In Hawaii you will be fined for riding in the back of a passenger car without a seat belt, however you can ride in the bed of a pickup truck with no safety equipment
In a criminal situation, ask to speak to your attorney first before you give a statement to the police.
If you believe that you might be considered a suspect at the time of a crime or think that you could be considered a suspect at a later date, make sure you speak to an attorney before you speak freely with the police. Any information you give to the police, whether written or voiced, can be used against you in the court of law.
Can You Keep Your Car in a Bankruptcy Proceeding?
Both state and federal bankruptcy laws provide some level of exemption for the value of a motor vehicle when you file for protection under Chapter 7. Depending on your circumstances, you may or may not be able to keep your vehicle in a Chapter 7 petition.
The Role of the Exemption
As a general rule, you can’t keep secured property and simultaneously discharge debt on the property. This applies to any motor vehicle that is not fully paid off. If you own your car free and clear, you can typically exempt it from sale to the extent that its replacement value is less than the amount allowed in the exemption.
The Exemption is on the Equity in Your Vehicle
The state or federal exemption for a motor vehicle applies to the equity you have—essentially the value of the vehicle over and above what is owed on it. If you have fully paid the car off, its replacement value is your equity. If you still owe on your vehicle note, the equity will be its replacement value, less the amount owed.
If you are “under water” on your note, i.e., the amount owed on the car is more than the fair market value, it’s highly unlikely that the bankruptcy trustee will take your car. Because the trustee will be required to pay the car loan off before funds are available for unsecured creditors, there’s no incentive to take it. Even if the trustee could sell the car for a small profit, you are entitled to your exemption amount, and there will be costs associated with the sale. As a practical matter, then, you can often keep your car if there’s little or no equity.
Domestic Partnership vs Marriage : Alimony Takes a Twist
by Laura Smith
Aug. 9, 2007
Marriage versus domestic-partnership law: Are there benefits to one and not the other? The California attorney general’s office has argued that gays enjoy the rights of marriage under the domestic-partnership law, but it seems that an Orange County judge doesn’t see it that way.
Ron Garber’s divorce proceedings took on a twist that leaves him wondering about the fairness of family law issues, something gays and lesbians have been wondering about for years. It seems Garber agreed to pay alimony for five years to his ex-wife. He was aware at the time of the alimony agreement that she was living with another woman. What he failed to find out was she and her partner had registered as domestic partners with the state. When Garber learned about this, he assumed there would be no alimony. An Orange County judge ruled differently, stating that a registered partnership is cohabitation, not marriage. So Garber must keep writing the checks.
Another somewhat unusual alimony case in Florida saw Lawrence Roach divorce his wife of 18 years and agree to pay alimony. His ex-wife, Julia, had a sex-change operation, and Roach sued to stop payments to Julia, who had legally become Julio Roberto Silverwolf. What’s really interesting is that in Florida, same-sex marriages are not recognized, and thus Roach would be paying alimony to a person he couldn’t marry. According to The Washington Post, Roach’s lawyers said the case “falls into a legal void.”
New Verdicts: Prempro and Premarin
$134.1 Million Against Wyeth for Menopause Drug
Wyeth has been ordered to pay $134 million, including $99 million in punitive damages, for its ”conscious indifference to patient safety” for failure to warn of the risk of breast cancer from hormone-replacement drugs Prempro and Premarin. Rowatt, et. al., v. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc., 04-01699, Second Judicial District Court, State of Nevada, Oct. 12, 2007.
Jurors considered ordering Wyeth to pay more than $1 billion in punitive damages before settling on the lower amount.
Prempro contains the hormones estrogen and progestin; Premarin is an estrogen-only pill. The pills were manufactured to treat menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings. Both pills were taken by as many as six million women before a 2002 study linked the drugs to cancer. A 2002 study sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found that women who received a combination of estrogen and progestin had a 24 percent higher risk of invasive breast cancer.
To date, Wyeth is facing about 5,300 suits in connection with the two drugs. The Oct. 12 verdict is the company’s fourth loss in suits over the drugs since trials began in August 2006. This verdict is the largest to date in a hormone-replacement case and the eight-largest verdict of any kind this year.
Sandra Cassidy is corporate counsel for Plaintiff Support Services, a full-service litigation finance company and a founding company of the American Litigation Finance Association. ©Copyright 2007, Plaintiff Support Services All Rights Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced or otherwise used without the express written consent of Plaintiff Support Services.
Can You Discharge Student Loan Payments in Bankruptcy?
For many Americans struggling with overwhelming debt, the single biggest obligation they face is student loans. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy. Here are the limited circumstances when you may successfully rid yourself of such a debt.
Do You Qualify for the “Undue Hardship” Exception?
The only way you can successfully discharge student loan debt is to demonstrate to the bankruptcy court that repayment would constitute “an extreme hardship.” The test most commonly used by the courts was set forth in Brunner v. New York Higher Education Services Corp., decided in 1987. Under Brunner, the court will use three factors to determine whether repayment of the student loan obligation would bring about an undue hardship:
- Have you made a good faith effort to repay your student loan?
- If you are required to repay the loan, will you be able to maintain a minimal standard of living, based on current income and expenses?
- Is there evidence to indicate that your current financial situation is likely to occur for a significant period of time?
What is the “Totality of Your Circumstances”?
Other courts adopt a less rigid test, instead looking at “the totality of the circumstances.” Under this test, a court will typically not give inordinate weight to any factor, but will try to determine, given all the facts and evidence related to your current and prospective financial health, whether requiring you to pay the student loan would create an undue hardship.
Restructuring Student Debt through Chapter 13
It is generally much easier to enter into a repayment plan for student loans, where you agree to repay the debt over a three-to-five-year period. Any amount still owed after the Chapter 13 is completed will not be discharged, though.
What Happens to Your Primary Residence in Bankruptcy?
If you are struggling to pay your debts, one of which is a substantial mortgage, you may have considered bankruptcy, but worry about what will happen to your home. Can you discharge the debt on your house? Will you be forced to give up your property?
One of the basic rules of bankruptcy is that you generally cannot discharge the debt on secured property and keep the property. There are, however, some exceptions.
If you have a mortgage or land contract on your principal residence, it will be considered secured debt. When you file for bankruptcy protection, you will be entitled to the automatic stay, which prohibits your creditors, including your mortgage company, from attempting to collect a debt other than through the bankruptcy proceeding. However, the circumstances under which you will be allowed to eliminate the debt on the home and stay there are extremely limited.
Keeping Your Home in a Chapter 13 Proceeding
Most debtors use a Chapter 13 filing to keep a primary residence. With a Chapter 13 petition, you enter into new payment arrangements with creditors, including your mortgage lender. Typically, the repayment period lasts three to five years. During that time, you often pay a smaller amount, and don’t have to face calls, letters or other attempts to collect on the mortgage. However, when the Chapter 13 period is over (which will have allowed you to fully pay off many of your debts), any amount still owing on your home is still due. Ideally, because you no longer have many of your other debts, you will have the additional cash flow to make full payments. You may even be able to refinance or renegotiate the terms of your mortgage.
Keeping Your Home in a Chapter 7 Proceeding
In a Chapter 7 filing, you get to discharge debts in exchange for the sale of assets. Both state and federal bankruptcy laws allow you to keep a certain amount of your property, known as your “exemption amount.” There are generally only two ways that you can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and keep your home: you own your home outright and the value of your home is falls within the exemption amount, or you have no equity in your home.
If you own your home free and clear, and its value is less than set forth in the state or federal exemptions, the trustee cannot touch it. On the other hand, if you have little or no equity in your home, there’s no incentive for the trustee to try to sell it. The trustee would be required to pay off the mortgage first, and you are then entitled to your exemption amount before any other creditors receive anything.
In November, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an executive order addressing a wide range of immigration issues. Specifically, the order:
- Allows parents of American citizens, as well as lawful permanent residents of the United States who have been in the country since the beginning of 2010, to ask for deferred action and employment authorization for three years. Applicants will be required to submit to a background check. Anyone who was considered an enforcement priority for removal before the order was issued will not qualify. Immigration authorities estimate that this provision will affect approximately four million undocumented aliens.
- Makes more people eligible for the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. DACA applies to individuals who came to the United States before the age of 16. Under the executive order, anyone qualifying under DACA may ask to have their work authorization extended from two to three years. Persons born before June 15, 1981, can now qualify for DACA benefits. Applicants must have lived in the United States since January 1, 2010 (the prior requirement was 2007). Officials project that an additional 300,000 people will be eligible for DACA benefits.
- Expands the use of what are known as “provisional waivers” to allow spouses and adult children of lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens to avoid actions based on allegations of unlawful presence in the United States. Under prior law, only minor children and spouses of U.S. citizens qualified.
- Makes changes in immigrant and non-immigrant programs designed to bolster the American economy. As part of this effort, USCIS will work with the U.S. State Department to address a number of factors that affect the ability of immigrants to work in the United States.
- Increases availability of and access to information for lawful permanent residents
- Allows applicants for naturalization to pay fees with a credit card.
International vs. Domestic Adoptions
When bringing a new child into your home through adoption, you can choose to look for a child within the United States—a domestic adoption—or you can adopt almost anywhere in the world—an international adoption. There are advantages and disadvantages to both processes.
The Financial Commitment
It’s a common misperception that an international adoption will always be more expensive than a domestic adoption. In an international adoption, one of the primary costs involves travel to the child’s country—some countries require multiple visits. However, in a domestic adoption, where you are adopting a newborn, you may agree to pay living and medical expenses for a number of months. Those types of expenses are generally unheard of in international adoptions. In addition, if you adopt a child from another state, you may have to stay in that state with the child until the court or agency in that state formally approves the adoption.
Most adoption professionals consider that costs of domestic and international adoptions to be comparable, generally falling somewhere between $25,000 and $50,000.
The Amount of Time Involved
With a domestic adoption, the amount of time can vary from a few months to years. Domestic adoptions are generally a matter of finding the right match. Prospective adoptive parents typically put together a family profile, which gets seen by prospective birth mothers. If a birth mother selects a family based on a profile, there will customarily still be some additional vetting process, often involving a meeting between adoptive and birth parents. Accordingly, most adoptive parents simply have to wait until someone chooses them.
The international adoption process varies from country to country. Most countries make some effort to examine the background of the prospective parents and intentionally match children with specific parents, but often it can be on a first-come, first-served, basis.
Availability of Information
One of the principal reasons many adoptive parents are willing to go through the domestic adoption process is that there is typically far more information, especially medical information, available in domestic adoptions. In many foreign adoptions, the child being adopted was simply abandoned at or near an orphanage, so there is no family information available.
Potential for Contact between Birth Parents and Adoptive Parents
For some adoptive parents, the fear that the child will try to reconnect with his or her birth parent makes an international adoption more attractive. With most international adoptions, the birth mother is either unknown or simply cannot be found.