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Motor Vehicle Accident – Distracted driving kills more than drunk driving

April 4, 2014

Distracted driving is killing more British Columbians than impaired driving and Attorney General Suzanne Anton said Wednesday the government is considering higher fines and penalties to put the brakes on the carnage.

Anton said it doesn’t appear British Columbians are getting the message that distracted driving is deadly, and along with increased penalties she’s considering public education campaigns similar to previous initiatives targeting seatbelt use and drinking and driving.

“Distracted driving is a very serious problem in B.C.,” she said. “In 2012, we had 81 deaths, and that’s 81 families who have terrible tragedy in their lives. Compared to drinking and driving there were about 55 drinking and driving deaths in 2012. It’s remarkable distracted driving is causing more tragedies right now than drinking and driving is.”

via Distracted driving kills more than drunk driving, B.C. considers higher fines | GlobalPost.

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New Law – Can’t Convert Rail Road Trails to Bike Trails

March 11, 2014

The Supreme Court Monday ruled 8-1 in favor of a private landowner in Wyoming who was fighting to keep bike paths from being built near his house. The decision, according to USA Today, threatens thousands of miles of public bicycle trails.The case wasn’t about bike paths per se — it was about whether or not the federal government retains its control over land that had been granted to railroad companies once it’s been abandoned. But the decision undermines a federal “rails to trails” program, threatening the more than 1,400 bike and nature trails it’s created since its inception in 1983.

Here’s more on the case from NPR:

The plaintiffs in the Wyoming case, Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, are descendants of the owner of a sawmill that produced railroad ties. The family was granted dozens of acres of land in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest; they are resisting attempts to use part of that land for a trail.

“We traded for the land with a right of way on it for railroad uses,” Brandt said in December. “They want to bring a train through here, that’s fine. We never expected and we never agreed to a bicycle trail.”

…The family was granted the land in 1976, in exchange for turning a larger acreage over to the government. The court’s discussion of the case touched on decades of law, from the 1875 Railroad Right of Way Act to the 1942 Great Northern Railway case, which centered on oil and mineral rights.

When the Forest Service moved to convert a swath of former railroad track on the Brandts’ land that is 200 feet wide and a half-mile long into bike trails, the family sued. After losing in two lower courts, they emerged from the Supreme Court with a victory today.

With 21 miles of gravel pathway passing through the forest, the Medicine Bow Rail Trail “has become one of the most popular rail-trails in America,” according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

via Supreme Court ruling delivers a major blow to bike paths – Salon.com.

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New Law – Cell Phone Ban in Illinois Takes Effect Jan. 1, 2014

December 17, 2013

Starting in the New Year, it will become illegal to talk or use hand-held cell phones and other communication devices while driving in Illinois. The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2014, imposes fees starting at $75 for drivers caught talking while driving. Gov. Pat Quinn signed the legislation in August.

via Cell Phone Ban in Illinois Takes Effect Jan. 1 – Government – Niles-Morton Grove, IL Patch.

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Criminal Law – Supreme Court Rules That Pre-Miranda Silence Can Be Used In Court

June 18, 2013

In order to invoke your right to remain silent, you must speak. Silence in and of itself is, evidently, not evidence of your intention to invoke protections provided by the Constitution’s 5th Amendment Rights and/or the Miranda Rights. I can understand the prosecutor’s claim that because he was not under arrest and was answering some questions and remained silent on some others, his silent could be use as evidence of his guilt. But, I think that is splitting hairs. The spirit of the law is to prevent a person who is not well versed on the laws to not say something, without the presence of his attorney, that might be self-incriminating.

The Supreme Court says prosecutors can use a person’s silence against them if it comes before he’s told of his right to remain silent.

The 5-4 ruling comes in the case of Genovevo Salinas, who was convicted of a 1992 murder. During police questioning, and before he was arrested or read his Miranda rights, Salinas answered some questions but did not answer when asked if a shotgun he had access to would match up with the murder weapon.

Prosecutors in Texas used his silence on that question in convicting him of murder, saying it helped demonstrate his guilt. Salinas appealed, saying his Fifth Amendment rights to stay silent should have kept lawyers from using his silence against him in court. Texas courts disagreed, saying pre-Miranda silence is not protected by the Constitution.

The high court upheld that decision.

via Supreme Court Rules That Pre-Miranda Silence Can Be Used In Court.

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Throwing Poor People In Jail For Owing Money

April 6, 2013

The Americans Civil Liberties Union on Friday revealed that courts in Ohio are illegally throwing poor people in jail for being unable to pay off a debt.

In a report titled, “The Outskirts of Hope,” PDF the ACLU shines a light on a harrowing “debtors’ prison” system in Ohio — one that violates both the United States’ and the Ohio constitution. Ohioans are being jailed for “as small as a few hundred dollars,” despite the constitutional violation, and the economic evidence that it costs the state more to pay for their jail sentence than the amount of the debt.

In its report, the ACLU details the stories of several people sent to debtors’ prison. Jack Dawley owed $1,500 in “fines and costs in the Norwalk Municipal Court,” and was behind on child support payments, leading the Ohio courts to send him to prison in Wisconsin for 3 and a half years. He still struggles with trying to repay the fines. Another victim of the system, single mother Tricia Metcalf, was taken to jail each and every time she wasn’t able to make her $50-a-month payments on fines for writing bad checks. Megan Sharp, whose husband is currently in jail on overdue fines, was unable to pay $300 in fines for driving on a suspended license and went to jail for 10 days. When she got out, she owed $200 more on top of the original amount. Both she and her husband are unemployed.

The AP has a round up of the charges that the ACLU levels against Ohio, writ large:

  • In the second half of last year, more than one in every five of all bookings in the Huron County jail
  • Originating from Norwalk Municipal Court cases — involved a failure to pay fines.
  • In suburban Cleveland, Parma Municipal Court jailed at least 45 defendants for failure to pay fines and costs between July 15 and August 31, 2012.
  • During the same period, Sandusky Municipal Court jailed at least 75 people for similar charges.

Court officials have pledged to look into the accusations.In 2011, ThinkProgress reported on how the deep recession and loss of employment had led to a return of debtor’s prisons. People were reportedly put in jail for something as small as missing a single furniture payment.

via Report: Ohio Is Illegally Throwing Poor People In Jail For Owing Money | ThinkProgress.

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Product Liability – Restore Legal Rights to Victims of Generic Drug Gain Support Amongst Attorney Generals Across US

May 29, 2012

A group representing state Attorneys General across the country has backed a proposed Senate bill that would allow the makers of generic prescription drugs to update safety labels on their products if they become aware of new dangers and side effects from taking them.

According to a statement from the National Association of Attorneys General NAAG, the bill proposed by Senators Patrick Leahy and Al Franken would give all users of prescription drugs the same legal rights if they suffer a side effect from taking it that’s not expressly noted on safety information included with the drug. Under current federal law, makers of generic drugs are blocked from updating the safety labels on the copies of name-brand drugs they manufacture and distribute until the company that makes the name-brand drug makes changes. If a patient is prescribed or dispensed a generic drug and suffers a side effect, they are unable to file any legal actions against the makers of the generic drug, which is exempted from facing lawsuits for hiding side effects of that drug.

This law gained attention when the Supreme Court was presented with the case PLIVA Inc. vs. Mensing in which the high court ruled that federal law only granting permission to makers of name-brand drugs to independently update the safety labels on drugs prevented those who’ve been injured by generic prescription drugs from seeking any legal actions against the makers of it.

NAAG states that more than 70 percent of all prescriptions filled in the U.S. are for generic drugs and that’s likely to increase as patents for top-selling drugs expire, as the one for the cholesterol drug Plavix has recently done. In that case, seven companies have been permitted to make copies of Plavix to be sold under its generic name.

via The Trial Lawyer Magazine – State Attorneys General Support Bill to Restore Legal Rights to Victims of Generic Drug Side Effects | The Trial Lawyer Magazine.

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Criminal Law – Go to Trial – Crash the Justice System

March 19, 2012

In this era of mass incarceration — when our nation’s prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.

“The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used,” said Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the libertarian Cato Institute. In other words: the system is rigged.

In the race to incarcerate, politicians champion stiff sentences for nearly all crimes, including harsh mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes laws; the result is a dramatic power shift, from judges to prosecutors.

via Go to Trial – Crash the Justice System – NYTimes.com.

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Consumer Issues – Legal Wrinkle Creates Debate Over ‘Debtors’ Prisons’ in Illinois

January 26, 2012

debtor prisonGenerally, when there are summons or a subpoena for you to appear in Court, you must do so if you have been served with those papers. Either yourself, or a legal representative on your behalf has to show up. Failure to show-up, may result is a warrant for your arrest to be issued. Now, that is a Rule of Law that is helpful in many instances in order to get those who have done harm or have important information about an incident such a witness to come to Court and help in the implementation of Justice.

What I fail to understand, is that in a collection proceeding, if the defendant has been properly served, and he or she does not show up in Court, the common sense result would be the entry of a judgment in the amount asked in favor of the plaintiff and against the missing defendant. The defendant then may begin collection activities which may include freezing bank accounts, wage garnishment, ceasing property and such. It behooves us to think that a person who owes money, and has not paid it as he or she was supposed to, would suddenly come up with funds to pay the debt holder if he or she would appear in Court. It is utterly void of any sense whatsoever, for a Judge to enter a body attachment order and issue an arrest warrant in a debt collection proceeding. It is simply void of any practical sense and/or common sense and/or legal sense.

Yet, the example below is one amongst many that I have heard taking place as of late. This causes a Court to play into the hands of low-life debt collectors who have found a new weapon to harass and harm otherwise good and law abiding citizens who are down on their luck. No one should be sent to jail because they cannot pay their debt. That is a sound principle that a Judge should be able to work through when a debt collector’s representative requests the Court to issue an arrest warrant when the defendant fails to show. Under normal circumstances, the failure should simply mean that the defendant does not have any defense nor is disputing the existence of the debt or his or her obligation to pay it. What more can be obtained by placing the person in jail, possibly causing more economic harm and making it even more difficult to pay back, even if they had such an intention.

This sort of behavior is expected of debt collectors-but it is surprising and sad to see Judge’s who are willing to go along with it.

“Robin Ebersohl left her job at a Wal-Mart in Montgomery County to drive back to her home in Livingston. During the trip, she was stopped by police. “I knew my muffler was bad, but I just kind of chanced it,” Ebersohl said. “He pulled me over, and I thought I would just get a fix-it ticket or something.” What Ebersohl didn’t know was that a warrant had been issued against her in Macoupin County for failure to appear in court on a debt collection issue. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to appear to,” said Ebersohl, who said she never got a notice that she was due in court.

Instead of going home that day, she was taken to jail. Ebersohl said she spent the night in the Montgomery County Jail and then was transferred to Macoupin County, where she spent three more days in jail.”

via Legal wrinkle creates debate over ‘debtors’ prisons’ in Illinois – Springfield, IL – The State Journal-Register.

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