How to Stay Safe during Winter Storm

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  • Bring pets and companion animals inside during severe weather.
  • Remember that running water, even at a trickle, can help prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Move any harmful cleaners and chemicals up out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.
  • Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area
  • Avoid driving in dangerous conditions such as: sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
  • Before tackling strenuous tasks in cold temperatures, consider your physical condition, the weather factors and the nature of the task. Overexertion can bring on a heart attack—a major cause of death in the winter. If you must shovel snow, stretch before going outside.
  • Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.
  • Remember about people who require special assistance, such as elderly people living alone, people with disabilities and small children.
  • Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal-burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawl space or any partially enclosed area. Locate unit away from doors, windows and vents that could allow carbon monoxide to come indoors.

 

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5 Tips to Avoid Speeding Tickets

Let me begin this article by stating that there is no such thing as fool-proof system to avoid receiving speeding tickets … except always driving posted speed limit. However, there are a few things you can do (and say) that can help you avoid getting more speeding citations.

  1. Work on your situational awareness. If everyone on the road is slowing down, there probably is a reason for that. Don’t be that guy who burns rubber leaving everyone behind, sticking out like a sore thumb.
  2. So don’t stick out. Which car is more likely to get pulled over, the tan sedan traveling in the slow lane, or the hemi orange Challenger?
  3. Keep quiet and always be polite. Once you get pulled over, never get snippy with the officer. This is not a place or time to argue your case. Challenging a police officer will not help you make your case but may result in additional citations. If you truly believe that the ticket was unfair, fight it later in court. Hand in your license, registration and proof of insurance. Remain polite but do not volunteer any information.
  4. If you do decide to engage the officer and try to talk your way out of a ticket, don’t insult the officer’s intelligence with some ridiculous excuse. Many officers are more likely to let someone off with a warning or non-point citation if that person is truthful than someone who is lying.  A traffic cop has probably seen and heard it all, if he or she happens to be in a good mood you may get lucky but don’t count on being rewarded for creativity.
  5. If you’re going to speed because let’s be frank everyone does it from time to time, and if you drive in NJ it may feel like everyone is speeding all the time, keep in mind that many officers may not bother pulling someone over who is speeding 5-10 miles over the limit, but once you are going 10+ miles you’re starting to stick out. Going over 20+ miles over the speed limit is even more likely to result in some unwanted attention from the police. Having said that, let’s go back to the situational awareness – going 10 miles over the speed limit in a residential neighborhood is not the same as speeding on a highway.
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New Year’s Resolutions – 2014

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We are know the typical New Year’s resolutions: lose weight, stop smoking, save money, watch less television etc. And we all know that most of these promises will be quickly forgotten by mid-February when we slide back into our comfort zones and resume our old habits. We want to better ourselves but oftentimes our goals are just too unrealistic. So why not make 2014 the year you get your legal affairs in order? Here are a few doable and worthwhile New Year’s resolutions that can help you upgrade your legal and financial situation.

1. Know where your “legal papers” are and store them properly. Do not let your important paper-work haphazardly pile up or end up getting lost or stolen. Keeping your documents in order can prevent missing crucial deadlines (curt dates or filing dates), forgetting to renew licenses, permits and insurance, and becoming delinquent on due bills.

2. Review and update your estate plan. A great estate plan created in 2013 might not be a great estate plan in 2023.  Make sure you review your Will, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directives, and Trust documents every year so your estate plan still protects your property, legal rights and wishes.

3. Do not use quickie internet forms.  A one-size-fits-all approach is never a good one when it comes to legal documents.  More often than not, some generic form created who-knows-where will not meet the ever-changing legal requirements where you live.  You will save money in the long run and avoid costly legal problems by retaining an attorney to listen to your personal needs and provide correct legal documents.

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The Perils of Free File-Sharing

The Internet can be a wonderful resource for news and information, it can help you find a job, or connect you with friends all over the world. However, it also has a dark side that lure many unsuspecting people into a trap with costly and embarrassing legal consequences. One of the most troubling is a program called BitTorrent.

BitTorrent is a file-sharing program favored by pirates hoping to trade free copies of software, movies, and music. There are other versions of the BitTorrent protocol know by other names — uTorrent, Vuze, LimeWire, and Transmission are some of the more popular variations. Every variant of BitTorrent does the same thing — it allows users to share files with other users on the Internet.

The program itself is fairly ingenious — it takes a large file, like a movie, and breaks it up into thousands of smaller pieces. As a user searches for a movie, it locates someone who has the file and begins downloading the small pieces from that user. The program keeps searching for other users with the same file, and as it finds these other users, they begin sharing pieces.

BitTorrent has two features that make it a favorite of pirates — first, it never stops searching for pieces, meaning that thousands of users share the file with the downloader. This gives it incredible download speed. Second, as soon as the downloader has any piece, of the file, he or she must share their parts of the file with another downloader — uploading cannot be disabled.

However, there are no legally available movies on BitTorrent! Movie producers have begun suing BitTorrent users by the thousands for their file-sharing activities. For example, Killer Joe was a box-office flop starring Matthew McConaughey. However, Killer Joe is widely and easily available on BitTorrent. To make back their investment, the producers have engaged in a mass litigation strategy against the users sharing the movie.

As of this date, the producers of Killer Joe have filed more than 50 lawsuits against hundreds of individuals seeking damages of up to $150,000 per user! Fighting the case could cost the defendants many thousands of dollars, and even a “cheap” settlement is typically $1,000-2,000. Suddenly, that “free” movie isn’t so free.

Even worse, some of the files on BitTorrent have been corrupted by hackers, embedding hidden viruses on your computer that can be used to access your bank accounts, personal files, and other private information.

To avoid this kind of lawsuit, don’t use BitTorrent. There are several legitimate sources of free movie content online — Amazon Instant Video and Netflix legally offer many free movies to their subscribers. Apple’s iTunes service also offers content, though not typically for free. Movies from these sources, both streaming and downloadable, are perfectly legal and will not get you in trouble.

Another important thing to do is password protect your wireless internet. “Wardrivers” are hackers who physically drive to locations looking for unprotected WiFi so that they can use BitTorrent on someone else’s network — when the lawsuit comes, it will be the completely innocent homeowner in court while the Wardriver gets away.

For the innocent homeowner, it will cost many thousands of dollars and several months of legal aggravation to clear his or her name. Many people, rather than deal with the risk and hassle of court simply choose to pay a settlement out of their own pocket.

BitTorrent is dangerous and risky, and can very easily land you in court. Lock down your wireless, and don’t use BitTorrent — there are no legal movies available there.

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When Parents Disagree on Medical Care for Their Children

Parents have a legal obligation to take care of their children including providing them with shelter, food and medical care. After separation or divorce, a court or the parents themselves will make a determination as to which parent the child will live with (child custody). Oftentimes, the child will live with one parent, who will thus have physical custody, and the other parent will be granted parenting time (visiting rights).  Most frequently, court and parents decide that legal custody is to be shared by both parents (joint legal custody).

Generally, joint legal custody is defined as the parents’ shared right to determine how to raise a child, with specific consideration to day-to-day activities. Parents are expected to make decisions together, without the interference of a court. Those decisions include making educational and medical decisions, such as deciding whether to pursue a particular medical treatment or procedure.

This works if both parents share common child rearing goals, religious, philosophical, cultural and financial ideas, and are able to parent collaboratively. However, parents must be able to effectively communicate and handle making joint decisions involving a child. When parents are unable to communicate with each other and have different ideas about raising children, often even a minor dispute can turn into a major disagreement.

Historically, many courts have upheld the right of parents to refuse medical treatment for their children, recognizing that fit parents are in the best position to make those difficult decisions.* As such, whenever a parent’s refusal is challenged it is usually not by a government entity but rather by the other parent who may have different religious, philosophical, cultural and financial ideas as to proper child rearing.

If parents cannot reach a mutual decision involving the day-to-day rearing of a child or making a medical decision, a court may consider a few alternatives:

  • Deferring to a neutral third-party, agreed upon by both parties, which might be a stipulation in the custody agreement
  • Court ordered mediation
  • Litigation, if both previous alternatives fail a court can make a decision for parents.

Courts generally do not want to be involved with the decisions pertaining to raising one’s children. However, once involved, courts will always consider the best interest of the child rather than religious, philosophical, cultural and financial ideas of a parent.

Here are some of the most frequently disputed medical decisions:

Vaccinations

The decision to vaccinate is filled with controversy. For many parents, it is the first medical choice parents make on behalf of their child. While vaccinations undoubtedly carry some benefits, there are those who believe that there are also risks associated with routine vaccinations that can lead to disability and even death.

While New Jersey has mandatory vaccination regulations, a child can attend public and most private schools with select or no vaccines if the parent or guardian provides a valid medical or religious exemption letter to the school administrator. Private and religiously affiliated schools may or may not accept religious vaccine exemptions, however. NJ does not currently allow parents to use a conscientious or philosophical vaccine exemption.

Dental care and orthodontics

Many practitioners of non-interventionist religious groups, such as Christian Scientists, do not believe in routine dental care or aesthetic orthodontics. For many others, decision to forego dental care or orthodontic treatment is based predominantly on parent’s financial situation. When someone struggles to put food on the family’s table, braces for the children are considered superfluous.  However, this can become trickier when parents have money, but one parent simply does not consider straight teeth a necessity.

Emergency care and hospitalization

Even most divisive philosophical and cultural beliefs often require compromise in times of emergency. If a child requires urgent care and is in the physical care of one parent, the second legal custodial parent might not even be informed prior to a child’s hospitalization or medical procedure.

If you and your former spouse/partner disagree on the practice of conventional medicine, a family law attorney or mediator might be able to assist you in reaching a compromise regarding your child’s medical care. After all, even a compromise might be better than going to court and having a judge make a decision for you.

* But while adult patients can refuse treatments on grounds of faith, the religious convictions of a child—or of their parents—are not generally an acceptable legal defense against withholding lifesaving treatment.

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Why You Should Become a U.S. Citizen – If You Can

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Approximately two-fifths of immigrants in the U.S. are naturalized U.S. citizens. While there are unauthorized immigrants and others who are ineligible to naturalize, there are supposedly more than 8 million noncitizens who are currently eligible to apply for citizenship but for whatever reason did not do so. It is not mandatory to become a US citizen, and the US immigration law allows an immigrant to be a permanent resident almost indefinitely, as long as he keeps on renewing his green card.

So why should you become a U.S. citizen? If you intend to live in the U.S. permanently, U.S. citizenship will provide you with a sense of security that you simply cannot experience with a green card. While permanent residents are already granted various rights in the United States, there are still some few restrictions and limitations. For example, a permanent resident may not travel to a foreign country for an extended period of time and is not given the right to vote. Green card holders can also be deported, while U.S. citizens’ right to remain in the United States cannot be taken away. You may sponsor only your spouse and children if you are a green card holder, but you will be capable of sponsoring other relatives after you become a citizen of the United States. As a U.S. citizen, you will also get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to this country. Citizens simply have more rights and privileges than permanent residents, and if you are hoping to gain some of these rights, then you might want to apply for U.S. citizenship.

On becoming a naturalized American citizen, a permanent resident will be granted all the rights that are conferred to natural born U.S. citizens. Only U.S. citizens can vote in elections and can serve on a jury. Additionally, becoming a U.S. citizen will give you the benefit of a U.S. passport and ability to apply for federal jobs which are typically reserved for citizens only. U.S. citizenship will also afford you more educational opportunities and access to more scholarships and financial aid.

Some eligible noncitizens choose not to naturalize because they believe their existing nationality offers more benefits. Others mistakenly believe that the U.S. citizenship may be out of their reach since a permanent resident has to meet a variety of eligibility requirements, such as residency requirement, good moral character, familiarity with the U.S. laws and history, and proficiency in the English language.

Those who are concerned about passing the English language and U.S. history exams will be glad to learn that some people qualify for a waiver of the English language requirement; and even if you do not qualify for a waiver, you do not need to be an expert in the English language to pass the exam. It is fine to speak with an accent and you can still pass the exam if you speak only basic English.

Before applying though, carefully consider whether doing so might put your green card at risk, as inappropriately or incorrectly filed application can not only lead to a denial but may even result in the government initiating deportation proceedings against you. Remember that citizenship applicants undergo an extensive background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to check whether an applicant has had any prior criminal or immigration violations. If you have any criminal history whatsoever, have failed to pay child support, failed to maintain your lawful status, omitted or misrepresented information on other immigration forms, or failed to pay taxes, we strongly suggest consulting an immigration lawyer before applying for naturalization.

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Immigration Reform is not Amnesty

There are roughly 10 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and under the current immigration law most of these people are unable to legitimize their status.
As of the time this article is written (March 2013), there is no amnesty and the immigration reform is still only in preliminary stages. Eight Republican and Democratic senators recently released their framework for comprehensive immigration reform and President Obama discussed his administration’s vision of what he thinks should be included in the bill to overhaul the immigration system, but so far these are only proposals and not the actual changes to the law. At this point in time, no one knows for sure if and when we can expect any actual immigration changes.

While there is no new immigration law that would allow all illegal immigrants to legitimize their immigration status, there are already some immigration practitioners who advertise amnesty and promise a quick and easy path to citizenship for all. These people either do not know what they are doing, and as such, they have no business practicing law; or they are scammers looking to rip someone off. Trust no one who guarantees to fix your immigration problems, especially if that person claims to be able to expedite the processing, “knows someone” working at the USCIS, or has “inside knowledge of the upcoming amnesty” that has not been announced to the public yet.

Even if there is an amnesty or even a change to the law that would make it easier to legitimize one’s status, it will not be a “freebie.” It is highly unlikely that the government will just grant everyone an immediate, permanent legal status. It is almost certain that just like DACA, any new law will include various requirements to qualify, and not everyone will be able to meet those requirements. One proposal states that in order to be able to apply for a green card, an illegal immigrant would have to pass a background check, pay a fine, pay back taxes, demonstrate employability, and prove English proficiency. No special treatment will be given, and those applying will still have to wait to find out if they have been approved or not. Under the best case scenario, it will take more than 12 years for an undocumented alien to become a U.S. citizen, and only if he or she qualifies.

At this time, it is best to wait and stay informed. And remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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