Should Minors Be Charged As Adults?
Whenever a child commits a violent crime, the same questions come to mind. Should a child be considered an adult if his or she commits an adult crime, such as murder? Is a child still a child, despite the severity of his or her crime? Is a child really capable of understanding the consequences of his actions? Most states allow children charged with murder to be tried as adults. The death penalty is generally not an option for any defendant under age 16, however, some states will consider it for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Children nowadays are forced to mature much sooner. Children are exposed to violence either in the media or right on their front lawn, depending on where they live. These children are also growing up in a society that thirsts for vengeance whenever falls victim to a crime, thus the growing favor of charging juvenile criminals as adults. However, no crime is yet severe enough to change the fact that a child is still a child–who has not yet reached the full level of mental capacity to distinguish right from wrong or the ramifications of his or her actions.
The argument for treating juvenile violent offenders as adults suggests that harsh sentences will act as a deterrent; that a heinous crime is a heinous crime regardless of the age of the offender and such offender should be held accountable; and that children today are in fact more sophisticated and mature at a younger age and know the implications of violence and know how to use violent weapons. The argument against punishing juvenile offenders as adults suggest that children do not have the moral or intellectual capacity to understand the consequences of their actions; children should not have easy access to deadly weapons in the first place; rehabilitation–not prison–can give a child a second chance, and; a young person released from juvenile prison is less likely to commit another crime than a young person released from an adult prison.
If your teenager has been accused of murder or some other serious crime, you want a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling cases involving juvenile violent offenders. Your attorney can advise you of your teen’s rights under the law and ensure he or she receives fair treatment.
Guardianship: An Overview
Guardianship is a legal arrangement in which someone is appointed to the affairs of an individual who is incapable of handling his own affairs. The appointed guardian is responsible for the care and custody of the individual and usually has control over the person’s assets and makes decisions regarding their health care and other financial affairs. Establishment of the guardianship is overseen by a court commissioner or judge. The judge or court commissioner must determine that the alleged incapacitated person, or AIP, is unable to manage his own affairs and that there are no lesser restrictive alternatives that could be implemented to avoid imposition of a guardianship. An example would be a person having established power of attorney in a trusted relative or friend, whom is capable of managing his affairs without needing to establish guardianship.
To establish a guardianship, someone must act as petitioner to address the court. This person can be a concerned relative, representative of a guardianship company or a social worker. The petitioner asks the court to make a determination that the AIP requires someone to handle his affairs. The guardianship can be one in which the AIP only requires help in managing financial affairs, or one in which the AIP requires help in making medical decision or matters related to daily living activities. Once the petition is filed, a “guardian ad litem”, usually an attorney, is appointed to serve as an independent party who conducts an inquiry into the AIP’s family and living situation, daily life and competency. The AIP also undergoes an evaluation by a physician.
The court commissioner or judge reviews and weighs all of the information from the physician as well as all other pertinent information, such as testimony from family members or the AIP himself. An appointment is then made, which is considered final unless someone appeals the decision or petitions the court to change the appointment. A guardianship usually lasts as long as the AIP or ward remains incapacitated and as long as the guardian remains competent and meets statutory requirements.
A guardianship can be terminated by an order of the court that established it. A guardian must report regularly to court to ensure the guardian is properly managing the AIP’s affairs and making appropriate decisions or his guardianship becomes delinquent and can be inactivated by the court. Appointed guardians receive Letters of Guardianship that terminate on a specific date that coincides with the due date of the guardian’s next report. Failure to report to court and obtain renewed letters before they expire causes the guardian to lose court authority to act on behalf of the AIP or ward, even though they remain legally responsible.
Guardianship is not without some disadvantages. Guardians have been known to abuse their authority in a manner that serves their own interests over that of the AIP or AIP’s family. Examples include using the assets of their ward or AIP for their own purposes, providing extra services the AIP or ward does not need, or being incompetent. You should immediately consult with an attorney if you suspect a relative or friend is the victim of a guardian abusing his authority.
Make Sure Your Injury is Work-Related Before Filing Your Workers’ Comp Claim
It goes without saying that workers’ comp benefits cover work-related injuries or illnesses. You have to be able to show that your injuries or illness resulted while or from performing your job duties. There are some injuries, however, that fall into a rather gray area and may or may not be covered.
- If you get injured on your lunch break, coverage may depend on where you got injured. If it was in the company cafeteria, you may be covered. If it happened while you picking up lunch for your supervision, you may be covered. If you got hurt while walking to your car after picking up lunch for yourself or your colleagues, you may not be covered.
- Injuries sustained at company events like picnics, parties or sports games (i.e., football or baseball) may be covered by workers’ compensation, but it would be a good idea to check your company’s workers’ comp policy or consult a workers’ compensation lawyer to be sure.
- If your job duties involve extensive travel (i.e., business trips), any injuries you sustain while traveling for work are usually covered. Likewise, if you are driving a company vehicle during a regular commute to or from work, you might be covered.
- If your injuries resulted from misconduct on your part, such as participating in a prohibited activity or breaking a workplace safety rule, your injuries are usually covered despite your mishap.
- If your job duties exacerbates or aggravates of preexisting condition such that it results in illness or injury, it may be covered by workers’ comp. Likewise, if long-term exposure to noisy work environments over time (i.e., construction sites) result in hearing loss, it may be covered unless there is another cause for the hearing loss.
- Job-related mental conditions are covered under workers’ compensation. Examples include on-the-job mental stress, depression due to a workplace injury or being traumatized by a disturbing event at the workplace, such as injury or death of another worker on the job. Job-related mental conditions can be difficult to prove. This is one area where consulting with a workers’ compensation lawyer would be very beneficial.
- Any illness or disease that results from your work entitles you to workers’ compensation. Examples include asbestosis caused by long-term exposure to asbestos or black lung disease caused by long-term exposure to coal dust. You will most likely need an attorney to help you prove your case, because it can hard to prove that a disease or illness is job-related and would not have occurred regardless.
Your Job Security While on Workers’ Compensation Leave
Being on workers’ compensation should not jeopardize your job security. However, some workers do find themselves on the unemployment line once their leave time is up, and in some cases it’s perfectly legal. An workers’ compensation attorney can explain employer rights and obligations under the law, as well as your legal options if you feel you were illegally terminated while on workers’ compensation leave.
You cannot lose your job solely because you were on workers’ compensation leave. An employer cannot lay off, demote, fire, harass or otherwise harm an employee who exercises his or her rights under the workers’ compensation system. An employer also cannot retaliate against any employee requesting or receiving workers’ compensation benefits. You can sue your employer if your he or she fires you or lays you off solely because you’re on workers’ compensation leave and/or you request such leave, and you would have a good chance of winning your case.
If your employer can prove, however, that you would’ve been fired or laid off for reasons unrelated to your workers’ comp claim, chances are you will lose your case. Worker’s compensation does not protect you from being laid off or fired if your employer has a valid reason for doing so that has nothing to do with you receiving workers’ compensation benefits. An employer can fire you for poor performance even if you’re on workers’ comp leave. An employer can lay you off while you’re on worker’s comp leave if you would’ve been laid off regardless of whether you were working or on leave.
You can contact Colorado’s workers’ compensation board if you feel you were singled out because you went on workers’ compensation leave. Your workers’ compensation attorney can also review the circumstances surrounding your job loss to see whether or not you have a case you can win.
Injuries For Which You Can Sue Your Employer Outside of Workers’ Compensation
Filing a worker’s compensation claim is the usual route most people take when they’re injured on the job, but you can hold your employer liable for certain injuries outside of workers’ compensation. You will most likely need to retain an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation cases. Injuries for which you can sue your employer for damages include the following:
- Injuries caused by a defective product. You could sue the product manufacturer if it is determined they were aware of any potential dangers and failed to properly warn your employer or other employees using the product. The manufacturer may be held liable for any medical expenses, lost wages, as well as pain and suffering.
- Injuries caused by a toxic substance. Toxic substances can cause two types of injuries: acute injuries that are immediately noticeable like burns, rashes or poisonings, and latent injuries that take months or years to appear, like certain cancers and/or lung disease. You could sue the manufacturer of the toxic substance you were exposed to that caused severe illness or injury.
- Injuries caused by the actions of a third party. If you were injured as a result of negligence on the part of a colleague or other person at your workplace, you may be able to sue that person. You should talk to a personal injury attorney to see what legal options are available to you.
- Injuries caused by egregious or intentional conduct by your employer or a colleague. You could file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer if you can prove he or she intentionally or egregiously caused your injuries. For example, you get into a heated discussion with one of your managers and the manager shoves you so roughly you fall and injure yourself. Another example is when your employer asks you to work in an unsafe environment despite being well aware of the dangers of working there. Not every state allows you to file this type of lawsuit, nor is this option available for federal government employees.
- You are injured and your workplace does not carry workers’ compensation. You may be able to sue your employer if you can prove the employer was at fault for your injury. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can advise you of your legal options.
Living Trusts: Some False Claims You Should Watch Out For
The decision to get a living trust stems from the desire to protect your assets and ensure your beneficiaries are well provided for when you are no longer able to provide for them. When looking for an estate planning attorney or trust company, you need to be careful not to be swayed by certain false claims these individuals may make.
- Exaggerated claims about probate costs. Some companies or attorneys inflate probate costs and exaggerate how much “hassle” you will have to go through during probate. They will also lead you to believe that a trust is the only way you can avoid probate–which isn’t true.
- False information about tax benefits. Be leery of companies advertising supposed tax benefits of living trust. Living trusts have no effect on your taxes.
- Living trusts shield you from creditors. A living trust cannot protect your property and assets from creditors unless it is irrevocable – in which case not even you would have access to your own assets or property.
- Claiming living trusts are much cheaper to set up. Living trusts are actually expensive and can cost five to six times more than the cost of a will. A living trust can even cost more than probate depending on the size of your estate.
- Claims they can “quickly”set up your living trust. Living trusts take a lot of time to set up properly. It involves more than creating a document; it requires a complete transfer of property from your name to the trust to be valid, known as “funding the trust”.
- Claims that a living trust eliminates the need for a will. A living trust is not a replacement for a will. You need a will to appoint guardianship or conservatorship for minor children, and a will can provide provisions for asset distributions that are included in the trust.
Settlement of a Living Trust
The process of settling a living trust is faster than that of probate administration. Although there no court involvement, there is still a lot involved.
- The trustee gathers information pertaining to the deceased, financial data and estate documents. The estate attorney reviews the information, explains the settlement process and determines the necessary steps.
- The estate attorney and trustee reviews property and financial information contained in the estate documents, as well as any other legal documents. The trustee and attorney discuss issues pertaining to the legal documentation, as well as asset allocations. The attorney and trustee should both understand the desires and needs of the family, as well as the family dynamics.
- The estate attorney prepares and explains the documents needed by the trustee in order to have legal authority to act on the trust’s behalf. Once the trustee signs these documents, he will have the authority to send notices to family members, beneficiaries, appropriate government agencies and financial institutions. The services of a tax professional and accountant may be enlisted for the purpose of determining asset values and income and estate tax issues.
- The estate attorney and trustee works with a financial advisor and accountant and to develop a plan for asset allocation, division or distribution. The plan should meet the estate documents’ dictates, fiduciary objectives of the trustee, the tax advantages, and the desires of the family.
- The estate attorney and trustee finalizes all documentation to start the trust implementation process. This involves deed transfers, changes to business entities, communication to financial institutions and asset liquidation.
- The final step is confirmation by the trustee that each step of the trust settlement process has been completed.
Some Things to Know When Contesting a Will
If the recent reading of a will left you feeling like a neglected stepchild, you have the right to contest the will. There are grounds under which a will can be contested.
- Testamentary capacity. A legitimate will is one drawn and executed by a person who was in sound mind and had the legal capacity to do so. The person presenting will for probate must be able to prove that the maker of the will was competent to do so at the time of execution.
- Improper execution. In addition to have the testamentary capacity, the execution of a will must be witnessed by at least one person (preferably two).
- Undue influence or duress. A will that was drawn and executed under coercion or pressure from outside sources or persons who had something to gain from the will can be contested.
- Fraud. You can contest a will that was drawn and execution under deception by another person.
- Forgery. A will signed by anyone other than the testator is automatically contestable. You will need to prove that the signature is in fact a forgery.
- Revocation. This refers to any act on the part of the testator that revokes the will being contested.
You should consult with an attorney who is familiar with the Surrogates Court. You will be required to make what is referred to as a “Prima facie” case that the will was executed under duress or that the maker lacked the testamentary capacity at the time the will was drafted and signed.
Colorado Auto Theft: Helping Colorado Drivers Prevent Becoming a Victim
Reported auto theft cases in Colorado have decline in recent years. Approximately 12,182 motor vehicles were stolen in 2009, a 4.4 percent decrease from 2008. Despite this decrease, over 12,000 auto thefts occur every year, according to the FBI.
Auto theft is not only causes emotional and financial stress to victims, but it puts a financial strain on the state as well. The theft of 12,182 motor vehicles in 2009 in Colorado cost the state an estimated $79.2 million dollars. Victims of auto thefts also usually see an increase in auto insurance premiums.
Coloradans Against Auto Theft (CATT), a coalition that includes insurance companies and law enforcement, recently launched “Lockdown”, a state-wide auto theft prevention initiative aimed at educating Colorado drivers on preventing becoming a victim of auto theft by implementing preventative measures such as: locking their car at all times, parking in well lighted, high traffic areas, avoiding leaving keys in the ignition while the car is running and avoiding keeping additional keys in the car. Through enforcement efforts, a consumer-focused auto theft prevention site and statewide education campaigns, CATT aims to empower driver to protect themselves against auto theft.
Persons accused of auto theft in Colorado face harsh penalties, but a seasoned Colorado defense attorney can help you build a strong defense if you find yourself in such a situation. Your attorney can work to reduce any penalties you’re facing and ensure you are treated fairly and that your rights are protected.
Military Divorces: What You Need to Know
Going through a divorce can be an emotionally and mentally draining process. For military spouses the process can be a bit more stressful due to some unique issues that are addressed through Colorado’s military divorce laws. An experienced Colorado divorce attorney can clearly explain those laws, as well as your rights under them.
Colorado’s military divorce laws protect a military spouse from being held in default for failure to respond to a divorce petition. The laws protect an active military spouse from being divorced and not know it. A military spouse can postpone a divorce proceeding or the duration of his or her active duty and up to 60 days afterward under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act–and in the courts’ discretion. A military spouse can elect to waive his or her right to postpone divorce proceedings under this act as well.
Like a civilian divorce in Colorado, the grounds under which the courts will grant a military divorce are that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Either spouse must reside in and be stationed in the state of Colorado. However, if a spouse residing in Colorado files for divorce from a spouse not residing in Colorado, the courts may be unable to divide military retirement unless the filing spouse files an action in the state where the non-residing spouse lives.
The summons, accompanies by a copy of the divorce action, must be personally served to an active military spouse. If the divorce is uncontested, the spouse does not have to be personally served if he or she acknowledges the divorce action by signing and filing a waiver affidavit.
Child support and alimony or spousal support cannot exceed 60% of an active military spouse’s income. The courts determine the amount of child support using the same guidelines, schedules and worksheets used for civilian divorce.