Delaware Law Office
of Larry D. Sullivan, Esquire

A Weblog?
The column to the right, is a news/editorial/comment column. It is a weblog, also know as a blog.

The weblog thing comes from www.blogger.com, which offers us a convenient way to manage the posting, administratively. You don't really need to know all of that, but we have included this explanation so that you won't be confused by the term "blog".

Another important topic here is that since the column includes editorials and comments, you can be sure that we are just exercising our free speech rights as guaranteed by the Constitution and as not yet abridged by a reactionary opportunistic vocal minority.

opinions, everybody's got one...
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We encourage the exchange of responsible ideas.

Saturday, January 19, 2002

 
National Identification Cards
There's a lot of debate on the subject of national identification cards. A good number of organizations are pointing towards (often uncited) polls that suggest that the American public is willing to embrace such cards. Any measures that can help prevent another tragedy like the terrorist acts on Septermber 11th are worth considering. But we also have to keep in mind that our civil liberties might be placed into peril by setting up a system that could amount to an internal passport system. There are also many potential risks that could come about because of the use of a national identification system.

The most recent frenzy of opinion back and forth on the value of such a system was initiated by a multi-state organization that includes amongst its members the motor vehicle administrators for all of the states. This organization, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), is recommending standardization of practices for the issuance of Driver's licenses, security features on the licenses to reduce fraud, and a database of information shared by government and private organizations to enable them to use the cards for verification purposes.

Much has been written on the subject, and there is no doubt that debate will continue. Here are links to articles and web sites where some issues are being raised on Driver's Licenses as national identification cards:

New Security Standards Urged For Driver's License
(Information Week, January 9, 2002)
"Under the proposals, the databases associated with the new licenses would let nongovernment entities such as airlines, retailers, and banks access information about individuals to verify their identities. "

States Seek National ID Funds
(Washington Post, January 14, 2002)

All 50 states agree to upgrade driver's licenses
(The Boston Globe, January 14, 2002)

National ID card an idea that stirs lots of questions
(Union-Tribune Publishing Co., January 14, 2002)
Some interesting questions regarding problems that a national ID system might bring with it.

The Case for a National ID Card
(Time Magazine, January 14, 2002)
We should have a national ID because it will keep our senators from being strip searched at the airport?

ACLU Skewers DMV Proposal As ?De Facto? National ID
(Washington Post, January 15, 2002)

Not-So Smart: The national ID debate goes on
(National Review, Jauary 16, 2002)

ALERT: National ID Cards from DMV?
(Electronic Frontier Foundation ACTION ALERT, Jauary 16, 2002)
The EFF is urging people to contact the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to voice their concerns with proposed changes to driver's licenses.

National ID Cards: 5 Reasons Why They Should Be Rejected
(ACLU)
Some very good points worth careful consideration.

Special Task Force on Identification Security
(American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, January 2002)
Recommendations and expected results of the use of Driver's licenses as secure identification cards adhering to national standards.

Wild Card: We need a better ID, but not a national superego
(Wall Street Journal Opinion Page, January 16, 2002)
Delaware's Former Governor Pete du Pont has an alternative suggestion, which is being put into action by Delaware Representative Mike Castle.

Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles
While silent on the subject of a national ID system, they do have information about the types of information you need to provide them when you apply for a driver's license in Delaware.
- William Slawski


Friday, January 18, 2002

State of the State

 
This is the time of year in most states when the governor shares with the legislature and the judiciary a message about how government is handling the resources entrusted to it by the people. Chances are good, if you're a US resident, that you can visit the homepage of your state and see a link to a state of the State message from your governor.

Delaware's page contains the words to the State's latest state of the State address. Delaware's Governor Ruth Ann Minner addressed the Delaware General Assembly yesterday, and informed them of the government's activities over the past year, and of the State's prospects for the coming year. Our Governor focused her speech on the first year of her term in office, and the many difficulties and decisions that had to be made. There were successes too, and she gave out credit for the dedication and support that many State Employees have given throughout the State to meet the challenges that they've faced.

The State's budget is extremely tight this year, and some difficult decisions had to be made. The budget, as proposed by the Governor, will be released to the General Assembly next week. It carries only a two percent increase over last year's budget. Regretfully, one of the items that is not included is a pay raise for those dedicated State employees. This past year saw a two percent raise for employees of Delaware. The State employs one of the largest groups of Delawareans amongst any Delaware employers. On the plus side, there are no anticipated layoffs of State employees.


Around the Law

Just when should you stop serving someone drinks?
The Associated Press reviewed 700 alcohol related violations in Montana over the last four decades, and only found four where businesses were cited for serving someone who was already drunk. One of the reasons cited was that police enforcement agencies don't have the manpower to have undercover officers sit in bars and taverns, and watch to see whom bartenders are serving.

A federal Judge denied a request to televise the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui today
Left open though was the possiblity that radio coverage of the trial might take place. We'll see hear.

A poll conducted on behalf of the IRS: More are comfortable with cheating
Is the IRS broken? That's what this poll seems to indicate. What are they going to do about it? Technology is one answer - one billion dollars worth over the next two years.

Discover uncovers a powered exoskeleton that could turn a combatant into a supersoldier
But what happens when your battery runs out in the middle of a firefight? Why do I have this vision of the Everyready Bunny leading troops into combat?

Worst Patents of All Time?
I know that an Australian patented a wheel last year to protest of the ease with which a person could gain a provisional patent. Scientific American's list is the shortlist of an archive compiled by the creator of www.bustpatents.com. How did some of these get past the reviewers in the patent office?
- William Slawski


Thursday, January 17, 2002

 
Tricks of the Trade
By Private Investigator Michael T. O'Rourke

Question: I am attempting to determine where our client's ex-husband is telephoning from. Numerous phone calls have been received from an unknown number. The Caller ID shows the number was blocked (*67) prior to calling. Knowing the number he called from would assist in locating him for Service of Process for a Child Support matter, and be very useful as an investigative tool. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Assuming the originating caller is using a traceable line to begin with, but is blocking the information by using *67, then yes, those details can be obtained by subpoena. Remember that *67 is a service provided by the Telephone Company, and therefore can see anything it may hide for a caller. If the caller utilizes one of the several methods that route the call in such a manner the Telephone Company cannot monitor, then a subpoena will be useless. Pre-paid cellular phones, some pre-paid calling cards, "daisy chain" techniques such as having the operator place the call, or routing the call through a third party from a non SS7 supported Call Operator will be untraceable. This is valuable information in itself. If you needed to make a call that was completely untraceable, call the operator from any phone, explain each time you attempt to call a particular number you get an "all circuits are busy" message. The Operator will attempt the call for you, and the call will be untraceable to the receiver. Remember, *67 only blocks your number from appearing on a Caller ID unit, the call is indeed traceable.

Question: Are there any phone directories for mobile phones?

Answer: Yes. Try http://www.mobiledigits.com/lookup.html or http://cellphonedirectory.com (editor's note - as of 3/2/03, both of these pages seem to have disappeared )

Question: With the amount of personal information readily available on the Internet, I am concerned with "Identity Fraud". If a situation as unfortunate as this were to happen, how could I limit the amount of damage?

Answer: Contact all of your credit grantors. Verify all recent purchase transactions and account activity. Accounts with unauthorized activity should be closed, and passwords added to accounts that have not been compromised. Verify all account information. Obtain information regarding dispute policies regarding fraudulent charges.

Document all calls, names of persons spoken to, duration of calls, and associated expenses. It is possible expenses will be recoverable in the event of a civil suit, or restitution as a result of criminal prosecution. Documentation will also assist in repairing credit files.

Contact the TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian credit bureaus. Advise them of your situation and request copies of your credit report. Verify all trade lines and inquiries as valid. Document unknown trade lines, request contact phone numbers, and close the accounts, or prevent new accounts from being opened as a result of an inquiry. Insist a "Consumer Statement" be added to your credit file. Request dispute forms to correct fraudulent trade lines. Verify all addresses on your credit file are accurate. Remove any fictitious addresses. The most important address is your current address. If a fraudulent address remains on your file you will aggravate the situation by having additional pre-approved lines of credit sent to this address.

Report the incident to local law enforcement, the Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles, and other Offices where identity fraud could harm you. Be persistent with law enforcement and insist on a Police Report. Most importantly, hire a Private Investigator to assist you, your creditors, and Law Enforcement, in locating the perpetrator. In addition, you should consult an attorney to discuss recourse and options.

Det. Michael T. O'Rourke is a Member of the National Association of Investigative Specialists, The National Association of Professional Process Servers, and Sustaining member of the Delaware Paralegal Association. A Court Certified Special Process Server, and a Licensed Private Investigator, Michael specializes in Insurance Defense.

He invites your questions to:

Loss Solutions, Inc.
824 N. Market Street, Suite 425,
P.O. Box 368,
Wilmington DE 19899-0368.
(302) 427-3600

Or you may e-mail him at DE Irish 5@aol.com


Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Around the Law

 

Highlights of the Supreme Court's 2000-2001 Term


Nazi Saboteurs Captured! FDR Orders Secret Tribunal
The precedent for military tribunals and the treatment of al Qaeda prisoners.

'20/20'-backed DNA testing clears accused rapist, leads to new charges
Baltimore officials have been pushing for more money to conduct DNA tests in cases. The television newsprogram from ABC covered half the costs for DNA testing on 50 cases, leading to some results that might not otherwise have happened...

Fees for filing civil cases in Delaware will increase on February 1st
Justice of the Peace Courts haven't increased their fees for civil cases in almost a decade. Starting in two weeks, that will change. Other Delaware Courts are looking at fee increases also.

A bill imposing stricter penalties for DUI cases proposed
The amount of time that a license would be taken away from someone convicted under a Delaware DUI statute would increase under this proposed law. This would affect people with Blood Alcohol Contents (BAC) greater than .15, and would increase as the BAC level increased.
- William Slawski


 
Legal Tender
Have you ever handed someone cash to pay for a transaction and been told, "we only accept checks or money orders". I thought that cash was "legal tender for all debts public and private". After all, that's what it says on the money.

Title 31, Subtitle IV, Chapter 51, Subchapter I, Section 5103 (whew!) says it slightly differently. It says: "United States coins and currency (including Federal reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal reserve banks and national banks) are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes, and dues. Foreign gold or silver coins are not legal tender for debts". Notice it does not use the word "private", but it does say "all debts".

The Department of the Treasury, in defining a previous version of the law, when the word "private" was still there, indicated that it is not binding upon private businesses unless a state law says so. Well, maybe the problem is that the U.S. Government doesn't have the constitutional authority to mandate acceptance of the currency by private citizens of the States.

Let's see, Article 1, Section 8, of the United States Constitution sets forth that congress has the authority "...To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures". This doesn't expressly give the authority to enforce acceptance by private citizens, so I guess that authority was retained by the individual states.

It is interesting to note that congress does however have the authority to set the value of the money of other countries. I wonder how the other countries feel about that?

But none of this will help you when you go to the Delaware State Police (a government and thus public entity) to be fingerprinted, as part of a job application, because they don't accept cash. They choose to violate the law, in my opinion. They probably do so for very legitimate business or efficiency reasons. Will they apply that same test to me if they think that I have violated a traffic law?


Tuesday, January 15, 2002

 
Court Resources Task Force
One of the most important steps that a business can take when faced with harsh economic times is to review its business practices, internally and externally. Delaware Courts are doing just that, and garnishing a varied set of reactions in response.

The State of Delaware has had good economic times in recent years, finding them selves facing surpluses for a long stretch. However, the last couple of years have left the State struggling to find funding for the many services it provides.

It may sound like a generalization, and to some degree it is, but judicial branches have never traditionally experienced a windfall of generosity from legislative branches. The legislature controls the purse strings of the State.

In Delaware, the Chief Justice normally presents his budgetary requests to the General Assembly in an Annual State of the Judiciary Address. Last week, Supreme Court Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey delivered his yearly address and announced a plan that sprung into action with his creation of a task force.

The Court Resources Task Force is not only reviewing business practices, but it is also considering alternative sources of funding beyond the traditional means of securing it through the legislative budgetary process. The Task Force met for the first time this last Monday, and the 16 member panel broke down into a number of groups to start studying different aspects of enhancing the Court?s financial situation.

Local opinion writer Ron Williams take on this subject is that the General Assembly should respond as quickly as possible by coming up with the money necessary for the courts to function (before they embarrass themselves).

Columnist Al Mascitti provides an alternative solution to court funding by suggesting an additional fee; a tax or surcharge on litigants in civil suits of 1% of attorney fees and awards. While that suggestion raises its own ethical questions, Mr. Mascitti shows that he understands the spirit of the task force ? which is to examine other possibilities and consider them.

Courts don?t rely solely upon funding from the General Assembly. Often, many programs within the Judicial Branch begin with money received from federal grants. To not explore those opportunities, and others would be a shame.

If the biggest impact this task force makes is that the Court reviews its own business practices and finds cheaper and better ways to perform its functions, then its purpose would have been well served, regardless of what the pundits might say.
- William Slawski


Monday, January 14, 2002

 
Can Fingerprints Match in Court?
Recently, a federal court Judge ruled that experts cannot tell juries that two fingerprints match. There were a couple of reason for this. One was that in most cases, fingerprints being used as evidence are only partial prints, and "matching" is a difficult thing to do. But, even more importantly, there are a number of different scientific standards being used by forensic fingerprint experts. There is no clear consensus as to which is the correct one.

The Court used the Daubert Test while reviewing the admission of expert testimony on fingerprints, and decided that while the experts couldn't tell the jury that the fingerprints in question were a match, both sides could testify as to how the fingerprints were obtained and the similarities between them. A pretty good summary of the Daubert Test, with examples can be found on a page from Dr. O'Connor's Criminal Justice MegaLinks called Admissibility of Scientific Evidence under Daubert. Note that Delaware does not use the Daubert Test, or the Frye Test that it replaced in many jurisdictions. Instead, Delaware uses its own rule.
- William Slawski








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