Criminal Charges for Looting and Burglary During Hurricane Harvey

Posted by admin on September 12th, 2017 under Burglary  •  No Comments

Hurricane Harvey may have passed, but its repercussions are still affecting thousands throughout Texas. It is a sad reality that some people will use a natural disaster for their own personal gain. Cases of looting and burglary in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey are proof that some people have no boundaries when it comes to committing crimes. The State of Texas takes looting and burglarizing of a disaster area extremely seriously, imposing heavy fines and penalties on anyone police convict of looting after Harvey.

Texas is Cracking Down on Looters

When residences are the most vulnerable, criminals will pounce. While people are too busy evacuating, taking shelter, and staying out of harm’s way, others take the opportunity to loot and burglarize abandoned properties. Texas lawmakers have vowed to harshly penalize anyone caught looting or robbing businesses or homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. They’ve adopted a zero tolerance policy on these crimes, with Houston’s police chief promising to “do whatever it takes” to protect citizens. Part of the solution has been to impose strict penalties on those caught looting, including:

  • Mandatory jail and prison time
  • Zero eligibility for probation
  • Prosecution to the fullest extent of the law
  • Enhanced punishments and sentences
  • Potential life in prison for burglarizing a home

Texas laws allow harsher punishments for crimes people commit in times of natural disaster. Police chiefs and District Attorneys’ offices have vowed to work hard to make jail or prison time mandatory for every offender guilty of looting disaster areas or similar crimes. They state that these offenders will not have access to probation and other forms of leniency that might normally apply in robbery situations. Police will treat crimes committed while Texas is a disaster area much more seriously than typical offenses.

Other Types of Crimes After Hurricane Harvey

Price gouging is another problem that Hurricane Harvey victims are facing in Texas. Businesses from contractors to hotels have taken to price gouging to take advantage of vulnerable people in need. Texas is serious about people and businesses that try to take advantage of disaster during or after the storm. The law will not allow these practices to take place without consequences.

There are fines of up to $25,000 per occurrence of price gouging – a penalty that increases to $250,000 if the victim is over the age of 65. Companies can potentially go out of business from price gouging victims on gas, water, lodging, food, and other necessities. Armed robbery has also been an issue after Hurricane Harvey. Reports of armed robbers threatening business owners and evacuees have circulated throughout the state, as have stories of alleged gunshot damage to an Apple store. Anyone convicted of armed robbery during this time could face years in prison.

In an effort to stop looting, armed robbery, and burglarizing, Houston imposed a curfew from midnight until 5:00 a.m. The city also brought in additional police officers from other regions. In times of trouble, Texas stands by its citizens. The law will not go easy on criminals who are taking advantage of vulnerable home and business owners who are simply trying to pick up the pieces after a terrible storm. If you’ve been accused of a crime in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, know that you should seek all legal options available to you.

Can a Felon Own a Gun in Texas?

Posted by admin on August 14th, 2017 under Felony offenses  •  No Comments

Gun ownership is one of the many rights an individual gives up when he or she becomes a convicted felon in Texas. Texans must comply with federal and state gun laws when it comes to purchasing a rifle or handgun in the state. These laws restrict ownership rights according to rules by the Texas Department of Public Safety. One of the eligibility requirements for owning a gun in the Lone Star State is that the individual has not had a felony conviction, according to Government Code §411.172-a-3.

State Gun Laws

“Felons can’t own guns in Texas” is an overarching statement that comes with several exceptions and stipulations. State laws only apply to “convicted” felons. This does not include felony convictions the courts have subsequently expunged, pardoned, annulled, invalidated, voided, or sealed. A state or federal judge must have issued these orders for the felon to be able to own a gun. The law doesn’t see an individual as “convicted” if the court ordered a deferred adjudication against the person at least 10 years prior to the date of the individual’s gun license application. There are exceptions to this rule for certain types of felony offenses, including:

  • Capital felony
  • Kidnapping/unlawful restraint
  • Criminal homicide
  • Sexual offenses
  • Robbery
  • Felony theft
  • Family violence
  • Stalking
  • Trafficking

There are certain violent crimes and felonies that bar a convicted individual from ever being able to own a gun in Texas, except in the event of an expunged or pardoned conviction. The law also bars individuals with Class A or Class B misdemeanors or equivalent offenses in the last five years preceding the date of the application from gun ownership. Conviction of an offense according to Section 42.01, Penal Code or a felony under an indictment or information also eliminates the right to gun ownership. Finally, fugitives from justice for these crimes may not legally own guns of any kind.

Federal Gun Laws

Convicted felons must obey federal gun laws on top of Texas state restrictions. There are significant penalties included in the federal law for felons who possess weapons, unless they’ve received restoration of rights by the convicting state. Federal law 18 U.S.C. 922(g) states that anyone “convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for longer than one year” may not possess any firearms or ammunition. Federal law makes it illegal for anyone with a felony conviction to own a firearm or possess one inside or outside the home.

Breaking the federal gun law can result in up to 10 years in prison. Conviction of certain misdemeanor charges also bars a person from gun ownership under federal law. For example, a misdemeanor for domestic violence or for Firearms and Explosives automatically restricts gun ownership for those convicted. There are exceptions to these federal rules, just as the Texas state gun laws have exceptions. If the state that convicted the person restores the individual’s rights, federal law will permit gun ownership.

Gun laws can be highly complex. In basic terms, a felon cannot own a gun in Texas. However, there are several exceptions to the state and federal laws. A criminal defense attorney can help you understand whether your felony conviction qualifies as an exception to all applicable gun laws in Texas.

Your Guide to Facing Murder Charges in Texas

Posted by admin on June 5th, 2017 under Criminal defense, Murder  •  No Comments

Investigations into murders and murder charges can feel overwhelming for the suspect and close family and friends. If you know what to expect, you can face the charges as an informed citizen. This is what you should know about murder charges in Texas.

How Texas Defines Murder

Texas recognizes four types of criminal homicide: capital murder, murder, manslaughter, and criminally negligent homicide.

  • Capital murder. The state may escalate murder charges to capital murder charges if it believes a person accepted payment to kill, killed during the commission of certain felonies, killed inside of jail/prison or while trying to escape, killed multiple people, killed a child, or killed certain public servants/officials. If convicted, a person may face the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole.
  • If a person kills intentionally with malice aforethought, causes a blatantly life-threatening bodily injury, or kills someone during the commission of a felony, the state can charge the individual with murder. For murder, an individual may face several years in prison, life in prison, or the death penalty.
  • Reckless behavior that proximally causes a person’s death can result in manslaughter charges. A person need not intend to kill someone to face these charges. If convicted, someone could spend up to 20 years in prison.
  • Criminally negligent homicide. If someone fails to use a prescribed duty of care and that inattention leads to another person’s death, the state may pursue criminally negligent homicide charges. Maximum sentencing in these cases is two years in jail.

How Murder Charges Work

Murder charges can begin with an arrest or with an investigation into a crime. Either way, the prosecutor will evaluate the facts of the case and determine whether to move forward with murder or murder-related charges. The state can move forward with criminal charges if it presents enough evidence in a preliminary hearing or in a grand jury proceeding. Prosecutors will move quickly to file the charges, and the entire process from arrest to arraignment may only take a few days.

What Suspects and Loved Ones Should Know About Murder Charges

From the moment an investigator makes an introduction until the last day in court, the state will scrutinize the suspect and possibly his or her loved ones. What you say and how you behave can help or hurt the outcome of the case. A defense attorney will help you prepare for questioning and help you understand your rights. In general, those facing such serious charges should:

  • Invoke their Fifth Amendment rights. Watch what you say in person and through electronic mediums. Never talk or write about the facts of a case in jail communications (officials can read your mail and listen in on your conversations). Avoid making comments on social media, in emails, and in text messages. If you’re innocent or guilty, the best way you can protect yourself and your loved ones is to stay silent. Some language can be misconstrued.
  • Comply with the process. From the moment the state takes a person into custody, it can make life easy or hard for everyone involved. Remain polite and compliant, even when you feel overwhelmed, angry, and frustrated.
  • Do not waive your right to an attorney. A defense attorney is your most powerful ally in a murder case. Talk candidly with your attorney, focus on the end goal, and keep realistic expectations.

Facing murder charges is often one of the scariest events a person can face. Regardless of guilt, the charges will turn your life upside down. A murder case can drag on for months or years. Go into the process with open eyes and lean on a skilled defense attorney to get through this difficult time.

Texas Hit-and-Run Criminal Charges

Posted by admin on June 5th, 2017 under Criminal defense, Hit and run accidents  •  No Comments

Texas classifies crimes associated with leaving the scene of an accident as either misdemeanors or felonies. In either case, driving away after hitting someone is a bad idea. While most people rationally know not to leave the scene, they may not act rationally in the moment. Fear, adrenaline, ignorance, carelessness, or other factors may lead a driver to pull away and keep moving. Unfortunately, the state considers leaving the scene of an accident under any circumstance a serious crime.

Misdemeanor and Felony Hit-and-Run Accidents

If you are involved in an accident in Texas that involves property damage, injury, or death, you are legally obligated to:

  • Return to and stop your vehicle in a safe location as close to the scene of the incident as possible.
  • Determine if anyone involved in the accident needs help, offer reasonable assistance, and either transport the person to a medical facility or contact emergency responders on that person’s behalf.
  • Remain at the scene until you share vehicle registration information, insurance information, and your driver’s license information (if asked) to any other drivers or passengers involved in the incident.

If you do not stop at the scene of the accident or comply with the law, you may face the following consequences:

  • Second-degree felony charges. If someone dies at the scene or later as a result of the accident, the state may pursue second-degree felony charges. Those convicted of a second-degree felony may face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Third-degree felony charges. If someone suffers a serious bodily injury in the accident, the hit-and-run driver may face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Class B misdemeanor. If the accident results in damage exceeding $200 in value, the hit-and-run driver could spend six months in jail.
  • Class C misdemeanor. If the accident results in damage under $200 in value, the court may order the hit-and-run driver to pay a fine of up to $500.

The law is clear, but accidents are messy. Depending on the facts of the case, the charges a prosecutor initially files may not hold up in court. Anyone charged with a hit-and-run accident should consult a defense attorney to better understand how the law applies in various situations.

Steps to Take If You Wrongfully Leave the Scene of an Accident

Whether you didn’t realize you needed to stop or you thought the other driver involved waived you on, facing a hit-and-run investigation can be frightening. Before the state can charge you with a crime, they must identify and prove you were the other driver. If you face investigatory questions or charges for a hit-and-run accident, take the following steps:

  1. Talk to a defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will help you understand what you’re up against and how to answer investigators’ questions.
  2. Do not self-incriminate. Investigators are not looking for justifications or excuses when they confront individuals about crimes. They are searching for anything they can use to make an arrest. Remain silent until you consult your attorney. Use caution when sending electronic communications and posting online, too. Anything publicly posted can be used against you.
  3. Delay calling your insurer. Wait to talk to your insurer until after you speak with an attorney. The insurance company may give the police any information you provide.

Take a proactive approach to hit-and-run charges instead of hiding and hoping the situation will go away. Talk to an attorney about what happened and work through criminal charges, insurance claims, and other factors that may arise. Hit-and-run charges can be serious, but the right defense strategy may result in reduced charges or a case dismissal.

Parents: What to Do if Your Child Was Caught Shoplifting

Posted by admin on June 5th, 2017 under Criminal defense, Juvenile offenses  •  No Comments

According to data compiled by Statistic Brain in 2016, 25% of shoplifters are kids, 55% of shoplifters say they began stealing in their teens, and 89% of kids say they know others who shoplift. The problem is pervasive, but it may not hit home until you receive the call saying your child is in custody.

Long-Term Consequences of Shoplifting

In the eyes of a minor, shoplifting may seem like a minor infraction. The illegal act may have started as a dare, a whim, or an underlying compulsion. When caught, however, one seemingly minor act of shoplifting can begin a ripple of consequences. Charges and a subsequent conviction may prevent a child from finding gainful employment, getting accepted into college, and building a line of credit. In addition to criminal charges, your child could also face a lawsuit.

What Will Happen to My Child Now?

Many things can happen after you receive the call. If the store does not contact the police, the owner may work through the issue with a parent. After the store contacts the police, the legal process takes over. Pleading with a store manager or owner may not help you or your child.

If your child is younger than 18, the state juvenile justice system or a municipal court will likely handle the matter. Criminal consequences for theft in Texas reflect the value of the goods stolen. For example, if your child stole something under $50 in value, the state could file Class C misdemeanor charges. If convicted under normal circumstances, the immediate penalty is a fine of no more than $500

As the value of the goods stolen increases, so do the consequences. If a child steals a sound system worth $1,700, for example, prosecutors could file state jail felony charges. In more serious cases, your child could face time in juvenile detention, fines, probation, and other immediate consequences.

While minor infractions may seem as simple as paying off a traffic citation, the situation could be more serious. A misdemeanor conviction could go on the child’s permanent record – all for a $10 bracelet. Depending on the situation, the court may offer a minor a deferred adjudication term. In deferred adjudication deals, a defendant agrees to meet the court’s terms of probation in exchange for case dismissal and a sealed record.

A Quick Note on Civil Matters and Shoplifting Crimes

Sometimes stores send out payment demand letters. They may demand you or your child immediately pay $100 or more. Until a civil court forces you to pay damages for the incident, you gain nothing by meeting the store’s demands. Most of the time, the store will simply stop sending the letters rather than pursue litigation.

Discuss your legal liability with an attorney about payment demand notices and civil actions arising from the case. Under civil parental liability laws, you may face financial liability for the actions of your child.

What Should I Do as a Parent?

As a parent or guardian, you will need to appear in court with your child. Some parents are tempted to show their children tough love and force them to accept whatever consequences the court doles out. While some tough love may be in order, the full consequences of the law may do more to harm a child than to teach a lesson.

We recommend speaking to a defense attorney who demonstrates experience working on juvenile matters. Whether your child stole a low-value item on a dare or faces much more serious consequences, an attorney can advocate for alternative sentencing programs, reduced charges, or another alternative. These gentler consequences and parental guidance often do more to deter children from future crimes than allowing the system to pursue the full extent of the law.

In addition to working through legal consequences, consider why your child felt compelled to steal. Some minors will learn the lesson as soon as someone catches them. For others, the act is a symptom of a deeper problem. Working through difficulties now may stop your child from repeating the offense later.

How Do I Know If I Have a Warrant out for My Arrest in Harris County?

Posted by admin on May 30th, 2017 under Criminal defense  •  No Comments

Being faced with a criminal charge is a serious matter. It’s also frightening to most people, especially if there are aggravating circumstances surrounding the arrest. It’s not uncommon for our office to receive calls inquiring about potential warrants. People want to know if a warrant has been issued for their arrest, but don’t want to inquire with local law enforcement (for obvious reasons). There are a couple ways you can discover if you have a warrant out for your arrest:

Warrants for Misdemeanors

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office has made it convenient for people to find out if there are outstanding misdemeanor warrants for an arrest. Anyone with access to the internet can find out if they (or someone they know) have an outstanding warrant for class A or class B misdemeanors (lesser misdemeanors are only punishable by fines or community service, so they don’t usually merit arrest warrants).

Examples of class A or B misdemeanors include, driving while intoxicated (DWI) (for a first or second offense), possession of marijuana, carrying a weapon unlawfully, public intoxication (third offense or more), trespassing, prostitution, or public lewdness.

Searching for Misdemeanors in Harris County

To search for an outstanding misdemeanor warrant, simply visit the Harris County Sheriff’s Office Website.

Once there, you can search for active warrants by using your first and last name, date of birth, or a system person number (SPN) number. The SPN is a number assigned a person on their first contact with the Harris County criminal justice system.

What About Felony Warrants?

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office website does not have an option available to search for felony warrants. If you think you may have an arrest warrant for a felony, you may be able to use the online portal through the Harris County District Clerk’s office.

To begin a search, start by visiting the District Clerk’s website. Once on the main navigation page, click “Online Services” and navigate to the “Search Our Records and Documents” section.

On the records and documents page, you’ll see a “criminal” tab. This will allow you to search by last name and get a list of people in the system with a pending trial. The status column will show you if the defendant is in jail, out on bail, or has an active arrest warrant. You may have to register with a free login to access this information.

What About Municipal Warrants?

Some people may have city warrants for fine-only misdemeanors (class C and below). To see if you have one, call the city of Houston help line by dialing 311. This can help you figure out if someone has an active warrant, is in jail, or if they’ve posted bond. To see if someone you know is in jail, you can also visit the Houston jail website.

There Is a Warrant out for My Arrest. What Are My Options?

If you discover an active warrant for your arrest, you have only two options to make it go away:

  • Turn yourself in.
  • Post bail.

It’s important to note that warrants don’t just go away. The longer you ignore them, the more trouble you will face. Fleeing across state lines could result in more fines and more jail time. It’s in your best interest to act immediately on any active warrant.

Before turning yourself into the authorities, contact a criminal defense attorney. They will keep your best interests at heart throughout the process, and help you understand your rights. Acting on an arrest warrant is the first step in putting the crime behind you and getting on with your life. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact us.

How Serious is a Public Intoxication Charge in Texas?

Posted by admin on May 30th, 2017 under Criminal defense  •  No Comments

If you’ve been recently charged with public intoxication, you’re may be wondering if this is considered a serious offense. Public intoxication punishment in Texas depends on a variety of factors, including the number of previous convictions, the age of the offender, and the setting of the arrest. But it’s also important to remember that many people who are arrested for public intoxication have their charges lessened or even dismissed.

The law provides guidance for public intoxication using the Texas Penal Code, Section 49.02 (c). According to this statute, public intoxication is designated as a class C misdemeanor, except when it’s classified as falling under Section 49.02 (e). Let’s remove the legalese and take a look at these in detail.

Public Intoxication for Those 21 and Older

Section 49.02 (c) applies to those who are age 21 or older at the time of the arrest. If you’re arrested for public intoxication, you may be charged with a class C misdemeanor. Under Texas law, this means you can’t be fined more than $500. On the other hand, if you have two or more prior convictions for public intoxication, a prosecutor may see fit to elevate the charge to a class B misdemeanor. These are more serious, and carry the risk of potential jail time. Maximum punishments for class B misdemeanors include as many as 180 days jail time and fines up to $2000.

Should I Plead Guilty to Public Intoxication?

Many people who face public intoxication charges, particularly if it’s only their first offense, think they should just plead guilty, pay the fine, and get on with their lives. But we caution against doing this. Remember, a conviction will remain on your record and may affect future employment, graduate school admission, or even your ability to obtain a loan. Though it’s only punishable by fines, it’s not wise to think of this like another parking ticket. A conviction can tarnish your character in the eyes of others.

A public intoxication charge might cause concerns about your ability to make responsible decisions. Even if you were just out having fun and got carried away on a lark, a public intoxication arrest happens because an officer believed that you were a potential danger to yourself or others. For this reason, we suggest thinking carefully before pleading guilty.

Public Intoxication for Those 21 or Younger

The law is different when the public intoxication charges are for those younger than 21. The Texas Penal Code states that punishment for minors (in this case, under 21), should be the same as if they committed an offense under the Texas Alcoholic Code. Essentially, this means the following:

  • If a minor has two previous convictions for public intoxication, prosecutors may be able to elevate the charge to a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by 180 days in jail and/or fines totaling up to $2000.
  • Even if this is a minor’s first offense, prosecutors might be able to move for suspension of a driver’s license or denial of a learner’s permit.

A first-time conviction for public intoxication can result in the suspension of a minor’s driver’s license, driver’s learning permit, or even deny the issuance of a driver’s learning permit. If convicted for a first-time offense, minors can expect at least between $250 and $500 in fines. But it doesn’t stop there – minors must also complete mandatory community service and possibly an alcohol education course.

While public intoxication charges aren’t generally viewed as “serious” crimes, they may still carry penalties that affect your record, as well as your professional, financial, and academic life. We recommend consulting with a criminal defense attorney before pleading guilty to any charge.

2017 Texas Marijuana Laws

Posted by admin on March 20th, 2017 under Criminal defense in Texas, Drug charges, Drug policies, drug possession  •  No Comments

The legalization of marijuana in some states has made it a hot topic across the nation. Although the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule One narcotic, many states have acknowledged the scientifically proven medical applications of marijuana and legalized medicinal use of the plant. Additionally, some states and even local areas, such as the City of Philadelphia, have decriminalized marijuana use and possession.

Supporters of marijuana reform argue marijuana is virtually harmless, and the most dangerous aspect of it is being caught by police with it in your possession. Additionally, Schedule One classification is reserved for substances with “no known medical uses.” This has been proven untrue in the case of marijuana, and many wonder why the federal government has not changed marijuana’s classification by now.

Detractors of marijuana reform typically argue it is a “gateway drug” that invariably leads users to do harder, more dangerous drugs. Several studies have shown this is not the case, but many Americans still hold outmoded beliefs about marijuana and its alleged dangers.

Texas Marijuana Reform

The Texas Compassionate Use Act became law on June 1 of 2015, but the state has yet to implement any tangible marijuana reforms. The difficulty lies in red tape between state and federal laws. Texas state law dictates doctors must write prescriptions for marijuana for it be legal, but federal law prevents doctors from writing marijuana prescriptions. Additionally, pharmacies must fill prescriptions, not marijuana dispensaries. The law protects doctors legally recommending marijuana to patients, but it doesn’t allow them to prescribe it.

Another problem facing marijuana reform in Texas is that the Compassionate Use Act only recognizes one medical condition as treatable by marijuana. As of now, intractable epilepsy is the only acceptable condition. Medical marijuana benefits cancer patients, individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, individuals with Parkinson’s disease, and chronic pain sufferers, and studies have documented the positive effects for these conditions. Currently, legislators have introduced a bill that would expand the qualifying conditions to the Texas Assembly, but no one has implemented it yet.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is a staunch opponent of any type of legalized marijuana, but the citizens of Texas have differing views. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, roughly 75% of Texans support marijuana law reforms. Less than 20% believe the marijuana laws in Texas should remain unchanged.

Current Texas Marijuana Laws

One of the biggest arguments for marijuana reform is the astronomical cost of processing marijuana-related crimes like possession and purchase, which are essentially victimless crimes. Marijuana reform supporters in the Texas legislature have introduced two bills that would eliminate the criminal penalties for marijuana possession and impose a fine on citizens caught with marijuana in amounts up to one ounce.

Until the state implements different laws, medical marijuana is essentially in limbo in Texas, and individuals who purchase, sell, consume, or carry marijuana are still subject to arrest and criminal charges. As public opinion shifts more in favor of marijuana law reform, lawmakers will soon have to reconcile their personal beliefs with the will of the people. It’s difficult to ascertain the future of marijuana – medical or recreational – in Texas for now, but the various bills are signs of hope to thousands of Texans who could greatly benefit from legal access to medical marijuana.

For Texans interested in voicing their opinions to state lawmakers, the Marijuana Policy Project website offers several resources, including the best ways to contact state representatives. If you are suffering from a medical condition that marijuana may help, it’s important to protect yourself under the law. It may be a wise idea to speak with a reliable attorney about your concerns and the legality of any potential marijuana use.

How to Stay Safe on Your Vacations Travels

Posted by admin on March 20th, 2017 under identity theft, travel  •  No Comments

A vacation can be an excellent opportunity to see the world and spend some relaxing time with loved ones. However, it’s important to take proper precautions. If you’re planning to head to a major tourist destination, it’s vital to realize that tourists are often seen as easy targets by criminals. Take the time to read through the following tips so you and your family can have a safe and enjoyable vacation.

Prepare Accordingly

If you have a home security system, it’s a good idea to give a house key and your alarm code to a relative or trusted friend so he or she can occasionally stop by and check on your home while you’re away. This is also a good way to prevent your mailbox from filling up, and may also deter criminals from realizing your family is gone and your house is empty.

Some people think keeping the curtains shut tight will keep would-be thieves from peering inside and casing the house, but doing so could also prevent a patrolling officer from seeing an attempted break-in. Keeping lights on to appear as though you are home is not a good strategy either. Anyone watching your home will think it’s odd that your lights are on all night. Keeping them on for too long is not only dangerous for your electric bill but also a possible fire hazard.

Keeping Your Home Safe

Water damage is a major concern for many homeowners, and cold weather can also cause pipes to freeze. If you arrange to have someone visit while you’re gone, ask them to check your faucets to make sure your water is running. Frozen pipes can burst, resulting in very costly damage. Additionally, since you won’t be home for a while, the damage can be even more expensive thanks to water sitting while you’re gone.

Finally, one last precaution to safeguard your home should be to unplug your appliances. If a lightning strike causes a power surge, keeping your devices unplugged will protect them. This will also help keep your electric bill down while you’re away, as many modern appliances like televisions and computers continue to draw power even when they are powered off.

Only Take Essentials

Going on vacation usually means souvenirs and shopping for many people, so you should only pack essential toiletries, changes of clothes, and any devices you may need. It’s also a good idea to refrain from taking large amounts of cash. Large quantities of cash could be an easy grab for a skilled pickpocket, and relying on credit or debit cards is a much safer way to pay. Most modern money cards allow owners to turn their cards on and off through a smartphone app in case they are lost, so be sure to investigate whether your financial institutions provide any such services.

Packing lightly will also help you during travelling. It’s much easier to keep track of your belongings if you pack lightly, and expensive-looking luggage could be a temptation to any nearby thieves in or around airports and other travel hubs.

Safeguard Valuables

Some vacationers will open a safe deposit box for their trip. This can be a great way to store valuables safely during travel. For example, if you’re travelling halfway around the world, losing your wedding ring in a foreign country can be devastating, and chances are good that you won’t find it before it’s time to leave. Consider leaving expensive jewelry and other valuables in a bank vault until you return.

During your travels, take care not to “flash your cash” or display expensive jewelry or other items. If you take your car on vacation, make sure you do not leave any valuables like laptops or cameras in plain view.

Travelling to unknown territory can be exciting, but it’s important to always try to err on the side of caution. Tourist hotspots may be prime targets for criminals, but they may also be on the lookout for unwary tourists who wander off the beaten path. Follow these tips and tread carefully for a safe, pleasant vacation.

Can Someone Who Was Falsely Accused, Sue for Character Defamation?

Posted by admin on March 20th, 2017 under defamation  •  No Comments

Unfortunately, some people are falsely accused of crimes they did not commit. In some cases, this can progress into false imprisonment or other unjust penalties. More often than not, the accused will be more concerned with the damage done to his or her reputation. In the legal world, “defamation” refers to any type of attack on a person’s character. Defamation can be written, spoken, depicted in a video, or any other form of communication that could potentially reach many people.

Defamation can only happen under certain conditions. Anyone struggling with a false accusation should speak with an attorney. Thanks to technologies like mobile devices and social media, an attempted character assassination can spread like wildfire and seriously damage the target’s reputation.

How to Prove Defamation

The plaintiff (the party filing the lawsuit) must establish several facts to the court about the defaming statements in question. Generally, for statements to constitute defamation, they must be:

  • You cannot argue defamation against true statements, no matter how injurious to your reputation they may be.
  • An audience must have been able to see or hear the defaming comments. You cannot argue defamation against statements made in private or made without a wide audience.
  • The law considers statements made in court proceedings or legislative chambers privileged, meaning the statements are only intended to reach the people to whom they are made. For example, a witness in a lawsuit who testifies something false may not be sued for defamation. However, knowingly lying under oath may lead to a perjury charge.
  • You must be able to prove in court that the defaming statements caused you some kind of damage.

People of a certain stature will have other requirements to prove defamation, namely, public officials. The governed have the right to criticize those who govern them, but some critics take things too far. If a member of the public accuses a public official of misdeeds in their official capacity, the official must prove the above four requirements and also prove in court that the defendant “acted with actual malice,” or acted with the intent to damage the official’s reputation. In some cases, this requirement extends to well-known public figures like celebrities.

Defamation and the First Amendment

The First Amendment grants American citizens freedom of speech. Generally, this means Americans have the right to say what they want about anyone or anything, whenever they want, in whatever medium they choose. Freedom of speech allows citizens to fearlessly criticize their government. However, it does not mean freedom from the consequences of one’s speech. Defamation laws exist to create the line between protected speech and malicious, false statements one person uses to harm another.

Private citizens generally have more protection from defamation under the First Amendment than public figures. This is primarily because criticisms of public officials, even if untrue, are matters of public interest. This is why defamed officials must prove the defendant acted with actual malice. An example could be a journalist publishing negative comments about a politician without corroborating the facts before publishing. In some cases, the court may decree a defendant must publicly retract the defamatory statements he or she made.

Defamation cases can easily turn into complex legal battles, so if you find yourself in such a situation, reliable legal representation is crucial to reaching a positive result. Proving the extent of the damage done by the defaming speech is one of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of most defamation lawsuits. However, a competent and experienced attorney can show the court the full extent of the damage done to the plaintiff’s reputation.