FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

March 2013 Archives

Urban Green Space Reduces Crime: Study

Urban green spaces can actually lower the rates for certain types of crime, a study found.

While popular belief is that urban vegetation may encourage crime by providing places of cover and potential escape routes for criminals, the Temple University study found the opposite to be true. Well-maintained green spaces were found to lower rates of serious crime such as aggravated assault, robbery, and burglary, reports Red Orbit.

The study examined crime and vegetation data with satellite imagery, and found that the presence of grass, trees and shrubs was closely related to lower crime rates in parts of Philadelphia.

How DUI Diversion Programs Work

In some jurisdictions, first-time or less-serious DUI offenses may be eligible for DUI diversion programs. How do these programs work?

In a typical DUI diversion program, the defendant is required to meet certain specified conditions, like completing classes or performing community service. Once the conditions are met, the prosecutor or judge typically dismisses the DUI charge.

DUI diversion programs are offered because prosecutors and courts realize that sometimes a DUI is a mistake. Diversion allows the defendant to rehabilitate himself and demonstrate that he is capable of behaving responsibly.

Drug Dogs Can't Sniff Homes Without Warrant

A Supreme Court ruling this week limits the use of police drug-sniffing dogs outside of a suspect's home.

In a 5-4 decision, justices held that police cannot use drug-sniffing dogs outside of a home to detect illegal drugs inside, unless officers have a warrant, reports Reuters.

The court determined that this use of drug-sniffing dogs constituted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. As a result, a warrant is required to perform the search.

3 Stabbed at Target Store in Pa.; 1 Arrested

A man was taken into custody following a Target stabbing at a store in Pittsburgh.

Police say the suspect stabbed three people. The incident began outside the store when the unidentified man slashed another man's face with a knife and then ran into the store, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Two men then followed the suspect into the store looking for him.

The knife-wielding suspect then chased one of the men and grabbed a 16-year-old female bystander. The girl was stabbed in the back and arm.

Can Public Urination Be a 'Sex Offense'?

If you have been arrested for public urination, it's possible that you could be charged with a sex offense. Perhaps this will serve as more incentive to empty your bladder at the bar or restaurant before taking off.

Some may see public urination as a relatively harmless and victimless crime. After all, when you gotta go, you gotta go.

But in some cases, you could be charged with a sex offense and -- similar to pedophiles and child rapists -- be forced to register as a sex offender.

2 Teens Charged in 13-Month-Old Baby's Murder

Two teens have been charged in the murder of a baby boy and the shooting of his mother in Georgia.

The mom, Sherry West, was pushing her 13-month-old son in a stroller in Brunswick, Georgia, last week when two teenagers attempted to rob them at gunpoint, NBC News reports. One of the boys then opened fire.

Just a day after the shooting, Brunswick police arrested two teens, ages 17 and 15, and charged them both with murder. Authorities tracked down the suspects by checking school attendance records and searching door-to-door with a SWAT team.

Here's What Microsoft Sends to Law Enforcement

After being criticized for not revealing what types of information the company turns over to law enforcement, Microsoft has issued a transparency report.

The report shows that in 2012, law-enforcement agencies made a total of 75,378 requests for Microsoft user data. More than 4,700 of those requests were for Skype data, reports Slate.

These requests affected 137,424 user accounts for Microsoft services such as Skype, Hotmail, Outlook.com, SkyDrive, Xbox LIVE, Microsoft Account, and Office 365. While these numbers may seem high, the rate at which Microsoft divulged user data was relatively low.

Jennifer Capriati Charged With Stalking, Battery

He's just not that into you. It's a message former tennis star Jennifer Capriati should have taken seriously when her boyfriend Dwight Brannan broke up with her in early 2012.

Now, Capriati has been charged with battery and stalking, reports the Sun Sentinel.

Capriati, once the world's No. 1-ranked tennis player, has been ordered to appear in Palm Beach County court to face allegations that she was stalking her ex-boyfriend. She's also been charged with battery after she allegedly punched him four times as he was working out at the gym.

12-Year-Old Arrested for School Shooting Hoax

A 12-year-old boy is under arrest for a school shooting hoax in Minnesota.

Police in New Prague received a 911 call Wednesday morning that there was a shooter in a school building armed with an AK-47, the Associated Press reports.

The call prompted the district to lock down several buildings at the middle school, high school, and other campuses. However, authorities quickly determined that it was a hoax, and identified a 12-year-old boy as the prankster.

If Roommate Sells Drugs, Can You Get Arrested?

What should you do if your roommate is selling drugs? If he gets caught, can you also get arrested just for living under the same roof?

When it comes to illegal drugs, there are legal and practical concerns. Depending on your level of knowledge or involvement in your roommate’s dealings, you could potentially be at risk of facing criminal charges.

Each situation is unique, but generally speaking, here’s what you need to be worried about:

5 Signs You May Have Ineffective Counsel

You may not like your lawyer, but does that really mean that you have a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel? What is "ineffective counsel" anyway, legally speaking?

First off, there's a difference between the legal terms ineffective assistance of counsel and legal malpractice. The two can go hand in hand, but a malpractice claim is one where a client sues his lawyer for falling below the standard of legal professionalism.

Ineffective assistance of counsel, on the other hand, is used in a different way.

Ohio Rape Victim Threatened Online; 2 Girls Arrested

Two girls were arrested for making online threats against the teenage Ohio rape victim.

Just one day after two Steubenville high school football players were convicted of raping the 16-year-old victim, two girls were arrested on suspicion of making social media threats against the accuser, reports The Associated Press.

The real-life mean girls, ages 15 and 16, were said to have posted threatening messages on Facebook and Twitter against the victim. The two are now being held in juvenile detention.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Theft?

What’s the statute of limitations for theft? The answer depends on many factors, such as the value of what was stolen, and of course the laws in your jurisdiction.

For example, the statute of limitations period may be three years in California for a felony theft. However, if the crime is considered a misdemeanor, the statute may only be one year. However, the limitations period would be different if you lived in Arizona or New Jersey.

To figure out which statute of limitations applies in your specific case, you will need to talk to an attorney. But here are some general considerations:

2 Teen Athletes Convicted in Ohio Rape Trial

Two high school football players were found delinquent in an Ohio rape trial in which social media played a key role.

Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, were both found delinquent in the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl. Witnesses said the girl was too drunk to move or speak when she was assaulted by two members of the football team at a party in the eastern Ohio city of Steubenville, reports Reuters.

Ohio prosecutors say they will continue to investigate the case, and others may also be charged.

5 Ways a DUI Conviction Can Cost You

Drunken driving can be expensive, in more ways than one. There's a huge price tag associated with getting arrested and having to deal with the legal consequences, even if it's your first time.

According to a study conducted by the Automobile Club of Southern California, a first-time DUI can cost up to $15,649 in California, reports the Los Angeles Times. The figure is even higher for underage DUIs, which average out to about $22,492 for a first-time offense.

What are some ways that a DUI can cost you? Here's a quick roundup:

Maryland's Death Penalty Repealed; Flaws Cited

Maryland's death penalty has been repealed, making it the 18th state to abolish executions. Instead of the death penalty, the state's harshest sentence will now be life without parole.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley pledged to overturn the death penalty, citing a variety of reasons, reports The Washington Post. However, proponents of the death penalty argue that life imprisonment may not be enough in certain circumstances.

During legislative debates, lawmakers pointed to some specific flaws with Maryland's death penalty. Here are five of the most signifcant:

Luck o' the Law: Tips for St. Patrick's Day

St. Patrick's Day is Sunday, and along with celebrating the patron saint of Ireland, many Americans will be drinking. This, of course, can lead to legal trouble.

But even if you do get busted after tossing back too much booze, it's not necessarily the end of the world. Some of the most common drinking-related infractions also come with some important legal caveats.

As luck would have it, you've come to the right place to learn more about these laws. Here's a look at three of the most common reasons for St. Patrick's Day arrests:

What Is the 'Felony Murder' Rule?

A murder conviction generally punishes people who kill others either intentionally or through extreme recklessness. But the "felony murder" rule punishes something different.

Unlike other kinds of murder, in felony murder there's no requirement that the suspect intended to cause death, or that his actions were likely to kill another person.

Committing a crime can lead to dangerous situations, and people can get hurt unintentionally. What if someone dies during the commission of a crime? The law doesn't let the perpetrator go unpunished.

Guards Busted Over Prison Cell Phone Smuggling

Prison is supposed to be where inmates do their time, not do more crime.

That's what U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson had to say about the arrest of 17 former prison guards allegedly caught smuggling cell phones into the prison where they worked.

This happened in Texas. Now, the ex-corrections officers and 12 others are facing federal racketeering charges.

Drug Possession: 3 Potential Defenses

So, you've been caught with weed, meth or crack, and don't know how to talk your way out of this one.

They didn't catch you taking the drug, or dealing it. They just caught you with it. It's called drug possession, and it's a crime.

But as with any crime, there are some potential defenses that you may be able to raise.

NYPD Cannibal Cop Guilty of Conspiracy

The NYPD's "cannibal cop" has been found guilty of conspiracy. A New York jury convicted Gilberto Valle on all charges Tuesday. He now could face life in prison for his crimes.

Valle was accused of hatching a plan to kidnap, kill, and eat several women including his wife. His plot was ultimately uncovered by his wife who tracked his suspicious activity online, reports the New York Post.

Valle, 28, allegedly shared his very dark fantasies in an online forum. His sentencing hearing is set for June.

Man Arrested for Girlfriend's Visine Poisoning

Visine is meant to "get the red out" of dry, itchy eyes. But a California man is accused of using Visine to poison his girlfriend.

A chemical in Visine can make a person ill if it's ingested in large enough doses. That's what happened to Shayne Carpenter's girlfriend after he allegedly snuck a few drops of Visine into her drink during a fight.

Carpenter, 27, was booked on domestic violence charges as well as poisoning, reports UPI. Aside from his girlfriend's illness, prosecutors will likely also be using Carpenter's own words against him.

More Cities Unplugging Red-Light Cameras

Those street signs announcing red-light cameras are becoming more and more rare, and that trend doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.

More cities are getting rid of the cameras that were once hailed as a high-tech way to catch red-light runners and to help identify vehicles and drivers after an accident. It seems that for many local lawmakers, the costs have outweighed the benefits.

The craze for red-light cameras was big a few years ago, but it seems like that fad has faded. Cities are phasing out the cameras for a number of reasons.

Zumba Prostitution Trial Ends With Conviction

The first Zumba prostitution trial has ended with a guilty verdict.

Insurance agent Mark Strong Jr. was accused of helping Zumba instructor Alexis Wright use her fitness studio as a front for a prostitution ring, reports Bangor's WLBZ-TV. Prosecutors had argued that the married businessman played an active role in managing the prostitution business, and even watched the sex acts live from his office via Skype.

Strong said he was only guilty of having an affair with the younger Wright. But the jury found him guilty of a whole lot more.

What Is Rape by Intoxication?

Rape is a crime that most people have at least some understanding of, but do you know what rape by intoxication is?

A Canadian tourist has been charged with rape by intoxication in California, after he allegedly had sex with an intoxicated woman in San Diego last year. Nelson Drake, 39, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday; if convicted, he could face up to eight years in prison, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

So what are the elements of the crime? It's pretty straightforward if you understand the definition of rape itself.

Jodi Arias Trial: Can Jurors Question Witnesses?

We know that the major parties in a criminal prosecution or civil lawsuit can question witnesses and clear up any confusion. Lawyers can question witnesses. Judges can question witnesses. But can jurors question witnesses?

In the Jody Arias murder trial in Arizona, jury members are finally getting their chance to ask the woman accused of killing her ex-boyfriend about circumstances leading to the alleged murder. Jurors submitted more than 100 questions to ask the defendant following 30 days of testimony, ABC News reports.

However, Arizona is one of just a few states that allow jurors to question witnesses. In fact, in most states, jury members are expected to play a more passive role in the trial.

Zimmerman Won't Seek Stand Your Ground Hearing

After all the fuss and talk about Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, it looks like George Zimmerman won't pursue that strategy after all.

Zimmerman's lawyers told the court Tuesday that they're waiving their client's right to a pre-trial "Stand Your Ground" hearing that was scheduled for April. Barring any unforeseen changes, Zimmerman's trial for second-degree murder will begin June 10.

Many expected Zimmerman to seek a pre-trial hearing as to whether "Stand Your Ground" applied in his case. But his waiver doesn't mean the issue will be ignored at trial.

Juvenile Incarceration Rate Lowest Since 1975

People who complain that kids these days are troublemakers obviously aren't looking at the juvenile incarceration numbers. If they were, they'd see that in fact, today's kids are staying out of trouble for the most part. Or at least, out of legal trouble.

How do we know that? The number of juveniles who are in long-term incarceration has dropped significantly in the last few years. In 2010, the number was the lowest it's been since 1975, according to a new report.

Those results could, of course, be due to a number of factors. But the research seems to indicate that the data is a reflection of better behaved teens.

What Are Your Rights During a Police Lineup?

If there's one piece of criminal procedure that's overplayed in crime dramas, it's the police lineup. Sure, it's a real part of criminal investigation, but it's not the drama-filled, nail-biting process that Hollywood makes it look like.

OK, maybe that's not true if you're one of the people in the lineup, waiting to see if you're identified as "the guy who did it." That's especially true if you didn't do it.

In fact, the lineup is so important that courts have come up with a lot of rules about how the process should be done.

FAMU Hazing: 12 Charged With Manslaughter

Prosecutors have filed more criminal charges in the FAMU hazing death case. Twelve former FAMU students are now facing manslaughter charges.

In 2011, Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion died, allegedly after a brutal hazing ritual by fellow FAMU band members, reports Reuters.

The 12 former band members had already faced felony charges for hazing, though two of them settled their case by pleading no contest last year. Now all of the 10 remaining defendants, and two new defendants, will also face manslaughter charges.

Bullied Boy, 12, Dies After Beating at School

A bullied boy has died after an alleged beating by classmates at his school.

Bailey O'Neill was taken off life support Sunday, after turning 12 years old on Saturday. O'Neill was a sixth grader who attended an elementary school outside Philadelphia.

That's where two bullies allegedly accosted O'Neill and punched him in the face in a schoolyard beating January 10, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. O'Neill suffered seizures and was placed in a medically induced coma.

NYPD 'Cannibal Cop's' Trial Continues

An alleged would-be NYPD "cannibal cop" is on trial, accused of being the mastermind behind an alleged international plot to kidnap, cook, and eat women.

The 28-year-old police officer, Gilberto Valle, is accused of hatching this strange plan online. The alleged plot was discovered by his wife, a Bronx school teacher who alerted authorities, reports CNN. Valle's trial began last week.

To show that this was just not some fantasy without any chance of becoming reality, prosecutors say they have detailed files of conversations Valle had with his co-conspirators on fetish websites.

Fort Hood Shooter Wants Change of Venue

The Fort Hood shooter, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan, sought a change of venue to move his murder trial out of Fort Hood, Texas.

Hasan is accused of killing 13 people during a mass shooting in 2009.

Along with requesting a change of venue, Hasan is also asking that the military judge change the makeup of officers on the jury and that the judge reconsider the procedure for sentencing should he be convicted, reports Reuters. He could face the death penalty.

Buy a Gun? You Can't if You're Disqualified

The Second Amendment protects the rights of most citizens to buy a gun, but some people are disqualified.

Chalk it up to yet another limit on the right to bear arms. But there isn't much you can do about it, so at least you can know what kinds of behavior would disqualify you.

The rules for buying guns are dictated by both state and federal law. To figure out the state limitations on who can buy a gun, you might have to ask a local attorney. But when it comes to federal restrictions, look no further.