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The Life of Juvenile Delinquents

Thu, Dec 26, 2013

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Once an individual becomes involved with the juvenile justice system, their lives change immeasurably. Often called “juvenile delinquents” (persons under the age of 18) but more correctly termed youth offenders, these children face many hardships and a life that often brings them back through court supervision and the juvenile detention system, only to graduate into adult prison and detention.

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) of the US Department of Justice, the number of juvenile delinquents held in custody (both public and private facilities) was 68,815 in 2011. This number is 13.1 percent lower than in 2010 and represents a downward trend in juvenile incarceration. This downward trend mirrors the same trend in juvenile arrest rates, which is at its lowest level in 30 years (since 1980).

Risk Factors for Juvenile Offenders

There are various conditions that create an environment for youth to offend and become involved in the juvenile justice system. Studies by law enforcement agencies, the court system, and public health advocates suggest that juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior should be looked at from an epidemiological (i.e. pattern, cause, and effect) standpoint in order to stop youth crime. Poverty, physical and emotional abuse, drug abuse, and mental disorders are prevalent among those who offend. It should be noted, however, that the presence of any one risk factor in and of itself might not cause a youth to become delinquent; however, the cumulative effect of multiple risk factors increases the probability of delinquency.

Conditions of Detention

Although the relative number of juvenile delinquents held in public and private correctional facilities has been on the decline over the past three decades, the conditions in which youth are held do not conform to the same standard from locality to locality. A study of placement types for youth in 2003 showed 26 percent in detention, 32 percent held in correctional facilities, 10 percent in camps, 18 percent in community-based programs, and 14 percent in residential treatment facilities.

Re-entry and Recidivism

There are no hard numbers available regarding the number of youth who are released from a correctional facility and then reoffend, a phenomenon known as recidivism. The reason for this lack of data is a lack of uniform agreement among the states as to what constitutes recidivism and the amount of time that has elapsed between an initial period of detention and release and a new period after being rearrested. For adult offenders, recidivism rates are 15.5 percent. The highest rate of adult recidivism is in the Western states, at 24.7 percent, and the lowest rate of recidivism is in the South, at 9 percent.

Re-entry, which is the process of a formerly incarcerated or supervised youth re-entering society, is as difficult for juvenile delinquents as it is for adult offenders. The problems facing re-entering youth disproportionately affect males aged 15 to 18. Only 19 percent of youth offenders at the time of custody came from a two-parent home; further breakdown of living arrangements found 56 percent lived with a single parent and 26 percent with no parent. Nine percent of juvenile delinquents at the time of incarceration or supervision had at least one child. Seventy percent of youth residing in correctional facilities suffer from at least one mental health issue, such as anger management, anxiety, depression, or drug abuse.

These numbers present a dim prospect for the future of juvenile delinquents, particularly those facing multiple risk factors. The absence of effective aftercare programs and access to mental health counseling increases the likelihood that a juvenile delinquent will continue on a path toward continuous incarceration and detention.

This article was provided by Sandy Wallace, aspiring lawyer with an interest in social law and counter-culture. If you need representation in a substance related case, Sandy recommends Chernoff Law, an experienced law firm who offers a number of legal services. 

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Bail Jumping

Mon, Nov 11, 2013

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Bail refers to the cash or bond a defendant or someone acting on behalf of a defendant gives so that the defendant does not have to stay in jail while waiting for trial. Usually the court only receives a part of the bail and a bail bond, or pledge, for the rest of the amount. If the defendant does not keep the conditions of the bail agreement or does not appear in court on the scheduled date, it is referred to as bail jumping. However, bail jumping has a broader definition than this.

Degrees of Bail Jumping

Whether or not bail has been posted, if you have been charged with a crime and do not appear in court, or if you have been sentenced to jail and do not report for incarceration, you are guilty of bail jumping. This can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the original crime. Bail jumping is considered a misdemeanor if the crime you committed is a misdemeanor; otherwise, it is classified as an A, B, or C felony.

Justified Bail Jumping

Bail jumping can be justified if it happened under uncontrollable circumstances. An act of God such as a hurricane or blizzard, an accident requiring a hospital stay, or a kidnapping are examples of uncontrollable circumstances. Forgetting the court date is not a valid excuse. To charge you with bail jumping, the prosecutor only needs to prove to the court that you received notice of the date and you did not appear. You must prove that the circumstance under which you failed to appear was uncontrollable.

Conditions of Bail

When a court allows a defendant to be released on bail, it usually imposes specific conditions the defendant must keep in order to remain free. These conditions might include remaining within a specific geographical area, surrendering a passport, refraining from associating with specified people, wearing electronic surveillance equipment, mandatory call-ins to the police, drug testing, and undergoing counseling for substance abuse. Failure to keep any of the conditions the court imposes is considered bail jumping.

Consequences for the Defendant

If the defendant is guilty of bail jumping, the judge issues a warrant for the bail jumper’s arrest. The defendant is then prosecuted and punished for both the original crime and the crime of bail jumping. In addition, the defendant will be liable for the entire amount of the bail. If the bail was posted through a bondsman, it is the bondsman’s responsibility to bring the defendant to court. In most states, it is legal for the bondsman to hire bounty hunters to track the defendant down. If the bondsman does not find the bail jumper within a specified period of time, the bondsman initiates foreclosure proceedings on whatever property was put up as collateral for the bond.

Consequences for Others

Family members often post bail for the defendant. If the defendant does not keep the conditions of bail, those who posted bail lose whatever property they used as collateral for the bond. So if the defendant jumps bail, the defendant’s family could become homeless.

In conclusion, bail jumping is a serious crime that has severe consequences for the defendant and any others who try to help by posting bail. If for some reason the defendant cannot show up for court, jumping bail is not recommended. Instead, let court officials know of any inability to appear well in advance so the court date can be rescheduled.

Byline: Ryan Burnett recommends using OK Bail Bonds in Houston if you don’t have enough money to pay bail.

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Mandatory Minimum Sentencing Relief

Fri, Nov 8, 2013

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Many people have argued that federal prosecutors have far too much power when it comes to mandatory minimum sentences. On paper, the idea of mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes looks great; a mandatory sentence should act as a deterrent to would-be criminals and ensure that even first-time offenders are taken off the streets should they be convicted of serious crimes. Unfortunately, this practice sometimes causes more problems than it was intended to solve.
 
The Problem with Mandatory Minimum Sentences
The issue with mandatory sentences is that the laws that grant federal prosecutors power are often written very broadly, as a result prosecutors have several charges from which to choose when a case goes to trial. Every defendant has the right to a trial, but some defendants may choose not to exercise that right if threatened with a much harsher sentence. This is why roughly 97 percent of federal convictions are due to guilty pleas.
 
To make matters worse, many crimes that carry mandatory minimum prison sentences are drug related. It is well known that the war on drugs has a disproportionately negative effect on the African American population. This means that the mandatory minimum prison sentences that come with drug convictions are far more likely to affect African Americans than any other ethnic group. For example, African Americans accounted for roughly 80 percent of crack cocaine offenses over a 20-year period. This isn’t exactly the fault of mandatory minimum sentence laws, but the result is that African Americans frequently suffer harsher punishments than many other members of the population.
 
The fact that so many drug laws carry harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences also means that people with serious drug addiction problems are going to prison instead of receiving counseling services and other resources that could help them. After all, these are people who haven’t done anything wrong aside from use illegal substances. Not only are they undeserving of the same treatment as murderers and rapists, but the space that they take up in our country’s prison system could be put to much better use. Federal prisons are overcrowded, partly because they are filled with people who many believe do not belong there.
 
Mandatory Sentence Relief
Those who are against mandatory minimum sentencing laws received some good news back in September when it was announced that the Obama Administration would expand reforms intended to provide relief to those facing these mandatory sentences. The original reforms were put into effect in August to curb mandatory sentencing and allow judges more freedom in deciding whether or not a defendant should serve the minimum sentence. The harsher minimum sentences would be reserved for those who have ties to large-scale drug operations. When they were put into place, these reforms referred only to future cases, but they could be expanded to include cases where charges have already been filed.
 
These new reforms are intended to reserve the most severe legal punishments for violent criminals and drug traffickers while allowing for a greater focus on rehabilitation and deterrence for those who pose less of a threat to society. So far, the proposal has gained support from both Democrats and Republicans, although there are still some who feel that mandatory sentencing is an effective weapon in the war on crime.
 
This article was written by Dee Bronwinn, criminal justice major.  Dee understands that life happens, if you have been arrested for a crime, check out bail bonds in Pearland, TX.

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Not Enough Money to Pay Bail

Sun, Nov 3, 2013

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Scrounging up enough money to pay bail for yourself or a friend can be a frustrating and expensive process. Oftentimes, no matter how much money you collect, it still isn’t enough to cover the astronomical bail amount set by the presiding judge. If this happens, consider turning to a bail agent for a bond. The process may have a few drawbacks, but it is the quickest and easiest way to walk free from jail.

How a Bail Agent Can Help

For most people, the cost of bail is much too high to cover with cash on hand. In this case, a bail agent can step in to post for you. For example, if the bail amount is set at $5,000, the bail agent will often charge a non-refundable $500 fee — they typically you 10% of the bail total — and post the rest of the amount for you so that you can prepare for trial out of jail. To do this, all you need to do is contact a bail agent to help you or your friend, and let them walk you through the fairly simple process.

The Stipulations

Receiving a surety bond from a bail agent comes with a few stipulations, however. Because the agent will be posting a large amount of money on your behalf, they must hold someone responsible to prevent a loss of funds. If the person for whom they posted bail does not appear at their scheduled court hearing, the bail agent will then track the individual down in order to recover whatever amount of money was spent. Additionally, most bail agents require that a co-signer be present and willing to participate in the bail process. In that case, if the bail agent cannot find the individual who skipped court, they can then turn to the co-signer for the lost money.

Collateral Bonds

Occasionally, even the 10% premium fee that a bail agent charges can too much to cover for some individuals. If this is the case, a collateral bond may be the best option to make ends meet.

A collateral bond is simply a payment to a bail agent with something other than liquid money. Many bail agents will take automobiles and other vehicles, deeds to homes, jewelry and gold, and even other items of high value that can cover the cost of the amount. This can be an enticing option for anyone who doesn’t have enough cash on hand for bail.

In this situation though, it is important to realize that the bail agent has full control over the collateral, and that it may be sold off to recover funds if you miss your court hearing.

Get a Bail Bond to Get Out of Jail

Even if you don’t have enough money to cover the cost of bail, you don’t have to spend an extended period in a jail cell. Instead, you can simply enlist the help of a bail agent, and use an efficient and effective process that will have you walking free in no time.

Byline: Ryan D recommends that you click here to get more info on finding bail bonds.

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Common Elderly Crimes

Wed, Oct 30, 2013

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A lot of attention is given to crimes committed against individuals over the age of 65, such as financial fraud, physical abuse, and neglect. However, crimes committed by citizens over the age of 65 are continually on the rise in cities around the world. Not only are the elderly committing more crimes, the number of first-time offenders in this age group is increasing. Below is a closer look at crimes committed by elderly retired individuals and the repercussions they may face.

What Are the Most Common Crimes Elderly Commit?

The most common crimes committed by people over 65 are most often related to theft, drug and alcohol abuse, drinking and driving, carrying concealed weapons, and physical assault. It is believed that many of the crimes committed by this population stem from anxiety and depression. For example, when someone’s loved one passes away, as well as many friends and family members, a person can begin to feel isolated.

This can lead to prescription medication abuse, alcoholism, and severe depression. Sometimes anxiety can be related to financial strain. Elderly are often on extremely limited budgets and have no way of increasing their income stream. This can lead to petty theft of basic household items such as hygiene products, cleaning products, food, and clothing.

Are Crimes Committed By Elderly Sometimes Overlooked?

While many countries can agree that crimes committed by elderly are on the rise, there is speculation that not all crimes committed by this age group are reported. This could be because a store owner declines to press charges against an elderly person found stealing, or because the law enforcement officer chooses to overlook the offense.

However, sometimes the crimes are overlooked due to the elderly individual’s frame of mind. For example, if someone is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s they may not be held legally responsible for their actions. How many elderly crimes are overlooked is hard to ascertain, making statistics difficult to calculate.

Do Elderly Criminals Get Lighter Sentences?

It is difficult to say if elderly get lighter sentences for committing the same crime as someone 20 or 30 years their junior. However, there is much debate about the expense jails incur caring for elderly inmates. This could be in reference to elderly who are serving long sentences, or this could concern an elderly person who recently committed a crime.

If the prison system does not provide adequate medical attention to their elderly inmates, they can be found liable for neglect. However, the cost of inmate nursing home care leads to much debate over releasing elderly inmates into the care of their families to save taxpayer money. However, many elderly individuals do not have family or anywhere to go when released from jail and would end up in a nursing home funded by taxpayers regardless.

If you have an elderly friend, neighbor, or family member you are concerned is involved in illegal activity, reach out to your local Department of Aging or state-run elderly care program. If they can step in before things spiral out of control it can discourage harmful or illegal activities and offer healthier alternatives and solutions.

This article was provided by Sandy Wallace, aspiring lawyer with an interest in social issues and counter-culture. If you’re suspected of a bit more serious a crime –like a federal offense– Sandy recommends getting a federal criminal attorney.

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Marijuana and DUI’S: What You Need to Know

Mon, Oct 21, 2013

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Marijuana is becoming more socially acceptable in modern society. More and more states have legalized the drug for both medical and recreational use, making it only a matter of time before you can go to the gas station and get a pack of marijuana cigarettes. But, like other substances, marijuana can impair a person’s judgment, and drivers can get ticketed for driving under the influence (DUI), of marijuana just like they might if they drove drunk.

Much like alcohol, marijuana can impair your judgement, perception, and concentration all of which can compromise one’s driving ability. Lawmakers and enforcement officials are attempting to find ways to regulate marijuana use, though discussions remain a work in progress. Undoubtedly though, if you drive high, you can get a DUI and there are some things that marijuana users should be aware of.

Testing

Testing for marijuana use by police in the field has yet to be perfected since the legalization of it in any form if a fairly new concept. For now, there is no widely accepted field test for marijuana. Some have proposed a mouth test with some sort of swab, but there is not enough scientific evidence to prove definitive marijuana use. Many states are pushing to develop a marijuana breathalyzer, but there are complications with the technology at the moment. For now, a cop will have to take someone in and do either a blood or urine test to be completely sure that their suspect is under the influence.

Signs of driving high

With marijuana becoming legal in more and more states, certain law officials worry that the lack of precedent with marijuana may be an issue, but there are some tell tale signs that police will be able to go off of. High drivers are more likely to swerve while they are on the road and they will also have slower reaction times. They may also have red, bloodshot eyes. Unfortunately, there is still some debate over what the legal intoxication levels are for THC, but with more states beginning to legalize the drug, the matter should be settled in the near future.

Consequences

For now, consequences vary from state to state, but it appears that DUI laws for marijuana consumption are going to be very similar to those for alcohol. Depending on the severity of intoxication, drivers that get pulled over while high can expect to have to either pay a fine, or perhaps serve jail time. Medical marijuana users are not exempt from any of these consequences because even if it is for medical use, the effects of inebriation remain the same.

People should remember that just because marijuana is becoming more socially acceptable, that it is still a substance that can impair judgment and make it unsafe for people to drive. Be it for medical or recreational use, marijuana should always be used responsibly, if not for your own safety, then for those on the road with you.

 

This article was provided by Sandy Wallace, aspiring lawyer with an interest in counter-culture and criminal defense. If you have encountered any substance-related legal issues, Sandy recommends seeking counsel from Hammerle Finley.

 

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Judge’s Tips to Exotic Dancer Land Him in Ethics Trouble

Thu, Aug 8, 2013

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A municipal judge faces ethics charges for fraternizing with an exotic dancer who appeared before him as a litigant — and as an entertainer. 

Roman Montes, who sits in Rahway and Elizabeth, was hit Wednesday with a formal complaint alleging he violated judicial canons by getting personally involved with the dancer and answering her questions about her case.

According to the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct, Montes met the dancer on Dec. 11, 2012, at Breathless, a go-go bar in Rahway, where they talked and drank and she danced for him.

The dancer, anonymous in the complaint, allegedly told Montes she knew he was a Rahway judge because her domestic violence case against her boyfriend was pending before him, and she asked that it be dismissed.

She had appeared before him less than two weeks prior to their meeting, but it was not until after she told him about the case that he remembered her, according to the complaint.

They continued talking and she gave him her telephone number. The next day, they allegedly exchanged text messages.

On Dec. 13, a regular court day in Rahway, Montes ordered her case transferred to another court because of the conflict, according to the complaint. Conflict cases in Rahway are routinely sent to Clark.

The two allegedly continued to speak about the case through text messages and telephone calls, with the dancer asking whether there was anything Montes could do about the case, whether he could be the judge and whether he could speak to the judge in Clark.

Montes, according to the complaint, entertained her questions because he did not want to offend her and was “afraid of just cutting [the dancer] off and not speaking to her anymore.”

During those conversations, she allegedly invited Montes back to Breathless and he invited her to dinner.

Her case was transferred on Dec. 27, 2012. On Feb. 27, 2013, a plea agreement was reached and the case was dismissed.

At some point afterward, Montes told the Clark judge that the case had been transferred because he was involved in an “intimate relationship” with the dancer that was “sexual in nature.”

In the ACJC complaint, Disciplinary Counsel Tracie Gelbstein charged that Montes “knowingly engaging in a personal relationship with a victim in a matter pending before [him] and prior to the final disposition of that matter.”

In doing so, he violated Code of Judicial Conduct Canons 1 and 2A “in that he did not personally observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity of the Judiciary is preserved and did not act in a way that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary,” Gelbstein continued.

“By engaging in extra-judicial activities with a victim of a legal matter pending before Respondent and prior to its final disposition in Clark, Respondent demeaned the judicial office in violation of Canon 5A(2) of the Code of Judicial Conduct,” Gelbstein wrote.

Gelbstein did not recommend any specific discipline.

Montes, a Rahway solo admitted to the bar in 1992, was appointed to the Elizabeth court on Feb. 17, 1998, and named chief judge the same day. He still holds that position, according to the city clerk’s office. He was appointed a judge in Rahway on Jan. 12, 2009, according to its clerk’s office.

Calls to Montes’ law office went unanswered on Friday, and employees taking calls in the Rahway and Elizabeth courts said he was not available.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIM

Montes had an earlier brush with the court system: a 2010 suit filed by a clerk in the Elizabeth municipal court who accused him of sexual harassment.

Mary Londono claimed that Montes, on various occasions, shot rubber bands at her buttocks, hit her buttocks with a stack of papers and grabbed scraps of paper from her pants leg. He also made unsolicited, derogatory comments about her choice of men and style of underwear, she alleged.

Londono raised claims under the Law Against Discrimination and of intentional tort. Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mark Baber dismissed both.

In September 2010, Appellate Division Judges Jane Grall and Carmen Alvarez affirmed as to the LAD count, noting Montes was not the plaintiff’s employer nor an “aider and abetter.” But they said Baber was wrong to throw out the intentional tort count, finding the allegations of wrongful touching, if sustained, would constitute a viable claim for battery.

Nevertheless, the case was dismissed in January 2012 when Alvarez and Judge William Nugent found Londono had failed to comply with the Tort Claims Act’s 90-day notice requirement.

Londono’s lawyer, Kristen Welsh of Hackensack’s Schiffman, Abraham, Kaufman & Ritter, says the suit against Montes is no longer active because of the second Appellate Division ruling.

Montes’ lawyer in that case, Robert Renaud of Palumbo & Renaud in Cranford, did not return a call.

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The Details and Penalties of Tax Evasion

Thu, Apr 11, 2013

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Introduction

Tax evasion is a serious crime in the United States, yet it is one that many people commit each year. While taxes are somewhat self-imposed and self-enforced, we as citizens are responsible for evaluating and paying out own tax liability. The IRS has put harsh penalties in place for those who refuse to pay taxes as they should. Regardless of the stance of theorists who choose to argue the semantics of the tax code, the IRS is allowed to enforce taxpayers’ wrongdoing, and taxes are not voluntary.

IRS Response to Taxpayer Errors

There are varying levels of IRS penalties and fees for neglecting to pay a tax liability in full. For those who simply misstate information or misinterpret the tax code, the IRS charges interest on the money they should have been paid, and may charge small penalties based on the unpaid amount. Those who are negligent or who do not file at all may be subject to additional interest and penalties. To enforce their policies, the IRS audits tax returns and, on a smaller scale, submits inquiries to taxpayers who may need to provide further information or explanation for decisions made on a tax return. However, these small errors do not constitute fraud. Many taxpayer errors are due to a lack of understanding of the tax code or simple human inaccuracies. Tax fraud requires the intent to deceive the IRS, regardless of amount or reason.

Tax Evasion as a Criminal Offense

Tax evasion is a form of fraud and goes far beyond misreporting wages or overstating withholdings. Tax evasion is the deliberate action of avoiding taxes through illegal activity. Tax evasion generally involves criminally understating taxable income or taxable liability. Tax evasion involves a clear violation of tax law, such as neglecting to report the income of subsidiaries for a corporation. Tax evasion is possible on all levels, but for the government or law enforcement to get involved, the amounts in question generally must be substantial. According to the IRS, small businesses and successful individuals are the most common perpetrators.

Penalties for Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is always a major crime but it becomes more so when large corporations cheating the government out of large amounts of money are involved. The government reserves the right to confiscate property or to impose consequences as severe as serving time in prison. In general, the IRS treats those who are intentionally and maliciously abusing the tax code in order to avoid paying the money they owe very harshly.

How to Prevent Tax Evasion

Despite the potentially strict penalties enacted on those who choose to ignore the tax code, individuals can easily avoid attracting IRS attention or falling victim to penalties and fees for negligently filing taxes. Taxpayers must be responsible for understanding the tax code and its changes year to year. If individuals do not have the time to review the rules, hiring an accountant is a great way to ensure that everything filed is done properly and up to government standards. Additionally, hiring a tax preparer guarantees that someone knowledgeable can speak to the IRS on your behalf should the IRS audit your return or submit an inquiry for further information. Be sure that anyone you hire to file your taxes is a Certified Public Accountant or an IRS Enrolled Agent; these professionals have a higher level of training than other alternatives. It is far easier to pay the tax you owe than to attempt to unlawfully avoid income taxes. To prevent penalties from the IRS, be sure you are comfortable with tax laws before filing, or trust your return with an educated, certified tax professional.

 Byline: Last year, Jeffrey received R&G Brenner Tax Help to help him file for his business last year.
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Legal Ramifications of Identity Fraud

Thu, Mar 28, 2013

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According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 8.6 million households had at least one member who experienced some kind of identity theft. Identity fraud is one of the largest growing crimes in the country. A staggering one in thirty people will wake up to find their identities have been stolen every single day. The ramifications of identity fraud are long and far reaching. While most of the individuals responsible will never be caught, state and federal governments have been working hard to crack down on the crime with stiffer penalties and more stringent data management regulations.

How Identity Fraud Happens

A vast majority of identity fraud occurs over the internet. Unsecured personal information is easily hacked into, providing identity thieves with enough information to steal everything from social security numbers and bank accounts to whole identities. Lost or stolen ID cards, stolen mail, bank statements, personal documents, etc. are also methods thieves use to gain access to personal information that can be used to liquidate banks accounts and open lines of credit in a victim’s name.

How Identity Fraud Affects the Victim

In most cases, a person will not know their identity has been stolen until long after the theft has occurred. Denial of credit, calls from collection agencies, overdraft statements and notifications from law enforcement officials are usually the first sign that something is wrong. Victims of identity fraud will face two major losses: time and money. It can take years for an individual to resolve all the issues that arise when their identity is stolen. Victims will need to file a police report as soon as the theft is discovered and begin distributing that report to creditors and credit bureaus as well as anyone else the victim conducts business with. The victim will also need to start gathering as much information as possible on all fraudulent activity—including copies of applications, transactions and receipts. When identity theft occurs, victims can expect to pay at least some liability charges with banks and credit agencies. There will also be document, report and court fees associated with proving the fraud has occurred. Until the situation has been resolved, victims of identity fraud may also face higher interest rates due to poor credit ratings and can even be denied both credit and employment opportunities. There is also no guarantee that any money stolen will be recovered.

Penalties for Identity Theft

Both Federal and State governments have enacted laws that provide for stiff punishment of identity fraud. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 made the penalty for identity theft punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. The Identity Theft Enhancement Act of 2004 increased the maximum prison sentence by two years while adding an additional five years if the crime is considered terrorism-related. The 2004 act also added additional law enforcement resources specifically designed to catch, prosecute and prevent identity fraud.

Each state has their own set of laws and definitions addressing identity fraud; however, every state has made identity fraud a felony carrying significant fines and prison time. Convicted offenders can face anywhere from three to 10 years in state prison and face fines ranging up to $25,000. Some states even have laws that require individuals convicted of identity fraud to pay full restitution to the victim. In cases where the crime crosses state borders, the fraud becomes a federal crime and the individuals charged can be subject to both state and federal penalties.

Byline: John Anderson recommends that you get help if you ever find your credit in shambles from identity fraud.  It is never too late to fix your credit!

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A Look at Gun Legislation

Tue, Mar 5, 2013

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While several issues currently divide the nation, few incite as much passion and political fervor as the debate on gun control. The unfortunate truth is that gun violence has plagued America for decades. However, widespread media attention of mass shootings in recent years has raised awareness to unprecedented levels. President Obama unveiled a comprehensive plan to address gun violence and urged Congress to vote on gun control legislation. Conversely, the state legislature in Arkansas recently joined 23 states by passing bills protecting the right of colleges and churches to choose for themselves whether to allow concealed weapons on their grounds. Supporters of the Second Amendment undoubtedly grieve the victims of gun violence, but most are unwilling to sacrifice their right no matter what the cost. Whether or not the answer to gun violence lies directly with gun legislation, the key is to find the right laws and support efforts to effectively prevent future tragedy.

Gun Control Legislation

The National Firearms Act of 1934 prohibits civilian possession of automatic weapons, short-barreled shotguns and hand grenades. The Gun Control Act of 1968 makes mail-order sale of weapons illegal and requires dealers to be federally licensed as well as maintain sales records. The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 mandates all licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks. Many argue that background checks should be mandatory for all firearm sales; effectively closing the ”gun show loophole” that currently does not require them in private sales. Critics argue that this measure would not have precluded any of the shooters in recent mass killings to acquire weapons since they lacked criminal histories and lax state participation prevents many mental health records from being put into the system. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban outlawed the sale of semiautomatic weapons with features like large-capacity magazines and pistol grips. The law expired in 2004, and strong support currently exists to resurrect it. Studies conducted on the ban’s effects on gun violence were inconclusive, largely due to grandfather clauses and short timeframe. Legislation prohibiting straw gun purchases already exists, but both the gun industry and politicians agree that law enforcement lacks the resources to enforce these laws.

Gun Use Laws

Many laws focus on the restriction of gun availability. However, some states have enacted laws designed to deter the use of guns in crimes. Known as ”10-20-Life”, Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing for crimes involving guns has been regarded as a success in reducing gun crimes in the state. Many have argued that criminals intent on using guns will not be swayed by the threat of a severe prison sentence and unfairly punishes those facing extenuating circumstances.

Community Initiatives

While gun buyback programs make for positive press coverage, these programs have been widely regarded as being ineffective in reducing gun violence. Changes in police strategies have been widely recognized as an effective approach towards reducing gun violence. By increasing patrols in high-risk areas at certain times of day, the Pittsburgh Police Department was able to focus on illegal gun carry violations and reduce gun violence in those areas by as much as 71 percent.

Reconsider Protective Tort Legislation

In response to class-action lawsuits filed against the tobacco industry years ago, the gun lobby pushed legislation through Congress that effectively shielded firearms manufacturers from similar suits. Perhaps this is legislation that should be revisited. Although such a move would obviously be controversial, an objective approach on all levels may prompt relevant gun legislation.

Byline: Tyler C writes on everything from gun safety and regulation to the deadliest months according to death rate patterns.

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