Posted on

Why A Conviction For Drug Use Does Not Have To Haunt You Forever

Even if you have successfully completed a www.sivanabali.com drug rehab program and are now completely clean, there may be aspects of your past, when you were a drug user, that may still feel as though they haunt you. One such scenario is if you were found guilty of a crime related to your drug use, and as a result, now have a criminal record. A criminal record can seem like a large chain holding you back from employment, going back into education or obtaining credit.

It is true that there are many enlightened employers, education establishments and credit organisations which look past someone’s criminal past and try to look at the attributes the person now has, rather than judge them for past indiscretions. It is to their credit than many of these organisations actually see someone going through a drug rehab program as a positive and proof that they can show commitment to achieving a goal.

It has to  be said that achieving the goal of giving up drugs, as you may well know, is one which requires a lot more grit and determination than many goals we could mention. Ultimately, it proves that you can focus on something that is difficult to achieve and stay the course until you succeed. To many employers and others deciding upon your value as a person that shows admirable courage and puts your drug rehab in the plus column, rather than the minus column.

Read more…

Posted on

When Can You Make a Botched Cosmetic Surgery Claim?

Even though tens of thousands of cosmetic surgeries go off without a hitch every day, some people find themselves with serious Botox legal issues and other cosmetic surgery problems that require legal help.

If you have found yourself in this very situation, it’s essential to know when you can make a botched cosmetic surgery claim, and what comes next. Read on to find out more.

The Medical Professional Breached Their Duty of Care

You may have read up on all the risk factors of cosmetic surgery and even made sure you gave yourself some time to think about the procedure before you went ahead with it. All this planning may be all for nothing if the medical professional you trusted to undertake the procedure breached their duty of care.

You may have a legal leg to stand on if they displayed poor skills, didn’t follow the rules, or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, resulting in a less than desirable result.

You Experienced Unreasonable Damage

No cosmetic procedure is without its risks. Even Botox treatment, which is reasonably straightforward, doesn’t always come without a few side effects that lead to Botox legal issues. However, you may be able to make a botched cosmetic surgery claim if your procedure resulted in unreasonable damage.

This might be something like excessive scarring above and beyond what is expected, poor cosmetic results, and even nerve damage.

Read more…

Posted on

What Being Sued For ‘Loss of Chance’ Meant For A Dental Practice

Many dentists, including dentalosogentle.com.au, go through their entire career without ever having faced any legal action from a patient, however, that does not mean to say that the thought that it might happen never crossed their mind. For those dentists currently working in their dental practice, undoubtedly 99.99% of them are skilled and dedicated professions, and despite this, the threat of being sued remains for them.

That is not to say that every dentist should be working under a cloud, but rather that they are aware that the possibility of legal action such as malpractice exists, and as such should ensure that they do all that can to ensure it never happens.

One principle in the law relating to malpractice has meant that was an additional reason why a patient might sue, and that legal concept is called ‘loss of chance’.

Today, if a patient were to bring a malpractice claim against a dentist, in order to win their case they, and their legal representatives, would primarily have to prove that two things existed. The first is negligence, and this would be that their dentist failed to show a duty of care to their patient.

The second that has to be proven is causation, and by that, it means it has to be proved that any harm, or injury, suffered by the patient, was caused by the dentist’s negligence. It is important to note that if either negligence or causation are not proved, then the malpractice case is likely to fall.

Read more…

Posted on

What Sort Of Website Should Your Law Firm Have Designed?

Whilst there may be a perception in some quarters that the world of lawyers, courts, and the legal system is somewhat old fashioned, the truth is that the legal profession operates as much in the modern world of technology and the internet as any other. This can be seen in many ways, but the most obvious is the modern website designs some law firms have that have been done by experienced website design companies like www.slinkywebdesign.com.au that are up-to-date with all aspects that law firms require.

Now, if you are reading that and thinking to yourself that your law firm’s website is far from being modern, and worse, it is ineffective in generating prospects and clients, then it is highly likely that the time has come for your law firm to have a new website designed. This leads us to the question of what sort of website design is suitable for a law firm, so let us answer that by highlighting a few essential design elements.

Your Website Should Have A Purpose

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when designing a website is for it to have no definitive purpose. If it serves only to ‘be there’ and nothing else, anyone visiting will have little idea what the website is about, and once that happens they will leave pretty quickly.

Your Website Should Stand Out From The Legal Crowd

Before we go any further by ‘standing out‘ we are not talking about your law firm having a website with loads of flashing colours and garish images. Instead, you want it to stand out from the crowd, with the crowd being the other law firms in your local area. You will notice that many of them will follow the same tired, old format and layout and thus have nothing to distinguish them from any other law firm.

Ensure that your website designer is aware that you want your law firm’s website to be, like Family Lawyers’ www.familylawassist.com.au, remarkable without being outlandish. Get them to include the branding of your law firm, have clear and distinctive images, and an overall look that distinguishes it from other legal websites.

Read more…

Posted on

Does The Mother Always Get Custody Of The Children?

In any consideration or depiction of divorce, be it in real life, or in the movies, the normal scenario is that the mother always gets custody of the children, however, as Robinson Lawyers will tell you, that is not necessarily true in every case.

This is particularly true in Australia from a legal perspective, because following an amendment to the Family Law Act in 2006, there is no such thing as mother’s rights, nor for that matter, do father’s rights exist.

There is one very simple, and laudable, reason for this to be so, and that is that in Australian law, the highest priority is making sure that the rights of the children are promoted and protected, rather than the rights of the mother and father of those children.

For the above reason, when it comes to divorce and consideration of what is the best interests of the children of that marriage, the default position is that the parents have shared responsibility for their children. The legal terminology is ‘Equal Shared Parental Responsibility‘.

Read more…

Posted on

Why Should I Negotiate My Contract?

A lot of people don’t realise just how important it is to negotiate a contract before you sign it. In fact, it’s incredible how many people just accept the contract they’re given without any negotiations at all. And really, this isn’t the right thing to do.

If you’re not sure how to go about negotiating a new employment contract, I’d highly recommend getting in touch with your local employment lawyer to ensure you’re doing the right thing. There are numerous benefits associated with contract negotiation, and it’s always something to consider. Here’s why:

Contract Negotiation Will Ensure You’re Getting a Good Deal

Unfortunately, a lot of people enter contract negotiations with the sole aim of gaining a higher pay rate. However, there’s so much more to think about than simple money. Make sure you take the following into account to ensure you’re getting a good deal:

  • Sick and holiday leave, as well as the conditions attached to each.
  • Contract termination conditions to ensure you’re protected in the case of unfair dismissal.
  • Overtime and penalty rates.
  • Bonuses for exceptional performance or exceeding performance targets.

There are other things to consider, but these will vary according to the industry you’re working in. For example, if you work in construction, you might negotiate a clause that requires your employer to pay for certain tools or PPE.

Read more…

Posted on

Are A Child’s Opinions Considered With Child Custody Arrangements?

Child custody decisions in Australia are complex matters which are often decided by the courts. Achieving a positive outcome for both parties can be difficult, which means that you should always engage the services of an experienced family lawyer to make sure that you’re doing things right.

In saying that, there are some things that are out of your control when child custody cases are being heard. For example, if a child really doesn’t want to live with one of their parents, the court will take this into account – sometimes.

It can be hard to know just how much weight the judge will give to a child’s opinions when resolving a child custody dispute, and ultimately it will vary from situation to situation.

When will a child’s opinion be considered?

As I noted above, the weight that a judge gives to a child’s opinion will depend on the situation. In some cases, they will listen carefully to what a child or children have to say. For example, when:

  • A child is mature enough to form their own opinion without significant outside influence.
  • When there’s evidence that one of the parents hasn’t treated the child right.
  • If one of the parents has been absent for a significant part of the child’s life, and they want to continue living with the other one.

Read more…

Posted on

Dangers of Skyrocketing Divorce Rates Among the Elderly

Apparently, the more senior segments of our population are taking a hard look at marriage and engaging family lawyers.  Divorce rates among the 50-and-older crowd have doubled in recent years and the reason might be different than you expect.

In general, people are living longer, by some estimates as much as 30 years longer than in previous generations.  That’s a lot of time together if you’re not happy in your marriage.  The result is what some have called “late in life divorce” or “gray divorce” and it is an unexpected outcome of longevity.

With better access to health care and healthier lives people may be feeling that they are entitled to living more fully, that it’s “their time now”. After all, many have spent years raising children, sacrificing to save for retirement, and they feel they’ve earned the right to be happy in their twilight years.  For other, merely the prospect of living in an unhappy marriage for decades longer is simply intolerable.

Still, this type of divorce doesn’t come without dangers.  Older individuals are usually less financially secure and also suffer from age related problems and illnesses which make living on their own less safe.

Also, divorcing at the brink of retirement can devastate a couple’s finances.  Usually, financial planning for retirement has contemplated a single household.  And earning potential, especially for woman in the later years, is bleak.  Couple these concerns with a bumpy stock market, fluctuating home prices, possible reductions in Social Security, and you have a recipe for a rocky retirement.  Even with the upbeat reports on the job market, re-entering the work force for a retiree can be psychologically draining and economically unsatisfying.

Read more…

Posted on

3 Simple Ways To Keep Your Finances In Order This Financial Year

Financial planning can be difficult, and millions of people throughout the world fall into financial trouble every single day. While some people are able to dig themselves out with the help of decent accountants, for a lot of people, their financial trouble marks that start of the end of their business.

With this in mind, Accountants Perth advise to take action to make sure that your business’s finances remain in order this financial year. If you don’t, then you and your business could both suffer significant losses, and you may find yourself having to sell or close your business and look for work elsewhere. Out top 3 ways to keep your finances in order this financial year include:

  1. Keep Clear Records From Day One

When it comes to keeping your finances in order, clear record keeping is an absolute must. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is or how much paperwork you have – you should file everything clearly, and record all financial transactions using decent accounting software.

If you run a larger business which employs other people, you will need to pay wages. Make sure that you keep clear records of how much you have paid your employees, how much tax you have deducted from their wage and how much super you have paid into their funds. If you don’t do this, you will find yourself in all sorts of trouble when it comes time to report things like the amount of tax withheld.

Read more…

Posted on

Why Does Your Business Need A Clear Evacuation Plan?

When it comes to running their business, small business owners usually have a lot on their plate. Along with juggling the day to day running of their business, managing their finances and keeping their clients happy, small business owners are also responsible for things like workplace safety and fire protection.

Unfortunately, things like fire protection can sometimes get pushed to the backburner. This can allow things to happen which otherwise wouldn’t. For example, your fire safety gear may become poorly maintained, or your staff members may not be aware of your evacuation plan. However, it is extremely important to have a clear evacuation plan which is understood by every member of your staff.

What Is An Emergency Evacuation Plan?

In simple terms, an emergency evacuation plan is a clear, well rehearsed plan of what you and your employees will do in the case of an emergency. It usually details the best escape routes, meeting places to head to and anything else of importance that could help you escape a dangerous situation safely. Emergency evacuation plans should be practiced regularly, and new staff should be briefed on them. They should be visibly present in every room in your building, within reason.

Why Do I Need A Clear Evacuation Plan?

Basically, a clear, well defined emergency evacuation plan will allow you and your employees to safely escape from your building in the case of an emergency like a fire. Some of the reasons you should always have an emergency evacuation plan include:

  • You are required by law under most Australian OHS legislation.
  • It will reduce confusion in the event of an emergency, reducing the risk of the emergency escalating and spiraling out of control – and avoid any legal issues following avoidable accidents.
  • It will allow you to get a situation under control by, for example, containing or extinguishing a fire before it becomes large enough to pose a serious threat.

When developing an evacuation plan, make sure that you consider the above.

Read more…

Posted on

Lawyers can Help you Understand and Assert Your Legal Rights

Unsure about your Rights in a Business Dispute? Seasoned Australian Lawyers can help you understand and Assert your Legal Rights

Staring and operating a joint business venture is often a cumbersome and complex process. Normal folks may find it challenging to navigate legal jargon and understand their position as shareholders or business partners. Experienced commercial lawyers can help you obtain clarity regarding rights and duties, set up partnership agreements that are aligned with Australian law as well as help you resolve any business disputes that may arise.

Business or shareholder disputes can be stressful and can result in delays, losses and production downtime. Having a legal contract in place can help in implementing amicable and speedy problem resolution as it provides a reliable reference point for discussions. As a business partner, you need to confirm that the business is valid and legitimate under Australian law and a reliable lawyer, who can offer good legal advice, can help interpret the terms and conditions. Technical verbiage and legalese can often prove confusing to understand and interpret for the layman.

Read more…

Posted on

Need Assistance with Disputing Criminal Charges

Top Lawyers can Provide Expert Guidance

Most of us tend to associate criminal charges with crime that occurs on the street, homes and alleyways of Australia. White collar crime refers to other forms of law violations that occur in a corporate environment. Expert criminal lawyers are happy to offer legal advice to those who require legal assistance in white collar crime cases.  White collar crime can occur in a variety of scenarios and include different types of law violations. According to recent news reports, white collar crime is on the rise in Australia and usually includes any type of activity that involves obtaining funds or property etc through fraudulent means.

Although white collared crime usually receives less than its fair share of attention compared to violent crimes, it has resulted in losses amounting to million dollars. White collared crime acts are usually committed by individuals who belong to a higher economic or social status and may be performed against the company (where the individual is employed), investors, creditors, the government or the environment etc.

The following list describes some of the most common forms of white collared crime:

  • Tax fraud: Tax fraud can be committed by an individual or by a company or its agents. Tax fraud refers to evasion of tax by providing false information to the government or tax authorities. Tax fraud includes hiding income, indulging in fraudulent, complex (and often illegal) offshore tax havens as well as claiming refunds or tax benefits that you are not entitled to claim. Tax fraud attracts a variety of punitive action measures including penalties, fines, convictions and imprisonment.

Read more…

Posted on

Why Estate Planning is Essential in Business

When you start up a business, the last thing you will be thinking about is the time when you will be unable to carry on. However, it is important to take a reality check in this matter because no one lives forever and many people die well before they expected to. If you leave your business without any plans for a time when you are not there to run it, all your hard work may be lost and your family left without the assets you expected them to inherit.

Once you speak to a good commercial lawyer you will see that there are many ways to protect your business assets and ensure they are passed on to your family, but they vary to a certain extent depending on the type of business structure you used to set up the business. It could be a sole trader, partnership, have several co-owners and so on. But one thing is for sure; no matter what type it is, if there is no estate plan or Will, much of the value will be lost, going to the state to cover the cost of settlement.

Read more…

Posted on

Financial Planning for Loss of Income

Loss on income can happen due to many reasons, not necessarily anything to do with your health. It could simply be that the company you work for is finding it difficult to get clients and so have to retrench some staff.  Good financial planning by an expert financial advisor such as Andep can mean the difference between losing your home or not losing it.

In fact, it is not only people who are paying off a home that would be negatively impacted by a sudden loss of income. With rent as high as it is these days, it is easy to get to the stage where your income is not enough to both pay the rent and buy food. But a good financial planner will allow for these kinds of problems when working out a plan for you and your family.

Read more…

Posted on

How to Ensure a Fair Division of Property at Divorce

Any lawyers will tell you that even though a divorce may be stressful, there are certain things that should not be left to chance. One of them is the division of property. If valuable assets are held by two people who divorce, it is only fair to divide them up. According to experienced divorce lawyers Robertson Hayles, unless you get advice from family lawyers it is possible that you’ll decide to forego your share just to have it all over and done with. You may live to regret that decision.

It is all very well to make a verbal agreement about the division of property, but before you call in the removalists, who’s to say that your ex will not renege on their end of the agreement. A verbal agreement is not something that will hold up in a court of law. Leaving it all up to a verbal agreement is only going to prolong the agony, if you don’t decide to just let your ex take everything simply for the peace of having no more hassles with them.

Read more…

Posted on

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way

Most family or specifically Wills lawyers would agree that it’s important to have a Will no matter what age you are. However, since people don’t like to think about dying, they also don’t want to make a Will. This can be a big mistake, because if they have any assets at all, these will be frozen at the time of their death and no one will be able to access them for many months.

In addition, because the judicial system will become involved in deciding who should inherit their property or other assets, the end amount will be much less, since the cost of the court case will be taken out of the assets. And if the cash assets don’t cover the cost, any property will have to be sold to pay it. So if you want your family members to inherit your home, it may not be possible for this to happen without a Will.

Read more…

Posted on

Tips to Setting up Financial Agreements Between Families

These days when it is difficult to get a loan to purchase a home, financial agreements between families can be really helpful. It is essential to consult with lawyers to ensure such agreements are legally binding and fair so that there can be no squabbling over it. Having a verbal agreement is not wise, as one party can change their mind or mistake the meaning of the agreement and it can cause a big split in the family that even family lawyers may find difficult to work through.

Money is usually the number one problem in most relationships, often because one person wants to spend it and the other person doesn’t. So when it comes to hundreds of thousands of dollars any disagreement is likely to have far-reaching effects. In fact, it is far better not to have such an agreement in the first place if it is likely to split the family.

Read more…

Posted on

How a Violence Restraining Order Can Help You

We often hear in the media news about people taking out a violence restraining order (VRO) against someone they fear is going to harm them.  To do this they have to apply to a court for the order and the police are the ones who serve it – or give it – to the person who is being violent or aggressive.  Often it is taken out by a spouse or de-facto against her partner – or in some cases – his partner.

While it doesn’t stop them from harming the person if they really want to, there are penalties for breaking the VRO. This can be enough to stop them from frightening or threatening someone where their action is not enough to bring a legal punishment against them. Sometimes people get so bitter and angry they act in ways that are stupid and not really what they are usually like.

Read more…

Posted on

How a Court Divides Assets After a Divorce

When it comes to divorce, family lawyers are the ones to help and most lawyers will tell you that when two people split up there is usually a great deal of bad feeling. While this can be expected, it doesn’t make fair division of assets easy or even very likely.  If the two people cannot agree on the division of property or other assets, the court has to decide.

This is not the best way to deal with things, because it can take a long time to finalise and it will cost a great deal, but sometimes it is the only way. So what does a court take into account when deciding on how to split up the assets? It doesn’t simply divide them down the middle and give one half to each person. Other things are taken into account. These are usually: –

  • What assets each person brought into the relationship
  • The ability of each person to earn a wage after the divorce. For instance, the carer of small children may be unable to go back to work, or one partner may have become partly disabled due to injury.
  • Whether the children would be better off remaining in the family home
  • The value of any business interests
  • The value contributed to the relationship by the person who stayed at home to care for children and do domestic duties
  • Whether any other supportive duties such as farm work or bookkeeping, were carried out by the person who stayed at home
  • Whether any inheritance or financial gift received by one person during the relationship should be divided, or if it should remain solely with the beneficiary

Read more…

Posted on

13 Tips for Buying an Existing Business

Many people think having their own business would be easier than working 9-5 for someone else, but in fact it is harder because when you own a business the buck stops with you. It is wise to always consult a lawyer’s list before making a final decision about buying an existing business and to keep that lawyer on so you have quick access to help should any problem crop up.

When you own a business, the responsibility for everything being right rests on your shoulders – and sometimes you have to step into the gap when an employee doesn’t show up at the last minute. If anything goes wrong, you are the one who has to fix it, or at least ensure that it is fixed by someone else who knows what they are doing. While there are many responsibilities, there is also a great deal of satisfaction at meeting the challenge successfully.

Read more…

Posted on

How To Ensure Your Financial Agreements are Fair

Whether you own a business or are entering into some kind of financial agreement unrelated to business, lawyers will tell you to never sign on the dotted line unless you fully understand everything within it. In fact, consulting with family lawyers like robinson family lawyers about financial agreements is the best way to ensure the other person is not taking unfair advantage of you.

Financial agreements can be very simple or they can be much more complicated and you are unlikely to understand the implications of everything you read in it, even if you think it is clear.  In business there are many ways of saying things legally that spin the meaning around to give favour to the person who is offering the agreement.  Unless you have a lawyer go over it and explain it all to you, it could be that you are disadvantaged in some way.

Read more…

Posted on

How to Protect Intangible Business Assets

If you have recently started up a small business, you most likely consulted commercial lawyers and other professionals to ensure everything was set up legally.  Of course there is a lot of information online these days, but often it is difficult to understand, or you may not be sure if certain legal requirements actually apply to your business.

In all the busyness of getting your business up and running, you may  not have thought about protecting those intangible business assets, even though you’ve taken out insurance to protect the stock and all those other things you need to run the business.

What are the intangible assets?

  • The specific name of your business
  • Your logo
  • Brand name
  • Trademarks
  • Specific processes and methods to do certain things
  • Knowledge your employees have that is unique to your business

Some of these intangibles can be protected through taking out patent, trademark or copyright registrations, while others should be protected by using non-compete and non-disclosure documents that your employees should sign to protect your new business. This will prevent them from using this knowledge if they should leave your company and go to the competition or even start up their own company. It is best to have your lawyer draft such agreements so they are watertight.

Read more…

Posted on

Legal Tips for When a Relationship Goes Bad

Often, young people – and not so young people – jump into a relationship too quickly, then find several things about their partner they just cannot stand. Family lawyers are available to help you when a relationship goes bad and it is essential to take their advice to heart so that you remain safe and get through that divorce with the least possible emotional turmoil.

Lawyers would be the first to tell you it is important to follow the law, so here are some tips to help you know what the law expects – and what it does not.

Read more…

Posted on

What To Do When Facing the Threat of Litigation In Business

It doesn’t matter what type of business you have. Whether you are a SEO Agency or a building contractor they are all the same in the sense that no business wants to go through litigation. If you have a small business, the expense and other costs of litigation are like to put you right out of business, or at least take many years to recover from. That is why it’s important to consult with litigation lawyers immediately in order to find a resolution before it is too late.

The reason for the litigation may not even have been the fault of your business, but going through the courts to prove it is not only costly, but time consuming and is still likely to cause a loss of reputation, even if you eventually win the case. The actual details get lost over time and all anyone remembers is the court case, the gossip and the problem that you were accused of. They may not even remember – or believe – that you were innocent.

Read more…

Posted on

The Problems In Small Business That are Likely To Result In Litigation

When you own a small business, such as a digital marketing agency the last thing you need is for someone to file a litigation case against you. Litigation lawyers will be needed to help you fight the case, but even the best lawyers sometimes fail to get you off. Much depends on the circumstances of the case and whether or not there is substantial proof against you.

There are many problems that can cause litigation: –

  • Poor standards of safety in the workplace. As we know, poor safety standards cause accidents. If employees are hurt on your premises, they can easily sue you. If a customer trips and falls, they can sue you.
  • Poor working conditions. This is slightly different from poor safety, as it could be something like overcrowding, lack of amenities, poor lighting and so on.

Read more…

Posted on

How to Get Legal Aid if You are a Minor

Being arrested is often frightening, especially if you don’t know exactly what is happening or why. In Western Australia, if you are arrested for an offence and you are a minor, you can get legal aid from the government’s Youth Law Team. There are a team of criminal lawyers who can help you with advice or help you if you’ve been arrested and have to appear in court.

Everyone has certain rights, even if they are a convicted criminal. If you are a minor, you have just as much right as anyone else to be represented in court, not to mention the right to remain silent or only answer police questions with a lawyer present.

If you don’t know who to turn to, these lawyers will help you with

Read more…

Posted on

The Difference Between a Fixture and a Chattel – and Why It Matters

If you are buying or selling a house you may hear something about fixtures and chattels. It’s important to have your property lawyers explain the difference in these terms, since they are usually included in the terms of agreement and the purchase/sale documents. If you don’t understand what they refer to, you could be disappointed once the removalists like Brilliance Removalists Melbourne leave and you move into your new home to find out something is not there when you expected it to be.

Fixtures

Generally speaking, a fixture is something that is attached to the land or property. However, even though it may seem very obvious as to what is attached and what isn’t, there are some variations, just to keep you on your toes. In some cases, chattels can become fixtures and fixtures can become chattels. In one case of selling an old theatre, the question arose as to whether the seats were fixtures, since they were actually bolted to the floor and to each other. Oddly enough, a court decided they were not fixtures, but chattels, so they were not to be considered part of the theatre. This was in spite of the definition of a fixture being anything that is attached to the land through anything but its own weight.

Read more…

Posted on

Court Rules Sleeping Lawyer Violated Defendant’s Right to a Fair Trial

Texas murder convict Calvin Burdine came within hours of execution in August of 1987, despite having had a lawyer who slept for periods of up to ten minutes throughout the trial. Fortunately, the court granted him a stay of execution, and Burdine appealed his conviction on the grounds that his public defense attorney, Joe Cannon, had fallen short of the adequate counsel provided for by the Sixth Amendment.

Read more…

Posted on

The Case for Evidence Preservation

This week Rolando Cruz celebrated the 13th anniversary of his exoneration from Illinois’ death row. Cruz was wrongfully convicted in 1983 due in large part to a co defendant’s statements implicating him. Even though Cruz was never physically linked to the crime scene, DNA evidence did exist. With the help of a volunteer legal team led by Professor Lawrence C. Marshall at Northwestern University Law School, Cruz was able to secure DNA testing on the evidence found near the crime scene which proved he could not have committed this crime.

Read more…

Posted on

Crime Labs Expose Preventable Forensic Errors

Police crime labs in both Detroit and Baltimore have recently come under fire for shocking errors discovered in the testing, analysis, and use of forensic evidence.

Last week the Detroit police crime lab was shut down after an audit in June of the ballistics division revealed a 10% error rate in 200 firearms cases they reviewed. A fear that this error rate pervaded all divisions was the main reason for the closure of this chronically under-funded and over-worked lab.

The discovery in the ballistics divisions has put the integrity of all forensic evidence testing and analysis in Detroit at risk. And the ramifications of the lab closure could be far-reaching. Innocent people may have been wrongfully convicted from flawed forensic evidence leaving dangerous criminals free to commit more crimes.

Read more…

Posted on

Fixing Flaws in Forensic Science

In recent decades, the use of forensic science in criminal investigations has skyrocketed. In the media, TV crime dramas like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation portray forensic evidence collection and analysis as a flawless science that can quickly and accurately identify the perpetrator. Yet time and again, inaccurate or misleading forensic evidence and testimony has helped to convict the wrong person.

Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were convicted of a crime they didn’t commit based on microscopic hair comparison – a notoriously unreliable forensic test. Williamson was sent to death row and Fritz spent a decade in prison before DNA testing proved their innocence. Brandon Moon, another innocent man, went to prison for seventeen years after a state forensic crime lab analyst gave erroneous testimony at his trial.

Read more…

Posted on

Post-Conviction DNA Testing Shouldn’t Depend on Miracles

By now everyone knows that DNA testing is a powerful scientific tool for proving guilt or innocence in our criminal justice system. Often post-conviction DNA testing provides the only evidence that can correct the injustice of wrongful conviction.

But what if all the biological evidence is destroyed while you’re still in prison? What if there is evidence but it’s not discovered until after state-imposed deadline for seeking DNA testing? What if the state denies your petition for testing because you accepted a plea bargain to avoid a harsher sentence for a crime you didn’t commit? And what if you’re indigent and can’t afford an attorney to help navigate the complex legal and scientific issues involved in obtaining a DNA test?

The sad truth is that it often takes a series of miracles to gain access to post-conviction DNA testing. That’s because our criminal justice system continues to place significant obstacles in the way of post-conviction DNA testing that could determine whether the wrong people have been convicted and punished for crimes they didn’t commit.

Today, The Justice Project is releasing Increasing Assess to Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Policy Review. This policy review explains the problems surrounding post-conviction DNA testing policies and procedures and identifies the best practices for states to adopt to ensure that post-conviction DNA testing contributes to a more accurate criminal justice system and restores public confidence in the system’s ability to correct its own errors.

To date, more than 200 people – including 16 who were sentenced to death – have been proven innocent by DNA testing. In many of those cases, the same DNA test helped bring the real perpetrators to justice.

But seven states – Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota and Oklahoma – don’t even have laws on the books allowing for post-conviction DNA testing. And those that do have laws fall short of what is needed to ensure that DNA testing can be used effectively to correct the injustice of wrongful conviction.

All but 12 states and the District of Columbia lack statutes requiring the preservation of evidence throughout an inmate’s incarceration. An investigative series this year by The Columbus Dispatch found that “evidence had been lost or destroyed nearly two-thirds of the time that prosecutors agreed to search for it because Ohio does not require evidence to be catalogued and saved.” States should require the preservation of biological evidence throughout a defendant’s sentence and devise standards regarding the custody of evidence.

Read more…

Posted on

Increasing Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing

DNA is a powerful scientific tool for proving guilt or innocence, but barriers throughout the criminal justice system are preventing this tool from being used effectively.

Increasing Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Policy Review is a new publication from The Justice Project designed to foster a dialogue among policy makers and to help states implement better DNA testing procedures and practices. This policy review provides an overview of problems with current post-conviction DNA testing laws, offers solutions to these problems, profiles cases of injustice, highlights states with good laws and policies for DNA testing, and includes a model policy.

Read more…

Posted on

A New Website for The Justice Project

Welcome to The Justice Project’s new website!

Along with a fresh, new look, this website has been designed to inform, engage and empower citizens and supporters of The Justice Project (TJP) as we work together to increase fairness and accuracy in the criminal justice system.

TJP’s website makes it easier to find important information about the primary causes of wrongful convictions and the reforms needed to prevent them. Through our Profiles of Injustice, you can read the true stories of innocent people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. Each wrongful conviction is a window into our criminal justice system’s failure to find the truth, and a reason to demand change.

Read more…

Posted on

Introducing the Justice Newsladder

I’ve been engaged in social justice advocacy for more than 25 years. In that time, I’ve seen how important a fair and accurate criminal justice system is to our society. When crimes are committed, our system should determine the truth. Unfortunately, time and time again, the system gets it wrong.

Earlier this month, Glen Chapman of North Carolina became the 128th prisoner on death row to be released since 1972. The courts found that detectives committed perjury at Chatman’s trial and withheld potential evidence of his innocence from his defense attorneys. The forensic evidence was so bad that one of the two homicides pinned on Chapman may in fact have been a drug overdose. Chatman, who spent 14 years behind bars, was also a victim of bad defense lawyering.

Read more…

Posted on

Justice Department Holding DNA Testing Program Hostage

The day President Bush signed the Innocence Protection Act into law was one of the proudest days of my life. The law, part of the Justice for All Act of 2004, included a new program named after me: the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program.

The program provides federal grants to states to conduct DNA testing that can exonerate the innocent and help identify the truly guilty. At the time, the program’s creation seemed a fitting end to a terrible chapter in my life, my 20-year struggle to prove my innocence after being convicted and sentenced to die for the brutal rape and murder of Dawn Hamilton, a 9-year-old girl I had never met.

Read more…

Posted on

The Innocence Protection Act Of 2004: A Small Step Forward And A Framework For Larger Reforms

Passage of the Innocence Protection Act in the closing days of the 108th Congress was a watershed moment. To be sure, the bill that finally became law was a shadow of the more ambitious criminal justice reforms first championed five years earlier by Senator Pat Leahy, Congressman Bill Delahunt and others. But the enactment of legislation designed to strengthen – not weaken – procedural protections for death row inmates was rich in symbolic importance and promise.

Writing in the April 2001 issue of The Champion (”Innocence Protection Act: Death Penalty Reform on the Horizon”), I said optimistically: “The criminal justice pendulum may be swinging back in the direction of fairness. The Innocence Protection Act of 2001, introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives earlier this year, promises meaningful reforms in the administration of capital punishment in the United States.” Four years later I’d claim that prediction was fairly accurate. While the reforms in the final bill are not as meaningful as I and others had hoped, the pendulum clearly swung. (Title IV of Public Law 108-405, Justice for All Act.)

The IPA marks a dramatic departure from 25 years of congressional debate on the death penalty. Soon after the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, proposals emerged to restore the federal death penalty. In 1986, the Reagan Administration unsuccessfully urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to promulgate guidelines for federal capital punishment. In 1988, as part of an omnibus anti-drug bill, Congress reauthorized the federal death penalty for certain drug-related murders. The 1994 crime bill signed by President Clinton authorized a death sentence for over 50 new and existing federal crimes.

At the same time that Congress was dusting off the machinery of federal capital punishment, it began to debate measures to limit federal review of state death sentences. Proposals to eviscerate habeas corpus came close to passage in crime bills throughout the early 1990s, but were held at bay by strenuous opposition from senior Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee and members of the Emergency Committee to Save Habeas Corpus, co-chaired by former Attorneys General Katzenbach, Richardson, Levi and Civiletti. Pressure to streamline death row appeals finally found an outlet in the 1996 anti-terrorism bill that followed the Oklahoma City bombing. That same Congress cut off funding for the death penalty resource centers that had provided a modicum of procedural protection for death row inmates in a number of active death penalty jurisdictions.

But by 2000, the climate began to change. The advent of DNA technology demonstrated with scientific precision the fallibility of the criminal justice system. Pioneering legal work and public advocacy by Innocence Project founders Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld exonerated dozens of long-time prisoners based on post-conviction DNA testing. An overlapping list of wrongly convicted death row inmates – some exonerated by DNA testing, some by non-scientific evidence – began to grow, and soon both lists topped 100. Public pressure that only a few years earlier led to an acceleration of capital punishment now shifted in favor of closer scrutiny of death sentences to protect the innocent.
Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman William Delahunt both began their political careers as prosecutors, Leahy in Vermont and Delahunt in Massachusetts. Both Democrats are opponents of the death penalty, but they are also savvy legislators. They built alliances with Republican death penalty supporters – Leahy with Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon and Delahunt with Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois – to advance a package of new statutory protections for capital defendants. They dubbed their proposal the Innocence Protection Act.

Introduction of the IPA in 2000 coincided with the decision of Governor George Ryan to impose a moratorium on executions in Illinois following the exoneration of 13 death row inmates in that state. Ryan attended an early press conference on the Innocence Protection Act and was the star witness at the first House Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill.
During this time, a non-profit organization called The Justice Project – for which I served as outside counsel – developed a grassroots and media campaign to publicize growing concerns about the administration of capital punishment and build support for the Leahy/Delahunt reforms. Eventually dozens of senators and over half of the House cosponsored the bill.

Still, it would require five years of legislative slogging before the IPA would become law. Proponents of reform faced institutional opposition from federal and state prosecutors as well as skepticism from senior Republican members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees who, only a few years before, had championed the 1996 limits on habeas corpus.

Early versions of the IPA were more wide-ranging than the recently enacted law. From the outset, the two pillars of the bill were expanded access to post-conviction DNA testing and improvements in the systems by which states appoint defense lawyers for indigent capital defendants. But the original IPA also contained other reforms such as limits on the application of the federal death penalty in states that do not authorize capital punishment, improved jury instructions in federal capital cases, and a Sense of Congress that juveniles and the mentally retarded should not be executed. These peripheral proposals dropped out during legislative negotiations over the years.

Read more…

Posted on

Statement from Senator Hatch on Passage of 5107

HATCH BROKERS DEAL AND DNA BILL PASSES SENATE
Washington – Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today praised the Senate’s passage of the “Justice for All Act of 2004,” to provide funding and assistance to the criminal justice system in order to realize the full potential of DNA technology to solve crimes and protect the innocent.

“After days, months and now years of hard-fought negotiations we finally reached an agreement. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is one of the most significant bills that will come out of the 108th Congress,” said Hatch.

Read more…