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Ask Our Lawyer - June 2006

This Month's Featured Questions

Parents Getting Extorted?

We have received some calls from parents about this situation:

Q. I am an A.B.A.T.E. member and I was hoping you could answer a legal question for me. My teenager was recently caught doing a teenage prank (shoplifting) at a local "big box" store. My child was caught in the store by store personnel and as usual, the goods never left the building. No police were involved, and no damages were incurred. I picked my child up at the request of the store manager.

I recently received a notice that the store was pursuing a civil penalty of $250, which they claim is permitted under state law. Is this something I should pay without question? It seemed odd to me that I can be charged by the store when they had no damages.

A: Some states have a law that provides an irrebuttable presumption that the store suffered certain damages, regardless of the actual value of the merchandise, even if the merchandise was returned, as well as provisions for treble damages and attorneys fees. While we believe it is arguable that the presumption does not apply, since the merchandise never left the store, it is possible that the store could succeed if they filed a lawsuit.

Of course, you would not be legally liable for those charges until a suit was filed and a judgment rendered, but the fees and costs allowable for the store in doing so would also increase the amount of the judgment. Chalk it up to a seminar in life for your child. We believe that a national collection agency is capitalizing on parents' "teenage woes" and are improperly profiting from these claims. What they are doing may not be extorting parents, but it is whatever is in second place.

Dogs Have Search Limits, Too

Q: I've seen on several occasions that a police officer will use a dog to sniff a car or bike that has been stopped for a traffic stop to see if there are any drugs. I would like to know if there is any research done to see if drug sniffing dogs employed by police during traffic stops are actually detecting drugs or whether they are doing what their handlers want them to do thanks. Do you have any thoughts?

A: You've raised an interesting issue. I haven't seen any cases on this question but it seems to me that if a person has been arrested on a drug possession charge in an instance like that, they could file a request to see the training records for the dog that did the sniffing. Records of training for the dogs should be available to see if we have a real drug dog or a plant. It would be easy to train them to fake a positive result just to get probable cause. I'll keep my eye out for cases like that.

Some cases have held that the police can use a dog during a traffic stop, but cannot prolong a stop just to bring a dog in. In other words, the police have to have a reasonable reason to detain you past the period necessary to deal with a traffic stop, and so would have to have probable cause before the dogs can be brought in. However, if the dog is already on the scene, the officer can have the dog sniff the car while the traffic stop is in progress.

The Patriot Guard Riders

As I've written about earlier, I've joined the Patriot Guard Riders to help honor our heroes killed defending our country. Here are some updates about that project. One of our readers sent me the following message:

Just got my newsletter, always check out your articles. This was perfect timing. Saw these Kansas fanatics on the news along with the Patriot Guard. The story was about the Guard using the huge flags to block these people on the funeral route and using their pipes to drown out their sick rhetoric at the grave sites. As a member of South Suburban A.B.A.T.E. and the American Legion, these guys thoroughly disgust me.

Can you find out when these events are to go down and put the word out? Also, will you send me info on the Guard? I would like to be a part of it. I would like to be there for our fallen troops. It would be a blessing if we were never needed again, but if it happens I would be honored to be a part of it. Thanks, keep up the good work, your articles are really informative.

Thanks for the kind words. If you are interested in joining the Patriot Guard Riders, check out their website at www.patriotguard.org. Information on joining and contact information for the various state chapters is available there.

I also wanted to make a request. Any A.B.A.T.E. members who have photos from a Patriot Guard Riders Mission or Welcome Home, please email them to me. Include in the email the type of mission, the date and location, and the names of A.B.A.T.E. members involved. I'll get them to the state coordinators and will try to get them on the website.

Prayers and Vigilance

This story comes to us from Decatur, Illinois. A couple was riding down the road when a young adult turned in front of them, causing severe injuries to the passenger and driver of the bike. What's worse is that the driver of the car left the scene of the accident without trying to help the people she ran down, and then tried to hide her car from police. The driver of the car was arrested for leaving the scene, and her mother was arrested for obstruction of justice for hiding the car.

We will be keeping an eye on this case to make sure that justice is done on behalf of the injured riders. I'll keep you posted on how things turn out.

Have a Hoot at the Miracle Ride June 3&4

Join me, thousands of bikers and NATIONAL TREASURES BOB & TOM for music, food, poker runs, motorcycle raffles, BIKE SHOWS, and that RIDE AROUND THE WORLD FAMOUS INDIANAPOLIS 500 MOTOR SPEEDWAY. All proceeds go to RILEY HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN.

Top Reasons to Love A.B.A.T.E. Legal

  1. We ride. We are real motorcyclists representing motorcyclists. We know and understand the issues involved in motorcycle cases. A.B.A.T.E. Legal inspired the Miracle Ride and the Lincoln Circuit Ride.
  2. We are staffed by experienced expert trial lawyers who have handled thousands of serious cases in the United States and Canada. Experienced investigators and former insurance company claim managers fill our ranks. We know how the other side thinks. That gives A.B.A.T.E. Legal a leg up. The more information about the adverse, the better.
  3. A.B.A.T.E. Legal lawyers have the highest ratings and respect of their peers.
  4. A.B.A.T.E. Legal is the lawyer for A.B.A.T.E. and serves as general counsel for its officers, directors and volunteers. In that role, it serves without pay - just like the rest of the A.B.A.T.E. volunteers.
  5. A.B.A.T.E. Legal has drafted hundreds of wills for A.B.A.T.E. members FREE OF CHARGE.
  6. A.B.A.T.E. Legal gives legal advice on legal issues experienced by its members - FREE OF CHARGE.
  7. A.B.A.T.E. Legal created Roadhazard.org, which has saved countless injuries to bikers and damage to their bikes.
  8. As a member of A.B.A.T.E. you pay only 28-1/2 percent of the recovery for personal injury. Most other lawyers will charge you 33-1/3 percent to 40 percent or more.

This Month's Joke

While living wills are no joke, here's a proposal I could endorse:

New Living Will Form:

I, __________________________, being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means. Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of pinhead politicians who couldn't pass ninth-grade biology if their lives depended on it or lawyers/doctors interested in simply running up the bills. If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to ask for at least one of the following:

  • ______Beer
  • ______Wine
  • ______Bloody Mary
  • ______Margarita
  • ______Scotch and soda
  • ______Martini
  • ______Vodka and Tonic
  • ______Steak
  • ______Lobster or crab legs
  • ______The remote control
  • ______Bowl of ice cream
  • ______The sports page
  • ______Chocolate
  • ______Sex

it should be presumed that I won't ever get better. When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my appointed person and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes and call it a day. Thank you.

Final Words

Finally, from a renewing A.B.A.T.E. member: Thank you again for giving me your advice. This is the first time I've had to contact A.B.A.T.E. LEGAL SERVICES and I've been blown away by your courtesy and service on this matter. You've just shown me another reason to renew my A.B.A.T.E. membership.

Thanks to our readers who contact us. We're here to help you, so keep sending us your questions and concerns.

Ride Safe and Free,

Rod Taylor

A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services

If you have any questions you would like to ask the lawyer, please submit them to: Ask Our Lawyer, P.O. Box 2850, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206_2850, or email rodtaylor@abatelegal.com. © 2005, A.B.A.T.E. Legal Services