FindLaw Blotter - The Findlaw Crime and Criminals Blog

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

Before John Oliver skewered the practice of civil forfeiture last year, many people didn't know it existed. And many still may not. But for the first time, the dollar value of assets seized by law enforcement has surpassed the amount of property lost to burglaries.

So how does civil forfeiture work and how did it become more costly than home robbery? Here's some insight in to the police practice and the most recent numbers.

Seven States Struggling With Medical Marijuana

Cannabis laws have been changing rapidly in states around the country. But there is still a gap between legislation and life, with some states struggling to sort out implementation of their medical marijuana programs.

In theory, these places have programs that allow qualified patients to obtain medical marijuana legally and without threat of prosecution. In reality, dispensaries are highly regulated and patients in these seven states still face major obstacles to obtaining prescription cannabis, according to Rolling Stone.

Is It Legal to Shoot Someone Carrying a Fake Gun?

Four police officers shot and killed a man in Oakland who approached them with a fake gun last week, SF Gate reports. The officers' body cameras were not on, as they were doing paperwork rather than detaining anyone.

The police said they were shocked to discover the gun was a replica. The shooting is being investigated by Oakland's homicide unit and internal affairs division, as well as the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. But if the officers reasonably believed that the replica -- and therefore the threat to them -- was real, then the shooting of Richard Perkins, 39, was legal.

Accidents and Animals: Pet Hit and Run Laws

There generally are not specific criminal laws regarding hitting a dog or other pet with a car and fleeing, as there are with people. But you may be cited for animal cruelty or for ignoring property damage notification obligations for failure to report hitting a pet in some states.

Penalties for accidentally hitting a pet with a car depend on the breadth of state animal cruelty laws, which are based either on intentional acts or failure to act on behalf of an animal, as well as on state hit and run statutes and the definition of property. The California Vehicle Code, for example, provides that failure to report damage to property after an accident is a misdemeanor, and pets are -- in another statute -- defined as property.

According to some reports, there are a million animals killed on American roads every single day, so let's look at what you should do if you find one.

Date Rape Punishment

Date rape is rape. It doesn't matter if you know the victim, whether you took them out on a date, whether they drank during the date, or whether they led you on during the date. Non-consensual sex is rape, no matter what preceded it. And those convicted of date rape face the same penalties as those convicted of raping strangers.

But a prior relationship between the accuser and alleged perpetrator could complicate the determination of guilt. Here are the possible penalties for rape and how the issue of consent arises in cases of date rape.

8 Crime Victim Rights You Should Know ... Plus the Caveats

In criminal law there is, rightly, much concern about the rights of the accused. These rights are designed to ensure that only the guilty are convicted. But victims have rights, too.

The Crime Victims' Rights Act provides 8 explicit prerogatives that belong to victims. The terms are defined in the federal code, and posted on the Department of Justice's website. The section explains the procedures for ensuring that victims' rights are not trampled.

Phone Thief Uploads Selfies to Victim's Cloud Storage

A California high school student whose phone was stolen provided police with a perfect description of the thief. Selfies appeared on the victim's cloud storage days after the robbery, showing the suspect smiling, pouting, and posing happily, NBC News Bay Area reports.

The victim noticed the images uploaded a few days after the incident and gave them to the police. Now they are all over the web, and the cops are asking for the public's help in identifying the thief.

Is It Illegal to Join Anonymous?

It is not illegal to join Anonymous because you cannot join. Officially, there is nothing to join, although the collective does provide instructions on joining.

Confused? That's because you're supposed to be. Anonymous is a collective of computer coders, hackers, protesters, and geeks who are loosely linked on the web and are, well, anonymous. They do not use their real names. But Anonymous does instruct on affiliation, and following these instructions is not illegal per se.

Being released from prison can be a struggle. Former inmates can find themselves far from support systems and have a difficult time landing a job, which can increase the rate of recidivism. One factor that contributes to recently released people returning to crime is often overlooked: access to health care.

People convicted of felonies often find their rights restricted upon release -- states may limit anything from gun rights to voting rights. But can they restrict access to government-funded health care systems like Obamacare and Medicaid?

What Does 'Chain of Custody' Mean?

The term 'chain of custody' refers to the protocol for handling physical proof that will be introduced in a courtroom, ensuring evidence complies with the rules of criminal procedure. Basically, there are rules for managing different types of evidence and keeping it reliable, and this is the set that applies to the admissibility of material things.

Cases are proven using evidence, and chain of custody dictates how the proofs are collected, stored, and displayed in court. Evidence that has not been documented properly and preserved according to the rules can be excluded from a case. So, in a murder say, if the cops find the silver bullet but handle the evidence it all wrong, the defense can file a motion and that proof is gone.