FindLaw Blotter - The Findlaw Crime and Criminals Blog

FindLaw Blotter - Crime Blog - Crime News - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Accidents happen to the best of us. But some accidents are more dangerous than others, and some accidents can carry criminal charges and penalties. So it is with accidental shootings.

Accidental or negligent discharge of a firearm can be a criminal offense, depending on state laws. Criminal charges are most likely to apply when a person is acting recklessly while handling a gun. Here's a look at a few state statutes on accidental shootings and the criminal penalties involved.

The San Francisco criminal courts recently tossed out approximately 66,000 arrest warrants issued by local judges for defendants who failed to appear in court on quality of life crimes over the last 5 years. Generally, minor crimes such as urinating on a sidewalk, or being drunk in public, are characterized as quality of life crimes and punished by fines rather than jail.

However, San Francisco's justices have seen that the local homeless population, who cannot afford the fines, overwhelmingly commit these quality of life crimes. Although the San Francisco court has dropped the outstanding bench warrants for these, the charges/crimes have not been dropped.

During the holidays, it's not uncommon for cities across the country to see upticks in crime rates. Typical holiday crimes tend to involve either theft or poor decisions. While you may not be able to safeguard yourself from everything, knowing about the common holiday crimes might be enough to prevent becoming a victim.

Below, you'll find 5 common holiday crimes that everyone should know about.

While it may seem like a good or clever idea in the heat of the moment, lying to a police officer can land you in some real serious trouble. While the Fifth Amendment provides individuals with the right to be free from self-incrimination, otherwise known as the right to remain silent, there is no constitutional right that provides the freedom to lie to cops. Not even the First Amendment’s freedom of speech will protect a person if they are caught lying to police.

The penalties for lying to the police vary depending on the severity of the falsehood and the response/result of the falsehood. Additionally, aside from the differences in criminal law from state to state, lying to federal officers is treated much more seriously and is punished as a federal crime.

Shockingly, a Massachusetts man, Steven Byrnes, was recently arrested twice in the same day for drunk driving. He was initially arrested for drunk driving while trying to pick up his 10-year-old son from school in the afternoon, which happened after arguing with officers who claimed to smell alcohol on him. Clearly, Byrnes made a bad decision. But then, after somehow being released from custody just a few hours later, he was arrested again for drunk driving. Byrnes’s case is proof positive that alcohol affects a person’s judgment.

The thing that makes his second arrest even more astounding is the fact that his 20-year-old son actually called police to warn them that his dad was driving drunk again. Not shockingly, Brynes, who is 52, is no stranger to DUI charges, and he has been convicted on eight prior occasions. Knowing his history, it is somewhat alarming he was not held in custody for a longer period of time.

In Virginia, a class action case is heating up as the Department of Justice has decided to enter the fight. The gist of the case is that in Virginia, if a driver fails to pay court costs or fines, they may have their driver's license suspended without consideration of whether the failure to pay was intentional or a result of poverty. To date, nearly 1 million Virginia drivers have had their licenses suspended as a result of unpaid court costs and fines. The lawsuit alleges that the law unfairly punishes the poor.

Although suspending someone's driving privileges seems to be a rather minor punishment in the grand scheme of things, it can actually have disastrous effects. Ironically, the law makes it more difficult to get to work to pay the fines that resulted in the license suspension in the first place. As the DOJ explains, this sort of punishment can create an inescapable cycle of poverty.

Dylann Roof, against the advice of the judge in his own hate crime murder case, has elected to represent himself. The motion surprised many on Monday morning as jury selection was set to begin. The experienced attorneys that were representing Roof on the multiple hate crime murder charges are now required to serve in an advisory/standby capacity.

While the statistics are grim for defendants that represent themselves, most that choose to do so are exploiting the process either to have a forum to justify their crime or expound on some other delusional agenda. Critics are concerned that Roof will use the opportunity to harass his victims' families and survivors. While the judge cautioned Roof about representing himself, he had previously determined that Roof was competent to stand trial, over his attorneys' objections.

Everybody enjoys a good party. However, what some people consider a good party is what police consider arresting fish in a barrel. While there are some legal drugs, such as alcohol, prescription medications, vitamins and supplements, and, of course, marijuana in some states, there are countless illegal drugs that can get you arrested if you are caught using or possessing them at a party. It is important to note that the legal drugs can also get you arrested if you are overly intoxicated in public, selling/distributing them, if they look like real drugs, or while driving home.

There's no specific list of drugs that are considered party drugs. "Party drug" is a term that generally refers to any drug that has an effect that a partygoer would consider good for a party, such as extra energy, increased/altered sensory perception, and/or mood/mind altering effects. The term became popularized in the mainstream when illegal raves started gaining widespread popularity. Sometimes party drugs are as simple as vitamins or herbal supplements, however, frequently the term is used to refer to illegal or more powerful substances.

Getting convicted for a DUI can be career ending. The key term here, however, is convicted, because as most of us learned in grade school, a person charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. But, even a DUI arrest can have a negative impact on your job.

Generally, nearly all employment in the US is "at-will" employment. This means that an employer can fire an employee for pretty much any non-discriminatory, or non-retaliatory, reason. While it may seem unfair, generally, private employers will be able to fire an employee even for just being arrested. If your arrest receives publicity, such as being listed in a local newspaper's blotter, your employer may not be too pleased with that, especially if you have a public facing role in your company.

As virtual reality technology advances, like with every new technology, the law frequently needs time to play catch-up. We have already seen the law extend to cover credible criminal threats made online. However, when it comes to virtual reality (VR), lawmakers may be teetering upon an uncertain slippery slope. 

Recently, a virtual reality user reported having her VR character (avatar) repeatedly molested by another VR user inside the same VR world. Despite the lack of actual physical contact, the violated user explained that she felt many of the same emotions as she did when she was groped in real life, and to make matters worse, there was nothing she could do to stop the virtual attack, short of signing off from the game. In response to the VR sexual assault, the game-makers created a user command that allows a user to create a personal bubble that removes all other live players nearby.