Rights of Victims of Crime

August 19th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Criminal Law - (0 Comments)

Restitution

The California Constitution requires that the court order a convicted person to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution is money paid by the offender to the victim to cover financial losses. Such financial losses include the value of any stolen property, medical expenses, and wages or profits lost by the victim or by the parents or guardians of a victim who is a minor.

At the time the convicted person is sentenced (for a juvenile this is during the dispositional hearing), the judge will order him or her to pay you (the victim) for losses caused by the crime. You are allowed to ask for interest at the rate of 10 percent per year. The parents of a juvenile offender are legally responsible for the restitution to the victim.

There is also a state-managed victim restitution fund, the California Victim Compensation Program, to assist victims of crime. The money in the fund comes from persons convicted of crimes. To receive payment from the fund, you must apply within 1 year of the crime (minors can apply within a year after they turn 18). You must also cooperate with law enforcement agencies and provide written proof of your losses and expenses.

There are court forms and instructions that can help if you decide to file (ask) for an order for restitution:

  • Order for Restitution and Abstract of Judgment (Form CR-110/JV-790); and
  • Instructions: Order for Restitution and Abstract of Judgment (Form CR-112/JV-792).

You can also find out if the defendant has assets so you can collect restitution. You can ask the judge to order the defendant to fill out a Defendant’s Statement of Assets (Form CR-115). If you are the defendant, you can find out how to fill out Form CR-115 by reading Instructions: Defendant’s Statement of Assets (Form CR-117).

Get information

If you are a victim of a crime, and you believe that a juvenile committed the crime, contact the crime victim/witness assistance center in your county to find out the best place to get information in your county or call 1-800-VICTIMS (1-800-842-8467). Many counties have a victim witness department. The juvenile probation department or the District Attorney’s Office also can provide information. Victims have the right to be notified of all juvenile court hearings and the right to attend and express their views about the disposition of the case.

If there is a court hearing and you do not want to or are unable to go to the hearings, you can still find out about the final disposition of the case, including the restitution order. Ask the county’s probation department to let you know. They should let you know by letter within 60 days of the case’s final disposition.

Attend court hearings

As a victim you are entitled to attend the juvenile court hearings that deal with your case, and you should receive notice of the hearings. Inform the county’s probation department that you want to attend. Victims are allowed to bring up to 2 support people. But any party to the case, including the offender, can prohibit the victim and the support people from attending. If you are excluded from the hearing, you can still express your views, in a reasonable way, by submitting a victim impact statement. (See California Welfare and Institution Code section 656.2 and section 676.5 and rule 5.530(e)(2) of the California Rules of Court for more information.)

At the dispositional hearing, if the judge rules that the youth committed the offense, the judge will impose sanctions on him or her. Sanctions may include the following:

  • Restitution to you;
  • Payment of a fine by the youth (funds will go to the state victim restitution fund);
  • Community service performed by the youth for the benefit of the community;
  • Limitations on the youth’s liberty imposed as a condition of probation or parole (this may include probation with formal supervision or placement outside the youth’s home);
  • Commitment of the youth to a local detention or treatment facility, such as a juvenile hall, camp, or ranch;
  • Commitment of the youth to Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

Let the offender know how the crime affected you

Many counties have programs that give you the opportunity to tell the offender how the crime affected you. You can do this by writing a statement that you or an advocate can read in court or the probation officer can forward to the offender.

Another possibility is a facilitated dialogue with the offender, such as supervised victim-offender mediation. The choice to participate is entirely up to you.

Protect Yourself From the Offender

If you are afraid of the offender and are worried about your safety once the offender is released from custody, the court may issue “no contact” orders or restraining orders preventing the offender from having contact with you. And, you may be able to get a restraining order through a civil proceeding.

Other Victims’ Rights

It is against the law for your address or telephone number to be given to the offender. (See California Penal Code section 841.5.)

California Welfare and Institutions Code section 742(b) states that victims of juvenile offenders must be informed of any victim-offender conferencing program or victim impact class available in the county. Victim impact classes give victims an opportunity to express, when they are ready, how the crime affected their lives to a small group of offenders. The youth responsible for the offense in which you were involved will not be in the class.

from California Courts

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Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft

August 12th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

For 2016, the IRS, the states and the tax industry joined together to enact new safeguards and take additional actions to combat tax-related identity theft. Many of these safeguards will be invisible to you, but invaluable to our fight against these criminal syndicates. If you prepare your own return with tax software, you will see new log-on standards. Some states also have taken additional steps. See your state revenue agency’s web site for additional details.

We also know identity theft is a frustrating process for victims. If you become a victim, we are committed to resolving your case as quickly as possible.

What is tax-related identity theft?

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.

You may be unaware that this has happened until you efile your return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN. Or, the IRS may send you a letter saying we have identified a suspicious return using your SSN.

Know the warning signs

Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or your tax professional/provider about:

  • More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
  • You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.

Steps to take if you become a victim

If you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends these steps:

  • File a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov.
  • Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
    • Equifax, www.Equifax.com, 1-800-766-0008
    • Experian, www.Experian.com, 1-888-397-3742
    • TransUnion, www.TransUnion.com, 1-800-680-7289
  • Contact your financial institutions, and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.

If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided or, if instructed, go to IDVerify.irs.gov.
  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your efiled return rejects because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at IRS.gov, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, contact us for specialized assistance at 1-800-908-4490. We have teams available to assist.

About data breaches and your taxes

Not all data breaches or computer hacks result in tax-related identity theft. It’s important to know what type of personal information was stolen.

If you’ve been a victim of a data breach, keep in touch with the company to learn what it is doing to protect you and follow the “Steps for victims of identity theft.” Data breach victims should submit a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, only if your Social Security number has been compromised and your efile return was rejected as a duplicate or IRS has informed you that you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft.

How to reduce your risk

Join efforts by the IRS, states and tax industry to protect your data. Taxes. Security. Together. We all have a role to play. Here’s how you can help:

  • Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Use strong passwords.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card companies and even the IRS.
  • Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
  • Protect your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure.

See Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, to learn more.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams to:phishing@irs.gov. For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting.

from irs.gov

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A firearms restraining order is a court order that prohibits someone from having a gun or ammunition.

It can order someone to:

  • Not have a gun or ammunition;
  • Not buy a gun or ammunition; and
  • Turn in any guns and ammunition to the police, sell them to or store them with a licensed gun dealer.

You can ask for a firearms restraining order against a close family member if you are afraid they may hurt themselves, or another person, with a gun.

If you are in this situation, it is best to ask the police or other law enforcement to ask for the firearms restraining order. The police can seek a Firearms Emergency Protective Order if someone poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself/herself, or to another person.  The officer will take the person’s firearms and ammunition while giving them a copy of the order.  You should only ask for an order yourself if the police (or other law enforcement agency) will not do it and you are very concerned. Read the rest of this section so you understand more about firearms restraining orders.

Close family members are:

  • Your spouse or domestic partner
  • Your parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and their spouses (including stepparents or stepgrandparents)
  • Your spouse’s parents, children, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren
  • Any person who regularly lives in your house now, or within the last 6 months.

If you are not closely related to the person you want to restrain but are still concerned about what they may do with their gun, tell the police. The police may be willing to do ask for the restraining order, even if you or a close family member cannot or will not.

What a Firearms Restraining Order CAN Do:

A firearms restraining order is a court order. It can order the restrained person to:

  • Not have a gun or ammunition;
  • Not buy a gun or ammunition; and
  • Turn in any guns and ammunition to the police or sell them to or store them with a licensed gun dealer.

Once the court issues (makes) a restraining order, it goes into a statewide computer system. This means that law enforcement officers across California can see there is a restraining order in place.

What a Firearms Restraining Order CANNOT Do:

A firearms restraining order will NOT order the restrained person to:

  • Stay away from you or your family members;
  • Not contact or go near you, your children, other relatives, or others who live with you; and
  • Move out of your house.

from California Courts

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After Your Divorce is Final

July 29th, 2016 | Posted by admin in Family Law - (0 Comments)

There are a few things you should think about and take care of once your divorce is final.

  • Think about whether you want to change the beneficiary on your will or life insurance policy.
  • Close all credit card accounts that list both spouses or domestic partners and open a new 1 in your name alone.
  • Tell your employer when your marriage or domestic partnership ends so you can change your income tax withholding status or the name of the beneficiary for any employee benefits. Your employer will send information to your former spouse or domestic partner about the cost of continued health insurance coverage.
  • If the Judgment says only 1 of you will own a motor vehicle that you used to own together, fill out and file a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) form, Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability (REG 138), to change title to the motor vehicle. Make sure to keep a copy for your records.
  • If you filed joint tax returns with your spouse or domestic partner and you are now being held responsible for state or federal taxes or penalties, even if your divorce decree says that your spouse is responsible, you may qualify for “innocent spouse tax relief.” Read “Innocent Joint Filer Relief – Relief from Paying California income Taxes: Are you Eligible?” for California taxes and Innocent Spouse Relief for federal taxes.

If you want to change the custody, visitation or child support terms of your final Judgment

Parents can make new agreements about the custody/visitation and support of their children at any time. You can do this on your own or with a lawyer or mediator’s help.

You should file your agreement with the court. A lawyer can explain how to file your new agreement. You can use the Stipulation to Establish or Modify Child Support and Order (Form FL-350) to change your child support agreement. You can use the Stipulation and Order for Custody and/or Visitation of Children (Form FL-355) to change your child custody agreement.

  • If you and the other parent cannot agree but you still want a different order about your children, you can file a motion to go back to court for modification (change) of your current order. Talk to a lawyer before filing a motion for modification.

from California Courts

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Limited-Scope Representation

July 22nd, 2016 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Limited-scope representation is when you and a lawyer agree that the lawyer will handle some parts of your case and you will handle others. This is different from more traditional arrangements between lawyers and clients where a lawyer is hired to provide legal services on all aspects of a case, from start to finish. Limited-scope representation is sometimes called “unbundling” or “discrete task representation.”

Here are some examples of limited-scope arrangements:

  • You can just consult a lawyer and get legal information and advice about your case when you need it.
  • You can hire the lawyer to represent you on certain issues in your case (like child support or custody) while you do the rest yourself.
  • You can hire the lawyer to prepare the forms and other court documentats but file them yourself and represent yourself at the hearings.
  • You can hire the lawyer to coach you on how to represent yourself at the court hearings and help you prepare the evidence that you will present in court.
  • You can hire the lawyer to help you with the more complicated parts of your case, such as discovery and legal research while you do the simpler tasks yourself.

When you cannot afford to pay for a lawyer to handle your entire case, limited-scope representation can be a great way for you to have legal help with your case while keeping costs down. Courts approve of limited-scope representation because they want to encourage people to get as much legal assistance as they need to protect their rights. They know that you will do a better job of following proper court procedures and presenting the important information to them if you have the help of a lawyer during the more complicated parts of a case.

Limited-scope representation may be somewhat new in some counties, and some courts and lawyers may not be very familiar with it. But more and more lawyers are willing to take on limited-scope cases and more judges are becoming familiar with these arrangements.  When you do speak with a lawyer and you want limited representation, make sure that you are clear about what you want; that you do not want to hire the lawyer to handle the entire case.

DECIDING IF LIMITED-SCOPE REPRESENTATION IS RIGHT FOR YOU

When trying to decide if a limited-scope arrangement is right for you, you should:

  • Discuss your case with a lawyer in depth, including areas that you want to handle yourself. If you do not discuss the whole case with the lawyer, even the parts that you think are simple and want to handle yourself, you will not know if you have overlooked something that is legally important. Once you have had this discussion, you and the lawyer can agree on whether a limited-scope arrangement will work for you and your case and you can be comfortable that you have identified any hidden complications.
  • Decide if you are willing to take on full responsibility for those parts of the case you will handle on your own. Remember that the lawyer went to law school and probably has years of experience in this area.  That means that he or she will know things you do not about the legal process. If you instruct your lawyer not to take certain steps, either to save money or because you want to remain in control, you will have the full responsibility for the outcome in the parts of the case you do yourself, even with a lawyer coaching you.

Limited-scope representation vs. full representation
There are many benefits to limited-scope representation over full representation:

  • By only paying a lawyer to do those parts of your case that you cannot do yourself, you can save you money on legal fees.
  • The lawyer can use his or her time more efficiently by focusing that time on things you cannot effectively do yourself and leaving other more time-consuming tasks to you.
  • You can keep greater control of your case than if the lawyer handles the entire case.

But, there are many times when limited-scope may not be a good choice, like when:

  • Your case has a lot of technical issues or is very time-sensitive.
  • You do not have the time to put into educating yourself and effectively handling many of the tasks that you need to do.
  • There is a lot of stake in your case, so if you lose, you could lose your home, lose rights to see your children, or owe a lot of money.

Limited-scope representation vs. representing yourself
Limited-scope representation can often also be a better alternative than representing yourself:

  • Having a lawyer helping you with parts of your case can save you a lot of time and energy because the lawyer can educate you about the process and your specific issues. He or she can also help you find self-help books and other resources so you can handle the parts of the case when you are on your own.
  • A lawyer, by being more removed from your case than you are, can see things about your case that you cannot. A lawyer can help you focus on the legal issues and on what the court can do for you, and not let yourself be distracted by other issues and emotions.
  • A lawyer can identify potential problems or hidden complications early on, so you can avoid making a costly mistake.

WORKING WITH A LIMITED-SCOPE LAWYER

You and the lawyer should have an in-depth discussion about all the aspects of your case, and agree on your respective responsibilities.

Some of the issues you need to work out with the lawyer are:

  • Who will decide on the strategy?
  • Who will gather what information?
  • Who will prepare the information for the court?
  • Who will draft documents for the court?
  • Who will appear at court proceedings and settlement conferences?
  • Who will negotiate with the other side?

In making decisions about these issues, remember that the lawyer has the education and experience to work on the more technical parts of your case, guide you throughout the court process, and spot important legal issues that you may not see on your own.

You and the limited-scope lawyer will be working as a team, but it is your case. If you and the lawyer cannot agree on who should take on which parts of the case, or on decisions that need to be made in your case, you should listen to what the lawyer says.  If the lawyer feels strongly that the course you want to take is not in your best interests, listen carefully to the reasons why he or she is recommending you do something differently.

But, in the end, it is your case, your decision and your responsibility. You have the right to disregard the lawyer’s advice, but if the case does not turn out the way you hoped, you have to be willing to accept the responsibility for your decision.

The lawyer will likely tell you where to look to find tools to help you assist in your own representation.

COURT FORMS AND CONTRACTS IN LIMITED-SCOPE CASES

There are special forms and service contracts that you and your limited-scope lawyer have to use when you agree to limited-scope representation.

Lawyer contract
First, make sure your contract with the limited-scope lawyer is very clear, and that every detail you discussed in terms of handling the case is in writing. If anything changes, you can always agree to increase or change the scope of representation between the 2 of you at a later time.

Your contract should be very clear on what the lawyer will and will not be doing, as well as what you, the client, will be doing. The contract should also clearly specify how you will be charged and your fee arrangement. The clearer you are, the more likely you are to avoid any misunderstandings.

Before you sign, make sure you understand everything in the agreement and the risks of limited-scope representation.

Court forms
A special notice has to be filed in your court case to inform the court and the other side of the limited-scope representation if the lawyer is going to appear in the case for you.

In family law cases, the lawyer will need to file the Notice of Limited Scope Representation (Form FL-950).

In a civil case, the lawyer will need to file the Notice of Limited Scope Representation (Form MC-955).

When the lawyer has finished with the part of the case agreed to, make sure to sign and file the Substitution of Attorney-Civil (Form MC-050).

from California Courts

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