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Warsaw, IN Attorneys | Personal Injury, Business Law, Firearms Law
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Expungement & Your Right to Possess Firearms

In the past we posted on the new Indiana expungement statute that went into effect July 2013.  Many firearm attorneys across the State of Indiana had hoped that the implementation of this new statute would provide for the restoration of firearm rights for those individuals who may have been convicted of a felony in the past.  While the Indiana statute specifically included language regarding the restoration of the right to possess firearms for those whose prior felony was expunged, we have since found out that the U.S. Department of Justice has taken the position that the new Indiana law does not restore Federal firearm rights.  The scary fact is that many individuals who have had their felonies expunged since July 2013, may be operating on the assumption that their firearm rights are restored due to the fact that they have a court order from a state judge stating that they have been restored. 

When it comes to firearm rights, it is important to always remember that there are two rights.  First, the state right, and second a federal right.  While the Indiana expungement statute may restore a state right, the federal right has not been restored.  Or at least this is the position of the federal government in regards to the Indiana expungement statute.  The current Indiana expungement statute allows a future court to look back at a prior expunged felony if the individual was back in court on future criminal charges.  This “look back” provision makes the Indiana expungement really less of an expungement and more of a sealment of the record.  The U.S. Department of Justice position on this has always been that for these types of expungement statutes no federal firearm rights shall be restored. 

Without “true expungement” the federal firearm possession right will not be restored.  Therefore, an individual who has had their felony expunged in the State of Indiana since July 2013 may not necessarily find themselves in violation of state law. However, they would be in violation of federal law. It has always been the federal government’s practice to file federal felony criminal charges against individuals who possess firearms, but are federally prohibited to do so. 

                This then begs the question of what the Indiana State Legislature intended when drafting the new Indiana expungement statute.  Sadly, it was unlikely that they were intending to draft a statute to restore firearm rights.  While they have restored the right to hold office and the right to vote, they have fallen short of the federal requirements for the restoration of firearm possession rights.  This is also evidenced by the fact that the newly amended Indiana expungement law that goes in effect July 1, 2014 removes all firearm references from the provisions which indicate the benefits or rights that are restored by the Indiana law. 

Therefore, as the law in Indiana currently stands, expungement of a prior conviction is not a valid path for the reinstatement of firearm rights.  There may be some opportunities depending on an individual’s circumstances regarding the possibility of restoration of firearm rights. However, those are case specific and we would encourage you to contact our office to set up an appointment in order to discuss those options with us. Turner Valentine, LLP: Contact Us or call us at 574-371-2052

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Shape Up Without This Dangerous Substance

Weight loss often tops the New Year’s resolution list, but over-the-counter weight-loss and sports supplements with DMAA are coming under fire for presenting the risk of heart attack, stroke, panic attacks, and death.

DMAA, or 1,3-dimethylamylamine, was once used in over-the-counter decongestants but was taken off the market because it didn’t work. Since then, a number of sports supplements have used the compound to increase energy and metabolism. A recent lawsuit has called the substance dangerous. In fact, the United States Army is investigating whether it played a role in the deaths of two soldiers. Both soldiers had heart attacks while exercising, and both had DMAA in their systems.

A Harvard Medical School researcher has called for the FDA to remove supplements containing DMAA from shelves, and the United States Anti-Doping Agency has issued an advisory to warn athletes about the risks of using the substance which is banned by the organization. DMAA is labeled as a dietary ingredient, and some manufacturers even claim that the compound is natural because it can be found in trace amounts in geranium oil.

Some popular and widely available products containing DMAA include: Jack3d, Nitric Blast, Lean Efx, PWR, Napalm, and Code Red.

If you are planning to shed a few pounds, consider avoiding this harmful substance and losing the weight the old-fashioned way. Eat nutritious foods of healthful portion sizes and get plenty of exercise.

If you believe you have been harmed by DMAA, please contact our office for a free consultation.

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You Better Watch Out…For Toys on This Annual List

Every year, retailers and manufacturers eagerly wait to see which toys will top holiday wish lists. While every toy company wants to have a prominent place, there is one list that they want no part of: W.A.T.C.H.’s (World Against Toys Causing Harm) annual 10 Worst Toys list.

Since 1973, W.A.T.C.H. has identified toys that have the potential to cause injuries or death in hopes of warning the public of possible dangers and spurring positive changes in toy design.

Here are a few tips from the organization for choosing safe toys:

  • Be cautious of toys marketed only online without instructions or age recommendations. Likewise for toys that come as a bonus with other merchandise. Always check the quality.
  • Toys with small, removable parts, attachments at the end of a lace/string, or long handles are choking hazards to small children.
  • Projectile toys can cause injuries and blindness.
  • Toys with strings or cords longer than six inches, as well as crib toys that are strung over the crib, can cause a strangulation hazard to small children.
  • Be careful of toys made with hazardous and flammable surfaces and components.
  • Toys that make extremely loud sounds can affect a child’s hearing, particularly small children who play with their head near a toy.

To see the most recent list of the 10 Worst Toys, visit

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Top 5 Holi-Dangers

The holidays are filled with family, parties, and other festivities, but they are also a time of increased personal injury. Here are five ways to keep yourself, your home, and your family safe over the holidays and throughout the winter months.

1. Trees – When selecting a live tree, be sure it is fresh. The needles should be hard to pull off, the branches should be flexible, and the bottom should be sticky with sap. The drier the tree, the greater the fire hazard. When buying an artificial tree, look for a “fire resistant” label. Never place trees near heat sources.

2. Candles – Never leave candles unattended and always put them out of children’s reach. Be careful of placement during holidays to avoid setting decorations on fire or harming guests. Of reported holiday fires, 40 percent were due to unattended candles.

3. Lights – Indoor and outdoor lights brighten the holidays, but use them according to manufacturer directions. Never use wiring that is frayed or cracked. Turn lights off when leaving the house or going to bed. Look for lights that have an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.

4. Food safety – Cook food thoroughly, serve safely, and never leave the kitchen while using the stove or the home while using the oven. When preparing meals, wash hands often. Don’t use the same utensils to prepare and serve food, and be sure to remove anything from the counter that has come into contact with raw meat, poultry, or eggs. Keep hard candy and other temptations that could pose choking hazards out of the reach of small children.

5. Decorate safely – Use a ladder or step stool to decorate and use hang lights and decorations. Be sure ladders are on a solid, even surface. Use a step stool rather than a piece of furniture to extend your reach.

Have a happy and safe holiday season!

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Dangers of Texting and Driving

Texting and driving is responsible for an estimated 3,000 teenage deaths each year, and another 300,000 injuries. According to the Cohen Children’sMedicalCenter, the prevalence of texting and driving has skyrocketed in recent years, and it continues to grow. In fact, more young people die from texting and driving than drinking and driving now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Indiana, texting while driving is against the law, but the problem persists. Here are some sobering facts:

  • A quarter of teenagers respond to a text message every time they drive. (University of Michigan, Transportation Research Institute)
  • Sending a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average 4.6 seconds. That’s the equivalent of driving 55 mph for the length of a football field…blind. (U.S.Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)

Texting while driving puts everyone on the road at risk as it becomes a cognitive, visual, and manual distraction to drivers. Studies show that texting while operating a vehicle dangerously increases reaction time, thus increasing the risk of crashing. It also reduces focus and attentiveness to the road and one’s surroundings.

Keep Indiana roads safe. Don’t text and drive. To learn more about safe driving practices, please visit

We’ve talked about the dangers of distracted driving in the past, but the importance of alert, attentive driving cannot be stressed enough. If you have been injured in a car accident because of another’s distracted driving, please contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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Hidden Dangers of Back-to-School Supplies

As summer comes to a close, many parents are shopping for back-to-school items. But some popular school supplies contain large amounts of harmful chemicals, according to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ).

CHEJ conducted a study and found that vinyl plastic back-to-school supplies including backpacks, 3-ring binders, lunchboxes, rainboots, and raincoats often contain elevated levels of phthalates. Phthalates are harmful chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, asthma, and hormone disruption. Because of the risks associated with exposure, phthalate levels are federally regulated in children’s toys. However, that regulation does not extend to most school supplies because they are not categorized as children’s toys in federal law.

In a survey of 20 popular back-to-school items made with soft vinyl, CHEJ found that 75% of the products contained levels of phthalates that would be in violation of the federal chemicals limit if school supplies were classified as toys. The Amazing Spider Man backpack contained 52 times the amount of chemicals allowed for toys, and the Disney Princess Lunchbox contained 29 times the federal limit. Despite the known risks, these products are still available for sale.

According to CHEJ, phthalates in vinyl plastic school supplies are dangerous because they are not chemically bound to the products, allowing them to be released from the vinyl surface. However, there are a number of precautions you can take to protect your children from exposure to these toxic substances.

  • Avoid school supplies made with vinyl plastic (PVC) whenever possible, including backpacks, 3-ring binders, and lunchboxes.
  • Purchase products labeled “PVC-free.” If a product has a “3”, “V”, or “PVC” underneath the universal recycling symbol, it is not PVC-free.
  • Contact the product manufacturer if you are unsure of the type of plastic used in a product.

For a list of PVC-free products that are safe for children, check out CHEJ’s 2013 Back to School Guide to PVC-free School Supplies.

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Criminal Record Expungement

A new Indiana law provides the opportunity for a clean slate and freedom from discrimination in hiring for individuals who may have committed minor crimes in the past. Individuals convicted of certain misdemeanors and minor Class D felonies can petition the court to have their records expunged thanks the new “Second Chance” Law that took effect July 1.

Criminal record expungement removes a person’s convictions from public record, opening the door for employment and educational opportunities that are often inaccessible to those with criminal records. The expungement law restores a person’s civil rights and protects him or her from any employment discrimination based on expunged convictions.

As this law is targeted toward minor offenders with otherwise clean records, expungement does not extend to those convicted of violent crimes, sex crimes, or felonies that resulted in bodily injury. To qualify for expungement, a person must meet specific criteria. For example, there can be no charges pending against the person including an existing or pending driver’s license suspension. Furthermore, a person must not have been convicted of another crime within the past five to eight years depending on the type of crime.

If you or someone you know has an old minor criminal record hindering his or her ability to find employment or volunteer in the community, please contact us to begin drafting your petition for criminal record expungement.

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Phone Distractions Endanger Drivers

The National Safety Council (NSC) has confirmed what most of us know – cell phones and driving don’t mix. In a recent report, the organization cited cell phone use as a factor in 24 percent of auto accidents in 2010. In a review of 180 fatal crashes from 2009 to 2011, the NSC found that 52% of fatal accidents involved drivers using cell phones. In 2011 alone, eight Hoosiers died in phone-related accidents.

In Indiana, it is illegal to text and drive, but talking on one’s cell phone is still permitted. However, while hands-free devices and similar options allow hands to stay on the wheel, they do not remove the distraction. The safest choice is simply to not be on the phone in any capacity while driving.

Here are some tips from the NSC to help shift the cultural acceptance of using the phone while driving:

  • Change your cell phone voicemail greeting to: “I’m either away from my phone or currently driving. Please leave a message.”
  • Tell people who call you while they are driving that you value their safety and will talk when they can do so safely.
  • Speak up when in the car with someone who uses a cell phone while driving.
  • Let people who transport your children know that they should not use their cell phones while driving. If driving without using a cell phone is not possible, arrange for alternative transportation.
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Minor Accidents Can Lead to Long-Term Injuries

You just had a fender bender. You are shaken but get out of the car to make sure the person who ran the stop sign is OK. You check for damage. Nothing obvious, but you exchange insurance information with the driver anyway – just in case there is damage that isn’t visually evident. Over the next week, you realize it’s your body, not the car’s, that took a hit.

A stiff neck and sore back get worse instead of better, and after several doctor visits, you’re handed a diagnosis of whiplash and a herniated disk, which will require months of treatment.

This is a good example of why it is important to exchange insurance information in a seemingly minor accident. Since the other driver is at fault, their insurance should pay for lost wages and medical bills. But more and more, insurance companies are questioning claims in minor collisions. They figure if the car’s not damaged, you shouldn’t be either.

In 2007, CNN conducted an 18-month investigation into the nation’s two largest auto insurers and found that the agencies offer little to victims of fender benders. In fact, CNN said there was a strategy to routinely deny claims, delay settlement, and defend against claims in court. The general idea was to make the process difficult, time consuming and expensive, and to use the lack of damage to the vehicle as evidence in court to help the jury conclude that the claim may be fraudulent.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a minor-impact auto accident, call our office right away to get the compensation you deserve.

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Warning: Generic Drug Makers Not Liable for Inaccurate Labels

The Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that consumers cannot sue generic drug makers for damages caused by inadequate warning labels. So when Debbie Schork’s hand was amputated as a result of an anti-nausea drug that caused gangrene (a known risk when injecting the drug), her case was tossed out of court. The same injury and treatment was endured by Diana Levine, though she was able to sue drug maker Wyeth – and she won a $6.8 million verdict.

The cases are practically identical but for one thing: Schork was given a generic version of Phenergan, the brand-name drug that Levine received.

By law, a generic drug is required to carry the same warning as its branded counterpart – even if the label isn’t accurate. As in the instance above, Wyeth failed to warn of the known risk of gangrene if the drug was injected and was held liable for that oversight; the maker of the generic drug, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling, isn’t accountable for the lack of warning because it had no control over the label contents.

To complicate matters, consumers don’t choose medicine they receive during emergency care, and most states permit pharmacists to dispense a generic in place of a brand name. Most people are completely unaware that they give up legal protection when they use generic drug substitutions.

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