Does Forced Decryption Violate the Fifth Amendment?

Can the government force a suspect to give up the encryption keys to his/her computer hard drives, to provide evidence to convict the suspect with? Does this violate the Fifth Amendment right against compelled self incrimination? This issue hasn’t yet been directly addressed by the Supreme Court.

“Federal prosecutors have formally dropped demands that a child-porn suspect give up his encryption keys in a closely watched case, but experts warn the issue of forced decryption is very much alive and is likely to encompass a larger swath of Americans as crypto adoption becomes mainstream.”

Read the entire story at Wired.com

If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated, a consultation with a competent and insured Civil Rights attorney can make all the difference.  Call the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association for a referral at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

keys_woodleywonderworks

Photo by woodleywonderworks at Flickr Creative Commons

Jury Disregards Medical Malpractice Panel Findings

For the first time in NH, a Hillsborough County jury ignored the unanimous decision of a medical malpractice panel, and sided with the family of William Landry Jr., a 36 year old factory worker who died from heart disease in 2005.

Previously, Landry had visited his cardiologist three times after fainting spells and was told there was nothing wrong with him from a cardiac stand point. An autopsy revealed lesions on Landry’s heart and the Medical Examiner estimated that he had developed heart disease in 2004. The lawsuit charged that the cardiologist didn’t perform the right tests.

Medical malpractice panels are made up of a retired judge, physician and a lawyer. They hear the case in secret and the decision is non-binding. If the decision is unanimous, the jury can be told about the decision if the plaintiff decides to go forward with a trial. The process is designed to encourage the parties to settle; however, the lawyer for the cardiologist didn’t offer to settle once the panel gave it’s decision.

Ultimately, the jury disregarded the findings of the review panel and awarded the family $1.5 million.

Read the entire story by Mark Hayward, for the Union Leader.

If you have sustained medical injuries due to the error of medical professionals, a consultation with an attorney experienced with Medical Malpractice matters can make all the difference. The Lawyer Referral Service has specific standards for attorneys who receive these referrals from LRS. Call 603-229-0002 or fill out the online referral request form.

xray-scissors

May Is National Moving Month – Don’t Get Scammed!

May is National Moving Month – the busiest time of the year for people changing residences.  It’s also a busy time of the year for unlicensed movers and scammers.  For tips on how to spot con-artists and avoid scams, check out this video by the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA).

 

 
If you have been scammed by an unscrupulous moving company, contact the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association for a referral to a licensed and insured attorney who represents consumers.  Call (603) 229-0002 or request an online referral.

 
 

Identity Thieves May File And Receive Your Tax Return

Waiting until April to file your tax return may allow identity thieves to beat you to it.  These crooks file fake returns using stolen names and Social Security numbers, along with false wage information, generating large fraudulent refunds.

“Our cases have increased by about 650 percent since 2008,” says Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, kind of the internal watchdog at the IRS. People go to her when they have a problem with their returns.

The IRS itself says the number of cases has doubled each year in recent years. And a lot of the fraud is coming out of South Florida.

It catches on like fire. It spreads like a virus. Friends tell their friends,” says Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

He calls this crime an epidemic. Fraudsters come from all walks of life: hospital workers, former Marines, white collar professionals and former gang members who have switched from street violence to tax fraud.

Read entire article at NPR.org.

Video Tips from the IRS

If you are a victim of this type of identity theft, contact your Local Taxpayer Advocate.

If you are still not able to resolve your issue, a lawyer  may be able to assist you.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to attorneys who are skilled at handling identity theft legal issues.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

For other tax related matters, contact the Low-Income Taxpayer Project of the New Hampshire Bar Association.

 

 

 

 

Defending Against a Domestic Violence Petition

Due to the lasting effects a domestic violence final order can have on a person’s life, obtaining an attorney as soon as possible is extremely important; however, if one cannot be obtained right away, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts from the Law Offices of Bucknam, Black and Brazil on defending yourself from a domestic violence petition.

Don’t violate the temporary order.  In a Vermont  case a number of years ago where a temporary relief from abuse order was issued, the defendant sent the plaintiff a short love note.  The temporary order was dismissed, after a hearing, for lack of evidence, but the defendant was charged and convicted of a violation of the temporary restraining order.  If the order provides for no contact, that is exactly what it means.  The plaintiff can try to contact you, either directly or indirectly,  but you must never respond.  If you violate the temporary order, you not only will be charged with a crime, but, in my experience, you will have a harder time convincing the court that no abuse occurred.

Don’t give the court the impression you think the plaintiff is crazy or just spiteful, or the court system is biased against you.  Family Court judges are conscientious,  are dealing with limited facts, and are trying to protect potential victims.  In my experience, Family Court judges try hard to be unbiased, and for the most part, they succeed.  However, if you are disrespectful to the court or dismissive of the petition or complaint, it will be much harder for the court to rule in your favor.

Don’t just deny the claims;  if the only evidence the court hears is the plaintiff’s claims and your denials, the court will likely grant the petition or complaint,  because the court will lean on the side of protection.

Do ask for a continuance if you need more time to obtain an attorney and get the facts together.  The Vermont statute allows you a continuance if you were unable to obtain an attorney in time for the hearing, and the court will likely allow you a continuance if you can convince the court that you have witnesses that were not available for the hearing, or need more time to prepare   In New Hampshire, a continuance will be granted “for good cause shown”,  but since New Hampshire provides for more time between the temporary order and the final hearing, a continuance in New Hampshire may not be needed.  A continuance means the temporary order remains in place for a longer period of time, but it is worth it.  A temporary order, if it does not become a final order, is confidential, and the records will be eventually destroyed by the court.

Do keep any texts, emails or other communications from the plaintiff. The Relief from Abuse or Domestic violence statutes require the court to find not only that abuse occurred  but that “there is danger of further abuse.” (Vermont’s statute) or the conduct constitutes a “credible present threat to the petitioner’s safety” (New Hampshire statute).   If the plaintiff tries to contact you after obtaining an RFA or DV order, those attempted contacts may be used to persuade the court that the plaintiff  does not believe that there is danger of further abuse or a present threat to his or her safety.   Remember, however, you can never respond to any communications from the plaintiff after you have been served with a temporary order.

Read the entire article by Attorney Deborah Bucknam

If you have been served with a Domestic Violence Petition, or if you need to obtain a protection order, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney who is specifically experienced with domestic violence petitions.  Call 603-229-0002 or fill out the Lawyer Referral Service online request form.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, contact the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence  or call the 24 hour hotline at 1-866-644-3574

 

How Long Should Financial Documents Be Kept?

Fearing an IRS audit, people have been known to keep every shred of  paper, going back decades.  Professional organizer, Regina Leeds says that while there are financial documents you should keep for life, most only need to be kept for three years or less.

Safe to Shred
Unless it shows proof of a deductible expense, many documents and receipts can be shredded monthly or annually, says Leeds. For entrepreneurs, these include:

  • ATM receipts and deposit slips after they’ve been reconciled with your bank statement
  • Monthly and quarterly bank statements if year-end statements are received

Keep for Three Years
Material that supports tax returns should be saved for three years. Leeds says this might include:

  • Income-related documents, such as invoices, cash register tapes, credit card charge slips, bank deposit slips, 1099s and W2s
  • Proof of deductible purchases and expenses, such as receipts, invoices, cancelled checks, mileage logs, and credit card slips or statements
  • Receipts for charitable contributions

As businesses become more paperless, receipts and statements are often delivered online. Some information is available for a limited time, however. Make sure you check with your account holder to understand its policy, and save or print documents that might be needed in case of an audit.

While three years is standard, according to the IRS, it can perform an audit up to six years after taxes are filed if a “substantial error” is suspected. In the case of fraud, there is no limitation on an audit. Leeds says if you are worried about being audited beyond the three-year limit, you should hold your documentation longer.

Read the rest of the article by Stephanie Vozza at Entrepreneur.com.

If the IRS has contacted you regarding unpaid taxes, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can help with a referral to an attorney who specifically handles IRS tax matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request an online referral.  Assistance might also be found through the Low Income Taxpayer Project.

Jar of money labeled Taxes.

SCOTUS to Decide Warrantless Blood Tests for DUI

Can a person suspected of drunk driving be compelled to submit to a blood test without a warrant?  That is the question before the U. S. Supreme Court today.

Blood Draw by Joshua/Yoon Hernandez at Flickr Creative Common

In October of 2010, a Missouri man, Tyler McNeely, was stopped by the  Missouri State Highway Patrol for speeding, after having a beer at a local bar.  Noticing signs of intoxication, the patrolman requested McNeely to submit to an alcohol breath test or blood test, which he refused.

After arresting McNeely,  Cpl. Mark Winder decided to take McNeely to the hospital for a blood test to “secure evidence of intoxication,” without first obtaining a warrant.

That nonconsensual blood test — considered a “search” in legalese — is at issue in front of the Supreme Court, which is expected to clarify when and under what circumstances a warrantless search can occur in such cases.

In court papers, lawyers for Missouri say that Winder didn’t attempt to obtain a search warrant prior to the blood test in part because, “Obtaining a search warrant in the middle of the night in Cape Girardeau County involves a delay, on average, of approximately two hours.”

Winder was concerned about the rate of elimination of alcohol in the bloodstream, which diminishes over time.

It turns out McNeely’s blood alcohol level was 0.154 percent, well above the legal limit of 0.08 percent . In court, McNeely moved to suppress the evidence against him, saying his constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated.

The trial court agreed with McNeely and found that “the natural dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream alone was not a sufficient factor to justify a warrantless blood draw in a routine stop.”  The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision.  The Supreme Court will hear the case today.

Read the entire story by Ariane De Vogue at ABC.com.

If you believe your constitutional rights have been violated, the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to attorneys who specifically handle civil rights violations.  Call 603-229-0002 or submit an online referral request.

 

 

 

 

Sports Fans Permitted to Pursue Lawsuit

Sports fans have received the OK from a U.S. District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin to pursue a lawsuit against the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball and several other networks, claiming antitrust violations in how the games are packaged for broadcast on television or the internet.

The case arose from what the subscribers said were anticompetitive “blackout” agreements between service providers such as Comcast and DirecTV, sports networks and the leagues.

These subscribers contended that if they wanted to watch games from outside their home markets, they were required to buy packages that included all out-of-market games, even if they were interested only in one or a few nonlocal teams.

For example, a New York Yankees fan living in Colorado could not pay simply for access to that team’s games, but had to buy a product such as the MLB Extra Innings television package.

The subscribers sought damages and a halt to arrangements that they said resulted in “reduced output, diminished product quality, diminished choice and suppressed price competition.”

The defendants include Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, several teams in both sports, cable TV company Comcast Corp, satellite TV provider DirecTV, Madison Square Garden Co and some regional sports networks.

Read the entire story by Jonathan Stempel at Thomson Reuters.

Photo by Dan4th at Flickr Commons

 

High Tech Options For Joint Parenting

No matter how well ex-spouses co-parent, there are always going to be issues that crop up, resulting in a potential for emotional exchanges in front of the children. These days, divorced parents have high tech options to assist with handling the details of joint parenting remotely.

 “People don’t want to talk to their exes because just the sound of their voice is irritating,” said Randy Kessler, chair of the American Bar Association’s Family Law Section and a matrimonial lawyer in Atlanta. “But they can e-mail. They can share an online calendar. They can use any number of resources on the Internet. There are even divorce apps.”

E-mail and texting alone have practically revolutionized postdivorce family relationships. “E-mail absolutely takes away the in-your-face aggravation and emotional side of joint custody,” said Lubov Stark, a divorce lawyer on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. “You just write, ‘I want to pick up Kimmy at 5, but I’m running late and will be there at 6.’ It’s the best thing ever.”

Ipad and calendar by Sean MacEntee at Flickr Creative Commons

Read the entire story by Pamela Paul at the NY Times.

Do you need help with a parenting plan?  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to a  competent and insured family law attorney to assist you.  Call LRS today at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

 

 

 

Beneficiaries and Missing Life Insurance Policies

Last week the American International Group agreed to pay $11 million to resolve a multi-state investigation by a group of state insurance regulators, into the handling of death benefit payments to beneficiaries when the policy holder dies.

AIG joined several other insurers that already settled, agreeing to check their lists of policy holders regularly against the Social Security Administration’s master “death file” database and to put more effort into locating beneficiaries.

Traditionally, insurance companies have required beneficiaries to file claims to receive benefits from life insurance policies. That has meant that claims sometimes are never filed — perhaps because policy documents were lost, or because beneficiaries did not know a policy existed. But state insurance regulators, for the past two years, have been looking into the practices of large insurers and urging them to proactively identify policies that may be due for a payout.

State regulators have charged that insurers used the Social Security Administration’s list of recently deceased people to stop making annuity payments to dead customers, but, at the same time, did not use the list to check whether any life insurance policyholders had died.

Read entire story by Ann Carrns at the NY Times.

The American Council of Life Insurers has the following tips for finding missing policies.

Missing Policy Tips

The American Council of Life Insurers does not locate missing or lost life insurance policies.  Suggestions for conducting your own search are listed below.

Conducting Your Search

If you suspect your loved one had a policy, but cannot locate it, you may want to conduct your own search using the steps provided below. As an alternative, MIB, an insurance membership corporation, offers a policy locater service for a fee. For more information about this service, visit MIB’s Web site: www.policylocator.com.

  • Check your loved one’s papers and address and telephone books to look for life insurance policies and the names of insurance agents.  Contact every insurance company with which they may have had a policy, even if you’re not sure the policy is still in force.
  • Check with the employee benefits office at their latest and previous places of employment.  Or, check with the union welfare office.
  • Check bank books and canceled checks for the last few years to see if any checks may have been written to pay life insurance premiums.
  • Check the mail for one year after death for premium notices, which usually are sent annually.  If a policy has been paid up, there will not be any notice of premium payments due.  However, the company may still send an annual notice regarding the status of the policy or it may pay or send notice of a dividend.
  • Review your loved one’s income tax returns for the past two years.  Look for interest income from and interest expenses paid to life insurance companies.  Life insurance companies pay interest on accumulations on permanent policies and charge interest on policy loans.
  • Check with the state’s unclaimed property office to see if any unclaimed money from life insurance policies may have been turned over to the state.  If, after a number of years, an insurance company holding the unclaimed money cannot find the rightful owner, it turns the money over to the state. The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators’ website (www.naupa.org) includes links to each state’s unclaimed property office. For multi-state searches, www.missingmoney.com combines information from most, but not all, state unclaimed property databases.
  • Of course, you may wish to contact life insurance companies directly to see if a policy exists.  Each state insurance department has a listing of life insurance companies licensed to do business in its state.

Contacting the Company That Services Your Life Insurance Policy

If you are the owner or beneficiary of a life insurance policy written long ago, you may need help locating the life insurer that services and pays claims on the policy.

Over the years, a policy owner may lose touch with the life insurer due to frequent moves, or the company that issued the policy may have changed its name or merged with another company.

Two sources of information can assist you in finding the life insurance company that currently services your policy:

  • The state insurance department of the state in which the insured person resided at the time he or she bought the insurance policy.
  • Best’s Insurance Reports, available in the reference section of many larger libraries. This annual update lists insurance company names and addresses, as well as insurers’ name changes, mergers and other changes.

The best way to avoid problems with life insurance claims is for policy holders to discuss the policies with their beneficiaries.  Copies of the policy should be kept in a safe deposit box or with a lawyer or financial adviser, and make sure your beneficiaries know how to access them.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to an attorney to assist you with your estate planning needs.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.