New Jersey Drivers and New York Traffic Tickets

Whether you are planning on heading to Hunter Mountain for some skiing or to catch a show on Broadway, you may want to know what to expect if you ever receive a New York traffic ticket. Since each state has different laws about out-of-state traffic tickets, here is some information you might like to know.

Both New York and New Jersey signed the Driver’s License Compact. This means NY and NJ share driver information with one another. If you are convicted of a NY traffic offense but are a NJ driver, NJ will be notified about the ticket you received.

According to N.J.S.A. 39:5D-4 (and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission), out-of-state moving violations are usually worth 2 points. This means that if the offense you got a ticket for is recognized in New Jersey, 2 points will be added onto your NJ driving record. Therefore, whether you were cited for reckless driving in New York, speeding, or for driving with a suspended license, you will have 2 points put on your NJ driver’s license. Note that no state can require you to pay a double fine, so you will only have to pay the state in which you were issued your ticket. So if you got a NY traffic ticket, you will need to pay the State of New York.

Be forewarned that if you are an out-of-state driver and accrue 11 points or more, you will lose your New York driving privileges. This accumulation of 11 points will be determined based on the New York point system, not your home state’s point system. Thus, if you are found guilty of speeding 41 miles over the posted speed limit or get convicted twice for speeding 21-30 miles over the limit, you will no longer be allowed to drive in the State of New York for a specified duration of time. Your driver’s license will not be suspended by your home state and NY does not have the authority to suspend an out-of-state driver’s license. However, since NJ and NY are both members of the Driver’s License Compact, NJ will honor the “suspension” of your New York driving privileges even though it will not take away your ability to drive elsewhere.

Note that if you are convicted of a NY traffic ticket for an offense (or set of offenses) that amounts to 6 or more points under New York’s point system, you will also be required to pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA). This applies regardless of whether you are a NJ driver or you are licensed in NY.

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How to Remove Conditions on Your Green Card after Divorce

If you adjusted your status based on a marriage to a U.S. citizen before your two year marriage anniversary, then your green card came with certain conditions. Those conditions mean that your green card expires in 2 years, instead of 10, and that you have to remove the conditions within 90 days of that expiration date by filing Form I-751 jointly with your U.S. citizen spouse in order to receive the 10-year permanent resident card.

But what happens if you and your spouse divorce before your conditional green card expires? Can you still remove the conditions and get the 10 year card? The answer is “yes.” You can still remove the conditions even if you do not file jointly with your spouse. But now you need to file a waiver of the joint filing requirement (same form, I-751). On the form, you now have to state the basis for your waiver. There are five:

  1. Your spouse is deceased;
  2. You and your U.S. citizen spouse entered into the marriage in good faith, but the marriage was later terminated due to divorce or annulment;
  3. You and your U.S. citizen spouse entered into the marriage in good faith, but you have been battered or subject to extreme cruelty by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse;
  4. Your parent entered the marriage in good faith, and during the marriage, you were battered or subject to extreme cruelty, by your parent’s U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, or by your conditional resident parent, or
  5. The termination of your status and removal would result in an extreme hardship.

In addition to Form I-751, you will have to provide evidence to establish the waiver claim you selected. The evidence you must provide depends on the waiver ground you select. The following is a list that may help you gather the necessary documents.

Documents that show you entered your marriage in good faith:

      • personal affidavit in which you describe how you met your spouse, how
        you got married, circumstances surrounding your marriage, your feelings,
        etc.
      • Birth certificates of any children born to your marriage.
      • Wedding photographs, cards, letters addressed to you and your spouse.
      • Letters or cards you and your spouse have written to each other.
      • Any documents that contain both your and your spouse’s names, especially financial documents (residential or car leases, mortgages, bank account statements, health/life/car insurance statements, rental agreements, “big-ticket item” purchases such as furniture and appliances etc.).

Documents that show you are no longer married:

      • A final divorce decree;
      • A death certificate;
      • Annulment order.

Documents that show abuse:

      • A personal affidavit in which you describe in great detail how you and/or your children were treated by your spouse (physical harm, injuries sustained, threats (including those of deportation), sexual demands/abuse, control, physical and/or mental cruelty, any other behavior that made you fear for your own safety or for safety of others) and how you and/or your children felt through these difficult times.
      • Affidavits from other persons who know about the abuse and the way your spouse treated you and/or your children.
      • Police reports (if there are any).
      • Past or present court orders prohibiting your spouse to approach you and/or your children (if there are any).
      • Medical reports showing you were physically and/or emotionally harmed by your spouse.
      • Letters from shelters at which you stayed, or therapists you had to see, or any other group support services you received as a result of your abuse.

Documents that show you will endure extreme hardship if you return to your country of origin:

      • A personal affidavit in which you explain what would happen if you were to return to your home country. For example, if you have been a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, describe the consequences of abuse suffered, as well as any impact of loss of the United States criminal justice system, health services system, etc. Any consequences you and your children would suffer as a result of having been victims of abuse.
      • Any other evidence in form of letters or official reports that would support your claim of extreme hardship if you were to return to your country of origin.

Note that all documents submitted must be in English, or translated into English. Additionally, the list of the documents above is not exhaustive. Thus, if you have any other documents that you feel would support your claim, you should use them.

Once everything is submitted to the USCIS, you will receive a receipt notice that extends your conditional resident status for one year. You will be able to continue working and living in the United States, as well as traveling. If you receive a notice to appear for an interview at your local USCIS office, you will need to attend and answer questions about your marriage and the grounds for the waiver you indicated on your application. At the end of the interview, the USCIS officer will decide whether to remove your conditions and grant you permanent resident status.

Know that the cases in which a waiver of the joint application is submitted are more complex than the ones where both spouses are filing jointly. Many times an advice of an experienced immigration attorney is needed. If you are in doubt as to which waiver grounds are applicable to you, or which evidence you must submit with your application, contact an attorney.

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What Happens To A Child After A Parent Is Deported?

The reports show that even parents of U.S. citizens are among thousands of undocumented immigrants being expelled from the United States each year.  While ICE will typically not detain individuals who are the primary caretakers of US born children (unless they are legally subject to mandatory detention based on the severity of their criminal history or their risk of flight), there is always a risk that even a custodial parent might get detained and deported.

Children born in the U.S. are given automatic citizenship, regardless of their parents’ immigration status. That is why when a nonimmigrant parent gets detained or deported, a U.S. born child may remain in the U.S. And so some children end up staying in the U.S. with another parent or family member, some end up in U.S. foster care, and some may leave the country to accompany their deported parent.

However, when a parent is detained and/or deported, putting up one’s child with other family members or friends is not automatic. It is not uncommon to hear of families who were left out of decision-making when it comes to the care and custody of their children.  As a result, children of detained and deported parents may end up in foster care instead of their own family.

Once deported, it is often difficult, if not downright impossible, to regain parental rights, meaning that children of deported parents can be put in foster care for long periods of time and even end up being put up for adoption.

Federal law requires states to pursue termination of parental rights if the parent has been absent for 15 out of 22 consecutive months, and some states allow proceedings to begin even sooner. That means that if a parent is no longer present in child’s life by being sent to detention center far away, if that parent is denied access to family court hearings, phones and attorneys, it may be nearly impossible to retain his or her parental rights.

Many advocacy agencies now encourage immigrants to have a detailed plan in place in case they are deported, including granting a power of attorney (POA) in advance to another adult. POA will allow you to appoint (out of court) a trusted friend or family member who has legal status in the U.S. to become legally authorized to look after your child(ren) in your absence.

Having such a plan can greatly speed up the process of placing one’s children with the family or friends and save them from being placed long term with the DCP&P (formerly DYFS in New Jersey).

Granting someone power of attorney to care for your child gives that individual many rights and responsibilities, but it does not actually transfer legal custody. A POA allows your agent, the person you have entrusted with the care of your child, the ability to make certain decisions while your child lives with that person. Custody itself can only be transferred through a court proceeding.

A power of attorney usually limits your agent’s decisions and actions to authorizing medical care and dealing with school issues. You can also award more specific powers, such as allowing your agent to enroll your child in sporting or other extracurricular activities.

Note that a child care power of attorney does not give your agent the power to make major decisions for your child; only a parent with legal custody can do that.

Be sure to inform whoever is caring for your child in your absence of important information including:

  • Medical information, especially if your child has any allergies or health problems, and the name and contact information for your child’s doctor;
  • School information;
  • Information about your child’s normal routine and activities;
  • Where your child’s birth certificate, travel document, medical records, school records and any other important documents are kept;
  • Any other special needs your child may have.

Please remember that giving someone “power of attorney” is very powerful.  Only give this to someone you completely trust!

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Recent ICE Raids

U.S. flag & ball and chain

At the start of the year, the Obama administration launched a large scale effort targeting recent immigrants who have already been ordered to leave the country. More than 120 adults and children have already been apprehended in raids conducted in several states.

The effort, so far has been mainly targeting immigrants who arrived from Central America. What is troubling, however, is the fact that despite claiming that ICE is only looking for those who have already been ordered to be deported, it appears that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents grab whichever people they can find who cannot prove their legal US status.

These ICE raids are also happening here in NJ.  Those who may be targeted by the ICE, or those who may find themselves in a position of being questioned by the ICE officer should know their legal rights.

If the Immigration Service comes to your home:

  • DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR!
  • Ask to see a Search Warrant. If the official does not show you one, you do not have to open the door.
  • Do not sign anything, especially an Order of Voluntary Departure, without first talking to a lawyer.
  • Do not answer questions. Do not tell them anything about where you were born or how you came to the United States.
  • Do not show any documents if the officials do not show you a Search Warrant.
  • Do not allow the official to enter your home. If you allow them in, you lose some of your rights.
  • DO NOT open the door for any strangers who say they are looking for someone else.

If the Immigration Service arrests you:

  • Do not answer any questions.
  • Do not say anything about where you were born or how you entered the United States.
  • Do not show any documents, except a letter from a lawyer. Do not show any false documents!
  • Do not sign anything, especially an Order of Voluntary Departure, without first talking to a lawyer.
  • Tell the Immigration Service official that you want your hearing in the city closest to where you live where there is an immigration court (so that they do not transfer your case).
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7 Things to get done before the end of 2015

 

christmas.tree.jpg

Although most people like to start their new to-do lists in January, the end of the year is actually a great time to wrap things up to start 2016 fresh. Here are some ideas of few things you can still do before 2015 ends.

1. Everyone is entitled to one free credit report every year on AnnualCreditReport.com.
Although it doesn’t include your credit score, the free report will provide you with a copy of your full credit history.
2. Don’t wait till the New Year to start your resolution to straighten out your life. It’s not too late to get that will done,  or to file an enforcement motion.
3. Make the upcoming tax season easier on yourself by organizing your bills, receipts, pay stubs, and files before the start of the new year.
4. Donate to your favorite nonprofit organization before the end of the year so you can claim your contributions as a 2015 tax deduction and help lower your tax bill. You may also be able to declutter your house and start on the next item on this list.
5. Get to cleaning for a fresh start to a new year. You definitely don’t want your clutter to carry on into 2016. This will put you in a better mood and mind-set when it comes to starting new resolutions, because a clear space can represent a blank slate and new beginnings.
6. Make sure you’ve spent the money in your Flexible Spending Account, because it will expire by the end of the month. You may be allowed to file an extension if you haven’t used up all your FSA dollars, but check your company policy first.
7. Finish at least 1 thing you wanted to accomplish in 2015 but have not yet been able to get to. This way you will finish 2015 on a high note with a sense of accomplishment.

 

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Thanksgiving aka “Drinksgiving” 

Happy Thanksgiving word cloud

Wishing you a HAPPY & SAFE THANKSGIVING

In addition to the start of the Holiday Season, Thanksgiving Eve unfortunately also kicks off the season for drunk driving.

With the holiday season comes the most dangerous time of the year for binge drinking, drunk driving and alcohol-related fatalities. According to a number of national organizations, these problems are expected to spike on Thanksgiving Eve, also known as “Drinksgiving.”

In New Jersey, a person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater who operates a motor vehicle is considered to be driving under the influence (DUI). Note that for those under 21, BAC drops to only 0.02% and for commercial drivers it’s 0.04%.

So how many drinks does it take to become legally drunk? The answer is “it depends.” if you are taking medication, even one drink could put you into the “DUI” category. For some people, it often takes very little alcohol to become legally drunk and certain physical characteristics such as weight, gender and body fat percentage can all be factors in the equation. Eating can also affect your outcome – you are more likely to fail a blood alcohol test if you do not eat. So, practically, if you’re wondering how many drinks you can have before driving, the best answer is None. In other words, whether or not you consider yourself “drunk,” the law considers you to be driving under the influence if your BAC is above the limit.

Being convicted of a DUI in New Jersey is a serious offense, carrying heavy penalties including:

  • Fines, fees and surcharges
  • License suspension
  • Ignition interlock device
  • Jail time
  • Community service

So if you want to drink on Thanksgiving plan ahead. Don’t wait until you start drinking to figure out how you’re getting home. Add contact information for local cab companies or car services into your phone or keep it handy. Many companies even offer special fares during some holidays, so check ahead. Identify a Designated Driver for the evening and STICK WITH IT. If plans change, have a back-up, such as one of the options above.

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Halloween Lawsuits

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Many scary things can happen on Halloween. In addition to facing scores of costumed ghouls and ghosts, you can also get slammed with a lawsuit if someone gets hurt on your property.

While such a risk exists every day, it is heightened on a day like Halloween when dozens of children and their parents go door to door trick-or-treating. More pedestrians walking near or on roads in the dark, more visitors to each household and potentially hazardous decorations all mean higher chance of someone getting hurt.

To protect visitors to your home, as well as yourself, this Halloween make sure that your walkway is well lit and your lights are turned on. Any walkway, steps, or pathway should also be cleared from any obstructions. You certainly don’t want someone tripping and falling in the dark, or slipping on wet leaves. Set up your decorations with pedestrian traffic in mind. Put away anything a child could trip over such as toys, bikes, garden tools or decorations. If it is windy, secure anything that can be turned into a flying “missile.”

While nothing gives quite the same spooky ambiance as a candle light, keep in mind that lit candles can pose huge fire hazard, so never leave any lit candles unattended or near flammable objects. Same goes for electrical lights, never staple, nail through or fasten electrical wires or expansion cords in any way that might damage the wire or insulation. Plug all outdoor lights and decorations into ground circuit interrupters to help reduce the risk of electric shock. Restrain your pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite any trick-or-treaters.

Last but not least, also think about vandalism. A smashed pumpkin may not be such a big deal, but a broken window, eggs all over your front door, or smashed lights can be. Again, good lighting may go a long way to discourage wannabe burglars or vandals. Keeping your shrubs and hedge trimmed can also aid in preventing trespassers damaging your property.

But no matter how you plan to celebrate Halloween this year, don’t let a potential lawsuit cramp your spooky fun!

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