Unfortunately, many Americans carry a number of misconceptions about some of the most common laws that affect their everyday lives, according to FindLaw.com (www.findlaw.com), one of the world’s leading online sources for legal information.
Based on inquiries from among the more than 4 million visitors who come to FindLaw.com each month, here are the top 10 scariest myths about the law:
You have to be over the legal Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit to be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI).
Fact: In most states, it's illegal to drive a car or other motorized vehicles (motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, etc.) while impaired by the effects of alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs). Many people get to this point before they are at the BAC limit, which is 0.08 percent in all states. That means you do not have to be at or above the legal limit to be charged with a DUI.
A written contract can’t be broken.
Fact: Actually, parties can get out of written contracts in many ways. For instance, if the contract wasn’t drafted well, a court may declare it not to be binding. A contract can be deemed unenforceable when the terms are patently unfair to one of the parties. Contracts may also contain specific conditions under which the contract can or will be dissolved.
If someone breaks into your house, you have the right to use lethal force against them to protect yourself, your family or your property.
Fact: While most states, counties or cities protect a homeowner’s right to defend their family and their property, not all allow the homeowner to use lethal force. Some jurisdictions that do allow for the use of lethal force require that the homeowner must reasonably believe that the intruder means to inflict death or serious bodily injury on the homeowner and his or her family.
An error on a traffic ticket voids the ticket.
Fact: For minor errors, there are administrative procedures that courts can use to modify information entered on a traffic ticket.
If the police don’t read a person their Miranda rights when arresting them, they can’t be convicted of the crime.
Fact: Police are supposed to advise a person who has been arrested of his or her right to remain silent and their right to an attorney. But, the failure to do so won’t result in the case against the arrestee being dismissed. Instead, a judge might not allow any statements the arrestee made while in police custody to come in as evidence against them. This may make it more difficult to convict the person, but they could still be found guilty if there is sufficient alternative evidence.
If a person is driving a car without a license and is injured in an accident, they can’t recover damages if the accident isn’t their fault.
Fact: Whether or not a person is driving with a license won’t affect their ability to recover damages if the other driver was at fault.
Couples who live together for six years are considered married.
Fact: Not all states recognize “common law” marriages, and the states that do might have additional requirements. The amount of time that a couple has cohabitated is not the sole determinant of whether or not the couple has entered into a common law marriage.
Car insurance won’t cover you if someone other than your spouse or a family member is driving your car.
Fact: Most insurance policies cover the car owner in these circumstances. Check with your insurance provider to see if your policy includes this provision, and, if it doesn’t, ask if you can add it.
An undercover police officer always has to admit that he or she is a cop.
Fact: Police officers are allowed to use deception to fight crime, as long as they don’t intimidate or harass someone into committing a crime that they otherwise would not commit. If an undercover police officer had to reveal their identity, it could put their life in jeopardy, so there is no requirement for them to do so.
Every nonprofit (and every donation to a non-profit) is tax-exempt.
Fact: In order for a nonprofit to gain tax-exempt status, it must meet the requirements of Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code. Donors who make a qualifying donation to a 501(c)(3) organization are entitled to list the donation as a deduction, but donations to groups that haven’t been granted tax-exempt status under 501(c)(3) are not tax deductible.
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