Legal Zoom to Lemon Law Basics

What is Lemon Law?

The lemon law was established to protect your consumer rights. The lemon law provides you legal recourse after the purchase or lease of a defective new motor vehicle which fails to meet the manufacturer’s warranty after a reasonable number of repair attempts. 

What is lemon vehicle?

In the 1800’s, people started using the word – lemon – to describe people who were sour (or unfriendly). In American English the word was first recorded in 1906 as a slang sense of “worthless thing“. Over time, “lemon” came to refer to anything that was defective or broken or which breaks constantly, particularly a car. 

Your Lemon Law Rights

The lemon law provides that when a manufacturer cannot repair consumer goods after a reasonable number of attempts, it must either replace the defective product or refund the consumer’s money. Generally, the manufacturer of your “lemon vehicle”, as opposed to the selling dealer, bears the final responsibility to re-purchase your defective car, truck, boat, RV, motor home, or motorcycle.

The consumer may choose to have their vehicle repurchased. Additionally, the manufacturer may not compel the consumer to take a replacement vehicle. Moreover, consumers do not have to demand what they are rightfully entitled to under the law. Instead, the law requires that the manufacturer initiate an appropriate offer to the consumer once a reasonable number of attempts to repair the defective vehicle has failed.

When to Seek Legal Help

If a manufacturer fails or refuses to offer a replacement or a refund for a “lemon,” the consumer has the right to file a civil action in a court of law. When the consumer wins a lemon law case, the vehicle manufacturer must:

  1. Provide a replacement or a refund
  2. Pay the consumer’s costs and expenses, including attorney’s fees.
  3. In some cases, the manufacturer can also be liable for a “civil penalty” of up to twice the consumer’s damages (usually the price of the defective goods).

Rather than seeking recourse from the dealer who sold you the vehicle (which can result in unnecessary loss of time and energy), contact your law firm for consultation to find out if your defective vehicle qualifies under the consumer protection lemon law.

Criminal Law Basics

Who Makes Criminal Laws?

State legislatures and the U.S. Congress enact criminal laws. State courts have traditionally made criminal laws based on the common law (judge-made law) inherited from England.

The modern trend is for the legislature, rather than the courts, to make criminal law.

Most ordinary crimes are covered by state criminal laws. For example, a burglary that took place within a state, committed by local residents, is covered by state criminal laws and ordinarily will be prosecuted by local prosecutors.

Federal criminal laws deal with:

  • Federal property
  • Federal employees
  • Federal taxes
  • Receipt of federal benefits
  • Federally guaranteed civil rights
  • Crimes involving interstate commerce (transporting goods or individuals across state lines)

For example, it’s a federal crime to rob a U.S. Post Office or to assault a federal employee.

What are the Kinds of Crimes?

Crimes are divided into two main categoriesfelonies and misdemeanors – depending on the crime’s seriousness and the length of punishment.

Felonies are crimes generally punishable by more than one year’s imprisonment. You have the right to a jury trial when charged with a felony crime. The common law felonies include:

  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Kidnapping
  • Treason

Misdemeanors are crimes generally punishable by less than one year’s imprisonment.

You have the right to a jury trial when charged with a misdemeanor if the crime is considered serious enough.

The common law system of dividing crimes into felonies and misdemeanors is gradually being replaced with newer systems based on statutes enacted by legislatures.

Many of these newer systems are based on a model law called the “Model Penal Code,” which classifies crimes by “degree.”

First-degree crimes include the most serious crimes like:

  • Murder
  • Sexual assault
  • Kidnapping

Fourth degree crimes include the least serious crimes like mischief.

The Model Penal Code also recognizes criminal conduct less serious than crimes, such as offenses and violations.

Approximately 22 states have adopted some variation of the Model Penal Code.

What are the Elements of Crimes?

Basic Elements

Crimes (except for strict liability crimes) have two basic “elements” (things the prosecutor has to prove to convict the defendant) – a guilty mind and a guilty act.

A crime is committed when a person commits a guilty act accompanied by a guilty mind.

The Model Penal Code uses the following terms to describe the actor’s state of mind:

  • Purpose
  • Knowledge
  • Recklessness
  • Negligence

Specific Elements

Crimes also have specific elements that are contained in the definition of a crime. For example, a murder is an intentional killing of a human being. The elements are that the accused must have (1) purposely or knowingly (2) caused a death (3) of a human being. To obtain a conviction, the State must prove all of the elements of a crime “beyond a reasonable doubt“.

Author: Sherrie Bennett is the former director and staff attorney at the University of Washington Student Legal Services in Seattle.