areas earlier this week. This addition means that now over half of the U.S. counties in the U.S. are disaster areas.

In 32 states, 1,584 counties have been designated as primary disaster areas. Many of these "disaster" designations have come as a result of a severe drought that has crippled much of the heartlands. The drought is considered the worst in decades and has taken an especially severe toll on farmers and agricultural workers, reports The Associated Press.

Getting listed as a disaster area means that these counties will now be eligible for federal aid, including low-interest emergency loans. These loans may be the one thing keeping struggling farmers from bankruptcy.

Spousal Support: How is Alimony Calculated?

No loving couple enters into a marriage contemplating divorce. But, alas, divorce happens. And when it does, it leaves many spouses wondering what criteria are used to calculate alimony. That and how much spousal support they should expect to pay or receive.

The truth is, alimony support varies widely depending on your financial situation.

It can also be contingent on your state's laws. But what are some of the usual factors a court will look at when they determine spousal support?

Immigrants are Cash Cows for Private Prisons

The crackdown on undocumented immigrants comes with a high cost to tax payers but it's a profitable business for private prison companies.

The U.S. detains 400,000 immigrants each year, some of whom end up becoming legal permanent residents. Holding all those people is expected to cost taxpayers $2 billion this year.

The number of immigrants has largely outgrown the beds available in government owned prisons so many end up in private facilities.

That choice isn't necessarily cost-effective.

Supreme Court Could Uphold CA Gay Marriage Ban

The Supreme Court may consider the legal question of gay marriage later this year because of an appeal of California's Proposition 8.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stuck down Prop 8 in a 2-1 decision in February. They based their decision on a previous Supreme Court ruling that says a majority cannot take away the rights of the minority without legitimate reasons. Now opponents of Proposition 8 have filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to review the decision.

Whether or not the Supreme Court takes the case, their decision will impact the future of gay marriage, at least in California.

Under NY Body Piercing Law Parental Approval Now Required

New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Monday requiring teens to get parental consent for body piercings. The law applies to those under 18 who want a piercing somewhere other than their ears.

While previously New York law had no age limit on body piercings, the new law requires a parent's or guardian's permission before the piercing artist can do their job.

New York already had similar requirements for tattoos and tanning, so what prompted them to increase the restrictions on teen body piercings as well?

Apple, Samsung Patent Trial Seats US Jury

Apple and Samsung are waging a global war for dominance over mobile devices. And with a U.S. federal judge picking ten jury members, the first battle is set to begin.

In the fight between Apple and Samsung, the two companies have filed lawsuits against each other around the world, each accusing the other of stealing their patents and intellectual property.

In the U.S., Apple sued Samsung claiming that the South Korean company "slavishly" copied their iPhone and iPad, reports Reuters. Samsung counter sued. Yesterday, a federal judge spent hours going through a jury pool examining potential jurors before settling on ten jurors.