Have a Legal Question?

For your assistance, set forth below are a series of questions that arise frequently through phone calls to the Idaho State Bar, the Idaho Supreme Court, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, and other public legal entities.  General topics on the left are linked the questions below. If your question is not answered below, click on Other Legal Questions to submit a question to the Ask-a-Lawyer service.

 

1. I think that I need an attorney, but I am unsure of what questions to ask, or what to look for in an attorney.

The Idaho State Bar provides a Lawyer Referral Service at (208) 334-4500. You will be asked about your unique situation and matched with an attorney who handles that kind of case. LRS attorneys have agreed to charge only $35 for an initial half-hour consultation. Further costs will be between you and the attorney.

Additionally, the Professionalism and Ethics Section of the Idaho State Bar has produced a helpful Consumers Guide to Idaho Lawyers to answer question about hiring an attorney. This guide will assist you in determining when you need a lawyer, how to deal with an attorney, and whether you should handle a legal issue on your own.

2. Are there resources available if I cannot afford a lawyer?  How can I learn about Legal Aid?

Yes, there are resources for individuals who cannot afford an attorney.  If you have been charged with a crime, you may be eligible for a public defender.   To determine whether you are eligible for a public defender contact the Court in which you have been charged with a crime.

If you are involved in a civil (non-criminal) legal matter, you may qualify for assistance from Idaho Legal Aid.  To learn more about Idaho Legal Aid, please follow this link, which will take you to the FAQ section of their website:  http://www.idaholegalaid.org/faqs.

Another excellent resource is the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program.  The Idaho Volunteer Lawyers Program provides civil (non-criminal) legal assistance to persons with limited financial resources in certain instances.  Generally these attorneys assist in Custody and Visitation matters, Divorce, Guardianships, Debt Defense, Wills and Probate, and some assistance for nonprofit corporations.

3. I have a simple legal issue, and think that I can do it myself—are there any resources that can help me get started?

Yes.  The Idaho Supreme Court has created a Self-Help Center to assist you in certain types of legal matters.  This page contains forms, instructions and contact information for your local court assistance office.  While there is no substitute for accurate objective legal advice from a licensed attorney, this website provides a user-friendly starting point on a number of legal issues: http://www.courtselfhelp.idaho.gov/.

4. My neighbor drove into my fence and refuses to pay for its repair.  Is there a way for me to go to court and have a court determine what he should pay?

Yes.  As long as your neighbor is not a local, state, or federal agency and the dollar amount is less than $5000, you may be able to resolve issues such as this through small claims court.  This link will provide you with additional information and forms related to the filing of a small claims action:  http://www.idaholegalaid.org/SelfHelp/SmallClaims.

5. I purchased a satellite TV system that offered a free trial.  I have tried repeatedly to cancel the service, but the provider refuses to cancel and wants me to pay a large cancellation fee.  The fee would cost less than hiring an attorney and suing the provider—am I out of luck?

You are not necessarily out of luck.  Idaho’s Attorney General has a Consumer Protection Division that may be able to provide you with assistance.  Although the Attorney General cannot represent individual citizens, the office does investigate complaints that allege a pattern or practice of unfair or deceptive business behavior.  Additionally, the office provides an informal dispute resolution process for Idaho consumers.  For more information on these processes, please see this page:  http://www2.state.id.us/ag/consumer/general/complaintforminfo.htm.

6. Telemarketers are driving me crazy.  I thought it was illegal for them to call me—is this true?

Telemarketers are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission.  Additionally, you are only protected from telemarketing calls if you are on the National Do Not Call Registry.  T o sign up for the registry and learn more about telemarketing regulations, follow this link:  http://www.ftc.gov/donotcall.

7. A long time ago, I had debt problems.  I entered into settlements with the debt collectors and paid the settled amount in full.  Lately, I have been getting harassed at home and at work by new debt collectors who say that I owe the full amount.  Is this true?

It is probably not true, but without knowing more of the facts, it is impossible to determine the legitimacy of either the debt, or the debt collector’s actions.  The Idaho Department of Finance regulates debt collection and debt settlement agencies.  If you believe that the debt collector is violating the law, you can file a complaint with the Idaho Department of Finance through this link:  http://finance.idaho.gov/Complaint.aspx.   Several questions related to debt collector activities are answered here:  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm.

8. I have a lot of debt and companies have been contacting me offering to settle my debts for a fraction of what I owe, are these companies legitimate?  Can they charge me a fee for their services?

If you are considering using a company to negotiate your debt, make sure you do some research.  First, no company can guarantee that a credit card company will accept partial payment.  Understand that the settlement company may not immediately negotiate with your credit card company regarding your debt, and you will likely need to continue making payments to your credit card company.  If you stop making payments, often late fees and interest are added to your debt with the result that you may wind up with a much larger debt than what you started out with.  The Federal Trade Commission has some informative resources to help you understand debt and settlement of debt:  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre02.shtm and this piece provides a good overview of debt and your options: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre19.shtm.

9. I purchased a house and am having trouble keeping up with the payments—is there any way to make the bank accept a reduced amount?

Mortgage foreclosure is a very hot issue right now.  A number of resources are available to assist you if any of the issues in the above questions relate to your situation.  For a good overview of the house purchasing process, review the Attorney General’s Manual for Buying A Home:  http://www2.state.id.us/ag/consumer/manuals/BuyingAHome.pdf.

10. I lost my job and have been unable to pay my mortgage for the past six months.  I recently got a new job and would like to start making my payments again but I don’t think that I will be able to catch up—am I going to lose my house?

If you are facing foreclosure, or are contemplating a “foreclosure rescue” service, please review the Attorney General’s Foreclosure Prevention and Foreclosure Scams: How to Tell the Difference:  http://www2.state.id.us/ag/consumer/manuals/ForeclosurePreventionandScams.pdf.

11. I have tried to re-negotiate my mortgage, but I never hear from my bank, I think that they sold my mortgage to another bank, and no one seems to know where my paperwork is, or even what I actually owe…is this legal?  Can anything be done about this?

If you would like to file a complaint about the business or lending practices of a Mortgage Broker or Lender, you can do so through the Idaho Department of Finance:  http://finance.idaho.gov/Complaint.aspx.

Additionally, mortgage counseling is available through the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD).  You can contact them at:  1-800-569-4287 (TDD 1-800-877-8339). Locally you can find counselors through the following numbers.  Just dial the agency in the area in which you live:  Idaho Housing and Finance (statewide) 1-877-888-3135; Boise Neighborhood Housing Services (Treasure Valley) 208-343-4065; Pocatello Neighborhood Housing Services 208-232-9468, x. 105; and Community Action Partnership Agency in Lewiston 208-746-3351, x. 225 or 1-800-326-4843.

12. I think that I may need to declare bankruptcy, is there a resource to help me understand this process and what it means?

Bankruptcy is a significant decision.   It is recommended that you contact an attorney to discuss all of your options related to a decision like this that will have far reaching ramifications.  Idaho’s Federal Court has developed a website to provide you with a number of resources:  http://www.id.uscourts.gov/BK_Reform/BKReformAct2005.htm.   If you are considering pursuing bankruptcy without an attorney, it is recommended that you visit this site:  http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/Bankruptcy/BankruptcyResources/FilingBankruptcyWithoutAttorney.aspx.

It cannot be stressed enough that bankruptcy is an intensely complex undertaking with severe ramifications in the case of a misstep.  It is again strongly recommended that you consult an attorney prior to undertaking bankruptcy.

13. I have a friend who claims that there is a law in Idaho permitting/ prohibiting/ requiring ______________.  I want to see the law—where can I find it?

All of Idaho’s laws are available on-line.  http://legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/TOC/IDStatutesTOC.htm  The laws (also known as statutes) are grouped according to categorical titles, and then within each title further broken down into chapters.  Each chapter contains a set of statutes.  For example, if you wanted to find the laws related to Driving Under the Influence (Drunk Driving), you would start at Title 18, Crimes and Punishments, then find the chapter related to Motor Vehicles (Chapter 80), then click on the statute that you were looking for and you would be taken to that specific section of the Idaho Code.

14. I want to find out what is happening in my city or county, where can I look?  How do I find a city or County Ordinance?

Cities and Counties largely govern themselves.  Cities are governed by Title 50 of the Idaho Code, and Counties are governed by Title 31 of the Idaho Code.   If you are looking for information related to a specific city, this link will take you to an alphabetical listing of many of Idaho’s cities, where you can click on the city’s name for more information:http://www.idaho.gov/aboutidaho/cities.html

Similarly, this page will take you to a listing of Idaho’s counties.  http://www.idaho.gov/aboutidaho/county/index.html.

If you have a question about local government, how ordinances are enforced, when meetings occur, how to participate in local government, often the best solution is to directly contact the governmental entity you are interested in.  The links above should provide you with the information necessary to make an initial contact with your local government.

15. My attorney lost my case because he would not listen to me—how can I make a complaint against him or her?

The Idaho State Bar licenses and regulates all lawyers or attorneys within the State of Idaho.  If you would like to register a complaint about any attorney, the following page will explain the process as well as provide a link to the complaint form:  /bar_counsel/complaints.html.

16. My lawyer told me that he would only charge me $5000 to get me off on my DUI charge, I went to trial, got convicted and the lawyer is billing me $20,000.  Can he do this?

The Bar also recognizes that disputes sometimes occur within the context of an attorney/ client relationship.  If you disagree with the amount that your attorney has charged you, you may be able to file a “Fee Arbitration Request.”  The process by which this works, and the arbitration request form can be found through this link:  /bar_counsel/fee_arb_public.html.

17. My landlord isn’t keeping the rental in good condition, who can I contact to know my rights as a renter?

The Fair Housing Council can inform renters of their rights: 208-383-0695.  The Idaho Office of Attorney General has a manual that outlines the requirements of a Landlord Tenant relationship.  The manual can be viewed here:  http://www2.state.id.us/ag/consumer/manuals/LandlordTenant.pdf.

18. I’m disabled and have been discriminated against.

DisAbility Rights Idaho is a statewide non-profit agency designated by the Governor to provide advocacy and legal services for people with disabilities in Idaho.  You can find their website here:  http://www.disabilityrightsidaho.org/ or if you would prefer, you may call them at this number:  1-866-262-3462.

The Idaho Human Rights Commission is the regulating authority within Idaho, you can learn more about the Commission through this link:  http://humanrights.idaho.gov/ and if you believe you have been discriminated against, this link will take you to the Commission’s complaint page:  http://humanrights.idaho.gov/complaint.html.

19. I was just released from prison and have a complaint about my treatment while in prison, who do I speak to about that?

The Department of Justice handles inmate complaints, you may contact them by telephone: 1-202-514-2000 or by following this link to learn more about the inmate complaint process:  http://www.justice.gov/crt/split/complaints.php#Institutions   To learn in greater detail about the types of complaints investigated, how the process works, and what to expect, this page of FAQ will provide you with a series of questions and answers:  http://www.justice.gov/crt/split/faq.php#Complaints.

Idaho’s state prison system is administered by the Idaho Department of Correction.  If you have questions about how to file a complaint, or some other inquiry, the Department’s FAQ can be accessed through this link:  http://corrections.state.id.us/faq.htm#15.

20. I want to start a class action lawsuit, which lawyer should I contact?

Each class action issue is handled by a group of attorneys for that particular issue. Research can be done at http://classactionworld.com/.

21. My issue isn’t in Idaho, how do I find an attorney in another state?

The American Bar Association has a directory of Lawyer Referral Services for each state at http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/lris/directory/.

22. I would like to file a complaint about the local police department, how do I do this?

If you are in the city of Boise you may file a complaint with the City Ombudsman’s office at 208-395-7859 http://www.boiseombudsman.org/. If you are located in another city, you may file with your local police department internal affairs office.

Depending on the severity of your complaint, you may also want to make a complaint to the United States Department of Justice.  This link will take you to a series of questions and answers regarding complaints about law enforcement entities:  http://www.justice.gov/crt/split/faq.php#Complaints.

23. I have a legal question, I don’t think that I need an attorney, but I would like to ask someone about it—is there a resource available that can help me?

Yes.  The Idaho Pro Bono Commission has created a volunteer Ask-A-Lawyer service to assist Idaho residents with legal questions.  This service is provided only as a convenience and should never be considered legal advice or a substitute for advice provided during the course of an attorney client relationship.  To learn more about this service and to access it, please follow this link:  www.isb.idaho.gov/ilf/ask_lawyer.html.

Disclaimer: All of the questions and answers provided above are hypothetical in nature and should not be relied upon in any specific situation.  Only an Idaho Licensed Attorney can provide you with legal advice which can be relied upon, any decision made in the course of reviewing the above questions and answers is made within the sole discretion of the reader.  The Idaho State Bar, the Idaho Law Foundation, the Idaho Pro Bono Commission, its members, assigns, and employees have no responsibility or liability for any action taken or not taken as a result of review of the above questions and answers.  It is strongly recommended that no matter how simple the legal issue, individuals consult with a licensed Idaho attorney prior to undertaking any action.