93.1 KISS FM – Ask A Lawyer, Part 17

Ask A Lawyer - Michael Gopin

Announcer: You’re listening to Mike and Tricia, on 93.1 KISS FM.

Tricia: Okay. So, we’re going to go ahead and talk to Michael Gopin in just a minute, but first, I’m gonna bring you up to date on the situation that’s happening over at UTEP. El Paso police said around 7:00 this morning that there was a suicidal person on drugs who was armed, heading towards the UTEP area. So, around 7:00, UTEP put out a Miner Alert. That’s what the students signed up for. And they were told to shelter in place. They were also told about 45 minutes ago that classes were gonna start at 9:00. Now, that has been…that, don’t listen to that anymore.

Mike: That doesn’t pertain anymore.

Tricia: No. Because UTEP, about 10 minutes ago, put out an alert that said, “Until you get the all-clear, don’t go to the campus.” Okay. So…

Mike: Okay. All right. And if you’re already there, you shelter in place.

Tricia: You shelter in place. And just stay where you are. That’s the best thing to do. So, until you get the all-clear either on your Miner Alert, on UTEP social media, their website, don’t go to campus. And if you’re on campus, stay where you are.

Mike: Now, have we received any word about those schools that are in the area of the UTEP campus?

Tricia: We have. The official El Paso Independent School District Facebook page has a post that says, “Students at El Paso High, Wiggs, Armendariz, CCTE, which is the Center for Career and Technology Education, the YWA, Mesita, Mesita ECDC, and Lamar are sheltering in place, that you cannot get in. The kids, if they’re gonna get dropped off, they’re gonna be immediately ushered into the school, and then that’s where they’re gonna stay for the time being. So, we don’t know where that person is. El Paso Police have not updated any of their socials or sent out any further details about this, but we’re keeping a really close eye on this because it’s scary. Okay?

Mike: Yeah.

Tricia: So, the best thing for you to do is shelter in place in this particular area. And it kind of is encompassing a huge portion of not only the UTEP area, but the Kern Place area up to Mesita, and all the schools that I just told you about. If you have any questions, you can always give us a call here at 880-9393. We’ll let you know everything that we…

Mike: Yeah. Yeah. And we’re also updating the KISS El Paso Facebook with the latest information that we get. Okay. So, Michael Gopin, Ask A Lawyer. Sorry for such a downer intro, man.

Mr. Gopin: I tell you, well, let’s just hope everything goes safe over by UTEP.

Mike: Yeah, same, same. So, you have questions, legal questions, Mr. Gopin has answers.

Tricia: Okay. The first one we’ve got is Bob. He says, “My friend recently told me that you can own, possess, or possibly even buy a firearm even if you have a felony if it’s been 10 years since you completed your probation or parole. Is that correct in the state of Texas?”

Mr. Gopin: Well, it’s sort of correct. The way the law is written in Texas is that five years after you completed your probation for a felony, you can possess a gun in your home only, okay? Not outside of your home, only in your home. The federal law is 10 years, so it conflicts with state law. But in your home, you should be good to have a…possess your gun in your home. If you take it outside your home, you can be convicted of another felony.

Mike: Okay. So, when things like this happen, so, the Fed does override the state in this case?

Mr. Gopin: The Fed does override the state. Typically, in Texas, they don’t challenge that. If you have in your home and it’s been five-plus years, typically, they won’t press charges against you, but they could, and the federal rule would trump. So, it’s something to be aware of. But felony, only in your home.

Mike: All right. Okay.

Tricia: Okay. Okay. Derrick says a few months ago, he was involved in an automobile accident, and a girl completely sideswiped him with her truck. So, nothing happened to her truck, but his car suffered damage to the driver’s side, and the cop showed up, determined that it was completely her fault. She gave her insurance information, but it turns out wasn’t her truck. It was her parents’ truck. And she’s an excluded driver.

Mike: Oh, wow.

Tricia: Yeah. So, they were not able to cover him for damages with their insurance company because she’s an excluded driver. So, he says, “What’s the next step to try to recover money for the $3,500 in damages to the right side of my vehicle?”

Mr. Gopin: Well, that’s a very unfortunate situation, but the insurance company will not be responsible, because there’s an excluded driver here, so you’re gonna be out of luck on that avenue. We’ve talked a lot on this show about uninsured motorist coverage and collision coverage. So, those are the types of coverages that I hope that you have. If you have collision or uninsured motorist property damage, those are the type of coverages that will protect you in this case. If you don’t, and you don’t have insurance, or you didn’t have those particular coverages, your chances of recovery are much slimmer. You could always file a case in small claims court against this person who hit you, but collecting is another huge problem that you’re gonna have. So, you…

Mike: Sure. Yeah. They might rule in your favor, but if the person doesn’t have any money…

Mr. Gopin: Right. You’re gonna get a piece of paper that says, “You win,” and then you’re…that’s what you can have on your wall, but they’re not gonna actually pay.

Mike: Couldn’t you lien?

Mr. Gopin: No, no. No lien.

Mike: You can’t put liens on… Like, if you win a small claims court, you can’t put a lien on any…

Mr. Gopin: You’ll have a judgment. And the judgments typically last for 10 years, and you have to renew them. And if the person, at some point, has a property that’s not exempt, and in Texas, your house is exempt, your car is exempt, there are certain furniture that’s exempt, if they have assets outside of those things, like another property of something, then you could maybe collect on that.

Mike: Or if they get a better job and make more money?

Mr. Gopin: Well, you can’t take their…you can’t garnish wages in Texas.

Tricia: Oh, man.

Mike: Oh, wow.

Mr. Gopin: So…

Tricia: Yeah. And that’s another reason why a lot of times, lawyers will tell you, “Yeah, look, you’re gonna have to take care of this yourself,” because there’s so many rules about what they can and can’t do legally, yeah.

Mr. Gopin: I mean, a lot of people are what they call judgment-proof, which means you can get a judgment, but it’s not gonna do you any good. You’re not gonna be able to collect.

Mike: Why am I such a law-abiding citizen then?

Mr. Gopin: I tell you, to protect yourself, but…

Mike: My gosh, it just seems like…

Mr. Gopin: We’re very proud of you that you are.

Tricia: I know, right?

Mike: Well, thank you.

Tricia: But it also kinda…

Mike: That means a lot.

Mr. Gopin: That’s right.

Tricia: It also kinda makes you never wanna go out again. Because you’re like, “Oh, great. This guy’s got $3,500 worth of damage to his car and he is just out of luck.”

Mike: Yeah. I may have to rethink my $25 a month insurance.

Mr. Gopin: Protect yourself. Get that coverage, guys.

Tricia: Right. Exactly.

Mike: Before they wreck yourself.

Tricia: Jason says, “Hello, Mr. Gopin. I have a question regarding the COVID vaccine. My employer is really pressuring me to get it and is now almost forcing me to do so. Can my employer make me get the COVID vaccine even if I don’t want it?”

Mr. Gopin: Well, that’s a legal question that we probably don’t have a real answer for yet. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals overturned Biden’s COVID mandate vaccine rule, so we’re kind of in limbo here. So, Abbott says one thing, there is no mandate. Biden says there is a mandate. The problem is that in Texas, it’s an at-will state, which means that your employer can basically fire you for any reason they want to except for certain exceptions to that. The COVID vaccine is not one of them at this point. So, it may come down to you want your job or the vaccine, and you’ll have to find a job somewhere else. It could end up being that way. It’s not completely known at this point in time, but my hunch is that, at some point, if they don’t want…if they’re gonna make the rule, that’s gonna be the rule, and you can either choose to get the vaccine or find another job. So, we’ll find out exactly what happens in the future, but that’s probably my guess.

Tricia: And the worst part about it is that there are so many court cases flying all over the place.

Mr. Gopin: They’re all over the place. And employers who have had the vaccine mandates basically have won the early trials on that. So, it looks like they can make their own rules, and if they do it fairly and across the board…

Mike: At this point, it looks like it’s a choice that you’re gonna have to make, like getting the vaccine or not, wearing face masks or not.

Mr. Gopin: Look at the NBA. I mean, we have a famous player in New York for the Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving, who isn’t getting the vaccine, and he’s not playing.

Mike: Yeah. He’s choosing to sit it out or he’s choosing to take the punishment, whatever that may be…

Mr. Gopin: [crosstalk 00:08:56] that’s right [crosstalk 00:08:57]

Mike: …paycheck or no paycheck.

Mr. Gopin: Exactly.

Tricia: And like you said, it’s the across-the-board thing that’s gonna get you every time. If everybody has to do it, then you’re gonna have to also.

Mike: All right. Ask a Lawyer, Michael Gopin, we’ll be right back with more of your legal questions

Michael J. Gopin

Michael J. Gopin has practiced law in El Paso since 1987. Even after more than 30 years, he still remembers his first jury case. It was two weeks after receiving his license, when he represented a person whose life had been forever changed after being blinded in a work-related incident...


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