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Variations in state laws can shape the rights and protections of employees, consumers, accident victims, criminal defendants, and more. This year, Justia has continued to expand our archive of 50-state surveys on key topics.
While federal law governs people and businesses across the U.S., each state has developed its own set of laws in many areas. These range from employment and family law to personal injury and criminal law. State laws may resemble one another in some situations, but they may vary greatly in others. Taking these variations into account, the team at Justia has compiled 50-state surveys on legal issues that often arise for ordinary people or that might be of general interest. We added numerous surveys to this resource during the course of 2023.
Minimum Wage: 50-State Survey
The federal government imposes a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but some states require employers to pay a higher minimum wage. Special rules may apply to tipped employees. The Justia 50-state survey on minimum wage provides the basic minimum wage in each state, the minimum wage for tipped employees, and the government agency that enforces these laws, as well as other details. It also contains links to the state minimum wage statutes, which are available for free through Justia.
Marriage Licenses: 50-State Survey
A couple must meet certain formal requirements before they can enter into a marriage. Among other things, they usually need to get a marriage license in their state. A license may have an expiration date, which means that the couple must get married within a certain time after getting the license. There also may be a waiting period to get a license once a couple applies. The Justia 50-state survey on getting a marriage license covers rules on expiration dates and waiting periods. In addition, it discusses topics such as the process of returning the license (or marriage certificate) to be recorded and the process of getting a certified copy.
Grandparent Visitation and Custody: 50-State Survey
Many grandparents form close bonds with their grandchildren. If they are concerned about losing this bond for various reasons, such as the breakdown of the parents’ relationship, they generally can ask a court to grant visitation with a grandchild. Or sometimes grandparents want custody of a grandchild. This involves having the grandchild live with them and potentially making major decisions regarding the grandchild’s upbringing. Custody tends to be more difficult to obtain than visitation. The Justia 50-state survey on grandparent custody and visitation provides the key laws in this area and describes the grounds for granting either status.
Compulsory Education: 50-State Survey
After researching grandparent rights, the team at Justia compiled a survey on another topic related to children. This involves the compulsory education laws by which states aim to ensure that children receive at least a certain amount of schooling. Compulsory education laws usually cover children who fall within a certain specified age range, unless they qualify for an exception described by the law. Our 50-state survey on compulsory education laws provides the basic requirement in each state, the age ranges that are covered, and some of the nuances and exceptions that may provide flexibility to parents and children.
Dram Shop Laws: 50-State Survey
Despite widespread awareness of the risks posed by drunk driving, this behavior still claims too many lives on roads across the U.S. Sometimes a drunk driver lacks the resources to fully compensate a victim or their family. When that happens, they may consider suing a bar or another business or individual responsible for serving the drunk driver. Most (but not all) states have enacted dram shop laws that provide specific rules for when a victim may bring this type of lawsuit. Our 50-state survey on dram shop laws covers each of these complex statutes, as well as certain key cases on the topic.
Dog Bites: 50-State Survey
Also in the area of personal injury law, we researched laws governing liability for dog bites in each state. Many states have statutes that impose strict liability on dog owners when their dog bites or otherwise injures someone, although some of these statutes have exceptions or limitations. Other states rely on common-law theories such as the one-bite rule, which generally holds a dog owner liable if they knew or should have known that the dog had a dangerous propensity. Our 50-state survey on dog bite law covers issues such as whether and to what extent each state has adopted statutory strict liability, as well as the time limit for filing a claim.
Civil Statutes of Limitations: 50-State Surveys
When someone is considering bringing a lawsuit, they will need to account for the statute of limitations. This is a procedural rule that requires a case to be brought within a certain time. If a plaintiff does not act before the deadline expires, they likely will not be able to get a remedy from a court. Our 50-state survey on civil statutes of limitations provides the general deadlines in each state for personal injury and contract cases (arguably the most common types of lawsuits), as well as various other limitations periods. It also provides the part of the code dedicated to civil statutes of limitations so that readers can research the topic more comprehensively.
Criminal Statute of Limitations: 50-State Survey
A similar concept to civil statutes of limitations, criminal statutes of limitations provide deadlines for when a prosecutor can file a charge against a suspect. The deadline varies according to the crime at issue. Some serious crimes like murder often have no limitations period, which means that they may be prosecuted at any time. Our 50-state survey on criminal statutes of limitations provides the general deadlines for felonies and for misdemeanors, the two main categories of crimes in most states. In addition, it identifies certain crimes with distinctive limitations periods, as well as crimes for which there is no limitations period.
Drug Possession Laws: 50-State Survey
While many states have legalized marijuana to varying degrees, as noted by our 50-state survey on cannabis laws, other states continue to criminalize its possession. Moreover, other types of controlled substances generally remain illegal nationwide. Penalties for drug possession offenses may vary according to the type of substance involved, as well as the quantity that the defendant possessed. Justia provides a 50-state survey on drug possession laws that defines the classifications and penalties for many types of offenses. The survey also describes nuances in these laws, such as potential sentencing alternatives and situations in which possession may be charged as a more serious crime like trafficking.
Death Penalty Laws: 50-State Survey
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, but capital punishment remains available for a very limited range of crimes. About half the states have abolished the death penalty, while many other states lack the ability to carry out executions or have suspended them for various reasons. Our 50-state survey on death penalty laws describes the current status of capital punishment in each state, including methods of execution, crimes that may qualify for the death penalty, and the process by which a death sentence may be imposed if a defendant is convicted of a qualifying crime.
Consumer Protection Laws: 50-State Survey
Businesses sometimes use unscrupulous practices in an effort to maximize their profits. States have enacted laws called “UDAP statutes” to prohibit various types of unfair, deceptive, or abusive business practices. Sometimes consumers who have suffered the same type of harm from the same prohibited practice may be able to bring a class action, although some states do not allow this option in their courts. Our 50-state survey on consumer protection laws provides the main code sections describing unlawful practices and the right to sue, while discussing the damages that may be available and procedural factors like whether class actions are allowed.
Fair Debt Collection Laws: 50-State Survey
A more specific type of consumer protection laws limits the practices that are permitted when trying to collect a debt. Justia has compiled a 50-state survey on fair debt collection laws that describes the obligations imposed by applicable statutes and regulations. Complementing the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, these laws often extend from harassment and abuse to various types of misrepresentations and improper communications or disclosures. If a state does not have specific fair debt collection laws or regulations, the survey discusses whether and to what extent a more general law may apply.
Income Tax Laws: 50-State Survey
In a handful of states, including Florida and Texas, residents need to pay income taxes only to the federal government. However, most states impose their own tax laws. Many states apply a progressive tax rate, which means that the rate depends on the taxpayer’s income. Other states use a flat tax rate, which involves collecting the same percentage of income from each taxpayer. Our 50-state survey on income tax laws identifies the tax model used by each state, while providing the key code sections and describing how each state defines residency there for individual income tax purposes.
The Justia Legal Guides provide a broad overview of what the law looks like, yet they cannot capture all the nuances in the laws that have developed across 50 states. For many topics of particular importance or interest, the Justia 50-state surveys offer an additional layer of detail. They also provide links to related free resources, such as statutes, regulations, and court decisions, in which readers can find more precise answers to their questions. If they have specific or urgent legal concerns, they should consider consulting a lawyer for advice tailored to their situation. As a starting point or a basic reference, though, the 50-state surveys complement the Justia Legal Guides in our effort to make the law transparent and accessible to all.Related Posts
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