Category Archives: Free Legal Help

Sealing Court Records-Preserving Privacy or Preventing Public Access?

Generally speaking, the public has access to all court records except those restricted by federal law, state law, court rule, or court order. If a court record includes personal information about an individual (whether a party to the case, witness, informant, minor, or juror) that is protected by legislative or judicial rule, that information is to be redacted, or that part of the record is to be sealed. Examples of restricted private data, (known as “personal identifiers”) include: full social security numbers, financial or health records, identification of minors or certain crime victims, adoption and probate records, and paternity results. … Read More

Bad Check Collection Help

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Bad checks are an expensive and frequent problem for merchants, and even for private individuals on occasion. If you accept a check from someone and it bounces, it may have been an honest mistake; if so, the check writer might re-imburse you as soon as you ask. But if that doesn’t happen, how do you get your money?

It may be difficult, even if you’ve taken the precaution of verifying the check-writer’s identification. You can sue, but that will take a while and cost you time and money in the meantime. To convict the check writer of a crime, the … Read More

Services for Crime Victims

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With the Trayvon Martin case, including the recent second degree murder charges against George Zimmerman making national news, violent crime is at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness. The Martin/Zimmerman case has raised questions about who the true victim really was. Although we may not know the answer to that question until the case has been resolved, unfortunately there are thousands of crimes committed every day, leaving victims to deal with the  aftermath. Often there is so much focus on the perpetrators of crime that the victim gets somewhat left behind by court systems. However, more and more courts are … Read More

What Is A Conflict Defender?

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Few people have ever heard the term “conflict defender” and fewer still could guess what it means. But it can be an important term for some criminal defendants who cannot afford a lawyer.

Last month we discussed Public Defenders, who provide criminal defense services to indigent defendants. Anyone facing possible loss of liberty is entitled to a free court-appointed lawyer if he or she can’t afford to hire one. A Public Defender’s Office is often the source of the court-appointed lawyer. However, the Public Defender’s Office may not be able to take the case if it presents a conflict … Read More

Public Defenders, Assigned Counsel, and Other Ways Indigent Defendants Get A Lawyer

If you’ve watched more than a handful of crime dramas on TV, you’re familiar with the Miranda warning given when someone is arrested. The exact words may vary a little from state to state, but it’s usually very close to this:
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in court. You have the right to an attorney, and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights guarantees (among other things) that no person may be compelled … Read More

Law Librarians Are There For You

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So you need to do some legal research for a court case in which you’re representing yourself, or you want to look up a particular local statute, or you simply want to read the court’s opinion for the interesting case you just heard about on the news? Now that you know about the existence of your local public law libraries to meet these needs, how do you get started? It can be intimidating to walk into a law library is you are not a law student or a member of the legal profession.

This is where law librarians come in. … Read More

Mediation: an Alternative to Foreclosure

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Judicial foreclosure exists in nearly every state in the United States. Generally, a lender initiates a foreclosure action when the property owner/borrower has failed to make mortgage payments. In a judicial foreclosure, the lender must go through the court system, filing a complaint and serving the borrower. In most states, the court will then either find for the borrower or for the lender. If the court finds that the borrower has indeed defaulted on his or her loan a judgement will be entered for the lender. The lender can then hold a sheriff’s sale of the property in order to … Read More

End of Life Decision-Making

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Nobody wants to think about worst case scenarios. We all hope that should we die or become incapacitated, our family and friends would make decisions for us that are in line with our wishes. However, the only way to truly ensure that our wishes are carried out (and the only way to remove as much of the stress of such decision-making from family and friends as possible), is to cement those decisions into a legal document in advance.

Some of the most important documents to have drawn up in advance are a living will or “advance directive,” a health care … Read More

Improving Your Chances in Small Claims Court

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If you’ve seen Judge Judy or one of the other popular court shows on TV, you may think you know how a courtroom functions. The truth is that these shows could not be further from reality. Most people have never set foot inside of a courtroom, and many are unsure of how to go about filing or responding to a small claims action.

Although small claims courts throughout the United States have somewhat different requirements and limitations for the types of cases they will hear, they do have some things in common. The most unifying aspect of small claims courts … Read More

The Limits of Expungement

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In the American legal system, “expungement” of criminal records generally refers to the process by which the subject of a previous arrest or conviction seeks to have their criminal record either sealed or destroyed, thereby making it generally unavailable for public perusal.  An arrest or conviction on record can make it difficult to obtain housing, employment and eduction; expungement can therefore be invaluable to those wishing to turn their lives around after a criminal past.

Almost every state offers a chance for certain offenders to obtain an expungement.  The criteria for obtaining an expungement vary by jurisdiction, but … Read More