Posts by Jacob

Federal vs. State Crimes

The American criminal justice system is, in a word, confusing. One of the most confusing aspects of the system is whether a criminal gets tried through the state or federal courts. While the majority of crimes are tried through the state court, there are certain crimes that are usually prosecuted on the federal level.

Understanding which crime goes where can be a dizzying task. I decided to whip up this blog post to outline the differences between state and federal crimes. If you’re curious, keep reading!

When is it Federal Jurisdiction?

As previously stated, the majority of crimes are crimes under state law. Thus, these criminals will be prosecuted in the state courts and sent to state prisons if convicted of a crime. 

The state has the power to legislate pretty much any crime, as long as the law written is constitutional. The federal government, however, is more limited and can only pass laws around crimes that are related to some federal or national interest. National interest is broadly defined to include:

  • Crimes on federal land or involving a federal officer. For example, the murder of an FBI agent would be eligible to be tried in the federal courts.
  • A crime where the criminal crosses state borders. An example of this would be when a kidnapping victim being moved from Texas to Arizona by the defendant.
  • Violations of immigration and customs law. A common example of this is the importation of child pornography.
  • Criminal conduct in multiple states. If a serial killer killed multiple people in several different states, the federal government could have jurisdiction. 

Differences in Prosecution

There are several differences between federal and state prosecution. In federal prosecution, the crime is investigated by FBI officers or DEA agents, and they are tried by an Assistant United States Attorney — a federal prosecutor. The case goes before a federal judge, who is appointed to a life-term by the president.

State crimes are investigated by police departments, sheriff offices, and any applicable state agencies. The cases are then tried by assistant district attorneys or city attorneys. Cases are tried in front of a judge like in federal prosecution, but judges do not serve for a life term. Some states have judicial elections and others have other systems like appointments.

Sentencing

In federal court, judges have advisory sentencing guidelines that suggest how to sentence a criminal convicted of a crime, and judges usually follow these guidelines. For the most part, federal sentences are longer than state sentences for the same crime. This is in part due to harsh mandatory sentencing rules on the federal level, particularly for drug crimes. 

What to Do
Whether you are charged with a federal or state crime, it is imperative that you reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. It may seem tempting, but don’t attempt to save money on an attorney by representing yourself. A criminal defense attorney has the skills and experience necessary to help you avoid a harsh prison sentence and possible fines.

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The Risks to Property After the Media Stops Looking

We live in an era of increasingly common catastrophic disasters. Hurricanes belt Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Gulf and East Coast states every year. Volcanoes erupt in Hawaii and Washington. California is always on the cusp of a major earthquake. Tornadoes tear through the central states. Forest fires can damage property across the West and flooding can hit almost anywhere.

These disasters, when they happen, garner an almost infinite amount of media coverage, but once the actual disaster passes, the media moves on, leaving people with their own personal disasters and no one to tell them to.

These personal disasters can take on many different forms. Some people can become ill due to some result of the disaster and find it hard to get treatment. Others may find their job is missing along with the business they worked for. There are surely thousands and thousands of stories of missing pets and more than a few of missing people who are never found.

And then, theres property. For those who had no insurance, the story once they try to return after a disaster is often a tragic (but predictable) one. However, even those who have insurance can find that it lets them down at such a moment.

With so many recognizing the rising risks of living in certain parts of the country, these owners and renters purchase named-peril insurance to make sure they are covered in the riskiest events. This gives those owners and renters peace of mind, and yet, as Smith Kendall Attorneys at Law points out, that insurance often doesnt live up to expectations.

It is not at all uncommon for those returning to former homes and hoping to recovery property and start life again to find the insurance underpaying on a claim or refusing a claim outright.

After suffering so much already, these victims of catastrophe then have to take on massive insurance companies in an effort to get what they are entitled to. It shouldnt happen, and yet as lawyers like the Smith Kendall office show, it happens all the time.

More needs to be done by local and federal governments to ensure these secondary tragedies dont happen so often, and more needs to be done by the media to continue to shine light on such stories, even if the biggest narrative that wins the most viewers or clicks has moved on.

For those stuck in such situations, they have to find the energy to fight on multiple fronts. They need to contact lawyers that know how to fight these insurance companies, but they also need to make more effort to shout to the rest of us about what is happening.

Our world is going to see more and more of these catastrophes and more and more human tragedies over the coming years. Thats why its all the more important that we address these secondary issues now, so we have a better system in place for the next catastrophe.

 
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Medical malpractice suits in Wisconsin

In a recent study performed by Johns Hopkins Medicine, medical error is the third most common cause of death in the United States. Knowing that medical malpractice is common, you would think that there would be a lot of lawsuits in this category. However, in Wisconsin, filing a lawsuit due to medical malpractice is rare.  

Sarah and Peter Koskey know first hand how hard it is to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in Wisconsin. Their son, Chris, 31 years old, had just had back surgery at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center. After Chris’s surgery, the doctor sent Chris home, stating he had no pneumonia. 4 a.m. following Chris’s 8 p.m. release from the hospital, Sarah went to check on her son, finding that she needed to rush him to the hospital. Chris had suffocated from pneumonia in his lungs and was declared brain dead.

After Chris’s tragic death, his parents requested an investigation, and the result was that there was no wrongdoing in his case. The tragedy continues as Chris’s parents attempt to take their case to court, but are denied that request. According to Wisconsin law, only a spouse or a minor child can sue for death due to medical practice. This law is 27 years old and clearly outdated as the Koskey family cannot gain compensation for the wrongful loss of their son.  

There are many types of medical malpractice cases, including birth injuries, wrongful death, misdiagnoses, nursing home neglect, and much more. These cases are all too common, and it is important to know that if you are eligible for filing a lawsuit, you can and should hire a lawyer.

Unfortunately, parents of an adult child and an adult child whose parent passes are not allowed to file a lawsuit in the state of Wisconsin. However, all spouses and minor children of deceased parents can file a lawsuit. Filing a lawsuit can help you get the compensation you deserve to attempt to soften the blow of losing a loved one. Lawsuits can be a complex process, and that is why the need for a lawyer is imperative.

If the loved one you lost, was the primary income facilitator for your family, a lawsuit might be the only way to stay afloat in this time of grieving and recovery. Compensation can help you pay for medical bills, pain, and suffering, and can keep your standard of living until other arrangements can be made.

For medical malpractice being the third leading cause of death in the United States, there are not enough medical malpractice lawsuits to match that statistic in Wisconsin. So until the law stating who is eligible to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, only spouses and minor children get the opportunity to help the statistic. If you are able to file a lawsuit, it is in your best interest to a hire a lawyer, and fight for the compensation you deserve.

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Common Sex Crimes

Sex crimes are some of the most controversial issues in society. Bodies of law and courts are not very tolerant of sex offenders, as they face severe punishments. These consequences may differ depending on the state and jurisdiction, but they mostly have the same concepts. Fines, jail times, and damages to reputations resulting into limited housing and employment opportunities, are just some of them.

Rape
Rape is generally characterized by non-consensual sex. There may be other relevant factors, such as the threats of violence against victims, the victims’ inability to consent because of his or her lack of judgment that has resulted from alcohol or drugs, and the victims’ legal inability to consent because of age. These factors are not necessarily needed to determine if an act is rape, because non-consent is the most significant determining factor. These factors, however, can supplement and make the charges worse.

Possession of Child Pornography
The children are the heirs of society, and the last thing a civilized society wants is for these children to be involved in trafficking and other sexually related offenses. The possession of any material showing a minor getting involved in a sexual act is illegal. Such materials include pictures and computer data such as images and videos.

Sexual Abuse of a Child
Civilized societies really prioritize children, even when it comes to sexual abuse claims. Sexual abuse of a child does not just involve direct sexual relations, as behaviors such as looking at a child in a sexual way, showing a child sexual acts, and other behaviors that meet another person’s sexual interest can be considered sexual abuse.

Indecent Exposure
Indecent exposure refers to an individual’s intentional display of his or her private parts, with the motive of having sexual gratification to himself or herself, receiving a sexual response from another person or the public, or insulting another.

Consequences and Effects
Sex crimes can greatly alter the lives of both abuser and abused. In the case of the abuser, those who have been convicted of misdemeanors and felonies have the appropriate fines and jail times, ranging from months to even years depending on the gravity of the offense. But according to the website of Kohler Hart Powell, SC, these charges can be defended. It proves that the law hears the side of the accused as well, preventing unjustified and unwarranted penalties.
Abused have it bad as well. Aside from the physical injuries they may have sustained, they may be prone to emotional and psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and social withdrawal. Physical injuries can at least heal through time, but these mental problems may require a different kind of treatment.

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Distracted Driving, A Major Hindrance to Efforts at Reducing Fatal Car Crashes

Assuming that the table posted in the Wikipedia website on “Motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. by year” is correct, then two things are affirmed: cars are bound to crash, as was presumed as early as 1925; and, yearly fatal car crashes (from 1899 – 2004) mostly increased as more cars populated the road.

Since 2005, though, the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) and the National Safety Council (NSC) have both recorded declines in fatal car crashes, from 43,510 in 2005 down to 32,675 in 2014.

Two non-profit research organizations, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute, identify improved structural design and the latest safety features in cars to be the major reasons for the decline. Some of these latest safety or crash avoidance features include: lane departure or lane-keep assist, blind spot alert, park assist, forward collision warning, adaptive headlights, tire pressure monitoring, traction control, electronic stability control, auto emergency braking (AEB), and active braking systems, which either warn drivers of impending collisions or which automatically assist drivers in preventing collisions.

It is quite alarming that, despite the fact that most cars are already equipped with some safety features, reports of increase in auto-related deaths for 2015 have been reported by the NHTSA and the NSC. From the 32,675 death toll in 2014, the NHTSA reports a 9.5% increase for the first three months of 2015, while the NSC reports a 14% increase for the first six months).

One reason for the higher fatal car crash rate is the dramatic increase in the number of cars on the road – the major effect of gas prices going down. With more cars, there were also more cases of alcohol-impaired driving, speeding and people failing to buckle up. However, the top reason for the increase in the death rate is being attributed to cell phone use: drivers texting or conversing with someone and taking selfies and posting these on social media – all of these while trying to keep an eye on the road.

The NHTSA and the NSC agree that, in spite of cars being made safer, text messaging and the increased use of cell phones are defeating all endeavors on getting car crash deaths to go down. Cell phone use is the worst form of distracted driving. Compared to drunk-driving, using a cell phone while driving is up to six times more dangerous.

“Crash” implies that someone has acted illegally or negligently and that this act has caused a collision that has resulted to someone getting either injured or killed. In the view of a the outcome of a driver’s mistake or bad decision while behind the wheel, even for just a few seconds, can then lead to irreversible tragic consequences not only the driver but also for other innocent victims. For these, the at-fault driver should be held totally responsible.

Learn more about car crashes at this website: https://www.shw-law.com/.

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