Sunday, February 22, 2009

Can You Plea-Bargain in a Traffic Case? That Depends

The New York Times:
For years it was a normal routine in traffic courts in towns and villages across New York State: Drivers would negotiate at the courthouse with the state trooper... who cited them for moving violations to reduce the charge. The judge would then make it official.

But the State Police, citing ethical concerns, issued an order in 2006 banning the practice....Now, some lawyers have taken an unusual approach to challenge the ban: fighting tickets using a law established after the Civil War to protect the rights of former slaves.

The lawyers have cited the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which mandates that laws be applied equally to everyone, to argue that the State Police policy prevents drivers from receiving equal justice. Whether a driver can negotiate a lower fine, the lawyers say, depends on where they get a ticket and from whom.

Even routine traffic tickets can have serious impacts on a driver's insurance premiums and, in some cases, their license to operate a motor vehicle. Drivers who receive a ticket should always consider contacting a competent attorney of their own choosing before pleading guilty or attempting to plea bargain the ticket.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Beware Tax Scam Emails

From the Washington Post:
The Internal Revenue Service is warning U.S. taxpayers to be prepared for a steady increase in scams and virus attacks via e-mail, telephone and the Web as the April 15 tax-filing deadline approaches.

The most common type of scam arrives via e-mails claiming to come from the IRS or Treasury Department. They typically try to either scare consumers into thinking there is an error with their tax filing, or that they are eligible for a tax rebate or benefit from the government economic stimulus package that just passed on Capitol Hill.

These so-called "phishing" e-mails typically arrive in an e-mail that urges users to visit a site, which in turn prompts visitors to enter their personal and financial data, information that is then sent off to identity thieves.

"The Internal Revenue Service does not communicate with taxpayers via unsolicited e-mail," said J. Russell George, treasury inspector general for tax administration.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Company Held Liable for Unwanted Faxes

From the New York Law Journal:
Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise ship operator, faces damages of up to $2 million following a judge's finding that the company violated a federal statute by faxing a travel agent between 540 and 1,387 unsolicited advertisements over the course of about four years.

Eastern District of New York Judge I. Leo Glasser held that the faxes violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, which bars the use of any "telephone facsimile machine ... to send an unsolicited advertisement."

Businesses which might be contemplating the use of a fax machine to send advertisements should take heed of this decision before doing so. At the same time, consumers or others who might be on the receiving end of such faxes may wish to contact an attorney to review their legal rights.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Attorney Warns Homeowners: Beware of Deed “Scam”

OVID, NEW YORK--Attorney Steven Getman is warning homeowners not to fall for mail solicitations offering certified copies of property deeds.

The mailings, Getman said, typically include proper names, addresses and accurate dates for when the property owners’ deed was filed. It also calls the document an important one to have on hand.

The notice then offers to provide the homeowner with certified copies for approximately $60.00 to $70.00. The fee, the letter states, includes postage and handling, location and retrieval of the data.

At best, Getman said, the offer is a grossly overpriced service.

“Your local county clerk's office provides certified copies of deeds for substantially less,” Getman said. “Usually they charge about sixty-five cents a page for the deed, which is typically a four or five page document, plus a $5.00 certification fee.”

In addition, Getman explained, may counties will allow residents to view their deeds on the county’s computer system at no cost.

According to Getman, a new law took effect in October that requires that these solicitations include that fact that customers can obtain a certified copy of their deed from their county clerk for less than $20.00. This law, Getman said, is in response to concerns raised last year when many New York State residents received these notices in the mail.

“A given offer may or may not be illegal, but it’s so unfair to charge that much more for something that you can get at your local county clerk’s office,” Getman noted.

Getman urged anyone who receives a solicitation of this nature to contact their local county clerk or an independent attorney of their own choosing to review their legal rights.