Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New York State's Sparkler Law: What's legal, what's not.

While most fireworks remain illegal in New York State, a recent law has authorized counties and cities outside of New York City to legalize sparklers and certain sparkling devices for those who are over 18 years of age.

A list of legal fireworks, and the counties that allow them, can be found here.

It is a crime to provide a sparkler to a person less than 18 years of age, even in the jurisdictions where sparkling devices have been legalized.

For additional information about this law, including information on sales, please visit the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) web page.

This Fourth of July, be safe, celebrate America and have fun.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

New York enacts law to combat the blight of “zombie homes"

New York State officials have enacted legislation to prevent foreclosures and curb the threat posed to communities by “zombie properties.”

The bill was passed as part of the 2016 Legislative Session and signed into law Thursday (June 23).

The new law imposes a pre-foreclosure duty on the banks to maintain vacant and abandoned properties.

Previously, a bank or mortgagee had the responsibility of maintaining a vacant property once a judgment of foreclosure and sale was obtained, creating zombie properties and blight in communities. Reports indicate that these blighted homes have cost millions of dollars in lost property values.

The new legislation places the maintenance obligation on a mortgagee when the mortgagee becomes or should have become aware of the vacancy. Under the law, a bank has a duty to maintain and secure a residential real property where there is a reasonable basis to believe it is vacant and abandoned, and faces civil penalties up to $500 per violation, per property, per day for failing to do so.

The law also requires a foreclosing party to move to auction within 90 days of obtaining a foreclosure judgment. In addition, a foreclosing party would be required to take action to ensure that the property is reoccupied within 180 days of taking title.

Finally, the law will promote communication between local governments and mortgagees responsible for property maintenance.

The legislation takes effect immediately.

For more on the new law click here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

New York's high court approves extended jail for willful failure to pay child support

Syracuse Post Standard:
People who deliberately refuse to pay court-ordered child support can go to jail for consecutive six-month sentences for repeat violations, New York's highest court ruled Tuesday...

The Court of Appeals, with six judges ruling unanimously, said Family Court can revisit jail sentences for willful violations that were previously suspended and order an offender jailed on all of them. Those sentences can run consecutively, extending the time an offender can be locked up....

Federal data show that unpaid child support has risen over the past 30 years from nearly $3 billion to more than $115 billion nationally

The complete decision can be found here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New York passes bill pass bill requiring state pay for legal services for poor defendants

The New York State Senate on Thursday passed a bill that requires the state to pay the full cost of providing lawyers to poor defendants accused of crimes, a burden that largely falls to counties now.

The counties paid $372 million of the $521 million spent in 2014 to provide attorneys to indigent defendants.

Under Sen. John DeFrancisco's bill, the full cost of providing legal counsel to indigent defendants would gradually shift from the counties to the state over seven years, beginning in 2017. New York only partially reimburses counties for this cost now....

The bill would save counties huge amounts of money....

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, ruled that states are required under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to provide legal counsel in criminal cases for defendants who are unable to afford to pay their own attorneys.

[Until this] New York is one of the few states where the counties shoulder the bulk of complying with the Supreme Court's ruling

More here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: Elder Investment Fraud And Financial Exploitation Prevention Program

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is on the June 15.

In an effort to prevent financial exploitation of our senior citizens, New York State officials have announced the launch of the Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE).

The program educates doctors who frequently treat older patients about the risks that investment fraud poses to their patients and provides doctors with tools to recognize and report suspected fraud.

Studies show that approximately 20% of older Americans have been financially exploited, and that about 35% are afflicted by some form of cognitive impairment, which can make senior citizens particularly vulnerable to financial fraud.

The State Office of Children and Family Services’ Bureau of Adult Services, which plays a key role in recognizing and responding to financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, will also take part in the program.

For more information on Protective Services for Adults and other adult services provided through the local departments of social services click here.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Schuyler County local hotel tax on vacation rentals upheld on appeal.

Schuyler County’s local hotel tax on vacation rentals and other tourist facilities was upheld by a New York State appeals court Thursday (June 9). The tax is used to promote tourism and the local economy.

The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, ruled that the Schuyler County Treasurer properly applied the four percent local tax to these properties, rejecting an appeal filed by Thomas Schneider, owner of “Seneca Lake Vacation Rentals.”

Schneider had argued that his properties were exempt from the tax as “bungalows” under regulations of the State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance because they are furnished and do not provide housekeeping, food or other common hotel services.

On appeal, the court agreed with the county’s argument that state regulations only applied to state- administered taxes, not locally-administered taxes such as Schuyler County’s.

Schneider was represented by Ithaca attorneys Schlather, Stumbar, Parks & Salk.

Schuyler County was represented by county attorney Steven Getman.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Annual National Animal Abuse Prosecution Conference to be held in September

In partnership with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys have announced the the 6th Annual National Animal Abuse Prosecution Conference.

The conference’s goal is to provide prosecutors and law enforcement with the requisite skills to strengthen links between the criminal justice system and the community by protecting our most vulnerable victims and to enhance prosecutors’ ability to successfully identify and prosecute animal cruelty and animal fighting cases.

This year's conference focuses not only basics of animal abuse prosecution, but tackles new and emerging issues facing criminal justice stakeholders today.

The Conference will be held in Austin, Texas on the dates of September 14-16th, 2016.

Registration is now open. All attendees are required to register.

Friday, June 3, 2016

New York Assembly passes bill requiring state pay full cost of lawyers for poor defendants

New York would have to pay the $372 million a year that counties are now spending to provide lawyers to poor defendants accused of crimes under a bill unanimously approved Thursday by the state Assembly.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where Sen. John DeFrancisco, the deputy majority leader, has said its passage is one of his top priorities this year.

Under the Assembly bill, the full cost of providing legal counsel to indigent defendants would gradually shift from the counties to the state over seven years, beginning in 2017. New York only partially reimburses counties for this cost now...

The bill would save counties huge amounts of money. Small counties like Cayuga County, in Central New York, are paying about $835,000 a year for indigent legal services. In Erie County, surrounding Buffalo, taxpayers are paying $11 million a year.

More here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New national protocol for pediatric sexual abuse examinations

The U.S. Department of Justice has released a national protocol for Sexual Abuse Medical Forensic Examinations-Pediatric (Pediatric SAFE Protocol).

The protocol is designed for health care providers who conduct sexual abuse medical forensic examinations of prepubescent children and other professionals involved in an initial response to child sexual abuse. It has three main goals: "address the health care needs of prepubescent children who disclose sexual abuse or for whom sexual abuse is suspected; promote their healing; and gather forensic evidence for potential use within the criminal justice and/or child protection systems."

The protocol notes that "in the case of prepubescent children who display problem sexualized behaviors, examinations should be done by health care providers as these children may also be victims of sexual abuse."

More information about SAFE examinations is available here and here.