The Legal Insider

April 2012

Trayvon Martin and “Stand Your Ground” Laws

The Trayvon Martin case has drawn national attention.  From Representative Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) sporting a hoodie on the House floor to the numerous protests in cities across the U.S., many folks are asking how this kind of killing can be considered legal. 

It all hinges on Florida's “Stand Your Ground” law, also known as a “Line in the Sand” and “No Duty to Retreat” law.  This law allows citizens to use “deadly force in self-defense.”  They stipulate that a person has no duty or other requirement to abandon a place in which he or she has the right to be, or to give up ground to an assailant. 

Put simply, if you are confronted on the street by a person with a knife, you can use deadly force in your defense.  However, these laws have only been enacted in some states: Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia.  A number of the other states are still considering some form of the law. 

An important part of the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case will center around whether Zimmerman reasonably believed he was about to be seriously harmed by Martin.  There are countless variables in a he-said she-said case like this and actual evidence will weigh heavily.  George Zimmerman may avoid criminal liability and even civil wrongful death liability, since Florida provides immunity for those acting under this law.

Uninsured Drivers on the Rise

The number of uninsured drivers on the road is on the rise again.  In some states like Mississippi, upwards of 28% of drivers are uninsured.  That’s over 1 out of every 4 people!  About the same goes for New Mexico, Florida, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.  Staggering figures, right? 

Lucky for everyone, we’ve got the skinny on uninsured driving from the insured and the uninsured drivers’ vantage points. Check it out!

Hit By An Uninsured Driver

Many policies have options for mishaps like being hit by an uninsured motorist or an “under-insured motorist.” However, if your policy doesn’t have these options, or you don’t want to pay for them, you may need to find a local personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer in your area can advise you on how best to get back on the road. In many cases, a lawsuit is the best option to cover damages and any lost wages that insurance will not.

Help, I’m Uninsured

Our first, and most obvious, recommendation is to purchase insurance. There are a number of cheap auto insurance companies that offer “state minimum coverage.” If you’ve already had an accident or were cited for driving without insurance then you will absolutely want to consult a lawyer today. You can be held responsible for paying uncovered damages and any lost wages.  Many states suspend a driver’s license for anyone caught without insurance. A lawyer can help negotiate and even lessen your out-of-pocket costs.

Three Legal Alternatives to Divorce

Infidelity, poor communication, child-rearing issues, and financial matters are some of the most common reasons for calling a marriage quits.  When that time comes, you should consider 3 legal alternatives other than a traditional divorce. In some cases, couples want to make it seem like the marriage never happened. Other folks may seek these non-divorce alternatives because they feel a stigma is still attached to divorce. Trust me, the numbers are in your favor.

  • Annulments effectively nullify a marriage, so legally it never happened. Annulments get more difficult to obtain the longer you’re together, so you should talk to a lawyer soon if you believe this is your best option.
  • Legal Separation offers an option for couples that are on good terms but just don’t work together. Legally, separation means you’re still technically “married” but your assets and debts are divided. There are different types of marital separations, but typically the two parties live apart and agree to a custody agreement for their children, as well as divide property and debts. There can also be clauses that outline maintenance of the agreement. For example, “if one party stops paying child support, their property is then liable to cover the outstanding amount.”
  • Divorce Mediation is not a traditional family court case. Instead of arguing in court and paying your lawyer a lot of money, mediation is a good alternative for couples that are both ready for divorce. Mediators help couples file the proper paperwork, outline settlements, as well as prepare custody and support agreements.

Each case has different personalities, reasons for separation, and property to divide. If you’re thinking seriously about any of these options, contact a lawyer today. Most family lawyers offer a free consultation.

Most Important Preparations for Bankruptcy

You may not know that filing for bankruptcy can be a difficult process; one that you should prepare for.  There are a number of documents you must submit for the “Means Test” including information about your debts, assets, income, and other personal information. The Means Test decides if you will be allowed to file for Chapter 7 (liquidation) or if you will be required to file Chapter 13 (repayment).

Below are the 16 items you’ll want to get before you file bankruptcy. In any case, make sure you find a good local lawyer to represent you. It’ll make all the difference.

  • Proof of Income (6 Months of Pay Stubs)
  • Last 4 Years of Tax Returns
  • Social Security Card / Driver’s License
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Auto Insurance Policies
  • Homeowner's Insurance Policies
  • Any Real Estate Deeds
  • Real Estate Appraisals
  • Real Estate Bills
  • Mortgage Balance Statements
  • Auto Loan Statements
  • All Bills (Utilities, etc.)
  • 401(k) Plan Restrictions and Account Balances
  • All Account Statements for the last 3 years
  • Copies of All Titles and Registrations for Vehicles
  • Any Financial Information Submitted to a Credit Counseling Agency
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