Current Events
Current Events

FACING REALITY

Is your face public property?

 

 

The first American city bans use of facial recognition technology.

What It Is & Why It Matters

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Facial Recognition

  • What Is It? Think of it like fingerprinting for your facial features. Surveillance technology matches a face to an identity. Ex: Scan of your face matches to your drivers license photo.
  • Where Is It Used? Airports. Stadiums. Shops. Schools. For security & even attendance.
  • NO federal laws regulate this technology or its use.
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San Francisco’s New Ban

  • First of its kind in the nation.
  • Prohibits local gov’t agencies (such as local police) from using facial surveillance technology & requires future surveillance devices approved by city officials; current technology in use, like body cameras, can stay.
  • Doesn’t apply to private homes, companies or places under federal jurisdiction (ex: airport).
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“Even if the technology is perfect, this is a genie we as a society should want to put back in the bottle, because this is the kind of technology that will inadvertently be used to make every city and state and every country a police state.”

Aaron Peskin, SF Board of Supervisors, who says the technology is too invasive.
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FACE OFF

  • Supporters of the ban cite privacy concerns, argue technology is unreliable, perpetuates bias.
  • Recent studies from MIT & Georgetown show the technology is less accurate at identifying non-white people.
  • Supporters of the technology say it keeps us safe as a deterrent and a tool for police to identify criminals & missing people.
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“The technology is improving and it is continuing to improve. We agree it needs to be tested and needs to be more reliable, but that time will come. But banning it forever doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Frank Noto, president of a neighborhood organization, Stop Crime SF. Although local gov't agencies in SF will not use facial recognition software, the ban doesn't stop police using private company surveillance to solve crimes.
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Facial recognition is already widely used by gov’t & private businesses

  • 2018: MD police used it to identify the gunman at the Capital Gazette.
  • 2017: Apple unveiled Face ID for iPhone.
  • 2016: Customs & Border Patrol began using it at U.S. airports.
  • 2006: DMV in MA began using to detect driver’s license fraud.
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Due to the lack of regulation, the list of unanswered questions (ex: What databases, gov't or otherwise, do private companies use or have access to? Are my kids faces already in a database somewhere?) are endless.

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Publicity Stunt or Passionate Politics?

A unique protest strategy challenges a state’s new abortion law.

Here’s the backstory and why it matters.

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“Our reproductive rights are being erased. Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy. JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on.”

Actress & activist Alyssa Milano after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed one of the country's most restrictive abortion bills into law last week. It would go into effect next year.
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About GA’s New Law

  • “Heartbeat laws” ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected (around six weeks of pregnancy).
  • So far in 2019, three other states (KY, MS, OH) besides GA have passed fetal heartbeat laws. None are in effect due to legal challenges.
  • At least 15 other states are considering similar bills.
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Why It Matters

  • State efforts to legislate abortion have increased.
  • Some states, like GA, have passed more restrictive laws; challenges *could* eventually end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Other states, like NY, have passed less restrictive laws, in an effort to proactively protect “abortion rights” due to political climate.
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“The heartbeat bill is the next incremental step in our strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Mike Gonidakis, Ohio Right to Life. The appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh tilted the Supreme Court to a conservative majority and motivated some opponents of abortion to push legal challenges with the hopes of a case being heard by like-minded Supreme Court judges. Roe v. Wade can't be "tried" again, but a new abortion case could alter/challenge federal law.
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Roe v. Wade

  • 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion *with limits.*
  • Legalized abortion in 1st trimester.
  • States can regulate, not outlaw, abortion in 2nd trimester.
  • States can regulate/outlaw abortion in 3rd trimester *except* when health/life of mother threatened.
  • This is why states have different laws.
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Today, the Alabama Senate will consider a law that bans all abortions (at any point in the mother's pregnancy) except in cases where the mother's life is in danger, and would penalize doctors who perform abortions by up to 99 years in prison

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NOT ABOVE THE LAW

 

 

 

Will the top law enforcement official in the nation be held in contempt?

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WHAT’S HAPPENING

Today the House Judiciary Committee, led by Democrats, will vote on whether to hold Attorney General William Barr, appointed by a Republican President, in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena demanding the unredacted Special Counsel report.

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LET’S BACK UP

What’s “Contempt”?

Generally speaking, a person is held in contempt of court when they fail to abide by a court order (ex: not showing up for hearing or meeting with probation officer) or disrespects the court (ex: yells a judge).

Penalties range from $ to jail time.

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Contempt of Congress?

  • Congress issues subpoenas to obtain documents and/or elicit testimony as part of its oversight or investigative powers.
  • When someone refuses to comply, Congress may either pursue a criminal contempt case (via a contempt citation) or a civil lawsuit to enforce the subpoena.
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HISTORICALLY SPEAKING

  • There’s actually a third option – Congress has an inherent contempt power that would allow the Sergeant-at-Arms to detain a person in the Capitol jail, but that hasn’t been used since 1935.
  • If the House Judiciary cmte votes to file a contempt citation against AG Barr, he’d be the 4th AG since 1980 to have one against him.
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BIGGER PICTURE

  • Important but largely symbolic.
  • If today’s contempt vote is approved, it needs to pass the full House before a citation is issued.
  • Even then, a contempt citation wouldn’t force the DOJ to release the full report, and it doesn’t mean Barr will face a criminal charge.
  • It would send a criminal referral to the U.S. atty in D.C., a DOJ official, who is unlikely to pursue a case.
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Some say that neither the White House nor House Dems want any potential contempt cases to end up in a court of law, and that their real intentions are to keep these issues fresh in voters' minds as the 2020 election approaches.

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A Royal Baby Boy

 

 

 

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What We Know

  • Born to 5:26 a.m. May 6, 2019
  • He’s 7th in line to the throne (after Prince Charles, Prince William, William’s 3 kids & Prince Harry).
  • He’s not *yet* a prince. The Queen is likely to bestow the title on him, as she has for some of her other grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
  • He’s automatically a British citizen, and eligible for U.S. citizenship.
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“It’s been the most amazing experience I could ever have possibly imagined. How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension…”

Prince Harry speaking to reporters shortly after the birth of his son with his wife Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.
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DID YOU KNOW? Even if Baby Sussex were a girl, she still would have been 7th in line to the throne. A 2013 UK law mandates that birth order (not gender) dictates succession to the throne.

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Current Events

IS HATE HEATING UP?

As we learn the alleged shooter in the deadly attack at a San Diego synagogue will face murder charges…we take a careful look at hate crimes in America.

Are hate crimes on the rise?

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What’s A Hate Crime?

  • Under both federal and state laws, hate crimes are actually penalty enhancements (charges in addition to underlying crimes).
  • In San Diego, the man accused of attacking the Chabad of Poway synagogue faces many counts, including murder & attempted murder w/ hate crime allegations (which greatly increase the potential punishment).
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HATE CRIME 101

  • Under federal law, a hate crime is motivated in whole or in part by a bias against a disability, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.
  • 45 states & D.C. also criminalize hate crimes, but protections vary by state.
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Are Hate Crimes On The Rise?

  • Federal Bureau of Investigations data shows hate crimes have increased.
  • Bureau of Justice Statistics data shows hate crime have declined.
  • Both gov’t sources use the same federal definition of hate crimes.

What’s The Difference?

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FBI Data

Hate crime incidents increased by about 30% from 2014 to 2017.

ABOUT THE DATA: State & local law enforcement agencies *voluntarily* submit data to FBI. As the number of agencies reporting hate crimes increased, so did the total number of hate crimes recorded. In 2017, 655 more agencies participated (16,149) than in 2014.

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Bureau of Justice Stats

According to BJS data, hate crimes dropped by nearly 26% from 2014 to 2017.

ABOUT THE DATA: Surveys conducted as part of Census ask people if they think they were a victim of a crime motivated by bias. Includes crimes *not reported* to police. 2017 data is based on response from 160,000 people.

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"We support religious freedom and we must defend it with everything that we have, and we're dedicated to delivering justice in this case," San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan announcing charges against the alleged shooter.

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“Menacing” Militia or “Concerned” Citizens?

 

 

As a record number of people continue to illegally cross the U.S Southern Border, one group has taken things “into their own hands.”

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What’s Going On?

  • For weeks, an armed civilian group called the United Constitutional Patriots, have camped out in a New Mexico border town, detaining people illegally crossing the border until authorities arrive.
  • On Tuesday, they vacated after demands by private property owners & local gov’t. Unclear if they’ll set up camp elsewhere.
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“Immigration is a process that’s done legally. Crashing a border in the middle of the night at 3 in the morning is an invasion… There’s a lot of dangers that are not only posed to border patrol, but there’s dangers that are posed to America.”

United Constitutional Patriots spokesman Jim Benvie, who also said "it's a false narrative that we're a bunch of armed lunatics and we're holding kids at gunpoint." The NM Gov. said the group is "menacing" & "unacceptable."
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Is It Legal?

  • Only federal officials can enforce federal immigration laws.
  • The ACLU says the group is breaking laws (ex: kidnapping).
  • The group says they haven’t broken any laws because they don’t touch anyone, are armed for their own protection, and only use verbal commands.
  • Only 1 member of the group was arrested on unrelated charges.
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How Is This Different From A Citizen’s Arrest?

  • In New Mexico, a person can perform a citizen’s arrest for a state crime where the punishment is death or exceeds 1 year.
  • Illegal entry into the U.S. is a federal crime.
  • In New Mexico, criminal trespass (private property) is a misdemeanor punishable by less than 1 year.
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“CBP does not endorse or condone private groups or organizations that take enforcement matters into their own hands.”

U.S. Customs & Border Patrol. The acting DHS Chief Kevin McAleenan has said the federal government doesn't need the help of civilian groups to provide border security assistance. The deputy commissioner of CBP said the surging numbers at the border is a "system-wide emergency."
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BIGGER PICTURE: Last week, U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions along the Southwest Border since October 2018 jumped passed the total number for all of fiscal year 2018 (October 2017 - September 2018).

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Easter Attack

 

 

 

 

A poignant photo reflects the bigger picture.

 

 

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Sri Lanka Terror

Who: Nearly 300 people died & more than 500 injured.
What: 8 coordinated bomb blasts in Catholic churches & hotels
When: Majority of attacks during Easter morning services.
Where: Mainly focused around Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.
Why: No claim of immediate responsibility. Gov’t blames a local militant Muslim group; arrests made.

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“Muslims and Christians, especially evangelical Christians, have been facing persecution for many years in Sri Lanka, but the scale and nature of today’s attacks are not comparable.”

Ruki Fernando, Roman Catholic human rights activist based in Sri Lanka, a country with a history of sectarian violence. Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist nation (70%), followed by Hindus (12%), Muslims (10%) & Christians (6%).
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Big Picture:

“…Christians were a primary target, and their faith has been increasingly under attack by militants and politicians across South and Southeast Asia.”

New York Times detailing attacks against Christians in Asia have grown as secularism (separation of church & state) in gov't has declined.
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One image in the aftermath of the attack surfaced as a symbol of the timing and targets of the day. Easter is a Holy Day for Christians who celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the son of God who was crucified for his beliefs. View the photo.

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REDACTED READING

Why the Special Counsel Report matters … but why you may make the ultimate decision about what happens next.

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No Collusion

“…the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

The DOJ released the redacted Special Counsel Report Thursday that centered on Russian collusion. Fun Fact: the report reminds us the word “collusion” isn't a "specific offense" & doesn’t appear in U.S. criminal code.
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Obstruction?

“…if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

What Is obstruction? Influencing or impeding a federal investigation with the intent to change the outcome.
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Important Context

  • Obstruction of Justice, in general, is difficult to prove.
  • Intent matters: a person needs to clearly want to sway the investigation, not just defend their own name (which we are all legally able to do).
  • You can be guilty of obstruction of justice for trying to influence an investigation even if you’re not guilty of any other crime.
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BIG PICTURE:

  • Why It Matters: The Special Council maps out 10 instances where the President potentially obstructed justice, providing info for Congressional investigations & potentially impeachment.
  • Why It May Not Be A Game Changer: Congress may not pursue impeachment, so results stay in court of public opinion.
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Some top Dems have downplayed impeachment proceedings, like House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who said Thursday, “Very frankly, there is an election in 18 months and the American people will make a judgment.”

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“Troika of Tyranny”
vs.
“Axis of Evil”

Troika: a team of 3.

America slaps sanctions and restrictions against Venezuela, Cuba, & Nicaragua … as a member of another infamous trifecta, the “axis of evil,” rumbles back to center stage.

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“Under this administration, we don’t throw dictators lifelines. We take them away.”

National Security Advisor John Bolton Wednesday announcing coordinated measures against Cuba, Venezuela & Nicaragua, using sanctions as well as international law. America wants to weaken the current regime in Venezuela under current dictator Nicolás Maduro and punish its key partners (Cuba & Nicaragua).
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Why This Matters:

  • Venezuela allies are America’s adversaries; Russia, China & Iran.
  • Venezuela also has the largest known oil reserves in the world, so what happens in Venezuela can impact the global economy.
  • America recognizes Maduro’s challenger, Juan Guaidó, as interim President, who advocates for democracy in Venezuela.
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Meanwhile…

  • North Korea says it test-fired a new “tactical guided weapon.” No one can independently confirm.
  • Any weapons testing would be a defiant action considering the two summits with U.S. on nuclear disarmament.
  • In 2002, Pres. George W. Bush named NoKo, Iraq & Iran the “Axis of Evil” for seeking weapons of mass destruction.
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"Troika" is also defined as a Russian vehicle pulled by 3 horses. One of the common denominators between Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua is Russian influence, specifically $$. North Korea & Russia just announced a summit of their own; date TBD.

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Beyond The Numbers

The U.S. apprehended more than 90,000 people illegally crossing the U.S. Southern Border in March.

It’s the highest monthly number in more than a decade & includes a record number of families.

What happens to them?

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What You Should Know:

  • Majority of border apprehensions: “family units” from Honduras, Guatemala & El Salvador.
  • 53,000+ parent w/child (“units”) & nearly 9,000 unaccompanied children (17 & younger).
  • Most, if not all, apply for asylum.
  • Asylum: well-founded fear of persecution based on religion, politics, social group, nationality, or race.
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What Happens To Them?

  • Pres. Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy means EVERY adult illegally crossing the border is arrested (seeking asylum or not).
  • Those in custody are charged with a federal misdemeanor, finger printed & checked for criminal records.
  • Asylum seekers undergo a credible fear interview with immigration officers.
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Where Do They Go?

  • Few, if any, families or first-time offenders detained: border patrol is “overcapacity” as is ICE.
  • Family units/first-time offenders are usually processed & released within 72 hrs, if not faster.
  • Those seeking asylum often show a destination (address of a family member or contact in the U.S.) & are released on their own recognizance.
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What Happens Next?

  • No one monitors those released on their own recognizance.
  • Asylum seekers have a notice to appear before an immigration judge. It is up to them to show up or to notify the gov’t if they relocate. If they don’t show, they can be considered a fugitive.
  • More than 1M people released on their own recognizance have final removal orders, according to ICE.
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Why It Matters:

  • The “zero-tolerance” policy has included different actions to deter illegal border crossings, like detaining families & separating children, but that’s not happening now. Current application of policy at the border is similar to “catch & release” policies of the past.
  • Border Patrol has “dire concern” for record numbers of family units & large groups apprehended.
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A "large group" is defined as 100+ people. Last year, Border Patrol apprehended 13 "large groups." This year, they've apprehended more than 100 large groups of 100 people or more. Read more about why agents are concerned about this on our source page.

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“Our Lady”

 

 

It took nearly 200 years to build…and less than a day to nearly completely burn.

Notre Dame

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“Fire, it’s not impossible.”

As we await more details about what started the blaze Monday early evening at the world famous cathedral, this above quote was taken, translated, from the church’s website describing its double-layered wooden framework called  “The Forest." 1,300 original oak beams from the 12th century frame the church - the equivalent of 52 acres.
Click Here To See
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Important Dates:

  • 1163: year commonly believed the first corner stone was laid under Pope Alexander
  • 1831: Victor Hugo published novel “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” suddenly heightening the profile of the run-down cathedral. Some credit him as the catalyst behind its restoration.
  • 1909: Joan of Arc beatified in the church (Catholic naming of a saint)
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Current Context

  • Fire broke out during a Catholic Holy Week, a particularly busy time at any cathedral.
  • French Pres. Emmanuel Macron postponed a major policy speech Mon. night to address protests that have rocked France for weeks, challenging those in power & current policy.
  • So far, fire described as an accident.
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“If God intervened (in the blaze) it was in the courage of the firefighters.”

Philippe Marsset, the vicar general of Notre Dame. Firefighters reportedly helped save some of the valuable art in the cathedral; one was seriously injured. Officials are on site investigating the cause of the blaze. Pres. Macron has vowed to rebuild the cathedral and prominent French business leaders have already started to pledge hundreds-of-millions of dollars for repair.
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As devastating as this fire is, Notre-Dame, has a layered history. Many hands touched the original design and multiple restorations took place hundreds of years apart. It’s a collage of design & architecture a "House of God and the House of Men."

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POTTY POLICE?

A mom is facing charges after her son had “an accident” in a gas station parking lot.

When can you be held responsible when your child breaks the law?

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“Accidents happen.”

Georgia mom Brooke Johns reacting to her son's recent potty-training mishap. Johns pulled into a gas station when her 3-year-old alerted her he had to use the bathroom. Johns, who is 8+ months pregnant & on doctor's orders not to lift her son, tried to rush him into the gas station. They didn't make it in time and despite Johns trying to cover her son in the parking lot, an officer saw the incident and wrote her a ticket.
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“She allowed her male child to urinate in the parking lot.”

The ticket charging Johns with violating Georgia's disorderly conduct law. Johns says she tried to explain her situation to the officer, but he wasn't persuaded. Now she is due in court days before her due date. If convicted, she faces up to 60 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.
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Children & The Law

  • State laws vary regarding at what age a minor can be charged with a crime and what type of crime.
  • Usually parents won’t be charged when their minor child commits an illegal act unless it’s a result of a lack of monitoring, supervising, or rectifying their kid’s actions.
  • That’s why Johns was charged – she’s accused of failing to prevent her son from urinating in public.
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Something To Consider:

  • Sometimes not preventing your child from breaking the law, whether it is intentional, accidental or otherwise, is a crime in and of itself.
  • Examples: You let your (unlicensed) minor drive a car or allow your child to drink alcohol in your home.
  • Parental liability *usually* starts after age of 8.
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Even if you're not criminally charged for your kid's conduct, you may still be on the line to pay for it. Let's say your 12-year-old vandalized a neighbor's home. When it comes time to pay for it - neither your neighbor nor the courts will be relying on your kid's piggy bank - they'll come for yours.

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