Annie Fisher

Aug 192013
 
Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

This past week the Associated Press reported that there is a recent movement to hold drug dealers responsible for their “clients” overdoses.  Prosecutors from various states are aggressively using state laws to prosecute drug dealers for causing overdose deaths. These statutes have been around for years, yet are rarely used, but the recent skyrocketing numbers of heroin deaths have caused prosecutors to go after dealer in hopes that they can put a dent in the supply of heroin. 

Heroin has become the drug of choice due to its lower cost and availability. It has affected the popularity of prescription pain killers, such as OxyContin, since they are expensive and hard to obtain. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, heroin usage has increased by 66% between 2007 and 2011 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heroin overdose deaths have increased 55% between 2000 and 2010.

In New Jersey, criminal court prosecutors are using the seldom used drug death statute that carries a 20 year maximum sentence and  makes it a first degree crime if you are a dealer and responsible for a user’s death. Interestingly enough prosecutors are using a drug dealer’s business tool, the cell phone, as evidence against them. Cell phone records and texts can be used to show that the user contacted the dealer for drugs and the dealer responded to the call or text.

Many states are also holding drug dealers liable in civil court they are found to have distributed an illegal drug that harms an individual. The distribution need only be in the same geographic area and during the same time period as the person who took the drugs. So the injured user could actually go after the drug dealer for money damages in civil court. With this crackdown on overdose deaths, you may also see families of the deceased going after dealers in civil court.  

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Criminal law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Criminal law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

  •  August 19, 2013
  •  Posted by at 11:30 am
  •   Comments Off on Deal or no Deal
Aug 092013
 

Criminal Law Update:

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Quote by Abraham Lincoln.

Nidal Hasan has defied those famous words from the great President Lincoln.

Major Nidal Hasan is the Army psychiatrist who is on trial for killing 13 people while on a shooting rampage almost four years ago in Fort Hood, Texas.

Hasan is an American born Muslim who allegedly believed that he was killing on behalf of the mujahideen (holy warriors). He allegedly fired more than 200 rounds at unarmed soldiers while yelling “God is great” and believed he had a jihad duty to kill as many as possible.

Interestingly enough, he has chosen to represent himself, not with the plan of winning, but instead losing. It appears that he is proud of his actions and wants to be remembered as a terrorist that killed for his faith. In his attempt to become a martyr, he started his opening statement by stating that the evidence would show that he is the shooter and that he carried out the killings on behalf of the mujahideen. At least this self represented defendant wants to lose.

One of the basic things taught in law school is that you are a fool to represent yourself in most cases. Attorneys to go school after college for at least three years and have to take a comprehensive and difficult bar exam to practice law. They study many legal doctrines, rules, and procedures that a layperson would never know without this extensive education. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it this way. I have seen defendants represent themselves in criminal court and it is a sad and painful sight to see someone make numerous legal errors while their freedom hangs on the line. Would you let a surgeon operate on you that didn’t go to medical school? I didn’t think so.

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Criminal law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Criminal law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

Jul 262013
 

Family Law Update: Gay Couples Unsure Whether to Say “I do”

Twelve states currently allow same sex marriages. Thirty-five states explicitly ban same sex marriage and three states do not allow same sex marriage, but do not ban it. One of these is California. In June, the United States Supreme Court brought same sex marriage back to California and many gay couples saw the opportunity to rush and get married.

Yet, many experts advised California gay couples to re-examine their marriage commitment and not to rush into tying the knot. The reason for the warning because what happens if these couples divorce. In California, a community property state, couples that divorce must split their property in half. Under a community property statute everything acquired during the marriage, with the exception of gifts or inheritances, is owned 50/50. In non-community property states courts follow the doctrine of equitable distribution and award a “marital interest” in any property that was acquired during the marriage through the efforts of both spouses. This acknowledges the contributions of both spouses, whether the contribution is financial or through a spouse’s work in the home, regardless of whose name is on the legal title.

One solution may be a prenuptial agreement and it may avoid splitting property in half upon divorce. A pre-nuptial agreement is entered into prior to the marriage.  Some of the issues it addresses include: Listing separate property and income; financial assets and income; the voluntariness of the agreement; division of expenses and costs for the household; estate planning provisions; effect of a deceased spouse; remarriage; division upon divorce; and distribution to children upon death or divorce. The agreement can be revised at a later date and may be appropriate when significant financial assets are involved in the marriage. It all depends on the couple and their wishes and expectations of the marriage.  So with the added privilege of marriage for gay couples, come the dire consequences of possibly losing property in a divorce.  Perhaps one outweighs the other.

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Family law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Family law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

 

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

 

Jul 192013
 

 Eye Donation and the Need for a Living Will

I read an interesting article this week in USA today. It was about a study performed by Duke University that more people would donate their eyes if they knew they could. This topic hits home because I have a son that is blind in one eye.  Unfortunately, his blindness is caused by a dead optic nerve in the brain so an eye replacement would not solve the problem. Yet, I was shocked that so many didn’t know that they could donate their eyes.

Over the past years I have sat through many doctor visits and seen many children with severe vision issues.  Donations could help so many. Duke University reported that eye donation is down by 28% despite the fact that people have the option of donating their eyes to be used as transplants or for research to find cures for defects and ailments.   

I am an organ donor. I’m pretty healthy and have some decent eyes so I have repeatedly told my husband to make sure that every part of me is donated, at least those parts that someone wants. This is a crucial point if you wish to donate your eyes or other organs. Make sure you notify your family of your intentions!  You should also carry a donor card or take the appropriate steps through your local motor vehicle office to have your driver’s license reflect that you are an organ donor. You might also want to visit a local organ donation organization and discuss your intentions. Most importantly, make sure you have a living will that states your organ donation wishes.

A living will is a legal document that states your wishes as to life prolonging medical treatment. It can also reflect your wishes as to organ donation. A living will tells your doctor and family what you want as to medical treatment in the event you are unable to speak for yourself such as in the case of a terminal illness or permanent vegetative state. Your local attorney and paralegal can help to prepare your living will so you can share the gift of life and vision!  

 So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Estates Wills and Trusts online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Estates Wills and Trusts online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

 

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

Jul 152013
 

Zimmerman case goes to the jury  

Jurors in the George Zimmerman found the defendant not guilty of all charges because he was acting in self defense. The trial took three weeks and consisted of testimony from many witnesses such as police, neighbors, friends, family members and even Zimmerman himself. Many wonder why these criminal trials take so long and cost so much. The Jodi Arias trial cost the state almost two million dollars. The Zimmerman trial will most likely go over the one million dollar mark.

What exactly happens during a criminal trial? Let’s review the basic steps in a criminal trial to better understand the process. If it is a jury trial, the trial begins with jury selection. Opening statements, while not evidence, introduce the jury to the facts in question. The prosecution opens first, and presents its case because it has the burden to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. After each witness is examined by the prosecution, the defense has the opportunity to cross-examine. When the prosecution closes, the defense has the opportunity to make a motion for a required finding of not guilty, indicating to the court that the prosecution failed to meet its burden. If allowed, the trial is over and the case is dismissed. If not allowed, the trial goes forward and the defense has the opportunity to call witnesses, including the defendant, who can then be cross-examined by the prosecution.  The defense is not required to call any witnesses and the defendant is not required to testify.  After the defense closes its case, each side has an opportunity to address the jury one last time in a closing argument. The closing is not evidence.  After the judge charges the jury, it retires to deliberate and, hopefully, comes to a verdict. If the verdict is not guilty, the case is dismissed and the defendant is released. If the verdict is guilty, the defendant may be scheduled for sentencing or may be sentenced immediately.  

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Criminal law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Criminal law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

 

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

  •  July 15, 2013
  •  Posted by at 3:58 pm
  •   Comments Off on Zimmerman case goes to the jury
Jul 012013
 

Criminal law update: Chicago Bull’s legend, Scottie Pippen, sends victim to hospital and doesn’t get arrested?

Chicago sports teams often make national news.  The Chicago Blackhawks brought home the Stanley cup in 2010 and once again are national champions! The Chicago Bulls were also national champions many times over when Michael Jordon and Scottie Pippen were part of the team. In 2010, Pippen made national news when he was inducted into the National Basketball Hall of fame.  He has once again made headlines when he allegedly beat a man outside a restaurant.  Pippen claimed the man was harassing him and his family while they were dining at a Malibu restaurant. According to reports, Pippen tried ignoring the man, but agreed to pose for a picture. The man later demanded an autograph outside the restaurant and when Pippen refused, the man became upset and exchanged words with Pippen and spit on Pippen’s daughter. Pippen snapped and beat the man, ultimately sending him to the hospital. The police spoke to Pippen and decided not to arrest Pippen for battery, but this is probably not the end of this case.

Even though Pippen may not be charged with battery, the interesting thing is that the same action can result in both a civil action and criminal charges.  We saw a famous example of this when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murder, yet found liable in a civil suit filed by the victim’s family. So even though police may never arrest Pippen, he will most likely see a civil suit by the victim.

A civil battery is a harmful or offensive contact with a person that results from the defendant’s intent to cause the contact or to cause an apprehension of imminent contact. A civil trial seeks to make the plaintiff whole for damages caused by the defendant’s actions. The plaintiff must prove damages and that these damages were caused by the wrongful act of the defendant. There are three types of civil damages: compensatory damages, which are most common, are also called special damages and reimburse the plaintiff for losses or damages; pain and suffering are also called general damages, which are not easily measured; and punitive damages are rare and usually awarded for gross negligence, as a form of civil punishment and to give the plaintiff some type of payment for the damages caused. People often do not sue for a civil battery because the defendant usually doesn’t have much money. It’s just not worth it. However, this is a good exception since the accused has some deep pockets! 

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Criminal law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Criminal law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

 

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

 

  •  July 1, 2013
  •  Posted by at 12:10 pm
  •   Comments Off on Criminal law update: Chicago Bull’s legend, Scottie Pippen, sends victim to hospital and doesn’t get arrested?
Jun 212013
 

American Institute for Paralegal Studies:   All Female Jury Selected in Alleged Neighborhood Watch murder  

Many compare jury selection to playing a game of chess. You have to consider the effects of age, race, nationality, economic and education level, language barriers, and gender. Even the lawyers’ ethnic and racial background and sex may have an impact on the jury. It is a strategic process that hopefully results in your favor. Yet, it isn’t often that that process results in an all female jury. The interesting thing is that attorneys for both the defense and prosecution in the alleged neighborhood watch murder case seem positive with an all female jury.  Of course, I’m a bit bias towards an all female jury since I tend to agree with my 7 year old daughter that “girls are smarter than boys!”

The accused in the neighborhood watch volunteer case is George Zimmerman. He is accused of murdering a teen back in February, 2012. Zimmerman claimed that the teen attacked him and he was acting in self-defense when he allegedly murdered the boy. Both sides are hoping that the selected jurors will vote favorably. The defense is hoping that the jurors are able to put themselves in the shoes of the defendant while the prosecution hopes that the jurors will use common sense in reaching a verdict.  

The attorneys weeded through 211 jurors and were able to narrow the group to 40 people for voir dire. Voir dire is the process where jurors are questioned in attempt to find that “perfect” jury. The idea behind voir dire is to discover any biases on the part of prospective jurors and to find persons who might identify with the plights of their respective client.   During voir dire, the attorneys can exercise a certain number of challenges to prevent particular persons from being allowed to serve on the jury.  After both sides have completed their challenges, those jurors who have been excused are permitted to leave. The remaining jurors, those found to be acceptable by both attorneys, are seated in the jury box.

6 of the 40 were selected for the jury. These jurors will be sequestered due to the extensive media coverage. The jurors will be housed away from family and be allowed limited contact with family, friends, and news.  In exchange, they will receive $15 per day for the first three days and then $30 per day for each following day. If a juror is paid by an employer for the time off, then he/she receives nothing for the first three days and $30 for each following day.

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Criminal law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Criminal law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

 

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

 

 

 

  •  June 21, 2013
  •  Posted by at 5:49 pm
  •   Comments Off on All Female Jury Selected in Alleged Neighborhood Watch murder
Jun 172013
 

AIPS Family Law News: Man Arrested for Bringing Daughter to Work

It wasn’t bring your daughter to work last week, but Tyreek Langs certainly didn’t check his calendar. Mr. Langs decided to bring his 8 month old daughter to work and was arrested. A daughter, in her father’s arms, ready for another day of hard work. The problem is that Mr. Langs is a drug dealer. He was arrested after selling heroin while holding his infant daughter. He was immediately arrested and heroin was also found on him. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance, sale of a controlled substance and child endangerment. So now what will happen to the infant daughter? Chances are that Child Protection Services stepped in and took custody and guardianship of the infant.

Unfortunately, not all parents are good parents.  In the AIPS Family Law class we learn that in cases of child neglect and abuse, the state must intervene to protect children and, in some cases, terminate the parental rights of the parents. This means never returning the child to the parent. It is seen as a “last resort” for many cases. Parental rights are based on such a fundamental concept that the Supreme Court believe that courts shouldn’t mess with those rights unless it is really clear and convincing.

Although, courts are quick to take the child out of custody once there is a report of neglect and/or abuse. They have to do this because it is considered an emergency protection. The court will then decide, through the legal proceedings, if the allegations are true.  The child will slowly be returned to the parent as the court finds a solution to the allegation. For example, drug treatment, parenting classes, supervised visits and etc.

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Family Law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the family law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

 

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

 

  •  June 17, 2013
  •  Posted by at 1:18 pm
  •   Comments Off on Family Law News: Man Arrested for Bringing Daughter to Work
Jun 092013
 

AIPS Criminal Law Update: Big Brother is Watching and Swabbing

Last week the United States Supreme Court ruled that police can collect DNA from people arrested, but not yet convicted. This means that police can collect your DNA during the booking process which normally only allows for fingerprinting and photographing. The DNA results are then entered into a nation wide database, regardless if you are found guilty or not of the alleged arrested crime. It also means that police can collect DNA, regardless if it ends up being related to the arrested crime or if you are wrongly arrested. So if you are arrested, smile for the camera, get your fingers ready for ink and open up your mouth for a cheek swab.

In the AIPS paralegal certificate program we study the protections afforded by the amendments of the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to protect the privacy and security of individual persons against government invasion and its officials.

When an official of the government, such as the police, violates an individual’s expectation to privacy, an unlawful search has occurred. However, the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit all search and seizures and allows ones that meet a “reasonable standard.” The government (police) must show that there was probable cause for a search to be deemed constitutional. Yet, now the United States Supreme Court has lumped DNA identification as part of the routine booking procedure that is considered reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.  The decision was a 5-4 decision.

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Criminal law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Criminal law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

 

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

  •  June 9, 2013
  •  Posted by at 3:55 pm
  •   Comments Off on Criminal Law Update: Big Brother is Watching and Swabbing
Jun 022013
 

American Institute for Paralegal Studies:   No Double Jeopardy in Col. Krusinski’s Sexual Battery Case

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski’s case has brought attention to a long established doctrine that you can’t be tried twice for the same crime. However, in Krusinski’s case that may be just what happens. Krusinkski, an Air Force officer, was in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Unit.  He was arrested on May 5th, 2013, for groping a woman that he did not know, in a parking lot and later charged with sexual battery.  His trial is scheduled for July 18th in the criminal court of Arlington County, Virginia.

The problem is that the military is asking the Arlington County’s prosecutor’s office to turn over the case to the military for prosecution. Arlington County is refusing and plans to proceed with the trial in July. Yet, the Air Force may still decide to prosecute Krusinski, in addition to the civilian trial through Arlington County. Both courts have jurisdiction over the matter which is the power of a court to hear and resolve a matter in controversy.

A service member that is accused of a crime that violates both military and state law can be tried by a military and/or civilian court such as the Arlington County criminal court. Normally, prosecutors from the military and state criminal court get together and agree on who should prosecute and then the case is charged in the agreed upon court. However, there was no such agreement in Krusinski’s case which means that he may face prosecution in both the military and Arlington County court, regardless of any constitutional double jeopardy rule.  The Fifth Amendment double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from a second prosecution for a single offense after acquittal or conviction for the same offense. So it looks like Col. Krusinksi may have his day in court not once, but twice.     

So do you want to learn more? If so, then sign up for the AIPS Criminal law online paralegal class!  To find out more information on the Criminal law online paralegal class visit the curriculum page of the AIPS website (www.aips.com) at  http://www.aips.com/advanced-courses/course-descriptions/

Janet Russeth, J.D. AIPS Instructor

Janet Russeth, J.D.
AIPS Instructor

  •  June 2, 2013
  •  Posted by at 4:19 pm
  •   Comments Off on No Double Jeopardy in Col. Krusinski’s Sexual Battery Case