How Social Media Can Be Used Against You…

The following is a video transcript.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat: many of these social media outlets have become a common part of our daily lives. But can one of your simple social media posts be used against you in court; or worse, could it lead to your arrest?

The quick answer is “yes.”

Social media posts can be used against you in court. As a former prosecutor, I can tell you from experience that social media posts are actually used quite frequently as evidence against people. So, does that mean you can’t have social media at all? Of course not. It simply means you should be conscious of what you are posting.

We’ve all seen pictures of guns, with sayings like, “How do you feel about gun control? Break into my house and find out.” On the surface, it seems harmless and kind of silly, but what happens if you actually have someone break into your house and you end up using a gun in self-defense? A prosecutor could come along and show this post to a jury, and imply that you’ve always been trigger-happy and just waiting for the opportunity to shoot an intruder.

But can social media posts lead to your arrest? Again, the answer is yes.

In fact, we’ve handled cases of those who’ve posted photos which they thought were completely harmless, but law enforcement got ahold of them and used them to arrest the individual.

Here’s an example: someone posts a photo of themselves with a deer they shot, and it turns out the deer is actually a protected breed that’s illegal to shoot.

It’s possible for wildlife officers to see this photo and use that photo to press charges against the individual. In fact, field reports posted by wildlife officers prove this is a very common practice. In addition, we’ve spoken to several ATF agents who’ve stumbled upon suspected criminal activity when they saw a YouTube or Facebook video of a person allegedly shouldering an AR pistol.

Officers are embracing the age of technology as much, if not more so, than we are.

Even an innocent photo here and there of you and your friends at the range or showing off your new addition to your collection can be used against you. Imagine an enterprising prosecutor, gathering dozens of photos with you and firearms posted over a long period of time, to make it seem like you’re gun crazy.

Social media can be a great way to keep in contact with friends and family, but it’s important to remember that these outlets are not private. They’re public, and it’s possible for law enforcement to get their hands on your posts.

A picture tells a thousand words and even when there’s no unlawful activity in your post, it may be misconstrued or misinterpreted, and used against you by law enforcement. So, before you decide to post anything on social media, stop for a moment. Think about how this could affect you and how this would look before a jury.

Remember, a picture’s worth a thousand words, but in a court of law, it speaks volumes. If you have any questions about safely using social media, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.

The Federal Bump Stock Ban Explained

Florida and New Jersey Members: Bump stocks are already illegal under state law. For more information, please call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney.

 

The following is a video transcript.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has just signed a national ban on bump stocks, expected to go into effect on March 21, 2019. This prohibition is unlike any previous gun ban we’ve seen, in that it was neither passed by Congress, nor signed by the President. Instead, an administrative agency simply changed one of their definitions in order to institute the ban.

Bump stocks will now fall into the definition of machinegun, found in 27 C.F.R. Parts 477, 478, and 479.

Previously, this term was defined as: “[A] firearm which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” The term also includes any part of a machinegun or anything that may convert a weapon into a machinegun.

Specifically, with regard to bump stocks, the new rule adds: “The term ‘machinegun’ includes a bump-stock-type device, i.e., a device that allows a semiautomatic firearm to shoot more than one shot with a single pull of the trigger by harnessing the recoil energy of the semiautomatic firearm to which it is affixed, so that the trigger resets and continues firing without additional physical manipulation of the trigger by the shooter.”

This new definition has the effect of criminalizing the possession of all bump stocks.

The new rule has no provision to grandfather in and register the bump stocks that many citizens already own.

Without exception, before March 21, 2019, if you own a bump stock, you must either surrender it to the ATF or destroy it.

You will not be compensated for the money you spent when you legally bought this item. Failure to comply with this new rule is a federal felony, punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine for each bump stock in your possession.

There have already been many legal challenges filed and there will be many more to come before March 21. Most ask that the courts block this rule from going into effect so that the issue can be fully litigated before any American has to destroy their property without compensation.

Does this open the door for future regulation and re-classification of guns, ammo, and accessories?

What do you think?

If you have any questions about bump stocks or the regulatory process, call U.S. LawShield and ask to speak to your Independent Program Attorney today.

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Federal Bureau of Investigation Sued for Denying Americans’ Right to Bear Arms

gun store, gun shop, NICS, background check, NCIS, shotgun, us lawshield, Federal Bureau of Investigation

 

Federal Bureau of Investigation Sued for Denying Americans’ Right to Bear Arms

 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Attorney General, et al. have been served with a lawsuit according to a press release dated June 5th, 2018. The lawsuit alleges that the FBI actively refused to process background check appeals for  National Instant Criminal Background Check System(NICS) denials during 2016. This was only recently discovered through a freedom of information act request that uncovered this unconstitutional denial of due process.

 

“The Defendants and FBI in particular, is improperly shifting their burden to the individual to follow up with various courts or jurisdictions,” the press release explains. The government is basically using its vast and overwhelming power to discourage Americans from appealing the government’s errors when they attempt to claim their Second Amendment rights.

 

“This has been an ongoing issue with Defendants … [who were] improperly shifting the burden.” Numerous prior cases have been filed in various courts since 2016. “It is appalling that Americans should have to hire an attorney, go to court, and obtain a judgment to exercise a fundamental constitutional right” says Richard Hayes Independent Program Attorney with U.S. LawShield.

 

We can only hope that the FBI steps up their act and starts taking American’s civil rights, including the right to bear arms and the right to due process, much more seriously in the future.

 

U.S. LawShield® members enjoy hefty discounts on ammo at local gun shops and nationwide retailers as part of our Member Perks program. Sign up now to get started.

Original article can be found here.

Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals Deals Blow to Stand Your Ground Laws

A literal reading of Oklahoma’s Stand Your Ground law reveals that a person has no duty to retreat and that they may meet force with force, including deadly force, when confronted by a threat of death or grievous bodily injury, and that they can protect themselves with deadly force if they believe that their own lives are in jeopardy. It is part of the Oklahoma Firearms Act of 1971 and amplified in 21 O.S. 1289.25 of state statutes. However, in a recent decision, the Court of Criminal Appeals says that a literal reading of the law is wrong and that there is no absolute immunity in Oklahoma.

Read More…

Georgia Supreme Court Has Zero Tolerance For Schools’ Policies—Victory for Self-Defense

On August 28, 2017, the Georgia Supreme Court addressed the issue of “zero tolerance” for fighting in schools in the Peach Tree State in the case Henry County Board of Education v. S.G., No. S16G1700. The issue is the justification of self-defense in a school disciplinary action.self-defense

Back in 2014, a young high school student, (S.G.), was expelled for fighting in what witnesses and a video of the incident indicated her actions were in self-defense. But the school, like so many schools, has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to fighting. Zero tolerance means “no excuse” and automatic expulsion for violating such a policy.

IS ZERO-TOLERANCE UNLAWFUL?

The GA Supreme Court reasoned that “blind enforcement of zero tolerance fighting policies” are unlawful since they do not consider self-defense as a justification for the conduct. The Supreme Court noted that it is not illegal to fight under Georgia state law as long as it is done in self-defense. That same law applies even in schools, the Court stated.

Specifically, Georgia Code § 16-3-21 provides you are justified in using force against another person when you reasonably believe force is necessary to defend yourself against that person’s use of unlawful force against you.

The statute goes on to state that any rule or policy of any state or county agency (including school districts) that conflicts with the law is unenforceable and void. The decision of the Court put all Georgia schools on notice with regards to enforcement of their own zero-tolerance policies.

SELF-DEFENSE: Burden of Proof

The claim of self-defense is an affirmative defense to a civil claim or criminal charge. That means that the defendant must raise the issue by presenting a new fact that defeats the charge or claim even if the facts supporting the charge or claim are true.

In a criminal setting, the burden of proof falls upon the prosecutor to overcome or refute the defendant’s claim that his action was done in self-defense.  However, in a civil matter, the burden of proof falls upon the person asserting self-defense to establish facts in support of the claim.

In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that school disciplinary matters are civil in nature and not criminal. Therefore, the burden falls upon the student to present evidence that their conduct was done in self-defense and school districts must now permit such a defense be asserted by the student.

The case has been remanded back to the Henry County School Board of Education for reconsideration, allowing S.G. to present evidence in support of her claim of justified use of force in self-defense. Even though S.G. has already graduated, she is seeking to have her academic disciplinary record expunged.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Understanding your rights and when you are justified in using force or even deadly force is complex. It is critical that you have an understanding of the laws of self-defense.

You can learn more about the laws of self-defense by attending a workshop or seminar and hear from experienced U.S. & Texas LawShield® Independent Program Attorneys as they explain the law and answer your questions.

You can find an event and register at GunLawSeminar.com.

Get Behind the Shield.

Georgia: Can I Use Force Against Someone Burglarizing My Car?

Self-Defense: Florida Driver Sues Uber Over Gun Policy

A Miami-area Uber driver has sued the popular ride-share company claiming its firearms policy violates his right to self-defense under Florida law.

Jose Mejia, 28, is a concealed-carry license holder who became an Uber driver in March 2016. But in 2015, the company banned guns in cars after an Uber driver shot and wounded a gunman attacking people in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago’s north side.

In his lawsuit, shared by the Courthouse News Service, Mejia claims Florida law ensures his right to carry a concealed firearm, while the Uber policy blocks it.

“My rights are being infringed on because I’m not able to lawfully carry my firearm,” Mejia told Miami’s Channel 10 News.

“I’m not able to protect myself or defend myself,” added the part-time student. “And remember we have regular cars—there’s not a divider between us and the passenger or nothing of that nature.”

The complaint didn’t list other members of the class-action lawsuit, but the document suggests tremendous growth potential. Uber says it’s now in 633 U.S. cities.

“While the exact number of members of the Class is unknown to Plaintiff (Mejia) at this time, based on the nature of the trade and commerce involved, Plaintiff reasonably believes that there are thousands of members in the Class,” the lawyers said in the complaint.

News outlets have asked Uber for comment about the lawsuit, but the company declined.

 

Jose Mejia. Photo from Facebook.
Jose Mejia. Photo from Facebook.

Uber and guns

San Francisco-based Uber transformed the vehicle-for-hire industry in 2009 with its ride-sharing smartphone app.

The mobile technology connects riders seeking better convenience and customer service with independent drivers trying to turn their cars into cash-generating machines.

Uber’s old firearms policy said drivers were expected to follow local, state, and federal gun laws while in service, which is what driver John Hendricks did in the April 2015 Chicago incident.

State prosecutors said Hendricks faced no charges because he was licensed to carry and acted in self-defense. The gunman, Everardo Custodio, pleaded guilty to weapons charges and went to prison.

The incident became a national story and, two months later, Uber issued a new policy.

According to the company’s website, “Our goal is to ensure that everyone has a safe and reliable ride. That’s why Uber prohibits riders and drivers from carrying firearms of any kind in a vehicle while using our app. Anyone who violates this policy may lose access to Uber.”

 

Florida self-defense law for cars

uber, david katz, florida
David Katz, Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield®

David Katz, an Independent Program Attorney for U.S. LawShield®, reviewed the class-action complaint. Katz said Mejia’s lawyers based the case on a self-defense law passed by the Legislature in 2008.

“Its official name is the ‘Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicles Act of 2008,’” Katz said. “That’s a long title, but what it says is people may have firearms for self-defense in their vehicles while on their bosses’ property. It also outlaws job discrimination resulting from gun ownership.

“The law’s ‘Legislative Intent’ affirms that people have—and I quote—a ‘constitutional right to keep and bear arms,’ and that ‘these rights are not abrogated by virtue of a citizen becoming a customer, employee, or invitee of a business entity.’”

 

Driver acted in self-defense

Mejia reminded Channel 10 about an incident last December when an Uber driver killed another man in self-defense in Aventura, about 18 miles north of Miami.

“Imagine,” he told Channel 10, “if he had not had his weapon—he wouldn’t be alive today, the passenger wouldn’t be alive today and then what’s Uber going to do? Issue a statement of apologies, and that’s it?

“What about his family?”

 

—By Bill Miller, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield® Blog

 

More news from Florida:

Legislative Update—Latest Laws Affecting Florida Gun Rights

Back to School: Firearms Laws You Need to Know in Florida

 

Colorado: Brady Campaign Misleads Aurora Family on Gun Suit

Results from shooters who answered the Lucky Gunner online poll about where to direct recovered funds to protect the Second Amendment.
Results from shooters who answered the Lucky Gunner online poll about where to direct recovered funds to protect the Second Amendment.

 

It would be a difficult to justify suing a car dealer who sold a vehicle to someone who then intentionally used it to cause harm or death. But if the product is a gun, some believe that the manufacturer or dealer should be liable for users’ deliberate violence.

In 2012, Jessica Ghawi was shot and killed along with 11 others in an Aurora, Colo., movie theatre. The Patriot Post reports that Ghawi’s grieving parents were encouraged by the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence to launch a hopeless lawsuit against gun store Lucky Gunner and others who lawfully sold items used in the shooting.

Denver-based U.S. LawShield Independent Program Attorney Doug Richards said, “The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act specifically protects lawful firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held responsible for the criminal actions of a third party.”

Richards added, “In his decision, Senior District Judge Richard P. Matsch not only dismissed the suit, but ruled ‘Pursuant to C.R.S. §13-21-504.5, defendants Lucky Gunner and the Sportsman’s Guide are entitled to an award of reasonable attorney fees and costs to be determined after filing motions pursuant to D.C.Colo.L.Civ.R.54.3.’”

The fight’s not over yet, however. Lucky Gunner reports “The Brady Center predictably appealed the judge’s ruling and we are prepared to continue defending your rights and ours. While it is not yet clear when the $111,971.10 fee reimbursement will be paid, we are going to donate 100% of what is recovered to groups that support and defend the 2nd Amendment. We will fight to recover these funds from the Brady Center and to hold the Brady Center responsible for yet another frivolous lawsuit.”

Lucky Gunner ran an online poll to determine which groups would receive the funds.

“In short,” Richards said, “Judge Matsch ordered that the Plaintiff pay more than $110,000 in fees.”

— Warren Berg, U.S. LawShield Contributor

Nevada: Gun Ownership Appeal for Medical Marijuana User Goes Up in Smoke

In a 3-0 ruling, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal ban on the sale of guns to medical marijuana cardholders.

According to an AP report, the lawsuit was filed by S. Rowan Wilson of Nevada. Wilson tried to buy a firearm for self defense in 2011, but was denied the purchase by the gun store, citing the line on Form 4473 preventing the sale of firearms to illegal drug users. 

While marijuana use is legalized in some states, its use remains illegal under federal law.

Wilson claims she doesn’t actually use medical marijuana, but obtained a prescription to show support for its legalization. In an open letter from Athur Herbert, BATFE Assistant Director of Enforcement Programs and Services, he issued guidelines to FFL holders stating that “any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

Wilson’s attorney, Chaz Rainey, plans to appeal the decision. Appeal options include the same panel of judges, a larger panel of the circuit court, or the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 9th Circuit Court is a large court, hearing approximately 12,000 appeals a year. Efforts to break up the court include the Judicial Administration and Improvement Act of 2017, which would create a new 12th Circuit Court of Appeals covering Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington state. The states remaining in the new 9th Circuit would include California, Oregon, Hawaii, and the territories of both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Do you have questions about whether your gun ownership rights are affected by a medical condition that is being treated with marijuana, and you’d like to find out what steps, if any, you can take to restore your gun rights? If so, call the Non-Emergency number on the front of your Membership card and talk to an attorney about your specific situation. Or join us at a Gun Law Seminar and ask one of our Independent Program Attorneys for guidance. Click here to see a listing of seminars available across the country.

D.C. Appeals Court Strikes Down ‘Good Reason’ Licensing Scheme

“Unconstitutional” is what a federal appeals court has ruled on the D.C. gun law that says people must show “good reason” to have concealed handgun permits.

The Second Amendment is sufficient reason itself to issue permits, according to the 2-1 ruling released Tuesday July 25, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Court of Appeals rules "good reason" unconstitutional“In fact, the Amendment’s core at a minimum shields the typically situated citizen’s ability to carry common arms generally,” wrote Judge Thomas B. Griffith in the ruling on the case Wrenn v. District of Columbia.

Subsequently, the appeals court instructed lower courts to block the D.C. law with permanent injunctions. City officials indicated they’re exploring an appeal, while gun-control groups claim the ruling shrinks public safety in the nation’s capital.

D.C. gun laws are among the strictest in the U.S., but they’ve also faced several legal challenges in the last few years, said Kirk Evans, President of U.S. & Texas LawShield®.

Evans noted that the landmark pro-gun victory was District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 in which the U.S. Supreme Court—voting 5 to 4—struck down D.C.’s ban on handguns. Then, in 2014, another federal court prevented a proposed ban on carrying guns in public.

The D.C. Council—the enclave’s municipal government—responded by creating the “good reason” rule, which only issued permits to citizens who could prove they faced “legitimate” threats, Evans said.

“Simply residing in one of the District’s high-crime neighborhoods was not considered a ‘good reason,’” Evans said. “This was not unnoticed by at least one member of Congress who complained colleagues were unarmed when a gunman shot up their ball practice in June.”

But, according to the appeals court’s decision, the “good reason” rule negated what the Supreme Court decided in Heller.

“The District’s good-reason law is necessarily a total ban on exercises of that constitutional right for most D.C. residents,” Judge Griffith wrote. “That’s enough to sink this law under (Heller).

Second Amendment advocates praised the latest ruling, including Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF).

He said the ruling “contains some powerful language that affirms what we’ve argued for many years, that requiring a so-called ‘good-cause’ to exercise a constitutionally-protected right does not pass the legal smell test.”

Gottlieb added, “We are particularly pleased that the opinion makes it clear that the Second Amendment’s core generally covers carrying in public for self-defense.”

In the days after the ruling it was too early to tell how far the case would rise through the appeals process. The Supreme Court in June declined to consider another Second Amendment case, Peruta v. California, in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a San Diego County law requiring gun owners to prove they have “good cause” to apply for concealed carry permits.

But Gottlieb said the latest victory in D.C. spurs confidence among Second Amendment advocates.

“To say we are delighted with the ruling would be an understatement,” Gottlieb said. “We are simply more encouraged to keep fighting, winning firearms freedom one lawsuit at a time.” — Bill Miller, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield blog

 

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law to Face Legal Test

Stand Your GroundThe Stand Your Ground self-defense law in Florida has seen its share of legislative battles; now, it’s facing a legal test.

In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that declared the state, and not the defense, has the burden of proof in pre-trial hearings to decide if the stand your ground defense is appropriate at trial.

But on July 3, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch ruled in a court order that the legislature overstepped its constitutional authority to pass the bill. Hirsch made the ruling in a case involving Liletha Rutherford, a Florida woman charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and grand theft.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch challenges Stand Your Ground ruling
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch

David Katz, an independent program lawyer for U.S. Law Shield of Florida, explained that Rutherford sought the Stand Your Ground immunity. But, Katz added, Hirsch asserted in his 14-page order that the state’s constitution empowers the Legislature to make “substantive” laws such as the laws against criminal activity and their corresponding punishments.

Katz said the judge believes the constitution says the rules for court procedures are “procedural” and it’s up to the Florida Supreme Court to decide those, not the Legislature.

The judge wrote, “Because questions of burden of proof are procedural rather than substantive, however, I necessarily find the demised legislative changes to be unconstitutional.”

Katz said the judge’s order and the law itself face more battles in the state’s appellate courts and the Florida Supreme Court.

Katz also told us that “it is important to realize that Judge Hirsch’s ruling only has effect in his courtroom.  Although some Judges may look at is as persuasive, it is not binding in any Courtroom but Hirsch’s.  In effect, other Judges in the same courthouse have disagreed with Hirsch’s ruling and given the new law full effect in their courtroom.”

A spokesman for the governor said “the office is studying Hirsch’s ruling,”   Further, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Pam Bondi said that her “office is getting ready to appeal the order.”

The Stand Your Ground law in Florida states that a person is not obliged to retreat in the face of danger and can use deadly force as self-defense. It became law in 2005; seven years later, George Zimmerman used the defense to get an acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Critics say the law could cause more violence with a “shoot first” way of thinking among Floridians who choose to arm themselves for self-defense.

But prosecutors especially didn’t like the pre-trial burden of proof placed on them because they had to show clear and convincing evidence that someone did not act in self-defense. They said the rule essentially forces them to try a case twice: once at the self-defense hearing, and again at the actual trial.

Supporters praised the bill’s signing. They said that the burden of proof is always on the state in criminal proceedings, and a pre-trail hearing should be no different.

“Today’s Miami trial court ruling attacks the Legislature’s role in defining and protecting our individual rights,” State Sen. Rob Bradley, a sponsor of the bill, wrote on Twitter.

A sponsor of the House version, State Rep. Jason Brodeur added, “So judges should make laws? This whole time, I have been so confused…what do I do as a legislator again?”

—By Bill Miller, U.S. and Texas LawShield® blog contributor

Related:

 

In Florida, ‘Bretherick’ Makes Self-Defense Harder