Filming Police – Know Your Rights

Cell phone user filming police

Hot Media by Coco Curranski, Flickr Creative Commons

Uber Driver Told to Stop Filming Police

An attorney moonlighting as an Uber driver began filming police during a traffic stop in North Carolina, according to a recent article in the Washington Post by Peter Holley.  Filming police is becoming a common practice nowadays to document interactions with law enforcement.

One of the officers ordered Jesse Bright to turn off his camera.  He refused and cited his right to film police. The officer threatened to bring the attorney to jail, falsely informing him that a new law was recently passed preventing citizens from filming law enforcement.  The officer then initiated a search of his vehicle to which the attorney did not consent.  Bright and his passenger were eventually let go without further incident, after finding nothing incriminating.

Filming Police is Your Legal Right

The attorney released the video to the public as reinforcement that it is well within your rights to film police officers. The Wilmington Police Chief said that an internal investigation has been launched, adding  “… we believe that public videos help to protect the police as well as our citizens and provide critical information during police and citizen interaction.”

View the video and read the full article at the Washington Post.

PostTV spoke with the International Union of Police Association and the National Press Photographers Association regarding civilian rights and filming of law enforcement. According to them:

• You have the right to record and photograph police unless you’re physically interfering with them performing their duties.
• You must be on public property, your own property, or if you’re on private property, you must have permission from the owner.
• Police can tell you to step back, but they cannot tell you to stop recording. They cannot order you to leave the area if other members of the public (without cameras) are allowed to stay.
• If you’re going to record police, do it in an open and obvious manner.
• Under the First Amendment, there are no circumstances under which the contents of a camera or recording device should be deleted or destroyed.

 

Fortunately for the attorney, he knew the laws and his rights, but some citizens may not be so knowledgeable – especially when a trusted officer of the law deceives them. That’s why it’s important to know your rights.

Consult With an Attorney

If you believe your rights have been violated by the police, the NH Lawyer Referral Service can assist you with a referral to a licensed and insured attorney who practices civil rights law.   Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Top photo by Coco Curranski, Flickr Creative Commons

Dealing With Debt Collectors

If you are being harassed by debt collectors, it’s important to know your rights and understand your situation.

The following video is the first in a series on Debt Defense created by the National Association of Consumer Advocates. It explains consumer rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and reviews common defenses against debt collectors.

 

 

NH Consumer Protection

Along with the protections offered under the FDCPA, New Hampshire offers additional protections for consumers/debtors under the NH Consumer Protection Act.  Visit the website of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau, at the NH Attorney General’s Office for more information or to file a consumer complaint.

The NH Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) can refer you to competent and insured consumer law attorneys in your area. Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online. LRS is a non-profit public service of the NH Bar Association.

 

 

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Missed Mortgage Payments – Avoiding Foreclosure

Mary Stewart, a contract attorney for the Foreclosure Relief Project at the NH Bar Association, explains what to do when you fall behind on your mortgage payments.
 
 

 

First off, New Hampshire is a non-judicial foreclosure state.  This means that if you fall behind on your payments, your mortgage company can foreclose without having to go to court, and it can happen quickly! If you fall behind on your monthly payments or even if you anticipate that you may fall behind, it is important to seek out help sooner rather than later.  Ignoring the problem most definitely will not make it go away.  The sooner you act, the more options will be available to you.

Second, don’t go it alone.  In New Hampshire, there are free Home Ownership Counselors available throughout the state.   Home Ownership Counselors are familiar with all the options that may be available to you, including modification and forbearance. They will help you assemble the vast amounts of paperwork needed when working with your lender and take care of transmitting the paperwork to the right person at your mortgage company for review.  Best of all, this service is completely free.

Home Ownership Counselors work all day, every day with people who are in the same situation that you are facing.

Third, if you already have a foreclosure scheduled, it is not too late to get help. However, it is important to act before the foreclosure auction.  The first step is to stop the foreclosure from happening.  This can be done by either filing a complaint in the NH Superior Court or by filing for personal bankruptcy protection.  There are private attorneys throughout the state as part of the Foreclosure Relief Project who will help you with this process. You can meet with an attorney FOR FREE at a Home Retention Clinic, and you may qualify for additional free or reduced fee legal services, depending on your income.

Lastly, no matter what, please don’t be afraid to get help.   Everyone has financial ups and downs.  You are not alone!  For information and guidance on the next step for you, please call the NH Bar Association Foreclosure Relief Project at 603-715-3255.

The NH Bar Association’s Foreclosure Relief Project is supported by funding from the National Mortgage Foreclosure Settlement.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association partners with the Foreclosure Relief Project by providing referrals for distressed homeowners to attorneys who are specifically trained in foreclosure-related legal matters.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

NH Bans Campaign Apparel Inside Polling Places

campaign-buttons_russwalker_fccNH state law prohibits people from wearing campaign paraphernalia such as buttons, stickers or clothing supporting specific candidates inside polling places. Violators could face fines of up to $1000.

According to Allie Morris, State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan is advising moderators to have ponchos on hand for voters wearing campaign shirts at the polls to cover up with.

“Electioneering in the polling place is not permitted generally,” Scanlan said. “If you have the same design on a campaign sign as you do on a sweatshirt, it’s effectively the same thing.”

Some people feel this is a violation of the freedom of speech.  Republican Rep. Dennis Fields, who filed the legislation at the secretary of state’s request, says the law’s intent is to prevent people from wearing items that might sway or intimidate voters.

Read the entire story.

For information about the 2016 changes to election laws and the voter ID law, go to the NH Secretary of State’s Office website.

If you have an election law issue or any other legal matter, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can provide you with referrals to competent and insured attorneys to assist you.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Photo by Russ Walker – Flickr Creative Commons

New Parenting Plan Modification Law

On May 31, 2016, Governor Hassan signed HB1280 into law.  This bill expands the reasons and criteria for modifying a Parenting Plan within our Family Court system.

The bill, which goes into effect on January 1, 2017, adds three new categories for allowing modification of a parenting schedule.  Attorney Elizabeth LaRochelle, one of many competent and insured panel members of the NH Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), explains the new law in greater detail on her firm’s blog.

Call LRS today at 603-229-0002 for a referral to the right attorney for your specific legal matter, or request a referral online.

 

Parenting Plan Schedule Book

Online Reviews – Can you believe them?

Many people look up online reviews before making a large purchase, hiring a contractor, or going on vacation.  Finding out what other people have experienced makes it feel like an informed choice before shelling out hard-earned money.

This video from the Federal Trade Commission illustrates that you can’t always believe what you read in online reviews.  Some people are actually paid to write good things about a company, product or service in a review.

 

If you believe you are a victim of a consumer scam, the Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to competent and insured Consumer Law Attorneys to assist you.  Call (603) 229-0002 or request a referral online.

 

 

Fraud Alert for Bankruptcy Filers

Bankruptcy Court

PRESS RELEASE

“New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster issues the following caution for people who have filed or may soon file for bankruptcy. There is an on-going telephone scam related to individuals who have filed bankruptcy papers in court. The scammers, apparently using information from public filings in the bankruptcy court, will call a person who has filed for bankruptcy, claiming to be that person’s lawyer, the lawyer’s partner or a member of their law office staff. Using software that can affect a person’s caller ID system, they make it appear that the call is actually coming from the person’s lawyer. The scammers instruct the unwitting consumer to immediately wire money to satisfy a debt. The calls may be made late in the evening or during non-business hours so the person receiving the call cannot contact his or her lawyer to confirm the request. Any person who receives such a call should not wire funds and should contact their lawyer as soon as possible. Scams should also be reported to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau at 1-888-468-4454.  Consumers with consumer-related complaints or concerns can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Information Line at 1-888-468-4454 or file a complaint on-line.”

Read the entire Press Release at the NH Attorney General’s website.

Although it is possible to file a bankruptcy case without an attorney, it is not a step to be taken lightly. If you do not understand the law or if you fill out the forms incorrectly, you may unnecessarily lose property or jeopardize your discharge.

The Lawyer Referral Service of the NH Bar Association can refer you to a competent and insured bankruptcy attorney to help you decide whether bankruptcy is the right step for you.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

Time-barred Debts

Some debts may be too old for a debt collector to make you pay, according to an article by Cristina Miranda, Consumer Education Specialist at the Federal Trade Commission.

Debt collectors can contact you about time-barred debts at any time. If you get a call from a debt collector, they might come right out and say they can’t take you to court to make you pay a time-barred debt. If a debt collector doesn’t tell you this, ask for the date when you made your most recent payment. Then, ask for a validation notice – a legally required letter detailing the amount owed, and the creditor name. Once you receive the notice, send a letter back within 30 days explaining that you are ‘disputing’ the debt and that you want to ‘verify’ it. Debt collectors must stop trying to collect until they give you verification.

To find out what to do if you are sued, and if you have to pay the debt, read the entire article.

This video from the FTC provides additional information:  Dealing with Debt Collectors

If you are sued over a time-barred debt (or any debt), don’t ignore it. The Lawyer Referral Service will connect you with an attorney who can assist you with defending your debt collection rights.  Call 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.

How to Start the Divorce Process: 3 Options

Written by LRS Attorney Panelist, Katherine Morneau.

Divorce ScrabbleWe often get asked how to start the divorce process and there are three ways in New Hampshire.  An experienced attorney will be able to evaluate which one is best for you.

Option One: Collaborative Law

The collaborative process is a comprehensive approach to the divorce process.  It allows you to work with your spouse to come up with a mutually beneficial plan to dissolve the relationship.  With the assistance of a Financial Neutral and Coach you will have a full team of professionals to help each step of the way.  This process is confidential and avoids the need to go to Court.  At the end of the day, you will have a full agreement that addresses how you will each spend time with the children and secure your financial future.

Option Two:  Mediation

Mediation is recommended by Judges and many times required before you are allowed a Hearing.  In mediation you can go with or without an attorney to sit down with a neutral mediator to resolve each piece of your case.  The Court can appoint a mediator for you and your spouse or you can privately hire one.  We know some really great mediators and would be happy to recommend one that would be a good fit for you.  This process can also avoid appearing in Court.

Option Three:  Litigation

Litigation is often a last choice if either of the two options above are not successful.  The process starts by filing a Petition for Divorce with the Court.  There will be certain financial documents that you will have to exchange with each other.  This could be a lengthy process and guidance of an experienced attorney is essential to protecting your rights.

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Attorney Katherine Morneau is just one of the many talented and experienced attorneys you could be referred to through the Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association. Call us at 603-229-0002 or request a referral online.  We are here to help!

Photo credit – Cordell and Cordell, Flickr Creative Commons

 

Consumer Protection Overview

No Credit Needed signNew Hampshire’s primary consumer protection law, “Regulation of Business Practices for Consumer Protection,” is commonly known as the Consumer Protection Act (RSA 358-A).   The New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act prohibits the use of any unfair or deceptive act or practice or any unfair method of competition in trade or commerce in New Hampshire. The state law specifically identifies the following practices as unfair or deceptive:

  • Claiming that goods are new or original when they are used, secondhand, deteriorated, reconditioned or altered.
  • Claiming that goods or services have certain characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits or qualities, or certain sponsorship or approval when they really do not have such, or that a person has a certain sponsorship, approval, status, affiliation or connection that he or she really does not have.
  • Falsifying the place of origin of goods or services.
  • Passing off goods or services as someone else’s.
  • Disparaging another business’ goods or services by false or misleading statements.
  • Advertising goods or services with the intent not to sell them as advertised or failing to have a reasonable supply of goods or services provided on hand (unless the advertisement specifically says that quantities are limited).
  • Making false or misleading statements about the existence of, reasons for, or amount of price reductions.
  • Conducting “going out of business sales” which last more than 60 days or which are held more than once every two years by the same owners of the business.
  • Selling gift certificates for $100.00 or less that have expiration dates. (This does not apply to gift certificates or coupons that are given away.)
  • Dormancy fees, latency fees, or any other administrative fees or service charges that have the effect of reducing the total amount for which the holder may redeem a gift certificate are prohibited. (Does not apply to season passes.)

The above list provides examples of deceptive acts and is not an exhaustive list. In addition, some entities are “exempt” from the jurisdiction of the state court regarding consumer protection statutes violations so complaints must be filed with the entities regulating agency. For example, mortgage servicers are regulated by the NH Banking Department, so any complaint against a mortgage servicer regarding violation of NH Consumer Protection statute must be filed with the NH Banking Department.

How to file a Complaint in NH Courts

If you feel a business has violated the Consumer Protection Act, you may file a lawsuit seeking damages in NH state courts. If the court finds a violation, you may be entitled to an award for actual damages, statutory damages of $1,000 and payment of your attorney’s fees. If the court finds a violation was willful, you may be entitled to double or treble damages.

How to file a Complaint with Attorney General’s Office

Alternatively, or in addition to a state court complaint, you may file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. Complaints are read and reviewed in the order in which they are received by the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau. The bureau responds to complaints as quickly as possible. Information about how to file a complaint and the complaint review process can be found here.  If the bureau initiates an action against the business, it initiates the investigation and complaint on its own behalf and not as your attorney.

Additional Information

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office provides a Consumer Sourcebook as a comprehensive guide with useful links to the following:

  • General information about the laws that apply to a variety of consumer transactions.
  • Examples of how the law might apply to a situation.
  • Points to keep in mind if you find yourself in a variety of circumstances.
  • Ideas for where to turn for more help.

NH Debt Collection Law

Debt collection practices in New Hampshire are governed by both state statute and federal law: The New Hampshire’s Unfair, Deceptive or Unreasonable Collection Practices Act (RSA 358-C); and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C. § 1692-1695.)

Both are designed to instruct debt collectors as well as consumers as to the limits of collection practices, while protecting consumers from abusive debt collection practices. The laws are also in place to provide consumers an avenue for recourse in disputing a claim.

Both the state statute and federal act provide illustrative examples, and expressly allow consumers to sue debt collectors for violations of pertinent statutory provisions.

Under the FDCPA, a debt collector must always:

  • Identify themselves and notify the consumer that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt.
  • Give the name and address of the original creditor
  • Notify the consumer of their right to dispute the debt
  • Provide verification of the debt within 30 days of request

If you believe your rights have been violated under any of these laws, consulting with an attorney who regularly handles Consumer Protection cases can make all the difference.  The Lawyer Referral Service of the New Hampshire Bar Association can refer you to the right one, at no cost to you.  Call 603-229-0002 or submit an online request form.

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commonsfrankieleon