FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

July 2012 Archives

How Long Can You Be Held Without Charges?

Just how long can the police hold you without charging you? Arrestees cannot be held without charges for an unreasonable amount of time but that time period differs between states.

On TV shows about the law, the camera shows the arrest and then the accused being told what he’s charged with, but it doesn’t often show the process in between.

Police can’t bring charges against a suspect. Only a prosecutor has the ability to charge a person with a crime.

It may take some time after an arrest before charges are made. But how long can they hold you before there is a violation of your rights?

The Sandusky Effect: More Sex Abuse Victims Speak Out

Call it the Sandusky effect. There has been an increase in sex abuse reporting since the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal made national headlines. Oftentimes, these reports are being made by victims who claimed abuse decades ago.

While advocates say there tends to be a noticeable increase in sex abuse reporting following most national stories, they say that there has been an extraordinary boost in reporting since the Sandusky story, reports the Charlotte Observer.

The reasons for the increased reporting can range from empowerment when victims realize they are not the only ones to guilt when victims realize that other potential victims may be assaulted if they do not step forward.

Suspect James Holmes' charges in the Colorado theater shootings include 24 counts of first-degree murder, giving potential jurors two routes to reach a verdict.

Prosecutors on Monday charged Holmes with 12 counts of first-degree murder and 12 counts of first-degree murder with extreme indifference, Reuters reports. Police arrested Holmes after he allegedly opened fire on a movie theater audience in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and wounding 58 others.

So what is the difference between the two types of first-degree murder charges?

11 Walmart Bomb Threats May Be Linked: Police

There have been 11 bomb threats made against Walmart stores in Missouri and Kansas in the past several days. In none of the cases was a bomb actually discovered. But the Walmart bomb threats have led to evacuations and mass panic in the wake of the Colorado shootings.

Police are investigating the incidents and say they have a telephone number from where the threats were made, reports ABC.

Police believe that the 11 bomb threats may all be connected.

Is Window Tint Illegal?

Is my window tint legal? It's a common question asked across the country. You may have heard a lot of different (and contradictory) things said about the legality of car window tints and whether you could get pulled over for tints.

The source of the confusion may be because there is no federal regulation on car tinting and states and cities usually have their own unique laws and regulations. Legal window tints in one state may be illegal in another. And legal tints in one city may be illegal if you simply drive to the next town.

So can you get pulled over for window tints? The answer is that "it depends."

Specifically, it depends on where you are driving.

Did 'Serial Infector' Expose Patients in 6 States?

David Kwiatkowski has been arrested for allegedly infecting at least 30 people with hepatitis C as he traveled across the country working as a medical lab technician.

Hospitals in eight states are coming up with a list of patients who may have come into contact with Kwiatkowski to discover if there are any more victims.

Authorities say that Kwiatkowski is a drug addict who himself is infected with hepatitis C. It's believed that Kwiatkowski shot himself up with the powerful painkiller fentanyl and left the used needles in the lab. These needles were then used on unsuspecting patients, infecting them with the blood-borne liver-damaging disease, reports CNN.

Kerry Kennedy's Ambien Blood Test Results

Kerry Kennedy was arrested in New York last week, charged with driving while impaired when she allegedly crashed into a tractor-trailer and left the scene.

Now questions are being asked as to whether the sleeping drug, Ambien, caused Kerry Kennedy to crash. Kennedy, the ex-wife of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, allegedly told police that she may have taken the drug that morning, but doesn't remember for sure, reports ABC.

However, while Kennedy's family says that there were no drugs involved, a toxicology report showed that a generic form of Ambien was in her system. Kennedy had previously passed a Breathalyzer, blood, and urine tests which showed no drugs or alcohol.

Cops Search Wrong House, Kill Innocent Man

Imagine you're sitting at home and you hear a thunderous knock on the door.

If you're not expecting any visitors and own a gun, you may reach for it. In fact, that's what Florida man Andrew Lee Scott did when police came a knocking.

The police were searching for an attempted murder suspect. So you can bet they were expecting the worst. So when Scott opened the door with his weapon in hand, a police deputy shot him dead. But instead of shooting the attempted murder suspect, the police shot an innocent man. They knocked on the wrong door.

Philly Priest Gets 3-6 Years for Abuse Cover-Up

Philadelphia Catholic Priest, Monsignor William Lynn, was sentenced to three to six years in jail for covering up sex abuse claims at the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Lynn is the first priest to be imprisoned for the cover-up of sex abuse, as opposed to the sex abuse itself.

For 12 years, from 1992 to 2004, Lynn oversaw priest assignments and handled child sex abuse complaints at the Philadelphia Archdiocese. He did an awful job and allowed individuals like defrocked priest Edward Avery to sexually assault an altar boy in 1999, reports The Associated Press.

Are guns allowed in movie theaters? State statutes, local ordinances, and a private business' policies all aim to answer that question. But as the Colorado movie theater shooting shows, enforcement isn't always possible.

Like many other states, Colorado requires a permit for an adult to carry a concealed handgun. But the permit is not valid everywhere.

Some places are off-limits to concealed handguns, pursuant to federal law. In Colorado, site of the Columbine massacre in 1999, public schools are also generally off-limits to concealed-carry permit holders.

So what about movie theaters?

4 Separate 'Dark Knight' Arrests After CO Massacre

The Dark Knight Rises showing where the Colorado shooting occurred sadly wasn't the only arrest at theaters in the last few days. Four other people were arrested in separate incidents related to showings of the movie around the country.

None of the other incidents were are horrifying as what happened in Aurora on Friday morning. But tensions were high for moviegoers and no one was in the mood for jokes about safety.

Police were taking threats at face value given the shooting in Colorado and actions that might have annoyed people at another time, were truly scary through this lens.

While most people had a safe movie experience, and many enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises, that was not the case for everyone.

For James Holmes, Death Penalty is Far from a Certainty

James Holmes, the man charged in the Colorado shootings at the "Dark Knight" premiere, appeared in court for the first time Monday. Many observers said he looked confused and out of it.

It was a quick appearance and now bigger decisions await. Whether Holmes will face the death penalty is not expected to be decided for another several weeks or months, reports Yahoo!

While Colorado still has the death penalty, it will be interesting to see if Holmes will face it. The death penalty is rarely used in Colorado. Only one inmate has been executed since 1977, and only three inmates are on death row, says Yahoo! However, given the magnitude of Holmes' alleged crimes, it would seem capital punishment may be appropriate if convicted.

Sex Assault Victim Savannah Dietrich's Twitter Justice

Savannah Dietrich was upset by the plea deal struck between her attackers and prosecutors so she took to Twitter to show her frustration. In response, one of the defense attorneys moved for the court to hold her in contempt.

The attorney has since withdrawn his motion for contempt, but that doesn't change the issue that Dietrich violated a court order by publicizing the names of the defendants.

Dietrich was at a party in August 2011 where she passed out after drinking too much. Two boys that she knew took advantage of her inebriation and sexually assaulted her. Months later, she found out that they had taken pictures of the event.

The boys pled guilty to first-degree sexual assault and to misdemeanor voyeurism in a plea deal with prosecutors. Dietrich felt that the deal, the details of which are protected by court order, let the boys off lightly.

Could James Holmes Claim Insanity?

Details about James Holmes' violent attack on a Colorado theater have raised some questions about the shooter's mental state and whether he could conceivably raise an insanity defense should this case go to trial.

The shooting, which happened Friday night just after midnight, resulted in 71 people injured and at least 12 dead. It seems inconceivable that prosecutors will charge him with anything less than homicide so the only question is how Holmes will respond to the charges.

So far he isn't talking about the incident, reports Long Island Newsday.

What he told police when he was arrested and the details of the shooting may bring Holmes' sanity into question.

'Dark Knight' Shooting in CO: 12 Dead, 50 Hurt

A "Dark Knight" shooting at a Colorado movie theater resulted in at least 12 deaths and 50 wounded. Many of those wounded were critically injured, reports The Denver Post.

During the midnight premiere of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," a gunman walked into the theater in Aurora, Colo., lobbed a gas explosive, and opened fire on the crowd.

Police have a 24-year-old man in custody. His motives are currently unknown, though witnesses say he was dressed for combat.

A $3 million Henri Matisse painting stolen from a South American art museum has been found in Florida, and the alleged thieves were caught red-handed. Or make that, red pants-ed.

Matisse's "Odalisque in Red Pants" was stolen from a museum in Venezuela in 2002 and replaced with a fake, CNN reports. An international painting-hunt ensued, but authorities failed to track down the pricey masterpiece.

That is, until Tuesday, when a man and a woman allegedly tried to sell the pilfered painting to undercover FBI agents in Miami.

While it marks an end to the mystery, it may also paint a possible defense for the alleged thieves.

What Happens When a Judge Suspends a Sentence

You may have heard the term "suspended sentence" a few times. And you might be curious about what that actually entails. 

Now, sentencing laws vary depending on what state you are in. But most judges have the discretion to suspend a prison or jail sentence.

What does that mean? Here's a short explainer:

Fatal Beating Posted on Facebook a Teen 'Game'

A video posted on Facebook of Chicago teens beating a 62-year-old man led to their arrest on Monday. The teens were reportedly playing a violent game of picking out a random stranger and then knocking him out.

Malik Jones, 16, Nicholas Ayala, 17, and Anthony Malcolm, 18, surrounded Delfino Mora early on a Saturday morning. Jones asked if he had any money and then punched Mora in the jaw. The crack of his head on the pavement was picked up on the cell phone Ayala and Malcolm were using to record the incident. Jones later posted the video on his Facebook page.

In the video the three teens walk away laughing, according to The Chicago Tribune. Jones also stole $60 from Mora's wallet.

Someone else is having the last laugh since that video is what ties the three teens to Mora's death.

A 17-year-old high school senior was the kingpin of a $3 million high school marijuana ring in southwestern Ohio, a grand jury alleges.

Tyler Pagenstecher of Mason, an upscale Cincinnati suburb, faces two felony counts of drug trafficking as a juvenile, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Seven adults were also indicted in the scheme that allegedly raked in $20,000 in pot sales each month.

What was the extent of Pagenstecher's alleged operation, and could his juvenile charges turn into adult ones?

'Rafting Gone Wild:' 23 Arrests after Drunken River Brawl

'Rafting Gone Wild,' the second annual event on the American River in California, started in sunshine but ended in a brawl. Drunken rafters started fighting in the late afternoon and multiple incidents led to arrests.

Several years ago, Sacramento County banned alcohol on the American River during major holidays including Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Revelers took the ban in stride, planning a new 'holiday' to celebrate drinking on the river according to The Sacramento Bee.

By the end of the day 23 people had been arrested, but there should have been many more, police said.

cousin of George Zimmerman claims he sexually abused her as a child over a 10-year period, according to taped interviews released Monday by prosecutors. Zimmerman's defense team tried, but failed, to stop the recordings' release.

The alleged assaults began when the woman was 6 years old and Zimmerman was 8; they allegedly continued until she was 16, USA Today reports. Zimmerman is currently 28 years old.

But even if the woman's allegations are true, could Zimmerman face criminal charges for incidents that happened at least a decade ago?

Videotaping Police is Your First Amendment Right

Videotaping police during encounters with law enforcement is not just a trend; it's also your First Amendment right.

At least, that's what courts are saying.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that people have a First Amendment right to record the police. A Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision from June 2012 ruled that laws prohibiting citizens from videotaping police violate the First Amendment.

The Department of Justice also recently sent a letter to Baltimore's police force reminding them that the First Amendment allows people to videotape police in public places, reports Time Magazine.

But for all you aspiring Spielbergs out there, don't hit record just yet.

Girl Forced to Wear Shock Collar for Dogs

Georgia authorities found a 15-year-old girl who was forced to live in a chicken coop days at a time and who was forced to wear a shock collar for dogs as punishment.

The parents of the girl, Samuel and Diana Franklin, have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of child cruelty and false imprisonment, reports The Associated Press.

The girl has been placed in temporary state custody.

George Zimmerman's judge is biased and should be disqualified from any further role in his murder case, defense lawyer Mark O'Mara argues in a new motion filed Friday.

Sanford, Fla., Judge Kenneth Lester showed his bias by making "gratuitous, disparaging remarks" about Zimmerman in Lester's Order Setting Bail last week, Zimmerman's Motion to Disqualify states.

Lester also makes opinionated remarks about prosecutors' evidence, threatens contempt proceedings, and "advocates for Mr. Zimmerman to be prosecuted for additional crimes," O'Mara argues in the motion, which his legal team posted online.

Is that sufficient to get Judge Lester disqualified?

Florida millionaire Dan Rotta's 16-year-old son just got married in Vegas, and all the proud father got was a lousy six months in jail.

Rotta's post-wedding sendoff from a Florida judge wasn't because the teen's shotgun wedding isn't legal -- in fact, it is legal, as the age of consent for marriage is 16 in Nevada (with at least one parent's permission).

Rather, it's because Rotta's judge smelled a rat, The Miami Herald reports.

If your criminal record has been expunged, do you ever have to disclose it?

Generally speaking, the answer is "no" for everyday situations like apartment-rental and job applications -- but there are a few exceptions that vary by state.

Here are five situations that may require you to disclose an expungement, depending on where you live:

Man Tried to Kill Bike Cops with Fireworks

Fireworks plus alcohol can lead to a lot of strange July 4 arrests.

After the July 4th celebrations, Orlando bike cops were clearing out downtown bars of revelers. As they were in the process of arresting one man, they were suddenly bombarded by a fireworks attack.

The three bike cops had to dodge a series of flaming green projectiles aimed at them. The man they were trying to arrest also had to find safety, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Cops Make 'Staggering' Number of Cell Phone Data Requests

Requests for cell phone data have increased significantly over the last five years as police rely more on the evidence these phones provide.

A cell phone is more than just a handy way to make calls. The data it stores has personal information about who you call. Because calls go through the nearest cell tower, it provides accurate location tracking as well.

Given the amount of information stored by cell carriers it's no surprise that all levels of law enforcement are making more requests for cellphone data.

What is shocking is the number of requests that were made last year.

A court hearing about the use of Florida's Stand Your Ground law in a double-murder case ended in a brawl outside a courtroom that was caught on camera.

Deputies arrested the defendant's stepfather, the dead victims' father, and one of the victims' friends after the fight at the Osceola County Courthouse on Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Several people were hurt.

The fight began after a judge postponed the Stand Your Ground hearing in the case of Jayson Clair, 27, who's charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two brothers, Joel and James Kun, in 2011.

What Is Entrapment?

What is entrapment? It’s a defense that’s commonly used in some criminal cases, but not every defendant can claim entrapment.

An entrapment defense only works when a government agent induces a person to commit a crime that the person otherwise would not have committed.

So who can be considered a government agent? And how does an entrapment defense work?

A 3-month-old baby girl died in a hot car, and police arrested her teenage father in a tragic incident that shows the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.

Joshua Stryzanski, 18, is charged with neglect of a dependent resulting in death, The Indianapolis Star reports. Police in Greenfield, Ind., found Stryzanski’s daughter inside his car about 3:35 p.m. Saturday, when temperatures soared to over 100 degrees.

Stryzanski’s baby was left in the car for “an extended period of time,” police said, and she was pronounced dead at a hospital. The incident shows how leaving a child alone inside a vehicle can lead to criminal charges.

Fighting a shoplifting charge may cost you time and money, but it could also pay off in the end. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help to get your charges reduced, dropped, or perhaps even removed from your record.

A defense attorney will typically try to poke holes in a shoplifting case by challenging the evidence and procedures that led to an alleged shoplifter's arrest.

Here are some ways that can be done:

Zimmerman a 'Manipulator,' But Out of Jail Again

For the second time in about three months, George Zimmerman is walking free from jail after posting bail.

As you probably know, the 28-year-old Zimmerman is standing trial for killing teenager Trayvon Martin. As criminal defendants are innocent until proven guilty, Zimmerman was given the opportunity to show why he should be out free during his trial despite the serious allegations.

What makes George Zimmerman's jail release particularly intriguing is that Zimmerman had already posted bail months ago. Then he had it revoked after a judge felt that Zimmerman was withheld information about his finances and tried to "manipulate" the system, reports Bay News 9.

Convicted murderer Scott Peterson is appealing his death sentence, arguing that excessive publicity and errors before, during, and after his trial should get his conviction reversed.

Jurors in 2004 convicted Peterson, now 39, of killing his wife Laci and their unborn son on Christmas Eve 2002. Peterson is currently on death row.

Peterson's 470-page appeal is called an automatic appeal under California law. But it could take months or even years to resolve, The Associated Press reports.

Here's how the process works:

JetBlue Pilot Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

JetBlue pilot Clayton Osbon was found not guilty by reason of insanity for disrupting a flight he was supposed to be captaining.

Earlier this year, the 12-year veteran JetBlue pilot lost it on a flight from New York to Las Vegas. He reportedly left the cockpit and began running up the aisles screaming about a bomb being on board. His co-pilot had to lock him out of the cockpit and ask passengers to restrain the pilot.

Osbon was charged with federal crimes for disrupting the flight. But instead of facing jail time, he'll face time in mental facility, reports USA TODAY.

Will Lynch Not Guilty in Priest Beating Trial

Two wrongs don't make a right, at least not always. Will Lynch was found not guilty in the priest beating trial where he was accused of attacking 67-year-old retired priest Rev. Jerold Lindner.

Lynch did not deny attacking the Catholic priest. However, the jury let him off anyway, perhaps due to Lynch's special motivation for the attack.

George Zimmerman’s bail is now set at $1 million, and the accused murderer could be released from jail as soon as he posts bond.

A judge in Sanford, Fla., released his ruling Thursday morning, ordering Zimmerman released on $1 million bail, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Zimmerman, 28, has been in jail since June 3, after the judge revoked his original $150,000 bail for misleading the court about his finances.

While Zimmerman likely cannot meet the full bail amount, it appears he does have enough to cover 10% of his bail, which is the fee charged by most bail bond agents.

A Texas man is behind bars for assisting the suicide of his wife, whom authorities say was neither sick nor terminally ill.

Mark A. Kelly, 47, called sheriff's deputies Saturday to report the death of his wife Sonia M. Dixon, 49, the Houston Chronicle reports. Dixon wanted to commit suicide because of the couple's dire financial situation, Kelly told deputies.

Dixon apparently died alone while Kelly spent the night at a hotel, the New York Daily News reports. Kelly allegedly admitted to assisting Dixon's suicide, which is explicitly against the law in Texas and in many other states.

A lost cell phone found at a Florida Walmart contained child porn videos that led to the arrest of a registered sex offender and his housemate.

Sex offender Alan Robert Johnson, 33, and Jennifer A. Sparks, 37, were arrested on suspicion of molesting a 4-year-old girl allegedly seen in the cell-phone porn videos, Ft. Myers' WINK-TV reports. The girl's parents are now under investigation.

Customers at a Walmart in Coral Gables, Fla., found the cell phone in a shopping cart. They called police after they found pornographic images on the phone.

Car thefts are down for the eighth straight year nationwide, new FBI figures show. But that's not true for all cities, with one state in particular seeing more than its fair share of vehicle thefts.

Car-crazy California has the dubious distinction of having seven of the nation's Top 10 metropolitan areas with the highest rates of vehicle theft, according to a new report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Some cities that made the NICB's annual list of Top 10 "Hot Spots" for car theft may surprise you. They are: