Manikas Law LLC October 2019

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October 2019

Criminal & Traffic Defense | Immigration | Personal Injury

Little Black Box How Your Vehicle’s Data Can Work For or Against You

side status, velocities during nondeployment and deployment events, and timing from impact to deployment Brake and throttle positioning within five seconds before impact

It’s natural for the law to adapt and evolve as society does, and this evolution can be for better or worse, depending on your perspective. One of the biggest transformations in evidence collection has been the use of “black box” data in law enforcement investigations following a traffic accident or incident. Most vehicles manufactured after 1995 are equipped with an event data recorder (EDR), or black box. Traditionally, this technology has been used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to gather statistical data. But within the last few years, law enforcement agencies have begun slowly utilizing black boxes to gather evidence for criminal cases. Today, police departments are fully equipped with the technology to retrieve this information, analyze it, and use it against you in court. Most black boxes only retain a few seconds of vehicle memory, which means that investigators, juries, and judges are not privy to information regarding a driver’s habits prior to the seconds before impact. This can be misleading, especially as experts try to piece together what happened. For example, if you were traveling under the speed limit for most of your trip and only sped up to pass a vehicle before an accident occurred, your black box may only record that accelerated speed. Here’s a list of some of the information that may be recorded on your vehicle’s black box: Vehicle and engine speed about five seconds before impact Ignition cycle at the time of the accident and during the investigation Air bag statistics, including passenger- • • •

• •

If you were wearing your seat belt If any warning lights were on

So, consider this a cautionary warning: Your vehicle’s EDR could be recording evidence that could be used against you in court, or it could be gathering data that could be used to your advantage. It just depends on what side of the courtroom you are on. If you were injured in an accident, we can use the evidence in the black box to support your claim and prove you were wronged. But if you’re being criminally charged, information on the box can be twisted to support your guilt without fully telling the story. Today’s juries and judges place a lot of weight on technology and the experts each side brings into the courtroom. Understanding this can be crucial in making sure your black box’s data works for you, not against you. was involved in a 10-car pileup along the interstate, and because of something he said to the investigators on the scene, his vehicle’s EDR information was pulled. The data showed that he was traveling at a high rate of speed and veered right just before the impact. It was a bleak outlook for my client as investigators tried to piece together who was at fault and what happened. However, we looked beyond the scope of what his vehicle’s EDR was telling us. This vehicle had more than 100,000 miles on it, and I recently represented a client whose case was heavily influenced by the black box. My client

a few parts within the wheel well had been replaced. This meant the data being pulled from the vehicle was not completely accurate, because the EDR’s tracking is based on the original parts that are installed in a vehicle. Essentially, the rotations of the axel on the tire correlate with the speed, and if those pieces are different than the original parts, that data is skewed. Because of this, we were able to significantly reduce my client’s role in the event, resulting in dropped criminal charges. As a driver, you must be aware of the constant tracking that your vehicle’s EDR is recording, and short of never driving again, there’s no way to avoid it. But understanding how this black box can work for you will make you a smarter driver.

-Kyle Manikas

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PRESIDENT ADAMS’ JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH Ambassador to the Mole People

Today, some of the most fantastic discoveries are being made in the far reaches of space, but there was a time when people were more interested in what was going on beneath their feet. In the early 1820s, a United States army officer named John Cleves Symmes Jr. traveled the country teaching audiences about the Hollow Earth Theory. Symmes and some others at the time believed the Earth was made up of several solid spheres, one inside of another. They also believed each of these subterranean worlds was habitable and full of life. This is

the national observatory, and secured funding for the Smithsonian Institution. It’s possible Adams’ interest in Symmes’ trip to the North Pole was less about the Hollow Earth Theory and meeting the mole people than his larger interest in learning more about such a remote part of the world. However, Adams’ reputation as a naturalist didn’t protect him from scrutiny.

Even in the early 1800s, the Hollow Earth Theory was like the Flat Earth Theory today; there were a couple avid supporters, but most people

where the myth of the mole people originated. Symmes wanted to lead an expedition to the North Pole, where he believed he would find an entrance to the center of the Earth. He went to Congress and lobbied for money to fund his expedition. Congress shot him down, but Symmes found an ally in an unlikely place: President John Quincy Adams. John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States and son of the second president and founding father, John Adams. He traveled the world with his father, graduated from Harvard with honors, helped create

knew it was ridiculous. Having a sitting U.S. president greenlight the expedition was shocking. However, you didn’t learn about Symmes’ expedition in your history class for a reason. Adams wasn’t a popular president, and not just because he might have wanted to meet the mole people. He only served one term. By the time the expedition started to get off the ground, Andrew Jackson had been elected, and he quickly killed the project. In 1936, Congress would approve funding for an expedition to the South Pole, though this expedition focused on exploring the surface of the Earth, not what is underneath it.

Halloween Decorations or Fighting Words? A GRAVE LEGAL MATTER

We’ve all played a harmless trick or two, but sometimes, Halloween shenanigans get out of hand. They can lead to hurt feelings, outraged neighbors, and, in the case of Purtell v. Mason, a lawsuit. In the days leading up to Halloween, all was not quiet in the village of Bloomingdale. Previously parked in a storage unit, Jeff and Vicki Purtell’s 38-foot RV was now parked in front of their house. In protest, neighbors petitioned to town officials, wanting an ordinance put in place to prohibit RV parking on residential property. While the ordinance was under consideration, Jeff Purtell took matters into his own hands. He erected six wooden tombstones in his front yard. They seemed to be innocuous Halloween decorations, but these

tombstones displayed a special message for the neighbors. Each headstone was inscribed with a sarcastic message and house number, implying the occupants’ death dates. These messages soon caught the neighbors’ attention.

“Bette wasn’t ready, but here she lies, ever since that night she died. Twelve feet deep in this trench, still wasn’t deep enough for that stench! 1690.”

Insulted and a little afraid, Purtell’s neighbors called the police to have the headstones removed. After a couple of visits, Officer Bruce Mason arrived and threatened to arrest Purtell if he didn’t take the tombstones down. Purtell obliged, but the matter wasn’t put to rest. The Verdict Purtell sued Officer Mason on the grounds of violating his rights to free speech, and the case made it all the way to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Sykes ruled that the tombstones did not constitute fighting words and were protected under the First Amendment. However, she also ruled that Officer Mason was entitled to qualified immunity, as any reasonable officer would act the same under the circumstances. The bigger question might be how this case made it all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals. As Judge Sykes wrote in her opinion, “Lawsuits like this one cast the legal profession in a bad light and contribute to the impression that Americans are an overlawyered and excessively litigious people.”

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TAKE A BREAK

TAILS FROM THE PAST Mythical Cats of the World

Most owners will tell you their cats act like ancient deities. Majestic, scrupulous, and utterly unpredictable, these fascinating creatures have long captured our imaginations. Even before cat videos took the internet by storm, humans have been idolizing felines, placing them alongside some of their most important mythological figures. Bastet — Egypt Of course, a list of mythical cats has to start with Egypt. While many people know the pharaohs and their followers thought cats were sacred, you may be surprised by how deep the connection goes. The earliest depiction of Bastet, the feline deity of protection, is a lion- headed woman in battle. But, over the course of 2,000 years, Bastet evolved to resemble the domesticated, pointy-eared cats we know and love today. 招き猫 (Maneki-Neko) — Japan Legend has it that in the 17th century, a monk living in a small temple in Edo (now Tokyo) was struggling to survive, but he still split his meals with his cat, Tama. One day, Lord Nakaota Ii got caught in a rainstorm while hunting and took shelter under a tree near the temple. Nakaota spotted Tama near the temple, and the cat raised its leg, beckoning the noble to come toward him. Curious, Nakaota complied, stepping out from beneath the tree just before a bolt of lightning struck it down. The lord’s life was saved, and to this day, the Maneki-Neko (the beckoning cat) is a symbol of wealth and good fortune. Freya’s Skogkatts —Norway In Norse folklore, the goddess Freya had a unique means of travel: a chariot pulled by two cats. These were skogkatts, or Norwegian Forest cats, that were only a little larger than your average house cat. Still, these small felines towed Freya around battlefields as she gathered warriors to send to Valhalla. On top of being the goddess of war, love affairs, and magic, Freya may well have been Midgard’s first cat lady.

LEFTOVER CANDY SNACK MIX

Inspired by Food &Wine Magazine

Ingredients

2 cups mini pretzels, coarsely broken

6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

12 oz mini candy bars, such as Snickers, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1/3 cup dry milk powder

Directions

1. Heat oven to 275 F. 2. In a large mixing bowl, fold together pretzels, sugars, milk powder, and butter. 3. Spread mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes. 4. Let cool for at least 30 minutes and mix in candy bar pieces before serving.

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703-556-0004 www.LawyerAdvocate.com 10513 Judicial Drive, #203 Fairfax, VA 22030 INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Criminal & Traffic Defense | Immigration | Personal Injury

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Your Vehicle May Be Recording Your Driving Habits

Weird History: The President and the Hollow Earth Grave Matters of the Law

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Leftover Candy Snack Mix Amazing Cat Tales

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3 Strategies for Helping Grandkids Pay for College

DON’T LET MONEY GET IN THE WAY Of Your Grandchild’s Education

Pay their tuition. Not everybody has $20,000 just lying around, but if you do, using it to pay for your grandchild’s tuition isn’t a bad way to spend it. Normally, annual financial gifts that are exempt from the federal gift tax can’t exceed $15,000, but payments toward someone’s tuition, for any amount, are not taxed. Keep in mind, however, that the money can only

College expenses aren’t what they used to be. What used to be affordable to any student with a part-time summer job now can take years to pay off. If your grandkids want to go to college, the cost of education should not be a barrier to their future. Luckily there are ways that you can help ease that financial burden.

Invest in a 529 Plan. There are no limits on age, income, or monetary contributions attached to this college savings account, and contributions are tax-deductible in some states. Just like a Roth IRA, the earnings grow over time and can be used tax-free for qualifying expenses, like tuition and room . There are a few downsides, however. Funds from a grandparent’s 529 Savings Plan are considered student income and could hurt your student’s eligibility for financial aid. If you choose to fund through a parent’s 529 Plan, which doesn’t count as student income, you lose control over the funds you contribute.

go toward tuition, not toward other college expenses like room and board or textbooks.

Help them find opportunities to save. Even if you don’t have thousands of dollars to give, you can still help your grandkids look for other opportunities to save. There are thousands of available scholarships, grants, and programs to help students pay for college, and helping them look online and in your community can go a long way. College could be your grandchild’s first stop on the path to achieving their dreams. You can be a part of that journey by making sure money doesn’t get in the way of that.

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