Why Are Some Crimes Considered A Felony?

Feel free to search our website to learn about the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony if you require additional information. For brevity, though, the only difference that you need to know is that felonies are more serious and can land someone in hotter water (i.e. the difference between county jail and federal prison). But there’s a more nuanced reason that the distinction between misdemeanors and felonies exists. 

When a crime is committed, the legal response is an organized one. Police will make an arrest if they believe a particular suspect has committed the crime. During the arrest, the subject will be charged with whatever seems to suit the situation best. Later, the Attorney General’s office will decide whether or not to prosecute and whether or not the original charges should stick. Usually, they leave them as is. Sometimes, the charges are trumped up. 

And that’s where the more nuanced distinction between a misdemeanor and felony comes in. 

Because the AG’s office knows that an arrested individual is far more likely to cooperate — i.e. either confess or lawyer up and take a plea deal — if the person knows that the consequences are greater, the prosecutor and felony defense lawyer will often agree to take the original charges and reduce them. Poof! The original charges — which, let’s say, involved a felony or two — vanish into thin air. Their replacement? Misdemeanors! 

This might sound great for both parties. After all, the justice system is far more likely to get a check in the “win” column while the convicted individual skates by with far less severe consequences for the actual crime committed. 

Which would you choose if you were picked up for criminal activity? A trial — for which you have the right — with greater consequences if you lose. Or smaller legal expenses (fewer billable hours for your lawyer) when you confess as part of a plea deal, knowing that the consequences for your actions will be reduced. It’s not difficult to understand which choice most individuals make.

There are drawbacks to such a system.

The biggest is the most obvious. An innocent individual is far more likely to insist on going to court than a criminal whose guilt can be proved beyond reasonable doubt. If that innocent individual is convicted — and thousands have been since the 80s — then they will inevitably end up in prison for far longer, while someone who is actually guilty of the crime might end up with time in a relaxing county jail. 

The other drawback is money. The system isn’t just about winning. It’s about mitigating the financial loss for taxpayers. Convince someone to take a deal with lesser consequences, and you’ll have spared the system the burden of a costly trial that might not even end in a guilty conviction. When such a system exists, though, it’s easy to see how it could become a cash cow, more about money than putting dangerous felons behind bars. Some argue this is why America has the world’s largest rate of incarceration.

What Is The Legal Definition Of “Habeas Corpus?”

Anyone who went through a public education has heard the phrase “Habeas Corpus.” Maybe you even have a basic idea of what it means to “suspend” Habeas Corpus. Most of us forget, though. Here, you can relearn what you might not remember — and learn what you might never have been taught.

Habeas Corpus is a Latin phrase that translates literally “you have the body.” The legal definition of “Habeas Corpus” according to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute is this: “In the US system, federal courts can use the writ of habeas corpus to determine if a state’s detention of a prisoner is valid. A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or other detainee (e.g. institutionalized mental patient) before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful.”

In other words, Habeas Corpus is a constitutional right to only lawful imprisonment, and protects against unlawful imprisonment.

What does it mean to suspend Habeas Corpus? President Lincoln is famous for having done so. President George W. Bush also suspended Habeas Corpus for suspects of terrorism. Doing so meant that he could detain suspects of terrorism indefinitely (even forever). The justification? We are protected for the greater good. Lincoln, on the other hand, suspended the right several times during the Civil War for mostly tactical reasons. It allowed Union military figures to summarily arrest individuals suspected of aiding and abetting the enemy without any real evidence.

These moves are always controversial.

Many individuals who are detained after a suspension of Habeas Corpus are released without trial. This adds to the controversy, because they would have been tried had they been guilty of a crime. 

Another aspect of the controversy revolves around which government entity has the right to suspend Habeas Corpus in the first place. Although presidents are famous for doing so, many believe that the right lies squarely in the hands of Congress. These arguments are ongoing.

Defining The Three Types Of Business Contracts

Laying out the terms of a business contract can be difficult for budding entrepreneurs. Fulfilling the terms of the bargain can be even harder. But before the pen is even put to paper, the parties involved must decide which type of contract is required. There are three types of business contracts that are common: general business, sale-related, and employment. Every good business person knows that the difference between “binding” contracts and verbal agreements can make or break a business.

General business contracts include partnership agreements, indemnity agreements, nondisclosure agreements, and property and equipment leasing agreements.

Sales-related contracts include the oft-needed bill of sale, a purchase order, or a security agreement.

Employment contracts include general employment, noncompete agreements, and independent contractor agreements.

Let’s start with the latter. Everyone knows what a general employment contract is. This is a written handshake between employer and employee. It details expectations of both parties. 

A noncompete agreement isn’t for everyone. It’s important for businesses with IP. These types of business contracts mean that a former employee cannot move to a competing business for a specific amount of time (thereby competing with the business where the employee formerly worked). An independent contractor agreement is required for certain services or projects, dependent on federal law.

Regarding sale-related contracts, a bill of sale provides the new owner of an asset with legal proof that the sale was made. These are common for big-ticket purchases, such as motor vehicles. A purchase order requires that a business owner make a specific purchase once signed. Basically, a restaurant owner might make a contract with a supplier to order a specific amount of merchandise every so often. A security agreement stipulates collateral. For example, a business owner might use his home as collateral for the approval of a loan. The lender would receive the collateral if the borrower defaulted on a loan.

General business contracts are the most common for business owners. A partnership agreement is made when there are multiple owners or additional members with stake in a particular company.

An indemnity agreement is normally made on top of another agreement. In essence, it gives one party a pass in case there are damages resulting from the other agreement. According to AVVO, this might occur in the following situation: “A kennel owner might ask pet owners to sign an indemnity contract to prevent lawsuits if a pet is hurt by another animal at the kennel.”

Everyone knows what a nondisclosure agreement (or NDA) is. These contracts prevent specific parties from releasing company secrets — or anything else. Justin Bieber used to use NDAs to prevent partygoers at his home from revealing what exactly happened there.

A property and equipment lease is used when a business owner needs a piece of equipment for the business to function, but does not buy it outright. These agreements often outline terms related to monthly payments, security deposits, who performs maintenance, etc.

What Are The Legal Definitions Of These Investment Terms?

Investment law is an important branch dedicated to those who choose to invest their financial assets in order to see them grow. Both lawyers and their clients should know the legal definitions of many terms related to investment law. These include definitions for the terms “parent company,” “subsidiary,” “sister company,” “affiliate,” and “division.” How many do you know?

A parent company is any business that owns another company or organization. Amazon is a good example of what it means to be a parent company, as it owns hundreds of other businesses in order to make itself more valuable to consumers and investors. The companies owned by the parent company are called “subsidiaries.” They are sometimes called child companies. Sometimes subsidiaries have their own child companies.

Two or more sister companies are considered subsidiaries to the same parent company. Once a larger company owns two or more smaller organizations, those organizations are considered sisters. They might operate on their own and have little if any connection other than the owner.

A subsidiary might still have significant stock ownership. An affiliate is still connected to the parent company, but with only a minority stake in the company. An affiliate might be built internationally under a different name. If the affiliate fails, few will recognize it as a failure of the parent company (even though it is one). This ensures the stock holdings remain stronger than they might if a venture under the same company name had failed. 

Many are confused by the term “division,” which is part of the parent company. It might not have the same name as the company. Take Google, for example, which is a division to the larger organization “Alphabet.” Another division of the company is the “Other Bets,” which handles some R&D projects. Other Bets has many child companies of its own, which are not divisions of the larger parent, Alphabet.

What Is The Legal Definition Of “Collections?”

Collection law is an interesting nook of the law most people know little if anything about. It governs how certain agencies recoup funds owed to them. How much do you know about collection law? Keep reading to learn about the legal definition of collection law and find examples of how a collections lawyer might do their job.

According to The Law Dictionary, the legal definition of “collections” is: “This is a process for recovering delinquency amounts owed to a firm by a customer.” The term can also be used elsewhere: “In Banking, this is the (1). presenting a check or draft as payment, then as a receipt of its amount in cash or as a credit to the account; (2). moving of delinquent or past due accounts for full or partial recovery of the amount to a collection agency or a special department set up for collections purpose.”

Less often, the term collections can be used to refer to foreign trade activities. It means the collection of a payment required of an importer or buyer, wherein the bank receives the requisite documentation required before delivery can occur. A collections lawyer needs to know each of these definitions.

Lawyers who work in this practice area need to be able to represent clients on both ends of collection: debtors and creditors. They need to know how to provide help for public and private lenders, asset-based lenders, commercial and real estate lenders, secured and unsecured creditors, investors, banks both at home and abroad, and various types of financial institutions. This is a nuanced field of law, and the collections lawyers need to know everything there is to know. It’s not an easy job.

Collections law is also very closely associated with bankruptcy law. Some lawyers specialize in one or the other, while others prefer to do both in order to attract a wider range of clients.

A lawyer who does both is expected to know how to win cases for creditors during bankruptcy and/or insolvency proceedings, through litigation in and out of court. The job also includes knowledge about restructuring businesses to reduce expenditures and other losses. Protecting the client’s rights is the most important aspect of the job.

Lawyers also need to explore additional options to solve a client’s legal woes. These might include the production of objections to confirmation, motions for relief, debt restructuring, the processing of executory contracts, negotiation of claim resolution, repossessing assets from defendants, processing eviction and foreclosure, valuing assets, discharge, and reaffirmations. When no one wants to solve the problem in court, lawyers will need to know how to defend a client during mediation or arbitration.

The law is normally stacked in favor of the debtor — that’s why bankruptcy exists in the first place. But creditors have rights as well. It’s the job of a collections lawyer to make sure those rights are heard and that the law is followed. If you believe you are being taken advantage of during bankruptcy proceedings, you might need a collections lawyer.

What Is The Legal Definition Of “Unintentional Tort?”

We all make mistakes. That much is true. Unfortunately, even accidents can have devastating consequences for one party or the other — and legal ramifications for whichever party caused the accident in the first place. Read on to discover the meaning behind “unintentional tort” and potential legal penalties.

According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, the definition of “tort” means that an act has occurred “that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability. In the context of torts, ‘injury’ describes the invasion of any legal right, whereas ‘harm’ describes a loss or detriment in fact that an individual suffers.’”

Unintentional tort occurs when an individual or organization unintentionally causes harm to another. Intentional tort occurs when an individual or organization purposely behaves in a particular way — whether intending to cause harm or not. Intentional tort is far more likely to have criminal consequences than unintentional tort. 

Intentional torts include assault and battery, fraud, invasion or privacy, defamation, etc.

Unintentional torts include car accidents, medical malpractice, animal attacks, workplace accidents, etc.

During courtroom proceedings involving either unintentional or intentional tort, you may hear the term “strict liability.” This term means that person is financially liable for an accident either way. The person liable for an accident does not need to be found to be directly at fault. This is not always the case. Usually, personal injury attorneys handle these types of cases. Contact one to discuss the details involved in yours.

Unintentional tort can result in injury or property damage (and almost always financial loss). When sued for an accident, defendants must be found guilty of negligence. Without negligence, the injured party usually has no case. In the most extreme cases, a judge might find the defendant guilty and then apply statutory damages. These are applied when the negligence was so great that the judge believes additional punishment is necessary. (These are separate from criminal charges, however.)

What Is The Legal Definition Of “Age Discrimination?”

You’ve already heard the news: the boomers are growing older and employers are hiring younger. This isn’t a lie! Nearly three billion people are over the age of 40. Under three billion are under the age of 20. You can conclude two things from these statistics. One, a big chunk of the world’s population is not yet working age. Two, a second big chunk of the world’s population is about to retire. What about everyone else? Oddly enough, this is why so many people face “age discrimination.”

According to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “age discrimination” occurs when someone over the age of 40 faces discrimination because of their age: “The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older. It does not protect workers under the age of 40, although some states have laws that protect younger workers from age discrimination. It is not illegal for an employer or other covered entity to favor an older worker over a younger one, even if both workers are age 40 or older.”

What are the takeaways? 

First, the victim of age discrimination can only be over the age of 40. Second, no discrimination occurred if a favored job applicant was also over the age of 40. Discrimination may have occurred if a favored job applicant was under the age of 40 and the victim was over the age of 40. Make sense? Usually, age discrimination cases involve claims of forced retirement or being passed over for promotion when a victim is already employed with a particular company. It is very difficult to prove age discrimination during the application process — although it does occur.

Not sure if you have a case? A discrimination attorney can help clear up any misconceptions you have about the relevant legal statutes or answer any questions.

Age-related harassment is only illegal when it constitutes a hostile work environment. Teasing is not considered harassment under age discrimination law.

Most employers have employment agreements that forbid discrimination or harassment based on the law. Employment agreements that “apply to everyone, regardless of age, can be illegal” according to the EEOC. That’s because certain practices that might be fair to younger employees might be unreasonable when applied towards older employees. 

For example, an employment contract that requires an applicant to regularly lift large amounts of weight might be illegal under certain circumstances. A smart employer will remove this stipulation from the contract itself — and then add it to a particular job’s expected tasks. That way, older employees who are not as physically able can still perform more reasonable tasks under a different title.

Age discrimination might also occur when an employer terminates an older employee without cause and then hires a younger employee to fill the same position. Usually, the new employee is paid less than the older employee. Another example of age-related discrimination occurs when the vast majority of a laid-off workforce is over the age of 40. 

What Is The Legal Definition Of “Laches?”

Some legal terms are far more obscure than others. Here’s one you’ve probably never run into (unless you’ve passed the bar exam): laches. This term relates to a person’s rights in relation to certain legal powers in or out of court. Read on to find out more.

According to dictionary.law.com, the legal definition of laches: “The legal doctrine that a legal right or claim will not be enforced or allowed if a long delay in asserting the right or claim has prejudiced the adverse party (hurt the opponent) as a sort of ‘legal ambush.’”

What does this mean in layman’s terms?

Most comparisons of “laches” are made to state-specific statute of limitations. For example, the statute of limitations describes the maximum amount of time a victim has to come forward to alert the authorities that a crime has been committed. For example, some states have extremely limiting statute of limitations for crimes involving sexual assault — even though most victims are young and too affected by psychological and emotional trauma to come forward in the given period of time.

Laches works in reverse in most cases. 

Let’s say a victim of sexual assault waits five years to alert authorties of the crime. The state’s statute of limitations is ten years, and so the judge allows the case to move forward. But then the defendant’s lawyer uses a “laches defense.” In this particular case, the defense attorney might say that the client’s rights are violated because it’s difficult or impossible to approach witnesses or find evidence of an alleged crime that occurred years ago. The judge would then decide whether or not this defense is appropriate — and also whether or not the case should be dismissed outright if the defense is deemed valid.

You can see why this type of defense is particularly emotionally evocative now, when the #MeToo movement has gained so much momentum. Laches and statutes of limitations are under fire because victims have the right to be heard.

Business Law: What Is The Legal Definition Of “Contract?”

We all have a basic understanding of what the term “contract” means. But it’s more complicated when taken from a business law standpoint. It can act as an umbrella term for other elements such as violation of public policy, mutual consent, offers, acceptances, mutual consideration, performance, delivery, good faith, etc. How do all these elements make a contract? Keep reading to find out.

According to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, the legal definition of the term “Contract” is: “An agreement between private parties creating mutual obligations enforceable by law. The basic elements required for the agreement to be a legally enforceable contract are: mutual assent, expressed by a valid offer and acceptance; adequate consideration; capacity; and legality. In some states, elements of consideration can be satisfied by a valid substitute. Possible remedies for breach of contract include general damages, consequential damages, reliance damages, and specific performance.”

Usually, people need to know the definition of the word “contract” for one of two reasons: one, they won’t be able to fulfill their legal obligations determined in the contract. Or two, they have decided it would be in their best interests to voluntarily break the terms described in the contract and would like to know the legal consequences.

Any business law attorney will explain to a client that the best option is to fulfill the terms of a contract once signed. The best way to avoid breaking a contract is to read the terms carefully and renegotiate any terms that might be difficult to fulfill. A business law attorney can help clients do this.

Of course, not all contracts are created equally. For example, the lease you sign with a landlord leaves you with contractual obligations. But the law providers renters with many options if they cannot meet the terms of the lease. Not sure if that applies to you? Find an attorney to find out for sure.

What is the legal definition of “breach of contract?” 

“Breach of contract law stipulates that a breach of contract happens when one of the parties to the contract fails to live up to his part of the agreement. A breach of contract varies in severity and can be partial, material, anticipatory, or fundamental.”

Before you can argue breach of contract in a court of law, several things must be proved first. These include: that both parties understood the contract was valid (and that it was), that the contract was breached, and that one party failed to meet contractual obligations. Also, the party that breached the contract must be contacted and informed that this occurred. 

There are several types of breach of contract. They include the “minor” or partial breach, the anticipatory breach, the material breach, and the fundamental breach. These represent different levels of contractual breach. Depending on the level, the damaged party might be able to more successfully sue in court. 

Regardless of which party you represent in the contract, it is beneficial to obtain the services of a business law attorney before proceeding — especially if you expect the case will wind up in court.

What Is The Legal Definition Of “Stalking?”

If you’re alive in the 21st century, then you’ve probably heard a friend say they’re being stalked. The person most likely made this comment in jest. But stalking is a very real crime with very real legal ramifications. What is the legal definition of “stalking” and what are the legal consequences? Read further to find out.

According to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the legal definition of “stalking” means “engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety or the safety of others or suffer substantial emotional distress.”

Familiar with the law? You might recognize similarities between “stalking” and “assault.” Both legal terms are used to describe distress, usually by an individual. Both legal terms describe a sense of danger, usually by the same individual. The primary difference is that stalking encompasses a broader pattern while assault describes what is usually a single event. A person might also be charged with “harassment.”

Have you been stalked? Please refer to the DOJ for additional resources. Call 911 if you are in immediate danger!

The legal penalties for stalking vary by state. Usually, defendants are penalized severely only when prior offenses are on record. An individual charged with stalking might expect anything from a small fine to significant jail time. It is not unusual to receive a call from a detective before charges are placed. Cases revolving around harassment are not unusual, and so public officials try to limit resource expenditures on non-serious threats.

A victim of stalking might request or be granted a writ of protection. This document alerts the victim of next steps should the stalking continue and also lets the stalker know when an arrest is imminent. But basically the writ of protection is just a friendly reminder to obey the law or face the consequences. Restraining orders are sometimes, but not often, granted in stalking cases.