Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cayuga County man appeals arson conviction

From the Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard:
A former Ledyard man who was convicted last year of setting fire to his house has asked an appellate court to overturn that verdict.

In his appeal Chad Towsley said he was denied his right to a fair trial for many reasons...

The Rochester appellate court is expected to hear the case in early April, said court-appointed lawyer Steven Getman, who filed the appeal for Towsley. Getman asked the court to overturn the verdict and/or grant a new trial.

“When a defendant is denied his right to a fair trial he should be entitled to a new trial regardless of his verdict," Getman said.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It's the Law: Make sure your dogs have adequate shelter

New York State law requires dog owners who allow their dogs to spend time outdoors to provide shelter appropriate to the dogs' breed, physical condition and to the climate.

By law, requirements for a proper shelter include a waterproof roof, structural soundness and appropriate insulation to protect the dog from inclement weather. The law also mandates that the dog have enough space for freedom of movement and waste removal.

Owners who do not provide such housing are subject to escalating penalties, including fines and possible confiscation of the dog.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Humor: the 5 Most Wildly Illegal Court Rulings in Movie History

From Cracked.com, comes a funny, but informative, article on how movies so often misstate the law for dramatic purposes.

The article has some NSFW language and it attacks a couple of very beloved films (especially one involving Christmas), but it is a nice primer on several interesting legal points.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Avoiding and Resolving Problems with Motor Vehicle Transactions

Ithaca Journal:
Avoiding and resolving problems with car purchases and repairs is the topic of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County's November Consumer Issues Program. It will beheld at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov 17 at the Cooperative Extension Education Center, 615 Willow Ave (in Ithaca, New York).

According to the above article, topics will include "consumer's rights and responsibilities in the vehicle market, the New/Used Car Lemon Laws, and issues pertaining to the purchase, repair, and inspection of vehicles in New York state."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Seneca County Scenic Byway Plans Move Forward

Finger Lakes Times:
Barry O’Neill of Lodi and Steven Getman of Ovid, directors of the Seneca Lake ByWay Inc., report that the group’s seven-year campaign to have an 18-mile stretch of Route 414 from Watkins Glen to the Ovid-Lodi border on Seneca Lake is nearing final approval by the state Department of Transportation.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dogs’ deaths spur outrage

Finger Lakes Times:
ROMULUS - It’s a case that’s caused a wave of reaction near and afar.

In July, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, the owner of the Black Diamond Acres dog breeding kennel admitted to an animal health inspector that he took the lives of 93 dogs in his care by poisoning them with carbon monoxide generated by a small gas engine.

Exhaust fumes from the engine were piped into a small enclosure inside the barn where the dogs were kept, the report said.

David Yoder, a member of the area’s growing Amish population, had been in the business of producing small breed dogs for the past few years.


Romulus Town Supervisor David Kaiser quickly reacted to the situation that has drawn national attention.

“Like most of our community, I am outraged by these allegations. This story is a horrible reminder that state and federal oversight of these facilities is incredibly lax and may cause needless suffering to innocent animals,” Kaiser said.

“Several years ago [the town] took the initiative to regulate dangerous puppy mills, by enacting a new zoning law that required breeders to treat animals humanely. That law has been used by other communities as a model to fight the public health threats caused by mistreated pets. Our town will continue to push for fair treatment for our companion animals,” he said.

Town Attorney Steven Getman will be consulted to determine whether any violations of the town’s zoning law occurred...Kaiser said.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Many Families to be Impacted by Changes in New York Laws

OVID, NY--Attorney Steven Getman is urging New York State residents to became aware of recent changes to state law which may impact them or their families.

According to Getman, these changes include the following legislation:
• Allowing No-fault Divorce in New York.
• Revising the New York State Power of Attorney rules.
• Authorizing Family Court judges to issue orders of protection for witnesses in domestic abuse cases.
• Requiring employers to give same-sex couples the same funeral leave benefit for a death in the family as other couples.
• Providing domestic workers with industry-specific protections and labor standards.
• Enhancing protections for consumers in case a health insurer or health maintenance organization (HMO) discontinues a class of policies or contracts.

According to Getman, more information on each law may be available here.

“These new laws, once they take effect, have the potential to dramatically impact several aspects of New Yorker’s lives,” Getman explained.

“As with any laws, persons who believe they may be affected should consider consulting with a qualified attorney of their own choosing to discuss their rights and potential responsibilities.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Beware this Travel-related Email Scam

OVID, NEW YORK—Attorney Steven Getman is warning consumers to be aware of a scam involving unlawfully accessed email accounts from web-based email providers.

According to Getman, potential victims report receiving an urgent email from an account known to them. The email includes an urgent plea for money, recounting a false claim that the email sender was traveling abroad and was mugged or robbed of all cash and property. The email also requests that funds to be wired via Western Union to help cover expenses during the interim period, with a promise to repay the loan. The same email is sent to nearly every email address listed in the sender’s address book.

This scam relies on the fact the potential victim will act swiftly because of the urgency of the message coming from a trusted source – often the account of a friend, relative, or colleague. This scam has multiple victims — the people who receive this email as well as the sender, whose email account is compromised and used for the scam. The perpetrators often gain unauthorized access to the email account used for the scam through an earlier “phishing” (identity theft) scam, whereby the email account holder is tricked into revealing his or her password information.

Because the scammers have access to all of the saved emails in the compromised email accounts, they may learn a significant amount of personal information about the email account holders and be able to convince skeptical recipients of these emails that the scammer is, in fact, the actual friend, relative, or colleague associated with the email account.

According to Getman, since the vast majority of these scams originate on other continents, the best way to combat this newest type of e-mail scam is simple: education. Getman suggests some tips to avoid becoming a victim of this and similar email schemes:
• Avoid immediately responding to information provided via email until you have first verified the source. Confirm the information contained in an email by speaking directly with the parties in question.
• Be skeptical of any request for money made via email, particularly if accompanied by claims of urgency or necessity.
• Do not respond to unsolicited email such as “spam,” since these emails may potentially contain software that is harmful to your computer and which may be designed to compromise your passwords and other personal identifying information.
• Be extremely cautious about sending any personal identifying information, banking information, or any other sensitive information in response to email requests. Unless you are expecting such a request, or you have initiated them yourself, in most instances you should not be sending this information to anybody.
• Be cautious about any emails which appear to come from financial institutions. Many scams involve emails that appear to be legitimate bank communications and even provide links to the financial institution’s web site. These links may look exactly like the actual bank’s web site, but in reality, may be capturing the login and password information that you provide.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Drunk Driving Laws Take Effect in August

Attorney Steven Getman is reminding New Yorkers that new penalties for drunken driving take effect next month.

“The state’s new DWI law takes effect August 15,” Getman said. “This law forces anyone convicted of Driving While Intoxicated, even first-time offenders, to equip their vehicles with ignition locks.”

These locks, Getman explained, are intended to make it impossible for anyone to drive drunk.

Drivers will need to blow into a nozzle when starting their cars, Getman said.

Blowing more than a .025 percent blood-alcohol content will lock the car’s ignition. Some models will also sound an audible alarm.

According to Getman, the new law requires the devices in even in the family cars of convicted drivers, meaning that family members will have to submit to the same tests in order to use the vehicles.

The interlock devices are estimated to cost up to $100 to install and then another $70 to $110 a month -- paid for by the defendant -- for a minimum of six months.

“The punishments for those convicted of DWI are severe,” Getman noted. “In addition to fines and jail, the convicted drunk driver can lose both their ability to drive and, in some cases, the ability to travel to and from employment.”

According to Getman, any person accused of Driving While Intoxicated should retain the counsel of a legal professional to insure that they are fully aware of their rights and responsibilities under the law.

Friday, June 25, 2010

New York's Family Health Care Decisions Act

Attorney Steven Getman is reminding New York families that the state's "Family Health Care Decisions Act" is now in effect.

"This law establishes the authority of a patient's family member or close friend to make health care decisions for someone who is incapacitated and cannot make his or her own medical decisions," Getman explained.

"The family member or friend would also be empowered to direct the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining treatment when the requirements set forth in the law are met."

The law only applies to patients who did not leave prior instructions or appoint a health care agent. Valid health care proxies and other forms of medical instructions remain in effect. New Yorkers are still encouraged to prepare a health care proxy, Getman noted.

"The proxy form can be tailored to give the agent as much or as little authority as the individual desires, and the agent must make decisions in accordance with the principal’s wishes or, if such wishes are not known, in accordance with the principal’s best interests," he said.

More information on the new law can be found here. Getman suggests that anyone with questions about the new law and how it might affect themselves or their loved ones should contact a qualified attorney of their own choosing to discuss their legal rights and responsibilities.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Law on Recycling Computer Parts, Printers

From the Auburn (NY) Citizen:
Under the law recently signed by Gov. David Paterson, all manufacturers that sell covered electronic equipment in the state must have a free, convenient electronic waste, or "e-waste," recycling program in effect by April 1, 2011.

The law also makes it illegal for individuals to dispose of electronic waste at landfills, effective Jan. 1, 2015.

The law covers televisions, VCRs, DVD and mp3 players, game consoles, fax machines, and computers and their peripherals such as monitors, keyboards, mice, scanners and printers.

The complete text of the new law can be found here.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Area Forum Examines Tax Credits, Scams

From the Ithaca Journal:
A community forum on the 2-1-1 system, the earned income tax credit and consumer scams is planned for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the BorgWarner Meeting Room of the Tompkins County Public Library, 101 E. Green St.

Reservations may be made by calling 607-272-6286 or 2-1-1.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Changes in New York Law Affect Teenaged Drivers

Ovid, NY (May 3, 2010)—Attorney Steven Getman is reminding teenaged drivers and their parents that new restrictions on graduated licenses are in effect.

“The New York State legislature has amended several sections of the Vehicle and Traffic Law that affect graduated drivers,” Getman explained. “These changes took effect in late February and will affect many of the state’s teenaged drivers.”

According to Getman, the changes include:
• A junior learning permit must be held at least six months before a junior license issued.
• The number of non-family passengers under the age of twenty-one who may ride in a motor vehicle with the junior operator has been reduced from two to one.
• The number of supervised driving hours before an applicant may take the road test has increased from twenty to fifty hours, including fifteen hours after sunset.
• New provisions related to penalties for violating the graduated licensing laws have been added.

The changes to the law are contained in Chapter 403 of the laws of the 2009, Getman noted.

More information on the new law can be found here. Parents and teen drivers who have questions about how the new laws affect them are encouraged to consult with an attorney of their own choosing, Getman said.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Beware of Phone Scammers Using Social Media

New York State Police are warning upstate New York residents of telephone scams involving social media:
There have been reports of individuals receiving phone calls from a person pretending to be a relative or friend stating that they are in trouble and that they require immediate financial assistance. The perpetrator will request a sum of money be transferred via Western Union to a location which is typically out of the country.

It is believed that the person(s) involved in this scheme, obtain the victim's personal information via social networking websites such as MySpace or Facebook. The suspect(s) are able to obtain information as to where the friend or relative may be vacationing to add legitimacy to the call.

Posting information on when you will be vacationing invites the possibility of criminal activity and makes an excellent tool for criminals to plan their activities.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Former Supervisor Cleared of Ethics Charges

Finger Lakes Times:
Former Fayette Supervisor Edward Barto has been cleared of ethics charges filed against him by Concerned Citizens of Seneca County.

County Attorney Frank Fisher reached that decision in a Jan. 15 opinion, but it was not made public until this week by Barto’s attorney, Steven Getman of Ovid.....

Barto, reached Tuesday, said he was pleased that the complaint was dismissed. But he expressed frustration at the group’s tactics and the fact that Fisher’s decision was not given to him or made public by the citizens group.

“I’m glad to hear that the county confirmed that I did nothing wrong,” Barto said. “I always did my best to uphold the integrity of my office, and this opinion supports that.”

“At the same time, I think it stinks that this special interest group had no problem smearing me publicly when it suited their political whim and then, after I was cleared, they never said anything about it,” he said. ““I had to get an attorney to find out the complaint had been dismissed.”

Getman said he hopes the parties can discuss their issues more amicably in the future.

“Reasonable people can and do disagree on environmental issues,” Getman said. “But it ill-serves the public debate when one side or another tries to criminalize policy differences.’’

Monday, April 5, 2010

Speeding cushion no more?

According to Syracuse news channel YNN, "more and more drivers nationally are getting pulled over and ticketed for only being just a few miles over the limit":
A study published in the Journal of Law and Economics found the number of tickets officers write goes up when the economy is down especially as states and cities across the country use traffic enforcement to balance their budgets.

A speeding ticket, whether deserved or not, can have serious impacts on your insurance rates and even your privilege to drive within the state. If you receive a ticket, even if it is for only a few miles over the speed limit, you may wish to consult a qualified attorney to protect your legal rights.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Verdict Reached in Seneca County Prison Assault Trial

Finger Lakes Daily News:

A Seneca County jury found a former Five Points Prison inmate “not guilty” of felony assault and harassment charges and “guilty” of a misdemeanor charge following a three-day trial in County Court.

According to defense attorney Steven Getman, the defendant, Jesus Torres (age 33), was originally charged with Assault Second Degree and Aggravated Harassment of an Employee by an Inmate, both felonies.

The charges stemmed from an incident at the prison in August 2007. Torres was alleged to have intentionally injured one corrections officer and intentionally spit blood on another, during or following a fight with another inmate.

However, after the close of evidence, both charges were dismissed. Instead, the jury found Torres guilty of the lesser charge, Assault Third Degree.

The defense had asked that the jury consider the reduced charge on the theory that Torres may have acted recklessly, but did not intentionally injure the guard, Getman explained. In addition, the defense argued in court, there was insufficient evidence that Torres had intentionally spit blood on a corrections officer. In particular, Getman criticized the state corrections officials for not authorizing DNA testing that could have helped prove guilt or innocence.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Sinkiewicz had asked the jury to convict the defendant as charged, alleging that the prosecution had proven its case.

After approximately four hours of deliberations, the jury returned its unanimous verdict.
Following the verdict, County Court Judge Dennis Bender set Torres’ sentencing for April.

At sentencing, Torres faces up to one year in jail and a fine. Had he been convicted as charged he could have been sentenced to up to seven additional years in state prison.

After the current charges were filed Torres was transferred out of Five Points and sent to another facility. According to the New York State Department of Corrections website, Torres will be eligible for parole in 2013.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Carbon-monoxide detectors now mandatory in New York

Gannett News Service:
Starting Monday, a new law will go into effect requiring carbon-monoxide detectors in nearly all New York ... residences.

Previously, the devices were only required in homes built after 2002.

The law does not require detectors in houses that have only combustion-free appliances, like an electric furnace or stove. Residences built after 2008 must have a permanent detector hard-wired in.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Your Right to Remain Silent

A law school professor and former criminal defense attorney tells you why you should never agree to be interviewed by the police:

It's not a short video (it is about forty-five minutes long) but it does an excellent job explaining the fundamentals of the Constitutional Right to Remain Silent under the Fifth Amendment.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Craigslist Internet house-rental scam making the rounds in area

From the Ithaca Journal:

[T]he scammers cull real estate Web sites, replicate home sale ads and post them to Craigslist -- with their own e-mail address -- under housing rentals without Craigslist's knowledge.

The scammers sometimes ask for credit and work histories and Social Security numbers, which are used to commit identity fraud. Craigslist was notified, the FBI added, cautioning renters to deal only with local landlords, be wary if asked to only use a wire-transfer service, be suspicious of e-mails written in poor or broken English, be wary of ads with rental prices significantly lower than the average area rates, and to not reveal personal data like Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

Police are investigating a recent case involving Seneca and Tompkins Counties:

The crime involved an Ithaca house advertised for rent, with pictures, on Craigslist, the victim said. He and his fiancée went to the address, saw that it matched the pictures and was vacant, and expressed interest via the e-mail address listed in the ad.

According to the victim's account, a man claiming to be the owner replied, saying that he and his wife belonged to a local church, were working as missionaries in Nigeria and needed tenants to house-sit. The man gave him his and his wife's names.

They spoke on the phone and he agreed to send a $1,166 security deposit via Western Union, and the man gave a FedEx tracking number and promised to send the keys. He sent the money Saturday, but when he went to the house again, he found a man and woman moving in.

When he called the man back, the scammer made excuses and tried to say the other couple was actually moving out. The victim reported the crime to the Seneca County Sheriff's Office, which is turning the case over to the Ithaca Police Department.

Any one who believes he or she was the victim of an internet scam should make sure to contact law enforcement and, if appropriate, an attorney of their own choosing to review their legal rights.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tally in for southern Seneca red kettle drive

From the Ithaca Journal:
volunteers invested 162 hours in raising a record $1,539.53 at Ovid's Big M ($787.50), the Ovid McDonald's ($395.44), the Ovid post office ($230.66) and the Interlaken post office, ($125.87)...[the fundraisers included]Janie Nusser, school district superintendent, and attorney Mark Sinkiewicz, of Ovid, president of the board of education. Another attorney on duty was Steven Getman of Interlaken.

Charity Watch lists The Salvation Army among its most trustworthy charities. According to the site, "Groups included on the Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, and receive "open-book" status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to AIP."

I am honored to be allowed to participate in this annual fundraising event and urge others to join us in raising funds during next year's event.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Beware of phony earthquake relief appeals

The tragedy in Haiti has resulted in an outpouring of sympathy and charitable giving to the victims of the earthquake. Unfortunately, not every request for assistance is coming from a reputable relief organization. Some solicitations are from scam artists.

Here are some tips from Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau for people who want to make donations:
*Avoid newly formed charities and give to an established charity that has worked in Haiti. Find a charity with a proven track record of success in providing disaster relief and one that has worked in Haiti. You can find a list of highly-rated charities on Charity Navigator’s Web site. You can also research charities on the Web sites of these organizations: Better Business Bureau, American Institute of Philanthropy and Guidestar.

*Do not give to the Haitian government. Haiti is known to be a corrupt country.

*Designate your donation. With disaster related giving, you should specify that you want your donation used only to respond to this particular crisis, rather than letting the charity spend the money as it sees fit.

*Be leery of people contacting you via e-mail claiming to be a victim. Unless you personally know someone in Haiti, anyone alleging to be in this situation is most likely part of a scam.

*Avoid telemarketers. Hang up the phone, do your homework and give directly to a charity.

*Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Laws for the New Year

Approximately one dozen new laws took effect January 1 in New York State. These laws include the following:
# S.66026/ A.40026: Provides retirement benefits for new entrants to certain public retirement systems;
# S.5472-A/A.8402-A: Enhances consumer and provider protections by instituting a series of managed care reforms through limitations on denial of claims for pre-authorized health care services; relates to grievance procedures; relates to managed care health insurance contracts; relates to determinations involving urgent care by utilization review agents.
# S.8376-A/A.11752: Relates to identity theft, protection of sensitive personal information, employee personal identifying information and crime of unlawful possession of a skimmer device.
# S.8715/A.11759: Establishes clear rules for determining when livery drivers in New York City, Westchester and Nassau Counties are employees or independent contractors of livery bases, and creates a fund to give independent contractor livery drivers workers’ compensation benefits in certain circumstances where no-fault automobile insurance does not provide any or sufficient coverage.
# S.2810/A.1001: Authorizes the use of titles, initials or abbreviations of names as signatures on absentee ballots.
# S.56-B /A.156-B: Enacts Part QQ, Sections 1 and 2: To amend the workers’ compensation law, in relation to calculation of assessments.
# S.57-B/A.157-B: Enacts Part Z, Sections 2-a and 3-a: To amend the social service law, in relation to the pass-through, disregard and assignment of support for persons applying for or in receipt of public assistance, and collection of a twenty-five dollar annual service fee for child support enforcement services furnished to certain persons receiving such services.
# S.58-B/A.158-B: Enacts Part C, Section 27: To amend the public health law, in relation to payment by governmental agencies for general hospital inpatient services,
# S.522/A.1559: Requires a board of elections in a city of over one million to provide the same information in Russian that it provides in languages other than English.
# S.3330/A.8088: Adds providers of voice over internet protocol service (VOIP) to current standards.
# S.4135-A/A.6718-B: Removes excess barriers to dental residencies and permit dental residents to take the mandated dental ethics training course during the period of their residency.
# S.8122/A.10979: Exempts State-chartered credit unions from the special additional mortgage recording tax

The full text of each law may be found here.

If you believe that any of these laws may impact you or your business, you may wish to contact an attorney to review the legislation and advise you as to your responsibilities and rights under the statute.