Will Johnny Depp Face Prison for Bringing His Dogs Into Australia?

travelwithpets_456pxI have no idea, not being an Australian lawyer, whether actor Johnny Depp will really be locked up and away from his screaming fans for smuggling his two Yorkshire terriers into the country on his private jet. (But at least I didn’t put any bad puns into the headline, like the Guardian’s caption about the “Ruff time” he may be facing.)

No, the reason I clicked on the related headlines (the only reason, honest) is that it serves as a reminder that international quarantine laws are real, and that those fuzzy, feathered, or scaly creatures that we might think of as little family members are viewed as carriers of disease and other dangers by those who enforce these laws. (Why else would importation of cats and dogs to the U.S. be under the control of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?)

In order to bring a dog into the U.S., you will need to be sure that it is healthy and has received a rabies vaccine if it’s from a country where rabies is present. If traveling to Hawaii or Guam, the dog may need to be quarantined.

What if you pull a Johnny Depp, and don’t comply? That qualifies as a federal crime under 18 U.S. Code Section 545. It may get you fined and punished with up to 20, count ’em, 20 years in prison. (The maximum penalties are no doubt reserved for the most severe smuggling cases, but still . . . .)

And don’t even try bringing in an African rodent or a monkey.

See “Bringing Your Pets When You Immigrate to the U.S.” for more information.

 

 

DON’T FORGET THE TAXPAYER ADVOCATE

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within IRS, whose role is to protect taxpayers’ rights and ensure that all taxpayers are treated fairly.

Among other things, the Advocate:

~Helps individuals, businesses and exempt organizations in a myriad of ways

~Helps in cases where the taxpayer’s IRS problem is causing a financial difficulty or, most commonly, in cases where IRS procedure has simply bogged down and the taxpayer is trapped in a morass of red tape with no resolution of the problem in sight.

If this is you, check out www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov.

Can the Bankruptcy Court Take Away Your Social Media Accounts?

all-sm-icons-onlyIf they are business accounts, then yes. A Texas bankruptcy court recently ruled that social media accounts (like Twitter and Facebook) used to promote a business are part of that business’s bankruptcy estate, and the bankruptcy court can order the owner to turn over the passwords. Personal social media accounts, on the other hand, are not part of a business’s bankruptcy estate, said the judge. Of course, determining whether a social media account is personal or instead belongs to a business is the ten thousand dollar question. Especially when a business is small and controlled by one or a few owners, that determination can be tricky.

In the Texas case, Jeremy Alcede , the founder and majority owner of Tactical Firearm, filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy on behalf of his gun shop. As part of the reorganization, a new owner took control of the business. The court ordered Alcede to cede control of all property belonging to Tactical Firearm, including Alcede’s Twitter and Facebook account passwords. In a move that garnered even more attention, Alcede refused to turn over the passwords, opting instead to head off to federal jail.

Alcede argued that the social media accounts where personal, since he created the accounts and administered them. Over the years, the Twitter and Facebook pages, along with the billboard outside the store, became somewhat famous for Alcede’s rants against Obama and gun control advocates. The judge, however, pointed to other factors indicating that the accounts belonged to the business: Both accounts referred to Tactical Firearms and contained links to the business website, both accounts were used to promote Tactical Firearms and increase sales, the Facebook account was set up as a page (generally used by businesses) instead of a profile (generally used by individuals), and the Twitter account’s profile contained a description of Tactical Firearm.

 

SCOTUS Decides What Felons Can Do With Their Surrendered Guns

Federal prosecutors charged Tony Henderson with distributing marijuana, a felony. A condition of Henderson’s bail was that he surrender his firearms; the guns went to the FBI.

Henderson ended up pleading guilty to the distribution charge. A federal law that prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a gun—18 U.S.C. § 922(g)—meant that Henderson couldn’t get his weapons back. (States have their own laws on gun possession.)

The question was what should happen to the guns. In this kind of situation, may the convicted felon sell or transfer the guns? Does the government simply get to keep them? (Henderson v. U.S., 575 U. S. ____ (2015).)

Once out of prison, Henderson asked that the FBI transfer the guns to a friend who had agreed to buy them. The FBI denied the request. So Henderson went to court: He asked a judge to order the FBI to transfer the firearms to either his wife or the friend. The judge sided with the FBI, finding that such a transfer would put Henderson, now a convicted felon, in “constructive possession” of the guns in violation of section 922(g).

Henderson’s transfer request eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Justices were unanimous in their disagreement with the FBI and lower court. They held that the federal law doesn’t categorically prevent the kind of transfer Henderson sought: A judge may approve of the transfer of lawfully owned guns, but only if the transfer prevents the felon from ever having any control over them. The felon must be incapable of either using the guns or telling someone else how to use them.

The Court remarked that the guns could go to a weapons dealer (whom the felon doesn’t control) for sale on the open market. But it also allowed for a properly assured judge to order transfer of the firearms to someone who expects to keep them and won’t “allow the felon to exert any influence over their use.”

California Courts Unsympathetic to Association Homeowners Trying to Avoid Fees for Renting Out Property

Any California homeowner living in a community governed by a condo or homeowners association (HOA) and hoping to earn a little extra cash with short-term rentals should pay heed to a recent decision by the state’s Second Appellate District Court of Appeal, called Oak Shores Community Association v. Burlison. (Second Appellate District, March 24, 2015).

It concerns two absentee homeowners who regularly rented out their homes in Oak Shores — a private community by the shores of Lake Nacimiento, offering amenities such as boating, golf, a pool, a campground and more.

The owners refused to pay their HOA’s annual fee of $325 for owners who rent out homes. In fact, they refused to pay a number of other fees, adding up to over tens of thousands of dollars by the time they brought suit. Their suit also challenged an HOA rule that homeowners who rented out their homes could not do so for periods of less than seven days, a rule limiting the number of cars, boats and other watercraft that renters were allowed to bring in, and more.

Neither the trial court nor the appeals court saw any merit in the homeowners’ arguments, agreeing with Oak Shores that renters are tough on a property and add to the HOA’s expenses and problems. What problems are these, you might wonder? The court cited issues to do with parking, lack of awareness of the rules, noise and use, and abuse of the facilities, requiring greater supervision and increased administrative expenses.

HOA boards around California probably have their eyes on this decision. If rules restricting rentals aren’t already in their rules or bylaws, they may be adding them soon.