Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/19/15: Protective Orders, Restraining Orders, and Peace Bonds

There are three related, yet distinct, protectivetools available to applicants: a protective order compels the abuser to stay away from the applicant and her home, place of work or school. A temporary restraining order (TRO) orders another party not to harm the applicant’s property, or to threaten, harass or harm the applicant or her children. A peace bond orders a third party to deposit money with a court that he will lose if he commits the threatened crime. Typically, a protective order is sought when the applicant has already been harmed by the abuser and can last for up to two years; a TRO forms part of an on-going civil or criminal matter and lapses once the court proceedings have concluded; and a peace bond is issued when someone has threatened to harm the applicant or her property and they have a reasonable apprehension those acts will be carried out, and is typically valid for up to one year.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/12/15: False Imprisonment v. Kidnapping

False imprisonment is the act of confining or detaining someone with no legal justification and against their will, and is treated as a felony in some (but not all) states In contrast, kidnapping involves moving a person against their will, through use of force or threats, to another location. The location may be only nominally distanct from the victim’s current location. A simple example will help to illustrate the difference: if you don’t like my class and lock me in the classroom, that’s false imprisonment. If you drag me into a classroom–even a short distance–and lock the door, that’s kidnapping.

Generally, kidnapping is considered a more serious offense and is usually punished as a felony. Both false imprisonment and kidnapping can be subject to aggravating circumstances that heighten the penalites, such as if the victim was a minor. A charge of kidnapping can include a charge of false imprisonment, as well. False imprisonment can lead to civil claims–for example, a person wrongly charged with shoplifting might file a civil suit for damages. False arrest is related to false imprisonment, but the distinction is that false arrest is premised on the actor claiming he or she has a legal basis for the detention which proves to be false. Examples of false arrest would include someone detaining a victim while impersonating a police officer, or an actual law enforcement officer conducting an invalid arrest (e.g., lacking probable cause, without warrant, etc). False arrests can also result in civil liability.


Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 1/5/15: The Declaration of Independence

While some have argued that the Declaration of Independence is part of the “organic law” of the U.S., the prevalent view is that the Declaration is not a legal document. It did not create a new government or enact any laws, and none of its provisions have any legal force unless subsequently enacted into law. The Declaration is more accurately said to be a political document that severed ties with Great Britain and proclaimed the then-revolutionary concept that government derived its power from the people.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/24/14: Presidents of the U.S.

While George Washington is known as the first president of the U.S., there were 8 “presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled” appointed under the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, between 1781-1789. The name of only one of these is still generally recognizable: John Hancock, who had earlier served as president of the Continental Congress when the Declaration of Independence was adopted.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/17/14: Massachusetts and the Bill of Rights

The Massachusetts delegation was deeply divided over ratifying the Constitution and was dominated by anti-federalists. The “Massachusetts compromise” to introduce amendments, led by John Hanckock and Samual Adams, convinced states such as New York, New Hampshire and Virginia to vote to ratify, and also led to Massachusett’s ratification in February 1788. Ironically, Massachusetts did not ratify the Bill of Rights until the 150th anniversary of the Constitution’s ratification, in 1939.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/10/14–Some Facts About the Massachusetts Constitution

The Massachusetts Constitution is the world’s oldest continuously-operative constitution, having been approved in 1780 (9 years before the U.S. Constitution). Its principal author was John Adams, who insisted the state be referred to as a ‘commonwealth’. It was also the first to be created through constitutional convention rather than by a legislature, after an earlier draft constitution was rejected by voters in 1778. It has been amended 120 times, most recently in 2000.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 11/3/14: Grand Jury Testimony

Clients subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury–whether as witnesses or suspects–are not entitled to be represented by counsel as the Sixth Amendment is not applicable to grand jury proceedings. As these are “closed” sessions, a witness or suspect wishing to have benefit of counsel can have their attorney wait outside of the grand jury room, but must request permission to leave the room to consult with counsel.

A Happy Halloween Post (and a look back into the grab-bag of goodies from the past)

Zac was kind enough to put together a Halloween blog for the Executive LLM program, which features one of my all-time favorites of my Legal Facts of the Week–suing Satan–and he also included some other favorites from the archives. Until he mentioned it, I hadn’t realized how long I have been blogging and writing my facts of the week!

As always, your comments, questions and ideas are most welcome. Happy Halloween!


Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/27/14: Titles of Nobility Amendment

Approved by Congress in 1810 as a proposed 13th Amendment, the Titles of Nobility Amendment was designed to strip U.S. citizenship from any citizen who accepted an aristocratic title from a foreign country. Ratified by tweleve states (the last in 1812) the amendment is still pending but would require ratification by an additional twenty-six states. It was erroneously included as the 13th Amendment in some early-nineteenth-century publications of the Constitution despite never having been ratified. “Thirteenthers” is a term sometimes used to refer to people who believe it was in fact ratified, or those who support its ratification now.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/20/14: English Origins of Our Bill of Rights

The U.S. Bill of Rights was inspired by several documents including the U.K.’s Bill of Rights passed in 1689. This Act set out certain basic rights, including: no royal interference with the law; freedom to petition the monarch with grievances; no royal interference with the right of the people to bear arms as allowed by law; and no excessive bail or “cruel and unusual” punishments.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/13/14: Medical Marijuana

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use, with legislation pending in three more states. Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana in 2012 as a result of a ballot measure approved by 63% of state voters.

Ian’s Legal Fact of the Week 10/6/14: Sheriff

In Anglo-Saxon England the chief magistrate of a district (or “shire”) was known as the “reeve”. The shire-reeve eventually became known as “sheriff”, or the main law enforcement officer of a county, and was used in the U.S. from the 1660s onwards.