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Lawsuits: Defective highway guardrails caused horrific injuries

Two recent personal injury lawsuits accuse a national manufacturer of interstate guardrails of negligence. Two accidents occurred in which the guardrails failed to "telescope" into one another as designed. Instead, the pieces separated and speared into the crashed vehicles, killing one woman and causing another to suffer a leg amputation.

The Lindsay X-LITE guardrail system has been blamed for at least 11 deaths nationwide. These two lawsuits are only the latest; at least three have been filed previously. Moreover, at least one state will be removing and replacing the guardrails, saying they "did not perform as they were intended to" during two crashes and contributed to three deaths.

Does the Eighth Amendment prohibit excessive asset seizures?

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a defendant's SUV was seized by the state after he was convicted of a drug crime. Many states and the federal government engage in asset seizures after drug and other arrests, often before a conviction has been obtained. All the government has to prove is that the assets in question can be tied to illegal activity -- either having been purchased with proceeds of a crime or used in the commission of it. So, what was the problem here?

What exactly counts as an excessive fine under the constitution?

"I want my truck back. I've always wanted it back."

When an Indiana man was caught selling a small amount of heroin, he accepted that he would be charged with a crime. He accepted it when he was convicted and sentenced to a period of house arrest and then probation. What he could not accept was that the police seized his $42,000 Land Rover.

File sealing: Giving people second chances

"No one should underestimate how much even the most minor of misdemeanor convictions — including marijuana or trespassing or any kind of conviction — can affect someone's ability to get a job, to get housing and to function fully in society." 

This is a direct quote from Jenny Roberts, an American University law professor. Her assessment is spot on. People with criminal records, even minor misdemeanors, statistically have a much harder time getting ahead in life. Many struggle to find work, and when they do, it is often an underpaying job that leaves them functioning as second-class citizens.

Being there for your imprisoned loved one

The imprisonment of a loved one can send your life into total disarray. On top of your own responsibilities, you may have taken on their responsibilities, too. While they are away, someone must collect their mail, contact their creditors, pay their bills, etc. 

In addition to handling their affairs outside of prison, you also want to connect with your loved one and let them know they are not alone. You do so by calling and visiting as often as you can. As their lifeline to the outside, here are some tips for helping your loved one cope during their time behind bars.

Driving IS as dangerous as you think

We've all been there. You're driving down the road and you see the car in front of you swerving in and out of their lane. Are they drunk? Looking down at a phone? Trying to grab something out of the back seat? Whatever it is - the immediate thought of, "I need to get away from this person," is normal.

Turns out, there is good reason to get nervous when you see dangerous driving - as motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death for people ages 1 to 44.

Supreme Court: Warrant required to access cellphone location data

"When the government tracks the location of a cell phone," writes Chief Justice John Roberts, "it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone's user."

The observation comes in Carpenter v. U.S., a case the U.S. Supreme Court recently decided on a 5-4 vote. The decision acknowledges "seismic shifts in digital technology" that have changed so much of modern life.

Can you get a DUI for driving with a hangover?

Going out with friends last night, you thought you did the right thing. You had too much alcohol to drink, or used too much of some other substance, and decided to play it safe and spend the night.  No need to risk a drunk driving or intoxicated/impaired driving arrest. In the morning - maybe feeling not the greatest from the night before - you took a Tylenol, washed it down with a big glass of water and started the drive home.

In between your friend's home and your place, you are pulled over though. Have you been drinking or using drugs? Not recently. Yet you wind up arrested for drunk driving.

Denver group pushes to decriminalize mushrooms

You may have heard about an initiative to decriminalize “magic mushrooms.” Do not take this to mean that psychedelic mushrooms are legal or that – if passed – this would apply to Boulder. Possession of these mushrooms is still very much illegal and people caught with them still face very serious criminal charges.

Right now, the activist group Denver for Psilocybin is collecting signatures to show support for the decriminalization of mushrooms. The group reports having enough signatures to make the municipal ballot. While the group does have thousands of signatures, showing support is not the same as changing a law.

After overdoses, should drug dealers be charged with homicide?

Alexandria S. is not what you think of as a drug dealer. A suburban mother of three, she became addicted to her prescription Percocet while being treated for back pain. When she couldn't get off Percocet, she turned to heroin, which is chemically similar. Across the street, her neighbor was also suffering from an opioid addiction.

One day, that neighbor gave her $10 and asked her to pick him up some heroin. She didn't ordinarily take any part in selling or distributing the drug, but on that occasion, she did -- as a favor.

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