Ziese & Associates, Ltd.

Robert J. Ziese, Esq.

Kathryn G. Ziese Financial Services

Client Newsletter - Apr.-Jun. 2000



Call us for real estate, wills & trusts, tax & bankruptcy issues, business startup & litigation, matrimonial, and non-profit organization matters
973-625-4559

CONTENTS:

New Tax News on our Tax Page

            BELOW:
Seat Belts and Motor Vehicle Laws

 Laptop is Both Judge and Jury 

Pet Purchase Protection Act 

More Cell Phone Dangers

Settlement of Medical Malpractice Claim Yields Taxable Interest

Kinder and Gentler IRS

New Laws Trying to Tame the Wild Wild Web.

Woman Hacks into Husband's PC


Seat Belts and Motor Vehicle Laws

While on the subject of motor vehicle violations, you should be aware that New Jersey's administrative director of the courts has issued an order limiting plea bargains in traffic cases. It has been standard practice in many municipal courts to avoid trials by allowing guilty pleas to lesser offenses. For example, a four-point speeding ticket would be plea bargained down to a no-point offense, avoiding state surcharges and increased insurance rates. Plea bargains have not been allowed for  DWI or DUI offenses. Concerns have been raised that plea bargains are rampant in some towns and rare in others, causing unequal justice.

Effective April 24, 2000, traffic offenses cannot be "reduced to infractions that the motorist did not commit".

Laptop is Both Judge and Jury

The impact of the plea bargain changes (see above article) may result in more offenders wanting to have their cases tried. Perhaps technology could hold the answer. The Electronic Judge, an artificial intelligence program on a laptop computer, is dispensing quick justice with decisions and sentences in Brazil. The system, called Justice-on-Wheels, is designed to speed up Brazil's overloaded legal system by dealing immediately with straightforward cases.

The laptop is carried by a roaming human judge and helps to assess swiftly and methodically witness reports and forensic evidence at the scene of an accident. It then issues on-the-spot fines and recommends jail sentences.

The system is being investigated for potential use in the USA. (But can it send a wireless email to my lawyer before I answer it's questions??????)


Pet Purchase Protection Act  
This new law requires pet shop owners to have any animal offered for sale examined by a veterinarian, and to post the following information on the cage:

 The pet shop must also, if the purchase is more than 14 days after the last exam, have the animal reexamined by the vet within 72 hours of delivery to the consumer. Further, the pet shop must provide the purchaser with a Notification Form from the NJ Div. of Consumer Affairs which describes the rights of the consumer if the animal becomes sick or dies. The consumer may return the animal or receive reimbursement of vet fees up to two times the purchase price. 


More Cell Phone Dangers   
Our last newsletter contained  Cell Phone Users-Companies can be liable for accidents. Some legislators are pushing to make using a phone while driving illegal. However, here are some real incidents of cell phone dangers.

Death By Cell Phone.  A North London man plunged ten floors to his death after apparently leaning over his balcony to get a better signal on his cell phone.

Lions Don't Like Cell Phones. A man was recently injured in a Mexican zoo when he went into the lion pit to retrieve his dropped cell phone. Unfortunately, the phone started ringing and woke the nearby sleeping lion. I hope the call was worth it.

Man Beaten to Death for Using Cell Phone in Pub. A German man was battered to death with a beer bottle after his mobile phone rang repeatedly, annoying the other patrons of a Hamburg beer garden.



Settlement of Medical Malpractice Claim Yields Taxable Interest

The taxpayer sued her physician, claiming he failed to timely and properly diagnose and treat her heart condition resulting in severe damage to her heart.  This will cause her to endure a lifetime of medical and physical complications.  She won the lawsuit for pain and suffering, disfigurement, and disability, as well as accumulated medical expenses.  Interest was calculated on the award from the date of the filing of the suit.

The taxpayer failed to include the interest on her tax return, arguing that it was part of her total settlement for physical injuries.  The courts have consistently ruled that required prejudgment interest on personal injury settlements does not qualify for exclusion from gross income.  Therefore, this amount is taxable to the recipient.


Kinder and Gentler IRS

The Internal revenue Service is trying to give an image of being "kinder and more understanding". Its' web site at IRS has downloadable forms and helpful hints. Even Willie Nelson, who paid $ 9M to the IRS in 1993, says, "I would say its a 100% turnaround as far as I'm concerned. After they came in and took all my stuff that time, they've managed to be real nice."



New Laws Trying to Tame the Wild Wild Web.
The World Wide Web is as unruly and lawless as the Old West was125 years ago. Legal committees and legislators are working hard to enact laws to curb the abuses while maintaining the Web's openness and freedom of expression.

New Federal Laws

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) went into effect on April 21, 2000. It is aimed at commercial web sites that are directed to children under 13 or collect information from children under 13. Those sites must provide notice and obtain "verifiable parental consent" before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information for children under 13.

The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act became law on November 29, 1999. It aims to protect consumers from the effects of "cybersquatting" - the unauthorized registration or use of trademarks as Internet domain names or other identifiers of online locations. According to Congressional findings, cybersquatting results in consumer fraud, impairs electronic interstate commerce, and deprives trademark owners of revenue and consumer goodwill. Damages of up to  $100,000 per trademark are available.

New State Laws

"Uniform Laws" are developed by state legal committees throughout the country. Their goal is to have consistent laws in all states to foster interstate business. The committee for a particular set of laws develops and refines it, and submits the proposed laws to all of the states. Each state legislature can then enact the law or modify it as they see fit.

The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) was sent to the states in July 1999. It has been enacted by several states, including Florida and Utah. You may see software licenses stating that the "laws of the State of Utah" apply to the license.  UETA makes electronic signatures valid. The electronic signature may be a "sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic record". Security procedures, such as PKI encryption, are recognized as valid under UETA.

The Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA) was enacted into law by Virginia (the first state to do so) on March 14, 2000. A much broader law than  UETA,  UCITA  governs the licensing of "computer information". It makes "Click-Wrap" licenses enforceable. (Does anyone ever READ the license agreement that pops up when you install a piece of software???) Watch for new licenses to apply the "laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia". The law has generated much argument for and against. It is strongly biased toward the large software vendors. Consumer groups fear that the law will dilute warranty protection and hurt small businesses.

By the way, New Jersey is taking a wait-and-see attitude toward both laws. Or are we just slow?


Woman Hacks Into Husband's PC.
When is a hacker not a computer nerd? When she's wielding a meat cleaver of course.

Kelli Michetti, age 29, of Grafton, Ohio was fined $ 125 after she took the concept of computer rage one step further than most. The source of her rage was that her husband had been frequenting late night Internet chat rooms. Enraged over these Web chats with other women, the modern Lizzie Borden gave her man's PC forty whacks.

Mrs. Michetti first tried severing the PC's power cable. When that didn't work, she vented her anger on the machine's monitor while her husband tried futilely to fend her off.

Mrs. Michetti pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence.


 


 

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