FindLaw Blotter: February 2011 Archives
FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

February 2011 Archives

Miranda Rights: Invoking My Right to Remain Silent

Miranda rights are a topic that come up frequently on television, as well as here at FindLaw. Miranda rights are part of the constitutional protections that you are entitled to when dealing with police or government investigators.

Due to the decision in Berghuis v. Thompkins it is now clear that when arrested, one must unequivocally invoke their rights under Miranda. As we have discussed before, Miranda rights were articulated in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Miranda v. Arizona.

MIP: 3 Things to do After a Minor in Possession

Underage drinking is nothing new. But if you don't want to do the time, don't do the crime. If you do the crime anyway, heed the following tips. After all, in all 50 states, it is illegal to drink if you are under 21, absent a few exceptions.

The first thing that any MIP lawyer would tell you is that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you might receive an MIP, or minor in possession, is to exercise your constitutional rights.

Got a DUI: Public Defender or Private Lawyer?

If you're being charged with driving under the influence, chances are you're going to need a DUI lawyer. But, before you make a move, you're going to have to answer the following question.

Should you "hire" a public defender, or should you spend a few thousand dollars on a private lawyer?

First off, you may not be entitled to a DUI public defender. Driving under the influence is most often a state crime, and each state has its own rules about who receives free counsel. However, the general rule is that, as long as you meet financial requirements, you will be provided with an attorney if you are being charged with a felony or if you face jail time. This is often the case with a DUI.

Got Priors? How to Expunge Criminal Records

With the spread of the Internet, information about a person's criminal history is quickly available to anyone with a few bucks to spend. This means that even those with the tiniest of infractions might have trouble finding work, a place to live, or even being granted a credit card. If you have a prior, it just might be wise to look into the expungement of criminal records.

Here's a quick explanation of what it means to expunge criminal records, whether your priors are eligible for an expungement, and how to go about starting the process.

Facebook Stalker App: Breakup Notifier Good Idea?

The "Break-up Notifier" Facebook application allows you to track the relationships of people that you know and receive an alert if and when they break up. Clever, but is that cool, or creepy Facebook stalking?

For the answer, it's best to ask the dude who made it. The app was created by software programmer Dan Loewenherz of Beverly Hills after getting the idea from his fiancée and her mother.

'Kids for Cash' Judge Jailed Kids for Kickbacks

Locking kids up in juvenile detention facilities for a chance to get rich is clearly an illegal act. To do so when you're a juvenile court judge elevates that crime to an egregious abuse of power. So when reports came out that Mark Ciavarella, a Pennsylvania judge, was doing just that, there was no doubt that he would face jail time.

The criminal proceedings against Mark Ciavarella revealed shocking details about his involvement in the "kids for cash" scheme. Prosecutors alleged that he and his cohort had meticulously plotted to shut down the county-run center only to then arrange for the construction of a new detention facility. He then sent juveniles to that new facility, which, according to CBS, was owned by Robert Miricle, a builder, and Robert Powell, a local attorney. Mark Ciavarella was taking payments from the two during that time.

Elisa Baker: Zahra Baker Stepmom Indicted

Speaking of indictments, here is a Zahra baker update: Elisa Baker was indicated on charges of second-degree murder in the death of stepdaughter Zahra Baker, who was 10 at the time of her death in North Carolina.

An indictment is a formal charge handed down by a grand jury that the accused has allegedly committed a crime. It is not the same as being convicted. At a grand jury proceeding, the defendant is not represented and does not get to introduce evidence, cross examine witnesses or challenge the evidence presented.

Notre Dame: Seeberg, New Victim Reported Rapes

Notre Dame is under fire amid at least two accusations of improper handling of sexual assault cases after a student accused a Notre Dame football player of rape before committing suicide. Elizabeth Seeberg, killed herself just nine days after making a police report of a sexual assault.

According to Education Department, the inquiry concerns how the historic university designed its policies to respond to complaints of sexual harassment, the Chicago Tribune reports. University spokesman Dennis Brown said the inquiry is not related to a specific case.

Carlina White Kidnapper Ann Pettway Indicted

The country was shocked to learn last month that Carlina White, the victim of a 1987 New York baby kidnapping was alive and well. As authorities searched for her kidnapper or "mother" Ann Pettway more and more details came to light.

Carlina White's biological mother had handed her to Ann Pettway while in the hospital, believing her to be a nurse, reports Reuters. Pettway then took the baby and raised her as her own, telling friends and family that Carlina White was her biological child. They believed her.

Driver's Dog Tosses Drug-Filled Sock Out Window

When man bites dog, that's news they say. When dog tosses drugs out window, well, that's really news.

Joel Dobrin of San Diego was driving a 1998 GMC pickup in Oregon when he was stopped by Sherman County Sgt. John Terrel. The reason for Terrel's stop? The officer saw a sock come flying out the window, reports the East Oregonian.

Medicare Fraud: 111 US Doctors, Nurses Arrested

Medicare is riddled with fraud that costs the government an estimated $60 to $90 billion a year. Ramping up Medicare oversight, the Department of Justice coordinated a bust yesterday spanning nine cities. One hundred and eleven doctors, nurses and physical therapists were arrested, reports the Associated Press, accused of earning a combined $225 million in Medicare fraud schemes.

The busts, which took place largely in Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Detroit and Miami, included more than 40 schemes.

Prostitutes Must Register as Sex Offenders?

A 206-year-old Louisiana law that punishes prostitutes who engage in anal or oral sex by forcing them to register as sex offenders has come under fire in a federal lawsuit.

When every other state defines a sex offender, prostitute is not among the usual explanations. Louisiana, however, has decided that engaging in anal or oral sex is a crime against nature, and thus anyone who engages in either activity in exchange for money is a sex offender, required by law to register. "Normal" prostitution is exempt.

Jenni-Lyn Watson: Text Messages Trip Up Killer

Steven Pieper learned a valuable lesson about the power of text messages as a form of evidence. Of course, he learned the lesson much too late.

Pieper, 21, pleaded guilty in Syracuse, New York to strangling his girlfriend, Jenni-Lynn Watson, who was breaking up with him at the time. Investigators were able to review Pieper's text messages and call logs, despite never finding his phone, Onondaga County District William Fitzpatrick told CNN. Pieper pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, which means he will likely serve a sentence of 23 years to life.

Danroy Henry Shooting: Feds to Review Student Killing

A New York grand jury declined to indict police officer Aaron Hess after a fatal shooting left Danroy "D.J." Henry Jr., 20, dead last October. The Danroy Henry shooting occurred outside a Thornwood bar on October 17, 2010. Henry was a football player at Pace University. The U.S. Justice Department has announced that it will examine the case.

The Danroy Henry shooting happened in Westchester County, N.Y. after police responded to a disturbance outside a bar. Henry was parked outside when a police knocked on his window. Henry drove off, hitting the officer, who fired through  the windshield, killing Henry.

Legal To Kill South Dakota Abortion Doctors?

Is it legal to kill South Dakota abortion doctors?

This seems like a pretty absurd question to ask. Of course, it's not legal to kill South Dakota abortion doctors.

A bill introduced into South Dakota's legislature may arguably change this. The bill, HB 1171, would make it a justifiable homicide if a person were to kill someone while trying to protect their unborn child, or the unborn child of a family member, employer or employee. Supporters say it will protect pregnant women, but others say it will permit the murder of South Dakota abortion doctors.

'Twilight' Fan Charged: Lied about Bite Marks

Edward Cullen is one hot vampire. So hot, in fact, that when he's not sparkling in the sun or stalking watching over Bella Swan, he's chilling out on the beaches in the Florida Keys where bloodsucking is all the rage.

Last August, a fifteen year old girl covered in bite marks filed a police report stating that she was attacked while on a jog. The girl told police that a former friend had been the one to attack her. The fact that this ex-friend had previously been in trouble with the law, when combined with the bruises and marks across her arms, neck and back, led police to believe her.

Turns out the Twilight fan lied.

'Seinfeld' Bottle Scam: Couple Busted in Maine

In a famous Seinfeld episode, Kramer and Newman concoct an elaborate plan for how to cash in on bottle recycling fees:

NEWMAN: (peering at bottle label) What is this 'MI, ten cents'?

KRAMER: That's Michigan. In Michigan you get ten cents.

NEWMAN: Ten cents!?

KRAMER: Yeah.

NEWMAN: Wait a minute. You mean you get five cents here, and ten cents there. You could round up bottles here and run 'em out to Michigan for the difference.

KRAMER: No, it doesn't work.

NEWMAN: What d'you mean it doesn't work? You get enough bottles together...

KRAMER: Yeah, you overload your inventory and you blow your margins on gasoline. Trust me, it doesn't work.

Marijuana a Top FindLaw Legal Search Term

FindLaw.com users are awfully concerned with marijuana law and Miranda rights, catapulting both onto the list of FindLaw.com's top legal search terms of 2010.

Miranda rights and Miranda v. Arizona are a well known part of the criminal process, popping up on television shows nightly. As an essential safeguard of constitutional rights, they've also spent a lot of time in the news this past year.

Mobster Enrico Ponzo Caught After 17 Years

Enrico Ponzo was a member of the New England mob. More specifically, he was a member of La Costa Nostra, known for its involvement in organized crime in the Boston area. In 1994, he was accused of multiple drug-related crimes and trying to whack the boss of his crime family. Before he could be brought to trial, recounts Reuters, he fled the city. And now he's finally turned up.

For the last 10 years, Enrico Ponzo was living under an assumed identity, Jeffrey John Shaw, and tending to cattle in Idaho. According to neighbors, he and his now ex-girlfriend bought the land, where they proceeded to build a home and raise two children. Ponzo stayed at home with the kids and tended to the cattle, and his girlfriend worked, further reports the Boston Herald.

Chandra Levy Killer Sentenced to 60 Years

Washington, D.C. was rocked by the case of missing intern Chandra Levy in the spring of 2001. During the investigation it came to light that she had had an affair with then-Congressman Gary Condit, launching the story into national headlines. Chandra Levy's body wasn't found until a year later in the city's expansive Rock Creek Park. By that time Gary Condit's career had been ruined. He was never named a suspect, notes Reuters.

In 2009, Ingmar Guandique, who had recently been convicted for attacking two women in the same park, came to the attention of investigators. Tried and convicted for the murder of Chandra Levy, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison this past Friday, reports The New York Times. The prosecution had asked for life.

Prostitutes Use Facebook to Drum Up Business

Facebook is good for a lot of things--stalking old boyfriends, stalking new crushes, ruining your marriage, and apparently prostitution.

With the Craigslist crackdown on prostitution ads, the number of prostitutes using Facebook has grown. In fact, in a study of prostitutes and social media printed in Wired, a Columbia University professor found that 83% of prostitutes use Facebook to grow and advertise their business. He predicts that by the end of 2011, it will be the number one site for those seeking to advertise their services.

Curfew Laws: A Top 2010 FindLaw Legal Search Term

2010 saw a keen interest in mandatory curfew laws, landing "curfew" on the list of top legal search terms on FindLaw.com. With curfew laws popping up across the country, it's important to understand the categories of curfew law and their exceptions.

Juvenile Curfew Laws

Most likely driving the search for information on curfews are juvenile curfew laws. Nearly every major city in the United States has a mandatory curfew for persons under the age of 18. Cities usually cite violence and safety as reasons to enact a curfew law, but whether it has any effect is up for debate.

Facebook Stalker: Zuckerberg's Restraining Order

"You are going to go through life thinking that girls don't like you because you're a nerd. And I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that that won't be true. It'll be because you're an a--hole." -Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), The Social Network

Ms. Albright may not have been impressed by Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, but in real life, Zuckerberg has his own fan club of one, by the name of Pradeep Manukonda. Zuckerberg has obtained a restraining order against Pradeep; apparently the Zuck was highly concerned after 31-year-old Pradeep Manukonda traveled to the Facebook offices in in Palo Alto, California as well as Zuckerberg''s residence in an attempt to contact him, TMZ reports.

Car Surfing Deaths: Teens Ignore Dangers

Ever been surfing? Even been car surfing?

Car surfing deaths are suddenly a hot topic in the media. If you haven't heard of it, car surfing is an act where people ride on top or beside their vehicles for thrills and excitement. Car surfing videos are popular on YouTube.

Of course the activity is incredibly foolish and dangerous. People have already been killed participating, Gather.com reports.

Two Texas Teens Killed in Mexican Border Town

Two Texas high school students were killed this week in Mexico's violent drug war.

El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico are essentially one large city, separated only by the Rio Grande. Many residents--of both cities--cross the border daily for school and work, invariably linking the two border towns together.

Carlos Mario Gonzalez Bermudez and Juan Carlos Echeverri did this five days a week during the school year. Despite being U.S. citizens, the boys lived in the cheaper, crime-ridden Juarez, commuting into El Paso to attend local private Catholic schools. This is not uncommon of students in El Paso, Texas, as 20% of those at Bermudez's school did the same, according to the AP.

Death Penalty Drug: Death Row Inmates Sue FDA

While there are many arguments in the death penalty debate, our duty as a nation is to make sure that the process remains humane. The Food and Drug Administration, however, may have just called even that into question.

Thiopental, a so-called death penalty drug, has seen better days. The anesthesia, designed to prevent inmates from feeling any pain, has been difficult for states to acquire, delaying executions across the country. And now that Hospira, Inc., the drug's maker, has announced that it will be discontinuing production, states will be scrambling even harder.

This is why states using thiopental petitioned the FDA to allow them to import the thiopental from overseas. And it agreed. And then the FDA got sued.

Bellagio Robbery Suspect Arrested at Casino

After hearing the story of the Bellagio robbery, where a person stole $1.5 million in chips from the Bellagio in Las Vegas, we couldn't help but wonder about the plan of the thief. How did the Bellagio bandit intend to cash the chips? What was the master plan?

As it turns out, apparently Anthony Carleo didn't have much of a plan at all. After the security footage captured him on a motorcycle helmet pointing a gun around the Bellagio, he didn't even have the good sense to stay away. In fact, he was staying at the hotel at the time of the robbery and went on to spend several more weeks at the casino, losing money gambling, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Carleo, who went bankrupt in 2009, is a former real estate broker. He is now facing charges of robbery, burglary and drug trafficking.

Teens Arrested for Facebook Death Threats

What happens when middle school students log onto Facebook and make death threats against their enemies? They get arrested and charged with aggravated stalking.

This Facebook death threat happened after one Fort Meyers, Florida teen told on another who had brought a gun to their middle school. The 14-year-old was charged with possession of a firearm, and the girl that told on her was branded a "snitch."

Ohio Mother Jailed: Sent Kids to Better School

Would you be willing to risk a criminal record for the sake of your children's education? Kelley Williams-Bolar, an Ohio mother of two, did.

By using her father's address to send her daughters to a school in a neighboring, affluent suburb, she unwittingly opened herself up to criminal sanctions.

Kelley Williams-Bolar's intent was not to defraud the Ohio Department of Education, but, like any good Ohio mother, was to provide her children with an education--in this case, one that the local underperforming and dangerous school couldn't provide, reports The Atlanta Post. Private school and other alternatives within her local district were not options, as she lives in subsidized housing.

Super Bowl a Magnet for Child Sex Trade

Fans flocking to the Super Bowl will be gearing up for tailgating and touchdowns. For some, though, Sunday's big game is also the Super Bowl of Child Prostitution.

Texas police have assigned extra agents this week to keep watch for a different kind of out-of-town visitor: pimps selling children for sex. As America's largest sporting event, the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers will make Dallas a magnet for business of all kinds. That includes the multimillion dollar, under-age sex industry, according to Reuters.

'Hot Sauce Mom' Charged with Child Abuse

When does parental discipline cross the line and become child abuse? Jessica Beagley, dubbed the 'Hot Sauce Mom,' is about to find out.

Fed up and frustrated with her son's misbehavior, the Anchorage mother of six turned to slightly unconventional methods of punishment: cold showers and hot sauce. Yes, hot sauce. Replacing the soap of days yore, some parents have begun placing drops of hot sauce on their children's tongues as punishment.

Serial Rapist Suspect in Female Guard's Murder

A tragic and likely preventable prison murder in Washington is raising questions as to why an unarmed prison officer would be around a dangerous serial rapist. Byron Scherf, who is suspected in the strangling death of Jayme Biendl, is a convicted serial rapist who once poured gasoline on a woman and set her on fire.

Scherf allegedly strangled 34-year-old Jayme Biendl with a microphone cord in the process of an attempted escape from the Seattle-area prison, the Associated Press reports. Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state corrections department have called for an outside investigation. The calls come amid questions as to whether there is enough staff at the 800-inmate medium-security Monroe Correctional Complex after recent budget cuts.

Iowa Gun Law: Concealed Guns Flooding Streets

Guess what happened after the new Iowa gun law went into effect? Yes, the law allowing you to carry your gun concealed or openly in public with a permit?

A whole lot of Iowans showed up to apply for the gun permits.

Iowa has now become a state with a "shall-issue" gun policy, which requires the state to issue a permit if the person meets objective criteria, which is a fee, a background check, fingerprinting, and training, ABC 6 NEWS reports. Veterans can substitute their experience for gun training in many situations.