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Manassas Virginia Legal Blog

Why are juveniles wrongfully convicted?

A juvenile convicted of a crime is much more likely to be wrongfully convicted than an adult, according to the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth (CWCY). The group says young children and teenagers are more likely to be influenced by others, willing to comply and more vulnerable to pressure than adults.

The CWCY says youth under 18 are also less equipped to understand the risks versus potential consequences, are less likely to understand their legal rights and less likely to know how attorneys can help them.

Brake Safety Week scheduled for September 15

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has announced that its 2019 Brake Safety Week inspection spree will take place from September 15 to 21, so truckers and other commercial motor vehicle drivers in Virginia will want to ensure that their brakes are up to specs. During that week, officials will be out on the roads across North America to perform brake inspections at random.

Those who pass will have a CVSA decal put on their trucks, but those who are discovered to have violated braking regulations will be issued an out-of-service order. It should be noted that during the 2018 International Roadcheck, 45% of all out-of-service orders involved a brake-related violation.

Tech can be dangerous for older drivers

Older drivers in Virginia may be more likely to get distracted by the technology features available in their vehicles. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah found that older drivers take longer to complete tasks such as changing a radio station. On average, drivers 55 and older took 8 seconds longer to complete such tasks compared to those aged 36 and younger. This is in spite of the fact that these tools are intended to help all drivers keep their eyes on the road at all times.

Older drivers were more likely to struggle with the complexities of center consoles or issuing voice commands. A representative from AAA said that these struggles were caused by a design flaw that had nothing to do with a driver's age. However, AAA does suggest that drivers practice using touch screens or issuing voice commands before they get on the road.

Fines and fees punish people in poverty

People in poverty in Virginia dealing with the criminal justice system may find themselves further mired in economic disadvantage as a result. Many policies adopted by state and local officials across the country tend to systematically impact poor and marginalized people far more significantly than those of greater means. In particular, many areas rely on court fees and fines to balance the municipal budget. When people cannot pay these fees, the escalating consequences can severely affect people's lives. For example, people face even more costly fees, a damaged credit score or even jail time as a result.

In local jails across the country, people are serving time without having been convicted of a crime. Instead, they have overdue fines or suspended driver's licenses due to unpaid citations. This is one reason why many social justice advocates are working to change laws that disproportionately affect poor Americans. In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that people could not be jailed for being too poor to pay court fees, but versions of the practice continue in many localities. In some cases, for-profit companies are also involved in the mix. In Oklahoma, counties refer debt collection to a for-profit company that threatens people with arrest if they cannot pay.

Highest DUI fatality rates linked with Fourth of July

Summer always seems to be a bad time for drunk driving in Virginia and elsewhere around the country. On an average summer day in the US, 26 people are killed in DUI-related crashes. It gets worse on the major holidays, though. For example, during the Independence Day weekend in 2017, 184 people died in DUI crashes. In a comparable period of four or five days in the summer, that number came to around 117.

According to data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which is run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, July Fourth is the deadliest holiday involving drunk drivers. From 2010 to 2017, a total of 1,192 people lost their lives in drunk driving crashes. Memorial Day came in second with 1,105 deaths. The fatality rate for Independence Day was 42.4 (that is, 42.4 deaths per day). Thanksgiving and Christmas saw the lowest rate: 27.9 and 27.7 respectively.

Can you recognize warning signs in a dog’s body language?

Being bitten by a dog, especially a dog that is not yours, can be a traumatic experience. Dog bite injuries can be extremely painful, can be prone to infection and can spread nasty diseases like rabies.

Although it is ultimately the dog owner’s responsibility to control the behavior of his or her pet, there are some ways you can help prevent being bitten by someone else’s dog. One way to do this is to pay attention to the body language of any nearby dogs.

Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination

In all criminal cases in Virginia and across the country, defendants have a right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fifth Amendment sets forth that the defendant in a criminal trial cannot be forced to testify. The origins of the right are rooted in a refusal by the Puritans to cooperate with English interrogators in the 1600s. Puritans who fled persecution based on religion brought the idea of a protection against self-incrimination along to America.

A defendant in a criminal trial in Virginia can choose whether or not to testify. If they choose to testify, they have to answer all questions posed to them and cannot answer some and refuse to answer others. When a person pleads the Fifth, the decision maker for the trial is not allowed to consider his or her refusal to testify as evidence of guilt or innocence. Witnesses other than the defendant in a criminal proceeding can also take the Fifth if their testimony might result in criminal charges against them.

AAA warns of "100 deadliest days" for teen drivers

Every summer, more teens are found on the roads of Virginia and every other state. Teens, being inexperienced, are more likely to crash, and so the summer has always been considered a dangerous time for them. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has pointed to the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day as the "100 deadliest days" for teen drivers. During that time, teens' risk for a fatal crash goes up some 15%.

For these reasons, parents are encouraged to educate their teens about safe driving. With so many opportunities for partying, especially around the Fourth of July, parents and teens should be clear about the danger of drunk and drugged driving. Teens should not drive while drowsy either, and they should minimize the time they spend driving when night falls and visibility is compromised.

Speed limiters and other tech may help reduce truck crash rates

Many truckers in Virginia and across the U.S. are speeding to meet deadlines. This puts a lot of passenger car motorists at risk. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration states that 72% of those who die in collisions involving trucks and passenger vehicles are occupants of the latter. In the effort to check the increase in truck crashes, some trucking companies are looking to speed limiters and other technology.

Speed limiters are on all heavy-duty trucks built since 1992, yet there is no federal mandate regarding them. The NHTSA did propose a rule requiring their use, but this proposal failed in 2017. Many trucking companies are also installing devices like collision warning and lane departure warning systems, roll stability control and in-cab cameras.

Drowsy driving and why it's dangerous

Nearly a third of the respondents to a AAA survey said that they have driven drowsy at least once in the past month. In fact, they admitted that they were so drowsy that they had trouble keeping their eyes open. Virginia residents should know that drowsy driving is a frequent cause of accidents. A 2018 AAA study found that it contributes to 9.5% of crashes, though that percentage may be higher because drowsiness may go unreported.

The danger of sleep deprivation cannot be overstated. The National Sleep Foundation says that going without sleep for 24 hours is like having a blood alcohol content of .10, which is above the legal limit of .08. Yet with so few regions offering comprehensive public transit systems, experts say drowsy driving is almost unavoidable.

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