Terrorism, Criminal Act, or Mental Illness: How Does the Law Decide?

Global acts of terrorism are on the rise. There have been periods of time where acts of terrorism or mass murders occur weekly. With the rise of ISIS, news agencies are very quick to label acts of violence as terrorism. For individuals acting alone, mental illness and the criminal’s mental state always come into discussion when examining the criminal’s motives. It is important to understand the implications and relationships of this terminology. When looking at mental illness and terrorism, both have elements of trauma, isolation, and exclusion. If a person who has mental illness turns to blaming a group or ideology and has support, this can turn into radicalization. If this radicalization then finds a group for support, this support can remove some of the feelings of isolation and exclusion. Thus, mental health can play a role in terrorist acts, but it’s not directly related to terrorism. Second, terrorists differ from criminals in a variety of ways. Generally, terrorists have been trained by the group they are acting for. Regular criminals usually have not been. Criminals also tend to hide after committing their crimes, while terrorist organizations usually proudly claim their attacks. These differences in actions come down to a discussion of the actor’s intentions. Terrorists are motivated by an ideology and use their actions to attempt to change policy with intimidation or coercion. Criminal acts lack this ideological element and are focused more on the results of the action, like the highest number of deaths possible. Terrorists choose their acts of violence such that they make a sweeping statement of some kind. This becomes very important because federal law in the US grants special authority when dealing with terrorist actions. The term terrorism contains substantial connotation, and news agencies need to be more careful when using this term. It is incredibly inflammatory and should not be used without serious examination of the evidence. There are a lot of things to consider before slapping labels on an act of violence. Usually circumstances are complex, and fact based thinking is essential.   No related...

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Will Democratic Legislator’s Sit In Force a Vote on Gun Legislation?

In the wake of the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States, advocates of gun control and those opposed to it wondered if there would be an immediate change in gun laws. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, proposed compromise legislation that prevented people who were on the federal no-fly list from purchasing guns. It would have impacted only 2,700 people and still, this simple, common sense legislation, failed to pass. Kendall Coffey, former U.S. Attorney, has observed that gun control legislation relates to mass shootings, such as the one at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, as well as interactions between individuals. These events most often occur in states with stand your ground laws, which give property owners the right to use deadly force if they feel threatened. Coffey explains that these complicated issues require careful consideration before making a judgment. “People who have been shot in the back have been pronounced, nevertheless, Stand Your Ground cases. Drug dealers in a fatal shootout, they’ve been able to invoke Stand Your Ground. What this law needs to get back to is self defense where it is reasonably necessary and where someone has the burden of avoiding killing someone if they possibly can,” he said. Coffey’s works frame the challenge legislators face. Their frustration with gun control legislation prompted House Democrats to hold a sit-in on the House floor, led by Georgia congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis. It was an attempt to force a vote on gun control. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more,” Lewis said. A series of gun control measures couldn’t raise enough support among senators and once again met with failure. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, was a sponsor of one of the measures that failed. Murphy represents the district that includes Newtown. He took the Senate floor in a filibuster calling for gun control reform that lasted over 14-hours and ended only after he won promises for votes supporting to gun control measures. Murphy expressed frustration with repeated “moments of silence” called for on the Senate floor in lieu of what he believes is meaningful change in gun control legislation. Upon ending his filibuster Murphy commented on Twitter that, “This is one step. The fight is far from over. But there are millions of voices calling for change. And we cannot stop pushing.” A dramatic change may occur regarding gun legislation, since the Democratic legislators have vowed to take over the floor one again when they reconvene on July 5th. To stay informed about these this rapidly changing topic, check out these resources: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence http://smartgunlaws.org/ Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence http://www.bradycampaign.org/ National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action https://www.nraila.org/articles/20160620/cox-statement No related...

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How Business Credit Actually Works

We all look at credit scores to keep our personal finances in order, but how do you do this for a business? Business credit is an incredibly important aspect of running any business, especially a small business. But how does business credit actually work, and how does it differ from a normal credit report? Personal and Business Credit Reports: What’s The Difference? What is business credit? It is a credit report that is in many ways similar to a personal credit report: it is a document that notes how you handle money and helps lenders estimate the likelihood that you will pay back a loan. Simply put, it measures how good you are with money. However, there are some notable differences. Aside from the fact that an individual’s finances and a business’s finances can differ, you’ll also have to pay attention to different credit agencies. For personal credit reports, TransUnion and Equifax are the standard providers of reports, but for a business it would be wise to pay attention to Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, Equifax Business, and Business Credit USA. Both businesses and individuals should care about their credit scores for one simple reason—having a good credit score means being able to easily open additional lines of credit, notably when applying for credit cards or loans. How to Establish Business Credit There are a variety of ways to establish business credit, many of which are similar to ways that one might establish personal credit. Here are a few examples: Incorporate your business. This means moving away from a sole proprietorship, where the business and the owner are effectively the same thing as far as taxes and legality is concerned. Creating a separate entity (like an LLC) is definitely the responsible thing to do. Obtain a federal tax identification number (EIN). Open a business bank account. Establish a business phone number. Open a business credit file with all three business reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Obtain business credit cards to build lines of credit. You can also establish a line of credit directly with vendors or suppliers. Pay your bills on time! This follows the same logic as with personal credit. Show that you can pay off your lines of credit, and your loans and your standing will improve. Related posts: Red Flags When Purchasing a Business Misleading Small Business Legal Advice to Avoid How to Peacefully and Legally End a Business...

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The Legality of Law Enforcement’s Use of LRAD, Sound, And Other Nonlethal Crowd Control Weapons

Given three guesses, we’re willing to wager that you wouldn’t be able to guess the hottest trend in nonlethal weapons used by law enforcement for crowd control: sound. The idea of using sound as a weapon dates all the way back to Biblical times, and it’s still in use today. In fact, just weeks ago a judge in Portland ruled that law enforcement could no longer use noise laws to quiet anti-abortion protestors. When noise laws aren’t being sited, high-tech equipment can be deployed for similar purposes. In police departments around the country, LRAD systems are now a common piece of equipment that is requisitioned to combat the threat of angry mobs and civil disobedience. What is LRAD? LRAD stands for Long Range Acoustic Device, and it is an acoustic hailing device used for long-range communications in a variety of purposes, including non-lethal, non-kinetic crowd control. According to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, “The LRAD can reach decibel levels as high as 162. For comparison, a normal conversation is usually 60 decibels, while a lawn mower can reach up to 90 decibels. A level of 130 decibels is typically considered the average pain threshold for most humans.” What’s more, Informed Health Online notes that a jet engine registers at about 142 decibels, and anything above this level is considered acoustic trauma. LRAD has been used several times in the past by law enforcement in the US, including the following events: 2004 NYC Republican convention 2009 Pittsburgh G20 summit Occupy Oakland protests in 2011 Eric Garner protests in NYC in 2014 Beyond LRAD, there are also many other options for nonlethal weapons used by law enforcement that sound like they are right out of a sci-fi novel! The Legality of LRAD and Nonlethal Weapons By and large, these weapons and tactics are in fact used legally. If that surprises you, that’s probably because they tend to skirt the line between nonlethal and lethal weapon. There are, of course, several restrictions on nonlethal weapons that cause require their designs to comply with particular standards. This topic is a perfect example of how laws need to be specifically worded. Laws bind both civilians and law enforcement, and both will attempt to find the cracks in them that allow them to do what they want. Therefore, lawmakers need to stay extra vigilant so that they create laws that can’t be abused by either side. No related...

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The Depiction Of Lawyers in Media

We’ve all seen television dramas and movies that include lawyers and depictions of courtrooms and legal cases. You might not be surprised to learn that these depictions are not 100% accurate. However, the degree to which that these shows and movies stretch the truth could certainly leave you feeling shocked! Look no further than this Cracked article for the multitude of examples of lawyers actually doing a bad job of, you know, being a lawyer in cinema. Similarly, this article laments the bad rap lawyers tend to receive because of how they are portrayed in the media. Both the misconceptions about how the job of a lawyer is performed and how lawyers tend to act as professionals and as people contribute to a skewed perception of the entire field in the minds of many moviegoers. It Wasn’t Always Like This There have been movies about lawyers for a long time, as the notion of a story about a character that effectively has the power to give and take away someone’s freedom is quite attractive to a storyteller. Add to that the sometimes dramatic and interesting subject matter of legal cases, and an entire film genre is born. However, as Christopher Snead from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville argues in his paper The Downward Spiral: A Look at the Depiction of Layers in Movies, starting in the 1970s there was a tonal shift in how lawyers were represented in film. In the 50s and 60s, he argues, lawyers were depicted in a positive light as decent people and competent professionals, a trend that would die in the 70s and never get better. Why All The Misconceptions? These misconceptions are born from an unfortunate dichotomy: cinema and movies are supposed to be entertaining (constantly so, even), while the legal system is largely anything but. In the realm of cinema, anything that gets in the way of telling a good story is thought of as the enemy. Therefore, it is no surprise that many of these films are very loosely based on real situations and are then injected with interesting plot twists and interesting character traits that make sense in a fiction universe, but not in real life. Why Happens When You Depict Real Law? Ironically, there have been a few pieces of media in recent years that have achieved massive levels of success despite the fact that they depict entirely real legal cases. For example, Netflix’s documentary series Making a Murderer and the Serial podcast have both been wildly successful and, for the most part, faithfully depict how the legal system actually works because they are nonfiction. Why is this the case? Our hypothesis is that the medium these stories take place in (a series of podcasts or a documentary mini-series) are a better fit for the lengthy yarn that is woven every time a legal battle begins. Movies are naturally limited in their runtimes, and as such, their stories must be altered to fit into a bite-sized dimension. This is not so with other types of media. Maybe this means that we’ll see more faithful depictions of a lawyer’s life in the future…though probably not in movies. Related posts: Becoming Resilient is Key For Young Lawyers FAWL Launches ‘Board Certification Boot Camp’ for Women...

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Why the NFL Won its Deflategate Appeal

On April 25th, the NFL won a federal appeal in the controversial “Deflategate” case that has now been raging for well over a year, reinstating a 4-game suspension to franchise QB Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. This legal case has been in the courts for some time now, and the NFL’s victory in this appeal was surprising to many. For those unacquainted with the case, here’s a quick overview of the Deflategate scenario: Deflategate refers to a controversy in the NFL surrounding the 2015 AFC Championship game that occurred between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts on January 18th, 2015. The controversy involves accusations that Patriots QB Tom Brady, as well as other employees of the Patriots organization, broke NFL rules by tampering with balls used in the game (specifically, deflating the balls to a lower PSI). The game resulted in a 45–7 victory for the Patriots and a Super Bowl appearance and victory for the team. During the offseason between the 2014 and 2015, the NFL dealt the Patriots and Brady heavy penalties after the NFL performed an internal investigation. The Patriots were fined $1 million and had their 1st round pick in the 2016 draft and their 4th round pick in the 2017 draft taken away as penalty. Brady, however, was given a 4-game suspension. The fact that the Patriots went on to win the AFC Championship game, and eventually the Super Bowl, complicates matters in this case. The results, some feel, caused NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to levy a harsher punishment than was necessary on Brady. The severity of Brady’s penalty, how it relates to the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), and Brady’s cooperation with the investigation would become key talking points throughout the summer. Before the 2015 NFL season began, Brady’s suspension was repealed by Judge Richard M. Berman. Jumping forward to present day, the NFL’s appeal of that decision in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the four-game suspension, which is currently set to take place during the 2016 NFL season. How did the NFL win their appeal? There are a few key passages from Judge Barrington D. Parker and a separate dissenting opinion from Judge Robert A. Katzmann that shed light on why the 2nd Circuit Court ruled in favor of the NFL in their appeal: The commissioner’s powers were collectively bargained by the NFLPA. According to the NFLPA’s CBA with the NFL, Goodell has tremendous power over the player disciplinary process. Though we might disagree with how the system was put together, it was collectively bargained and agreed to. Simply put: Goodell’s decision should be legally binding. Brady was more than just “generally aware” of the situation. The accusations against Brady are much larger in scope than just “general awareness,” as they also include participation in the scheme to tamper with game balls and obstruction of the investigation by destroying his cell phone. Nothing in the CBA granted Brady the right to Paul Weiss’s notes. Brady claimed that his camp didn’t have equal access to Paul Weiss’s notes on the investigation as one of their defenses. However, the 2nd Circuit Court ruled that the CBA didn’t require the NFL to provide such notes. What can we learn from this appeal? There is one huge takeaway, among many smaller ones, from this appeal: carefully read any sort of agreement (in the NFLPA’s case, their CBA with the NFL) before signing it! Even if you feel that you are in the right, a signed legal agreement to the contrary can...

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