Site Map - Legal Issues

Identity theft

- A bill (H.R. 1731) designed to increase criminal penalties for identity theft was signed into law (P.L. 108-275) by the President. The law creates the crime of aggravated identity theft for crimes that involve felonies, such as bank or mail fraud. This crime carries a sentence of two additional years in prison added to the felony conviction. Those who commit identity theft while also perpetrating a criminal act will be given an additional five years in prison.


- A federal appeals court has ruled that file-sharing software, such as Grokster, does not infringe on the copyright of entertainment providers. In its ruling, the court noted that new technology always disrupts established markets but that "time and market forces" often balance the interests of the various players. MGM has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to hear the case. (MGM et al v. Grokster, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 03-55894, 2004)

Security plans

- A new Wisconsin law (formerly S.B. 8) allows state utility authorities to withhold access to their security plans if they determine that the subject of the plan is so vital to the state that its incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on the state's physical or economic security, or on public health, safety, or welfare.


- In Colorado, a new law (formerly H.B. 1134) establishes an investigations department within the state's motor vehicles administration to investigate and prevent fraud committed by using driver's licenses, identification cards, motor vehicle titles and registrations, or other documents issued by the administration.

Legal Reporter

- Congress passes an intelligence reform bill. Plus, courts look at cases involving premises liability, negligence, and defamation, while states pass legislation on background checks and identity theft.

Intelligence reform

- The intelligence reform bill (S. 2845), which enacts the major recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, has been passed by Congress. The new law creates a director of national intelligence to oversee all U.S. intelligence efforts and a national counterterrorism center. The law also provides additional funding for border control needs, such as more personnel and detention centers. It includes a measure to allow employers to request criminal background checks on security employees and also establishes a national clearinghouse to process such background checks. The bill was stripped of some measures, including a provision that would have denied illegal immigrants driver's licenses, before it gained approval, but it does address standards for driver's licenses. Also, language was added to the bill to protect the chain of command to allow the Pentagon to issue timely instructions to troops during wartime. @ Read the conference report online.


- (Hasty v. Trans Atlas Boats, Inc., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, No. 03-30884, 2004)

Premises liability

- (Mae Belle Lane v. St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 71A05-0310-CV-525, 2004)

Intelligence reform.

- An intelligence reform bill that enacts major recommendations of the 9-11 Commission was approved by Congress.

Legal Reporter

- A court considers a company's ban on facial piercing. Also, new rules clarify cargo and port security issues, and Maryland and Florida pass security legislation.

Terrorists in the Driver's Seat?

- Included in the intelligence-reform law is a provision that requires standardization of driver's licenses, including security features. But a final rule to propose the new standards won't be issued until 18 months from the date the bill became law, or June 2006.  

Spyware Bill Reintroduced

- Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA) has reintroduced a bill that would require that consumers receive "a clear and conspicuous notice" prior to software being loaded onto their computers. H.R. 29, titled the Securely Protect Yourself Against Cyber Trespass Act (SPY Act), is cosponsored by lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. It was first introduced in 2004 and passed the House in October. However, the bill was not passed by the Senate before the end of the 108th Congress. The SPY Act is meant to protect consumers from spyware, programs that are surreptitiously loaded onto a computer that are able to track and gather the consumer's data, including which sites were visited or even sensitive information such as credit card numbers. The Federal Trade Commission would be responsible for enforcing the SPY Act and would be authorized to fine offenders as much as $3 million per violation.

Drug testing

- A federal appeals court has ruled that a government drug-testing policy did not impinge on the constitutional rights of an employee. In the case, Robert Relford was arrested for drug possession. He attempted to hide the fact from his supervisor at the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. However, the supervisor learned of the arrest and told Relford to submit to drug counseling. During the counseling, Relford was chosen for a random drug test. He failed the test and was terminated. The court ruled that testing employees who are participating in a rehabilitation program is constitutional. (Relford v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, No. 03-5600, 2004)

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