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Lehighton Legal Issues Blog

Poppy seed bagels imperil drug tests

The famous poppy seed defense may be valid. Poppy seeds can trigger a false positive drug test because they come from opium poppies, which sometimes contain small traces of morphine. These results have led to lawsuits and serve as a reminder that inaccurate drug testing can lead to false drug charges or other legal problems.

As far back as 20 years ago, the federal government revised its workplace drug testing policies because of the probability that a poppy seed bagel would register as a false positive on a drug test. Individuals tested positive at 300ng/ml even though they did not use heroin but legitimately took a prescription codeine or morphine medication or ate normal dietary amounts of poppy seeds. The government raised this level to 2,000 nanograms per milliliter.

Common tactics used by insurance adjusters

Unless you have experience dealing with insurance companies, you may feel you have no choice but to trust that they are looking out for your best interests. As much as they promise to be on your side and to keep you in good hands, they are still a business whose primary aim is making money. The worst time to learn this is after you have suffered injuries in an accident.

It is true that you pay your premiums (and hope other drivers pay their premiums too) so that you will have financial coverage if you are involved in an accident that results in injuries. However, you may be surprised to learn that insurance adjusters have tricky ways of catching you off guard so their company can reduce or deny your claim.

What do I need to know about child custody?

Pennsylvania law governs what happens to a couple's children after they end their relationship. Unfortunately, there are many misperceptions concerning child custody.

Both parents have equal custody rights, even if there is no court order. Each parent may make decisions for their children and take physical possession at any time. However, court orders may be advisable if it is believed that a parent may wrongfully take their children.

Student debtors may get relief

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy does not provide debt relief for college loans unless the debtor can meet the strict requirements for showing an undue burden. But, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives could broaden the definition of undue burden and increase eligibility for discharging student loan debt.

The bill's sponsor, Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, found that almost 40 percent of borrowers who include their college loans in their bankruptcy filing had at least some of their debt discharged However, only 0.1 percent of people filing for bankruptcy tried to have their student loans discharged because of the difficulty of meeting court-imposed requirements for discharging this debt.

You told your kids you're getting divorced: How to help them cope

Every Pennsylvania family is unique, and the joys and problems you experience in your own household may be similar or vastly different from your neighbor's past or current situations. That's why there's no set answer to questions regarding how you can help your kids navigate the divorce process without any negative impact at all. Like most good parents, you likely already realize that your divorce will, in fact, have some not-so-good effects on your kids.

That doesn't necessarily mean it will ruin the rest of their lives, however. By being proactive and supportive, you can help them come to terms with the situation and set the tone for a new and successful future. There are things you can do, and other things you'll definitely want to avoid, as you try to keep stress levels as low as possible while your children adapt to their new lifestyle. The good news is that there are plenty of support resources available.

DUI blamed for fiery gas station crash

The consequences of a car accident can reach to other motorists, passengers and pedestrians. In a recent accident, a man crashed his car into a convenience store, causing a fire.

According to police, the man lost control of his car in a curve and drove into the parking lot of the convenience store, where he hit two gas pumps. The passenger side of the car then crashed into the store's front wall, causing it to erupt into flames. The car eventually stopped outside the building.

Court changes shared custody standard

Custody disputes are often difficult and complicated. Until recently, Pennsylvania family courts reviewed only four standards when making shared child custody decisions. Recently, however, a state appeals court changed the factors that local courts must consider when they rule on custody decisions.

Previously, the standards were based on a 1998 Pennsylvania appellate court case which directed courts to make four findings. Judges first had to decide whether both parents were fit, capable of making reasonable decisions on raising children, and had the willingness and ability to love and care for their children.

New law grants grandparents more custody rights

Starting July 4, Pennsylvania grandparents were granted greater rights to seek child custody. A new law that took effect allows grandparents and great grandparents to seek partial custody of children if the parents are separated.

Pa. Supreme Court injects itself into DUI blood test refusal

In a drunk driving prosecution, blood test results can be compelling evidence. These tests are also damaging even if a defendant refuses to submit a blood sample. But, the state Supreme Court agreed to review an appeal of a conviction where the motorist refused to submit this sample.

Pennsylvania law currently allows the refusal of this test, which may be taken without a warrant, into evidence. This refusal must be considered along with other evidence in the case, but no presumptions may be made about it.

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