Megan’s Law – It’s Only Half The Battle

Spend some time in any PTA meeting, Mommy & Me group, or even a playdate with friends and it isn’t long before the conversation turns into a worried discussion about Megan’s Law and the sex offender information that parents can now readily access with just a few clicks of their computer mouse.

Parents everywhere are feverishly checking these websites, sometimes weekly or even daily, to see if a registered sex offender resides nearby. Unfortunately, there are a few flaws in this perceived “safety net” that well-intentioned parents should know.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE proponent of Megan’s Law and the information it provides. I strongly believe that once a sex offender has been released back into the community, the public has the absolute right to know their whereabouts.

But… focusing solely on this component of child safety can do a serious disservice to our kids, IF we stop there.

A Basic Overview of Megan’s Law

Megan’s Law is a federal law, signed on May 17, 1996 by President Bill Clinton. It is named for 7 year old Megan Nicole Kanka of Hamilton Township, New Jersey, who tragically, was sexually abused and killed in 1994 by a twice-convicted pedophile who lived across the street from her home. Unaware of his presence and criminal history, Megan’s parents, Maureen and Richard Kanka, were devastated and outraged. They established the Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation and lobbied government officials to create a law which would require all 50 states to release information regarding the presence of convicted sex offenders in our communities. In it’s most basic terms, the law mandates that the public has the right to know the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders once they have been released, and that all 50 states must make this information available to the public.

Many states have created a dedicated Megan’s Law website, to which the public can log onto through their own personal computer and research the data pertinent to their town or local community.

There are several ways you can check the Megan’s Law sex offender register in your state. In my home state of California, the website is meganslaw.ca.gov. To access the information in your state, you can visit familywatchdog.us. This website provides a free national sex offender registry link and also contains excellent safety information. You may also check your state’s Attorney General’s website, your State Police website, or visit megannicolekankafoundation.org.

Only Part of the Solution…

While Megan’s Law is an excellent awareness tool and provides vital information to the public, parents must remember that it can only do so much.

To begin with, a sex offender register is not a perfect system. In some instances, registered offenders may or may not actually be living where they are listed. Depending on which state you live in, you may even have some registered offenders whose whereabouts are not made public due to an exclusionary clause in the law. For example, some offenders fall into the “undisclosed category” – which means they areregistered with the state, but their information is not accessible on the website. According to the California Dept. of Justice, approximately 25% of registered offenders are excluded from public disclosure by law, depending on the type of crime that person has been convicted of.

More importantly, parents must remember that there are plenty of sex offenders out there who simply haven’t been caught, and therefore, are not listed on any register. As a result, we need to protect our kids from those who may be “flying under the radar” as it were.

What’s A Parent To Do?

Be a PRO-ACTIVE parent rather than a REACTIVE one. A PRO-ACTIVE parent can beat a sex offender at their own game. By now, many parents are somewhat familiar with the real statistic that 90% of child sexual abuse happens by someone the child knows, not by a stranger. Since that’s the real issue, it’s time we started looking at prevention education in a way actually protects our children.

Kids need to be taught how to recognize and defend their personal boundaries with adults they interact with. They need to understand what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior from a grown up (or even an older child), and what to do if they get a red flag or “uh-oh” feeling from someone’s improper actions.

In plain English, kids need to know what to do if “Coach Smith” tries to touch a private part of their body, or if a babysitter or relative wants to play a physical “touching game” that just feels weird or “yucky”. These are much more common scenarios than the stranger who may or may not be living down the street.

Megan’s Law is a good start in protecting our kids. Yet, it’s still only half the battle. With smart prevention education in conjunction with Megan’s Law, we can offer each other a real solution to keeping our children safe.

10 Prevention Tips for Parents

1. Don’t equate stranger with danger. Teach your child how to recognize a potentially dangerous action or situation instead. (“Thumbs up or thumbs down!”)

2. Be involved in your child’s activities. As a “visible parent”, you’ll have a better opportunity to observe how other adults interact with your child.

3. Screen caregivers and babysitters carefully. Always check references – no matter who they come recommended by.

4. Pay attention to clues and cues in other adults’ behavior around your child. A predator’s grooming tricks can be very subtle at first. For example, is there someone who continually tries to arrange “alone time” with your child, often working very hard to create the opportunity by using flattery or suggesting outings that don’t include you?

5. Listen to your child, especially if they consistently don’t want to be around a particular person, such as a babysitter, relative, or family friend. They may be sensing “a red flag” that you are unaware of.

6. Let children decide for themselves how they want to express affection. Do not force them to a hug or kiss another person if they don’t want to.

7. Spend quality time with your children. Kids who are starved for affection or attention can be vulnerable targets for a child molester or predator.

8. Be alert to anyone who insists on being physical with your child (hugging, kissing, tickling, wrestling, touching) especially when the child seems uneasy or has asked them to stop.

9. Let children know they have the right to say NO to any unwanted touches or physical attention. It’s okay to say NO even to a grownup or a bigger kid, and then immediately tell a grownup they trust (like mom or dad) as soon as they can.

10. Review and practice basic safety skills with your children often. Children need to hear the information more than just once to really understand.

Attorney Negligence: Did It Cost You Your Case?

Attorney Negligence: Did It Cost You Your Case?

Statistics show that legal malpractice claims have become more frequent for the last three decades. There are several instances where a client loses confidence in the abilities of his lawyer because the latter made matters worse instead of providing a resolution to the problem. If you suffered damages due to your lawyer’s wrongful conduct, may it be due to his negligence or intentional act, you may consider the option of bringing a legal malpractice action. However, proving a legal malpractice claim could be challenging as it often involves extensive search for appropriate arguments and corroborating evidence. Despite the existence of actual damages, there are other factors that need to be examined to determine whether a claim of legal malpractice should be filed.

Damages

If the client can prove that the attorney’s negligence or wrongful act resulted in damages, such damages could be recovered by filing a legal malpractice lawsuit. However, there are cases where damages are not easily ascertainable. In such cases, the California Supreme Court held that recovery of damages could still be awarded even if the existence and the cause of such damages are difficult to determine. On the most part, however, damages that are based on speculation or mere threat of future harm are usually not awarded by California courts.

Clients are likely to be more successful with the recovery of so-called “direct” damages. These are damages that have been the direct result of an attorney’s negligence or misconduct. For instance, in a case where an attorney wrongfully advises his client to file for bankruptcy and sell his home for a lower price than its market value, the court is likely to award the client damages to the extent of what he lost from the sale. In another case, a California court awarded damages to a physician due to the loss of his good reputation and the increase in premiums for his medical malpractice insurance due to his attorney’s negligence.

If the client can show clear and convincing evidence that the attorney can be held liable for fraud, malice or oppression, even punitive damages may be recovered, see California Civil Code § 3294. However, client-plaintiffs who have been denied the award of compensatory damages will not be entitled to punitive damages. In general, it is more difficult to prove the existence of punitive damages as courts usually require specific facts to prove that the attorney acted with oppression, fraud or malice. In one rare case, the court of appeals awarded punitive damages due to an attorney’s “conscious disregard of plaintiff’s safety”. In that case, the attorney, who was also a physician, advised his client to postpone the surgery in order to strengthen their medical malpractice lawsuit even though he knew about the urgency of a surgery.

Furthermore, if the client-plaintiff lost his claim for punitive damages in the underlying action, it is very unlikely that courts will award him punitive damages in a legal malpractice lawsuit. The California Supreme Court held that such damages are based on speculation and plaintiffs should not be entitled to damages that cannot be proven with certainty. Otherwise, lawyers would be exposed to more risks of liability, resulting in an increase in the cost of malpractice insurance.

Attorney Negligence

In a legal malpractice action based on the attorney’s negligence, the courts will look into four factors. First, the client-plaintiff needs to show that the attorney-defendant has the obligation to apply the skill, prudence and diligence required from his profession. Second, there has to be proof that the attorney failed to fulfill the above mentioned duty. Third, the client-plaintiff also needs to show that the attorney’s breach of his duty resulted in the damages he suffered. Lastly, as mentioned above, the client-plaintiff needs to present evidence of the existence of such damages and not just mere speculation. According to the California Supreme Court, client-plaintiffs who are facing criminal charges need to prove their actual innocence before they can bring an action against their attorneys. This way, the clients who have been found guilty by a criminal court would not be allowed to go after their attorneys and recover civil damages. An exception to this rule is a malpractice action that is not based on the quality of legal services provided by the attorney. For instance, a fee dispute between the client and the attorney can still be pursued in court even if the client was charged by a criminal court because such a dispute merely involves the attorney’s billing practices.

Typical Cases of Malpractice

The most common basis of malpractice action is the failure of an attorney to adhere to the deadlines set by the Code of Civil Procedure as well as other statutory filing deadlines. As mentioned above, attorneys are expected to apply the required skill, prudence and diligence in providing legal services. The failure to file a lawsuit, initiate a proceeding or bring an action within the so-called statutes of limitation could constitute a strong claim for legal malpractice.

An attorney can also be held liable if the court in the underlying case issues a default judgment against his client due to his failure to file a pleading, see California Code of Civil Procedure § 585. Furthermore, if he fails to relieve his client from the default by filing a motion in a timely manner, namely within six months after the issuance of the default judgment, the client would have another ground to file a malpractice lawsuit against him assuming that the motion could have been successful.

It is also possible to hold an attorney liable for not raising viable defenses in a legal action. In such cases, however, the client-plaintiff needs to show that the defenses that were not asserted can be proven in court and would have led to a more favorable result. In one case, for instance, a California court denied the award of damages to the plaintiff because the attorney decided to leave out weak defenses.

In general, attorneys have an obligation to adhere to their clients’ preferences particularly with regard to legal decisions involving their substantive rights. The failure to follow these instructions can be a basis for a malpractice action. In one case, for instance, a California court held an attorney liable for his failure to file a complaint despite of his client’s specific instructions to do so.

However, courts have held that an attorney can make decisions without his client’s consent if authority has been given in an agreement. Decisions involving procedural matters are also instances where attorneys can act independently. California courts have not yet drawn the line as to how to differentiate procedural matters and legal decisions. Thus, establishing a legal malpractice action based on the failure to adhere to clients’ instructions could pose several challenges. On the other hand, courts have consistently held that attorneys are not obliged to follow instructions that can result in an illegal or unethical conduct. Furthermore, an attorney can reject a case if he determines in good faith that the case lacks merit.

Another frequent basis for a legal malpractice action involves settlements. According to the California Rules of Professional Conduct, an attorney needs to provide his client specific information pertaining to the settlement such as the amount, and the terms and conditions of the offer, see California Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3-510. To be successful with a malpractice action, a client-plaintiff needs to prove three things. First, there has to be evidence showing the attorney’s failure to inform the client about the settlement (or parts of the settlement). Second, the client-plaintiff needs to attest that he would have accepted the settlement offer if he had known about it (or had sufficient information about it). Last, evidence should be presented that the client would have benefited more from the settlement than the actual outcome of the case. The amount of damages in such a case will be determined by the difference between the actual outcome of the case and what the client-plaintiff would have received from the settlement offer.

Statutes of Limitation

In general, clients can file a legal malpractice lawsuit one year after the discovery of circumstances that support the malpractice claim or four years after the attorney’s act of misconduct, whichever comes first, see California Code Civil Procedure § 340.6(a). There are, however, exceptions to this general rule that could prolong the periods of limitation, giving plaintiffs more time to file a lawsuit. For instance, periods where the plaintiff is physically unable to bring a legal malpractice action against his attorney will be considered as tolled. The same applies to cases where the attorney-defendant is still representing the client-plaintiff in the same case where the attorney’s misconduct is at issue. In such cases, the time limit for bringing a legal malpractice action could be exceeded.

Seeking Legal Advice

The success of a legal malpractice lawsuit will mainly depend on the evidence and arguments which will support the claim that the attorney has been negligent in representing his client. Even procedural matters such as determining the applicable deadline could pose some challenges as well. Thus, in cases that involve complex issues, consulting a lawyer who is experienced in legal malpractice cases is inevitable in order to prevent the occurrence of further damages to the client.

Sources:
California Code of Civil Procedure
California Rules of Professional Conduct

For further reading:
George Lindahl J.D., California Torts, 2012
Suzan Herskowitz Singer, Attorney Responsibilities & Client Rights, 2003
Robert W. Schachner Esq., How & When to Sue Your Lawyer, What You Need to Know, 2005

The Credentials of Any Good San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

The hallmark credentials that you want to see when hiring a San Diego criminal defense lawyer on a serious felony charge are pretty much the same for a criminal defense lawyer anywhere. When you are charged with a serious felony in a state court system where your exposure is many years in prison you don’t want someone “practicing” or dabbling on your matter. You want a consummate talented and respected professional that regularly handles the type of criminal charge that you are charged with.

The bottom line is that you want a lawyer with a winning reputation. The profile that makes up that type of lawyer consists of a number of characteristics. You want a lawyer that is well educated. While the law school a lawyer went to isn’t necessarily the characteristic that makes the difference, the better law schools produce lawyers who understand the theory of the law better which makes them better able to make arguments that persuade judges.

You also want a lawyer who has a good presence and who is respected in the courts. The more respected your lawyer is, the better he will be able to negotiate, win critical motions, and get rulings favorable to your case. A good lawyer who is respected in his community will be respected anywhere he or she goes to handle a case. The prosecutors and the judges get the picture quickly by the way the lawyer handles themselves.

You want a lawyer who has been practicing many years if your case is a serious felony such as murder, vehicular manslaughter, forcible rape, or child molestation. The more years a lawyer has practiced means that he or she has handled more situations, more cases, and more trials. That combined experience means that they will be able to analyze your case quicker and with more accuracy than a lesser experienced lawyer. Years of experience means they know all the moves and how to implement them effectively at the right moment.

Make sure your lawyer has successfully handled many cases of the type of charge you have. If you are charged with murder, for instance, you want a lawyer who has handled and tried several murder cases. A top gun lawyer should be able to cite several examples of jury trial results and favorable settlements in the type of case you have. There is no reason not to hire a lawyer with a long record of winning. Every lawyer has won a case or two. You want the lawyer with a long list of successful results.

In every major community in this country competent skilled professionals exist who are capable of getting you the best results. A little work trying to find one will be worth the effort. If you throw your money away on someone who isn’t up to the task you won’t find out until it is too late. You can always change lawyers but you may have spent all of your resources. Major Tip: Don’t ask people to refer you to a good lawyer. You may just be getting a friend or a business referral. Ask people: “Who are the five or ten best San Diego criminal defense lawyers to handle a serious state court felony trial case?” You will likely get a list of great lawyers. The good lawyers will all talk to you and you will be able to see the difference and choose who you are most comfortable with and can afford.

Online Law Education – Your Guide To Making An Educated Decision

Becoming a lawyer is among the most fashionable course of study nowadays and with really fine reason. In the present time, in that respect, are several characters of practicing law are publicized regularly. Criminal justice law is in much demand in real time more than ever. Modifications to real estate and property laws in the past 50 years approximately have brought in property attorneys marketable to a critical level. Divorce attorneys, for marital separations, experience a plenty of wreak delegate their direction. And so let alone there follows the culture of litigating for insurance policy takes which we altogether exist in personifies the reason behind a bunch of the financial obligation and physical injury business law firm survive. With so a great deal of opportunities and businesses active around at some given period sooner or later, there is no doubt why a respectable percentage of scholars prefer to encourage successful the domain of law. Nonetheless, not every last of them has the chance.

That had better really show they were not able to find the opportunity in the beginning when cyberspace education was contrived. Legal philosophy is an exceedingly best-selling field of study and is tendered through a swollen percentage from the internet schools, universities and colleges out in that location at the moment. Steady cyberspace colleges feature a modified count of posts all semester and on that point are generally really a couple to reserve. Really some folks quit either, for they are indeed esteemed and a person will call for a law academic degree to pass into a business firm later upon graduation. You must therefore make certain that your schooling is every bit a good deal amusing as achievable because you will live wedged on it for a couple of years!

Equally a requirement, you must look into each alternative prior to tying one particular internet law curriculum. The array of classes online websites will be dumbfounding. It will shortly be discovered clear-cut deviation between the subject and structure of single course with some other. No dual courses are analogous; therefore it is not wise to settle with one prior to contemplating the rest.

Still, it is not merely course subject matter which you must check up on. In law schools, respectability is what matters. It chronicles as overwhelming more than previous results, and this implements to the school you enrolled at also. It will seldom cause a conflict if you schooled online. Simply when you do not attend a commissioned school and who does not bear superior law student prospects carries heavily on your chances.

When you have searched into the reputation of cyberspace schools for law that’s when you can finalize your list down. Yet, it is not virtually sufficient to establish a decision on that aspect entirely. It is wise to recognize what their classes are targeted at. A few specialize in a definite law practice, age bracket or societal grouping. Others could simply provide courses fashioned to feed those who have hit the books on law already to further their career promotion. Whereas, other sites shall admit individuals without prior knowledge of the law, school them to the fullest degree. Create a brief list of the ones which proposes the sort of education you necessitate and equate them to your list of prestigious internet classes. This will appropriate you with some possible schools tallying them simpler to determine from that point onwards. This entire procedure involve months of inquiry and careful planning, Yet, it will be meriting for your career ultimately. You must use up time and gain the drive.

If you made up your mind to consider law through the internet university, then you have induced a colossal step towards shifting the rest of your career. This may entirely be a beneficial thing. Remember, all good things come to those who wait! If you invest in the feat to uncovering the finest feasible school and curriculum for you then things will fall into place. When executing study online personify your top-grade performance always.

When You Need A Personal Injury Lawyer

While a personal injury lawyer is important in protecting you, you don’t need him/her all the time. Here are some of the scenarios when you need him.

When you have disabling injuries

In some cases, you might be engaged in an accident that results to a long time or permanent disability. Since having a disability will require you to change your way of life, it’s wise to get compensation that will be worth the difficult situation that you will go through.

Since you might not know how to go about the process of getting the compensation that you need, you should consider getting an experienced lawyer to help you out.

Medical Malpractice

This is a situation when you suffer injuries as a result of mistakes made by a doctor, nurse, technician, or any other medical personnel.

Once you realize that an error has been made and you have been injured, you should get a personal injury lawyer to help you in filing a professional case that will help you in getting the compensation that you deserve.

Severe injuries

In most cases, the amount that you receive in terms of compensation depends on how severe the injuries are. This means that if you have very severe injuries you will most likely receive a very large amount of money as compensation.

Although, this is the case, it’s usually difficult to receive the right amount that you are worth if you don’t know the right channels to use. The good side is that there are many highly trained and professional lawyers who will help you in every step of the way.

Toxic exposure

With the increased use of chemicals, it’s easy to get injuries as a result of contaminants in the air, soil, and water. If you are working in an industry that uses a lot of chemicals and you get sick as a result of it, you should highly consider filing a case.

You should note that such cases are not easy as you have to prove that the chemicals are the ones that resulted to your injuries. Proving your allegations requires a compilation of complex scientific data and an expert to present the data. One of the best people to get is a personal injury lawyer.

Getting a good lawyer

Getting a good lawyer requires you do a lot of research to find a lawyer who will give you the service that you need. Before you hire the attorney, you should first ask the lawyer the amount that you will get after the case. This is to ensure that you don’t spend more money than you will receive as compensation.