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Entries in law (11)

Sunday
Feb172013

Chelsea King: Murdered Teen's Brother Making Documentary to Help Change US Laws

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- The teenage brother of Chelsea King is making a documentary to honor his sister and inspire civic action, three years after she was raped and murdered while running in a California park.

When Tyler King, now 16, came to his parents with the idea of making a documentary, they were initially reluctant, his father Brent King told ABC News.

"We're always worried about opening new wounds for him. He's 16," Brent King said.

Chelsea was raped and murdered on Feb. 25, 2010, by a man who had previously been convicted of sexually abusing a 13-year-old neighbor and, in retrospect, was found to have repeatedly violated his parole.

To try to prevent anything similar from happening again, the California legislature passed Chelsea's Law in September 2010, seven months after the girl's murder.

Tyler envisioned telling Chelsea's story from his own point of view, while also giving children the information and tools they need to lobby for a law as strong as Chelsea's Law in their states.

Chelsea's Law has a "one strike" provision that means offenders convicted of forcible sex crimes against minors that include aggravating factors, such as age, are sentenced to life in prison without parole.

After discussing the idea as a family and consulting with a trauma expert, Brent King gave his son his approval and set out to help connect him to the resources he needed.

It turns out the Kings didn't have to look far. Their San Diego network of supporters included Bruce Caulk, a director of documentaries and films who commutes between his home in La Jolla and his office on the Paramount lot in Los Angeles.

Caulk had coached a baseball team that had participated in a tournament to benefit the Chelsea's Light foundation, and got to know the Kings.

"I saw an opportunity to use my skills and get the word out and help them," he told ABC News. "She [Chelsea] kind of put the hook in me."

Caulk and Tyler King are shooting the documentary piece by piece, as they raise the estimated $400,000 they will need through donations on the Chelsea's Light website.

Scot Wolfe, a co-producer of the viral internet video "KONY 2012" is also lending his expertise to the making of the documentary.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec272012

California First to Endorse Comprehensive Social Media Privacy Law

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Starting Jan. 1, 2013, California will be the first state to enact comprehensive social media privacy legislation, officials say.

As he signed the measure known as the Social Media Privacy Act on Sept. 27, California Gov. Jerry Brown posted on his Google+ page: “Today I am signing Assembly Bill 1844 and Senate Bill 1349, which prohibit universities and employers from demanding your email and social media passwords. California pioneered the social media revolution. These laws protect Californians from unwarranted invasions of their social media accounts.”

Bill number SB 1349, authored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco-San Mateo, provides protections for students and applicants at colleges and universities throughout California. And bill number AB 1844, authored by Assemblywoman Nora Campos, gives the same protections to employees and job applicants.

“Violation of online privacy has become a trend nationally, we wanted to put an immediate stop to it and stop it from reaching to California,” Adam J. Keigwin, state Capitol-based chief of staff of Yee’s office, told ABCNews.com.

In May 2012, Maryland became the first state to pass social media legislation that protects employees’ digital privacy. In July 2012, Delaware enacted a similar legislation that protects college students and post-secondary schools. In August 2012, Illinois passed social media legislation similar to Maryland’s.

Bradley Shear, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney practicing social media and technology law, served as an adviser on California’s bills. He told ABCNews.com on Thursday that the states of New Jersey and Michigan will follow suit next year.

“This means that a total of six states will enact the social media privacy acts, with Michigan being the second after California to enact a comprehensive one,” said Shear.

“The practice of employers or colleges demanding social media passwords is entirely unnecessary and completely unrelated to someone’s performance or abilities,” said Yee in a news release issued by his office. “Today, California has declared that this is an unacceptable invasion of personal privacy.”

But Shear thought that there was more to these bills than issues of privacy.

“This is a win-win situation for all parties. People should understand that it is pro-privacy and pro-business because with access comes responsibility,” said Shear, adding that employers deciding to keep profit-generating employees while aware of their legally questionable acts can get in legal trouble.

“I would tell such employers, careful what you wish for,” Shear said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct092012

After Sandusky, Florida Passes One of Nation's Toughest Sexual Abuse Reporting Laws

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- The Penn State scandal helped shape a new Florida sexual abuse reporting law that has been called the toughest in the nation, holding universities and individuals financially and criminally liable for failure to report suspected abuse.

Under the law, which went into effect Oct. 1, colleges and universities that "knowingly and willfully" fail to report known or suspected child abuse or prevent another person from doing so will be slapped with a $1 million fine for each failure.

"We learned we didn't want to take a chance on [them]," said Ron Book, president of Lauren's Kids, a nonprofit that helped spearhead the legislation.

That began with mandating that schools report all allegations, not just conduct their own investigations. Book pointed to allegations from Penn State, Syracuse University and The Citadel that were known to administrators but not reported to authorities.

"What we learned after the Sandusky indictment was even though we prided ourselves as being a true mandatory reporting state, we found we weren't," Book said.

Aside from the university financial penalties, Book and his daughter, Lauren, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, also helped closed loopholes in the legislation for individual reporting.

"Applying Penn State to the old Florida law, would Mike McQueary [have] had to report what he saw?" Book said, referring to the former Penn State assistant coach who witnessed Sandusky raping a boy in the school's showers.

"The answer was he would not have."

Previously, a person who called the state abuse hotline to report a suspected incident involving a child would have been asked to call law enforcement if the suspected predator was not a care taker or parent of the child, Book said.

"What we've learned is it's hard enough to get a victim or observer to call once," he said.

Under the new law, witnesses, like McQueary, or people who suspect abuse, are required to call a centralized hotline run by the Florida Department of Children and Families or face third-degree felony charges and a $5,000 fine.

Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, said the stricter reporting law won't necessarily reduce the number of cases of abuse.

"Bad people are going to do bad things," she said, "but I think we can reduce it and we can make it very clear to every citizen that we're all responsible for the welfare of our children."

The Florida Department of Children and Families reported a 25 percent increase in calls since the law went into effect on Oct. 1.

While other states have mandatory reporting laws, there are still loopholes, Book said.

He'd like to see the Florida law he helped pass be used as a model for other states, especially for how they handle situations at colleges and universities.

"If you don't back it up with financial and criminal penalties, you've done nothing and we've gotten nothing out of Sandusky," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun282012

'Speed Trap' Warning Lands Texas Woman in Jail

ABC News(HOUSTON) -- A Houston woman's attempt to save drivers from a speeding ticket landed her something worse: 12 hours in jail.

As she rode her bicycle home from a grocery store last week near downtown Houston, Natalie Plummer noticed police officers pulling over speeders. After she parked her bike and turned one of her grocery bags into a makeshift sign warning drivers about the "speed trap" ahead, an officer drove up and arrested her.

"I was completely abiding by the law," Plummer told ABC's affiliate KRTK. "I was simply warning citizens of a situation ahead."

But Houston police saw it differently, and arrested Plummer for standing in the street where a sidewalk was present, a misdemeanor charge.

Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said that officers found Plummer standing in the street, waving her arms as she held the sign.

But Plummer denied ever leaving the sidewalk on West Dallas Street, alleging that the arresting officer invented a reason to detain her.

"He couldn't take me to jail for holding up this sign or he would have. So all he could do was make up something fake about it," Plummer told KRTK. The officer searched Plummer's backpack, she said, and threatened to arrest her for obstructing justice, a felony charge.

Michael Dirden, Houston's executive assistant police chief, said in a statement that if Plummer believes the police acted inappropriately, she should file a complaint with the department's internal affairs division.

After being held in jail for 12 hours, Plummer was released on bond, and will soon appear in court to face her misdemeanor charge.

While Plummer's method of alerting drivers to police activity might have been unprecedented, state laws covering such warnings are decades old. Their most common form, flashing headlights, is legal in some states but illegal in others.  

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr062012

Mississippi Bill Threatens to Close the State's Only Abortion Clinic

(JACKSON, Miss.) -- Mississippi lawmakers are bringing stricter laws to abortion providers. State legislators passed a measure Wednesday that would require doctors working at abortion clinics to be certified obstetrician-gynecologists, and to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The catch?  Mississippi has just one abortion clinic, and only one doctor there has admitting privileges. That means Mississippi's only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, could be forced to close, ending abortion in Mississippi and sending any women seeking abortions out of state for the procedure.

"If this passage of legislation causes fewer abortions, then it is a positive result," said State Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb.

Mims, who authored the bill, said the clinic's closure is not the only option going forward.  Keeping the clinic open would just mean the other doctors would have to apply for admitting privileges.

"It does take around 60-90 days to apply for privileges and for that facility to grant you privileges, and so there -- the law is not stopping them from applying, its the receiving privileges," Mims said. "So it's just a matter of applying and having the hospital approve it."

But Diane Derzis, owner of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, told Politico she believes the law's passage was aimed directly at her clinic's closing. Derzis plans to fight to keep the clinic running, and will go as far as to sue the state of Mississippi if the clinic's other two physicians are not able to acquire admitting privileges.

"If you mandate something that can't be accomplished, I don't believe that's constitutional," she told Politico.

The bill was sent to Gov. Phil Bryant's desk Thursday, where it awaits his approval.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar012012

Maryland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) -- Maryland on Thursday became the eighth state to legalize same-sex marriage after Gov. Martin O'Malleyon signed the bill into law.

The bill's passage in Maryland comes on the heels of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's decision to veto legislation that would legalize gay marriage in that state.

Noting before the bill's signing that all people share a common thread of "human dignity," Gov. O'Malleyon remarked, according to The Baltimore Sun, "The way forward is always found through greater respect for the equal rights of all."

After signing the bill at the State House, Gov. O'Malleyon invited supporters to accompany him "across the street" for an open reception at the governor's mansion, reports The Baltimore Sun.

The law will take effect in 2013, though opponents of the measure have begun the process to have it overturned in November, according to the Sun.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov042011

Is Michigan Giving 'License to Bully'?

Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Thinkstock(LANSING, Mich.) -- LGBT advocates and the father of the boy for whom a Michigan anti-bullying law is named are slamming the state senate, claiming a last-minute First Amendment tweak gives "a major green light" to school bullies.

The Michigan Senate this week passed a bill to authorize the law, Matt's Safe School Law, which is named after Matt Epling, a freshman from East Lansing, Mich., who killed himself after being bullied by upperclassmen in 2002.

But in a change before Wednesday's vote, Republican lawmakers added a clause ensuring that the bill "does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held belief or moral conviction" of a student or school worker.

"They kind of snuck in this extra paragraph, really kind of setting apart kids that feel their religious beliefs, their moral convictions, basically, can allow them to bully," said Matt Epling's father, Kevin Epling. "That one paragraph, though, negates most of the things that we tried to put in."

Michigan is one of three U.S. states without an anti-bullying law.

Kevin Epling told ABC News Friday that the change was made after he'd spent more than six years pushing for the legislation.

Friday, he called the law as it stands "a time bomb," adding that the change created a loophole that allowed students to use their religion to justify bullying another.

"I think it fails the memory of Matt," he said. "We cannot go backward and say, in any way, shape or form, in a piece of legislation that it is OK under religious grounds to harass or harm your fellow student. And that's what they've done."

Republican state Sen. Rick Jones, the bill's sponsor, told ABC News Friday that the GOP wanted to make sure students' First Amendment rights were protected.

The state lawmaker said the bill was personal to him because his son, now 31, had been a victim of bullying, and because a friend's granddaughter had fatally shot herself after being bullied.

Dan Savage, a sex columnist who launched the It Gets Better Project to encourage gay youth, however, called the bill in its current form "a license to bully."

"I was appalled when I read that it had passed. ... It really is a God-hates-fags-special-rights-for-Christians-to-abuse-LBGT-kids-in-the-school law," he told ABC News Friday.

"It's a law that specifically empowers students, teachers, administrators [and] principals to bully LGBT kids if they can point to a moral justification," he said. "You have a right to your own religious beliefs. You don't have a right to inflict your private moral judgments on those people in a place where you are a public servant and an employee of the state. ... Michigan should be ashamed of itself."

Kevin Epling said that the anti-bullying proposal had dashed the hopes of many students who'd believed the measure would effect change in schools and protect victims.

"We need to get students to tolerate each other," he said. "We need to have more acceptance in our schools. This legislation is actually going to put another problem in the schools that does not need to be there."

The bill is headed to the state House.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Oct302011

New Law Prohibits Sex Offenders From Answering Door on Halloween

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- With children getting ready to go door to door trick-or-treating Monday for Halloween, communities near Los Angeles are taking action to protect their children from sex offenders and other criminals.

Riverside County passed an ordinance Oct. 16 prohibiting sex offenders from opening the door to trick-or-treaters on Halloween, turning their exterior lights on after dark and putting up Halloween decorations on Oct. 31.

Orange and San Jacinto cities have similar rules.

The ordinance states that “the events of Halloween could put children unknowingly in close proximity to sexual offenders who have committed violations against children.”

“Usually we have the predator going after the prey, but Halloween causes incidental contact between the prey coming to the predator, and so I want to minimize that contact,” Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone told ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

“These ordinances have been on the books in the cities of Orange and San Jacinto, and to my knowledge there have been no challenges, but we’re always up for the challenge if somebody wants to challenge it, I’ll always err on the side of children’s safety,” Stone said.

If sex offenders are caught in violation of the new ordinance, it will be considered a misdemeanor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

Friday
Aug262011

'Facebook Law': Injunction Granted Against Limits on Online Contact 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, Mo.) -- A Missouri judge has granted an injunction against a new state law meant to protect children from sexual predators at school. Teachers said the law was so broadly worded it would stop them from using the Internet to contact kids -- even their own -- for the most innocent of reasons.

The law, called the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, was scheduled, until Friday's injunction, to take effect Sunday. It states, among its other provisions, that teachers may not contact their students through electronic communications, such as instant messages or Facebook posts, that cannot be seen by others.

"The breadth of the prohibition is staggering," said Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem in granting the request for injunction by the Missouri State Teachers Association. "It clearly prohibits communication between family members and their teacher parents using these types of sites. The court finds that the statute would have a chilling effect on speech."

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon joined in, calling Friday for the state legislature to repeal the provisions of the law concerning student-teacher communications.

"I will ask the General Assembly to repeal that particular section, while preserving other vital protections included in the bill," he said in a statement. "In addition, I will be asking for input on this issue from teachers, parents and other stakeholders."

The law was sponsored by State Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from the St. Louis suburbs, who argued that all she wanted to limit was "hidden communications" between teachers and students that could not be monitored by third parties, such as parents or school administrators.

"This gives everyone time to debate and discuss the issue to come to a proper resolution rather than rushing to piece together language that doesn't resolve the concerns of educators or allow time for teacher input," said Gail McCray, counsel for the teachers' association.

In Missouri, the debate over what has often been referred to as the "Facebook Law" has taken on a life of its own, with several education and civil liberties groups calling for its language to be clarified.

On Friday, after the injunction, Cunningham said she was disappointed that the state teachers association had not joined with other groups to modify the wording of the law. "They're wasting their members' dues," she said, "fighting in court over something that's simple to fix."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul192011

Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick Endorses Animal Cruelty Legislation

Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick endorsed new legislation that would make both observing and enabling a minor to watch animal fighting events criminal offenses.

Congress is the latest stop on Vick’s redemption tour, begun in the wake of his 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to dogfighting charges in 2007.

“Throughout my time in prison, I told myself that I wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem,” Vick said in a hushed voice. “Dog fighting is inhumane, it's illegal, it's a federal felony and it's a felony in every state now.  We have an opportunity to create meaningful change.”

Though it was Vick’s first trip supporting legislation in Washington, D.C., it was not the first time his name had been thrown around the Capitol.

At the height of Vick’s infamy in 2007, then-Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd compared dogfighters to the most serious of criminals on the Senate floor.

Back then, Byrd “declared that he has seen one execution in his life -- a man put to death in the electric chair. "It’s not a beautiful thing," he said. "I could say I could witness another one if it involves (long pause) this cruel, sadistic, cannibalistic, business of training these vulnerable creatures to kill.’"

Tuesday’s reception of Vick was much warmer. Congressman Jim Moran, D-Va., complimented Vick as being in “tremendous shape.”

“This is a story of redemption; it's a story of leadership,” Moran said. “It's a story of deciding to do good and making a really substantive, consequential difference in the lives of a whole lot of people and certainly among animals that otherwise would be mistreated. Michael's leading the way to get these animals adopted and treated properly.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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