FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

June 2013 Archives

James Holmes to Wear Harness During Trial

Accused murderer James Holmes won't be fidgeting in his chair much at his upcoming trial, after a Colorado judge ruled that Holmes will be strapped into a harness tethered by a cable to the courtroom floor.

The alleged Aurora movie theater gunman faces the death penalty if convicted for the murder of 12 moviegoers in July 2012. Holmes will be constantly restrained by the court-ordered harness during the trial because the judge found he poses a security and safety risk, reports Reuters.

Is Holmes' harness something that jurors will notice, and could it potentially prejudice them?

Day at the Beach? Don't Get Arrested

Getting arrested at the beach? It's true -- your day of sun and fun could end up with you in just your swimmies and handcuffs.

With summer in full swing, it may be time for you and your beloved fellow beach bums to hit the waves, or just crash on the sand for a day of relaxing. With that said, it might be easy to forget that despite how chill everything may appear, the beach is still not a lawless land.

What should you watch out for, then? Here are a number of ways that you could still get arrested, even at the beach:

Can You Get DUI Probation Instead of Jail?

A DUI arrest doesn’t always have to end in a jail sentence. Even repeat offenders can get DUI probation instead of jail time.

Probation is by no means a slap on the wrist. But for many who are pulled over for driving while intoxicated, it may mean a less humiliating way to serve their sentences.

Dad, 32, Charged in Toddler's Hot Car Death

An Illinois toddler died in a hot car last week, as his 32-year-old father was apparently passed out from drinking.

Police say 23-month-old Nathan Hubert wasn't found until his mother returned form work and saw her son in the car, some two hours after his father Wayne had placed him in the vehicle that was parked outside their home. Nathan's body temperature was 104.7 degrees.

Wayne M. Hubert is now facing charges that could land him behind bars.

Brutal N.J. Home Invasion Caught on Nanny Cam

A brutal New Jersey home invasion has spurred police in Millburn to step up patrols and offer a reward of up to $5,000 for useful leads to the suspect.

The attacker brutally beat a woman inside her home and in front of her 3-year-old daughter on Friday.

The violent home invasion, which occurred in broad daylight, was caught on a hidden "nanny cam" inside the woman's home, reports New Jersey's News 12.

The victim said her daughter saw everything.

What Proof Do You Need for a Restraining Order?

When it comes to advice about restraining orders, most of it focuses on the process of getting one rather than the proof you need. But without the proof, who cares how easy or difficult the process is?

Getting a restraining order is similar to most other court processes. It involves filling out and filing some paperwork, going to a hearing, and then waiting for a judge to reach a decision.

The key is proving to a judge that you need a restraining order. That judge is going to be looking for some specific facts.

Man in Line for LeBron Shoes Kills Would-Be Robber

A man who attempted to rob Atlanta customers early Saturday morning while they waited to buy LeBron James' newest branded sneaker was shot and killed by another man waiting in line.

The early rising shoppers were waiting to buy the new LeBron X Denim sneakers when an armed man approached them with a gun -- only to have a potential customer shoot the man before returning to his place in line, reports NBC News.

While some shoppers are thanking the shooter, he may face criminal charges.

Call Cops to Teach Kids a Lesson? It Can Backfire

Have you ever thought about calling the cops to teach your kid a lesson? If so, think again, because you might be the one who spends the night in the slammer.

One parent's idea of an appropriate method of discipline can appear abusive to others -- especially when you get the police involved.

Zimmerman Trial: Why No 911 Expert Testimony?

Expert testimony about cries for help on a 911 call will not be heard at George Zimmerman's murder trial, after the judge ruled Saturday that the testimony was based on unreliable methods.

Although prosecutors and the defense are welcome to have family or other non-expert witnesses testify about the tape, the prosecution won't be allowed to have their forensic voice analysts testify about the identity of the voice heard screaming for help on the tape, reports NBC News.

Opening statements in Zimmerman's trial began Monday. What does the 911 expert testimony ruling mean for the prosecution?

For Obama Twitter Threats, Man Gets Year in Jail

A 26-year-old Alabama man has been sentenced to a year in prison for Twitter threats against President Barack Obama.

Jarvis M. Britton sent out a tweet September 14 that said, "Let's kill the president. F.E.A.R." -- an acronym that stood for "F--- Everyone And Run," according to AL.com.

A Secret Service agent's affidavit also reports several other tweets made in June, one of which stated, "Free speech? Really? Let's test this! Let's kill the president" and, subsequently, "I'm going to finish this, if they get me, they get me! #ohwell. I think we could get the president with cyanide. #MakeItSlow" and "Barack Obama, I wish you were DEAD!"

6 Questions About Zimmerman's 6-Woman Jury

A jury of six women has been chosen for the trial of George Zimmerman, who's charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. So what happens next?

The group was narrowed from an initial jury pool of 211 people. Thursday's final announcement of the six jurors was the culmination of a long process of winnowing out biased and ineligible candidates, reports USA Today.

Now that these six jurors are seated, here are six questions and answers that may illuminate their future role in Zimmerman's trial:

Movie Murder Defenses That Don't Really Work

With the summer movie season upon us, chances are you'll see some dramatic legal plots unfolding on the big screen. But when it comes to the law, what you see in the movies often doesn't work in real life.

Whether it's "A Few Good Men" or "Liar Liar," we love movies about legal defenses and tactics that seem to pull the rug out from under the antagonist just at the right moment.

The problem is, these legal coups de grace are rarely pulled off in actual court. Unlike the following examples, you can rarely get off with murder on a legal technicality.

Court Limits Prior Convictions' Use in Sentencing

A new U.S. Supreme Court ruling limits the use of prior convictions under federal sentencing enhancements that give felons more prison time for having three or more prior convictions for certain crimes.

In Descamps v. U.S., defendant Matthew Descamps had been convicted of burglary in California in 1978, which the federal criminal court and Ninth Circuit had deemed as a "violent" felony under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA).

But the Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Descamps' 15-year sentence enhancement under the ACCA, limiting how courts can view prior convictions.

After a False DUI Arrest, What Can You Do?

Americans wrongly burdened with a false DUI arrest don’t have to suffer in silence. There are legal options to get your name cleared and your record set straight.

This was the case with a Florida man who sued a state trooper after two Breathalyzers and a blood test indicated he was not intoxicated while driving, reports Sarasota’s WWSB-TV. In another recent case, an Arizona man is also taking steps toward a lawsuit after a false DUI arrest.

If you’re arrested for a DUI that you didn’t commit, here are some legal options to potentially ease your pain:

Mall Slasher Pleads Guilty in Attacks on Women

A mall slasher in Virginia has pleaded guilty to a series of attacks on women. He could face years behind bars.

Former day laborer Johnny Guillen Pimentel, 42, had been suspected of nine slashings at Fairfax County malls in 2011. Guillen Pimentel, who is from Peru, would apparently sneak up on women and slash their backsides with a box cutter or a razor blade.

Guillen Pimental has admitted to four slashings -- two counts each of malicious wounding and unlawful wounding. But what is the crime of wounding, exactly?

Mom Fights Off Carjacker With Kids in Van

Carjackers, don't mess with Texas moms. That's what we learned from a mom in Baytown, Texas, who successfully fought off a carjacker with her two kids in the van.

Robbed at knifepoint by a man hiding in the back seat, Dorothy Baker-Flugence fought back by grabbing the weapon from her attacker and punching him in the face, Houston's KTRK-TV reports.

What happened next ended with the suspect, Ismael Martinez, being flown to a hospital.

Feds Raid 7-Elevens Over Immigration, ID Theft

In a raid on 7-Eleven stores on Monday, federal agents busted more than a dozen franchise locations for allegedly hiring victimized illegal immigrants and providing them with stolen IDs.

In raids stretching from New York to Virginia, authorities seized 14 convenience stores and five homes which were allegedly used by the owners to house their underpaid and undocumented workers, reports Reuters.

Aside from the moral issues involved in exploiting immigrant workers with marginal pay and plantation-style housing, these 7-Eleven owners are facing serious criminal charges.

'Sesame Street' on Parents in Jail: Top 5 Tips

There are more parents in jails and prisons than people might realize. In fact, 1 in 28 children in the United States now has a parent behind bars -- more than the number of kids with a parent who is deployed in the armed forces, according to a Pew report. It's a serious issue, but the topic is rarely broached because of the stigma.

Leave it to "Sesame Street" to tackle a topic that others are too afraid to touch. The show has introduced Alex, a blue-haired and green-nosed character with a hoodie, who is the first Muppet to have a dad in jail, reports Today.com.

Here are five tips for parents behind bars, inspired by the general awesomeness of "Sesame Street" and its "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration" initiative:

Silence Isn't Always Golden, Supreme Ct. Rules

Suspects who are not in custody, and thus not entitled to Miranda warnings, can have their silence used against them unless they expressly invoke their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, the U.S. Supreme Court has held.

In a 5-4 decision handed down Monday, the Court in Salinas v. Texas determined that a suspect's silence after being asked a question during a voluntary police interview can be used against him during his criminal trial, reports the Associated Press.

Though Miranda shields defendants from the dangers of police interrogation, a suspect's protections are weaker when he is not in custody.

After a Break-In, 5 First Steps to Take

After a break-in, what first steps should you take? Unfortunately, home break-ins happen often, and while there is no surefire way to stop them, there are crucial steps you can take if your home has been broken into.

Your home should ideally be the safest place for you and your family, and it is often very traumatic and devastating when it's burglarized. Not only is there often property damage to deal with, but there's also the stress of being a victim of crime.

Here are the first things that you should do if your home has been broken into:

Zimmerman Jury to Be Sequestered, Judge Rules

George Zimmerman's jurors will be sequestered for the duration of his murder trial, the presiding judge has ordered.

Judge Debra Nelson expects Zimmerman's trial for second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin to last two to four weeks, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Jury selection began Monday.

No jurors have yet been seated in the case, but when the six jurors and four alternates are chosen to serve, life as they know it will come to a screeching halt.

Top 10 'Bad Dads': A Father's Day Lineup

You may think of your father as overbearing or obstinate, but is he as bad as these dads?

Here are 10 of the worst examples of male parents acting badly so that you can appreciate your dad a bit more this Father's Day:

Colo.'s Marijuana DUI Law Opens Door to Defense

Marijuana DUI laws differ by state, and Colorado is no exception. But now that recreational marijuana use is legal there (for most adults, anyway), how are officers supposed to approach drivers suspected of driving while high?

A new law that sets a legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana is now in effect in Colorado. Much like how there is a legal limit for blood alcohol levels, there is now one for THC -- the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana -- of 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood.

While a 5 ng/mL limit for THC is not unheard of (Washington state, which also legalized recreational pot last fall, enforces the same limit), Colorado's law is different, The New York Times reports: It allows defendants to introduce evidence that pot did not impair their ability to drive.

Smartphone Breathalyzers Will Blow You Away

Call it an ingenious idea: Smartphone Breathalyzers are getting ready to hit the market, offering a sobering heads-up to anyone worried about driving home drunk.

A pair of inventors recently unveiled their smartphone Breathalyzer, which they promise will allow you to do what those liquor commercials always squawk about: to "drink responsibly." And they're not the only ones hoping to cash in on the concept.

With a way to make personal alcohol breath tests trendy and more available to consumers, smartphone Breathalyzers may just be the next must-have accessory.

1 in 3 'Designated Drivers' Admits to Drinking

When you're the designated driver, do you drink anyway? If so, you're not the only irresponsible one. According to a new study by Adam Barry, an assistant professor of health education and behavior at the University of Florida in Gainesville, many designated drivers are far from sober.

Barry and his team conducted breath tests on 1,071 bar patrons between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.

Buckle up and get ready for a bumpy ride, because the findings are pretty disturbing.

Blacks 4x More Likely to Get Arrested for Pot

New federal data suggests that blacks are approximately four times more likely than whites to be arrested for charges involving marijuana.

These findings stem from a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union, which compiled data from police records in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., reports The New York Times.

What do these numbers mean, especially when it comes to the enforcement of drug laws?

In Stiletto Killing, Woman Claims Self-Defense

A stiletto killing in self-defense -- where to begin with this grisly fashion faux pas? A research professor of women's health issues at the University of Houston was found dead early Sunday, after he was stabbed with a stiletto heel.

Alf Stefan Andersson, 59, and his girlfriend, Ana Lilia Trujillo, 44, were apparently fighting that morning. When officers arrived at Andersson's condo, Andersson was already dead with about 10 puncture wounds to his head -- some as deep as an inch and a half. There were more on his face, arms, and neck.

Trujillo claims that her stiletto stabbing was not an intentional killing, but rather was an act of self-defense, Houston's KHOU-TV reports.

5 Countries With No U.S. Extradition Treaty

Fleeing to a country with no extradition treaty may safeguard you, at least for a bit, from the nastiness of being dragged into criminal court in the United States.

For those on the run like alleged NSA leaker Edward Snowden, most countries do have an extradition treaty. Once that foreign power gets a hold of you, they will happily ship you back to the United States.

If extradition isn't your bag, you may want to consider one of these five countries without a U.S. extradition treaty:

Road Rage Murder: Cop Held on $1M Bail

Road rage leading to murder? That's what investigators say happened Saturday night, and now an off-duty police officer is facing charges.

The officer, Joseph Walker, 40, is assigned to the Hudson County, New Jersey, prosecutor's office. He allegedly shot and killed another driver, Joseph Harvey, 36, of Maryland, in what police believe was a road rage homicide, Reuters reports.

Walker driving with his wife and three children on Route 3 south of Baltimore, and apparently got into some kind of altercation with Harvey and pulled over. Walker then shot Harvey three times as the man approached his parked car, police assert.

Zimmerman Trial Begins With Jury Selection

George Zimmerman's murder trial began with jury selection on Monday, after yet another denied request from the defense to delay the trial.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys began picking potential jurors to hear the case, in which Zimmerman has been accused of killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, reports USA Today.

As in any murder trial, picking jurors is crucial, and there are several factors that will play into who is on Zimmerman's jury.

NSA, FBI Surveillance: Legally Justified?

Much to the chagrin of privacy advocates, the NSA and FBI have been secretly surveilling U.S. Internet services and mining personal user data. Separately, the NSA has also been collecting phone records for an undisclosed period of time.

Using highly sophisticated software code-named PRISM, these government agencies have tapped directly into the servers of companies like Yahoo, Google, and Facebook to collect data domestically without a warrant, reports The Washington Post.

Collecting information from U.S. citizens without a warrant is generally illegal. But the USA PATRIOT Act and other laws passed by Congress are still alive and well in allowing surveillance under certain circumstances.

Can Sneaking Into Movies Get You Arrested?

With summer vacation starting, many kids (and some frugal adults) will inevitably try their luck at sneaking into this summer's blockbuster movies.

But amid all the stealthy backdoor maneuvers and fake-butter-flavored fibs lies the real question of whether you can be charged with a crime for theater-hopping.

Here are three common ways moviegoers sneak into their ill-gotten summer flicks, and the potential criminal ramifications:

Victim of Crime Abroad? Here's What to Do

From mistaken drug possession to sexual assaults, Americans who become victims of crime while abroad are often unaware of what their options are after enduring a harrowing experience while out of the country.

Apart from turbulence and jet-lag, usually international travel goes smoothly. But if you become the unfortunate victim of a crime, would you know what to do?

'Evil Elmo' Arrested for Girl Scout Extortion

A man who dressed up as as "Evil Elmo" was charged with attempting to extort the Girl Scouts on Wednesday after an arrest in May landed this infamous impersonator in jail.

The man behind the "evil" Sesame Street costume, Dan Sandler, pleaded not guilty to extortion and other charges based on allegations that he'd attempted to harass and blackmail the Girl Scouts by email and voicemail to the tune of $2 million, reports the Associated Press.

While some may question the mental state of a man who dresses up as "Evil Elmo," what is his potential liability if he's convicted of sending eccentric emails?

Suburban Mom Busted Over $3M Pot-Growing Plot

A suburban New York mom has been arrested for growing pot -- a lot of pot.

The mother of two was both head of her household and head of a multimillion-dollar marijuana growing operation, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Just like Nancy Botwin on "Weeds," the mother is accused of leading a double life.

Cord Blood Law Seeks to ID Statutory Rapists

Cord blood DNA testing will soon be required by law in some cases in Mississippi. Beginning July 1, doctors and midwives in the state will need to collect umbilical cord blood samples from the babies born to some girls who are under 16.

This controversial campaign, the first of its kind, is aimed at discouraging older men from engaging in sex with young girls. It seeks to identify suspected statutory rapists through the use of a DNA database.

Holmes' Insanity Plea Accepted by Court

The court accepted James Holmes' plea of not guilty by reason of insanity on Tuesday, which will initiate the mental evaluation process and may rule out the death penalty for Holmes.

Holmes is charged with the murder of 12 theater patrons when he allegedly stormed into an Aurora, Colorado theater in July, 2012 and proceeded to slay the moviegoers with assault weapons, USA Today reports.

What does pleading insanity mean for Holmes' case?

Does Crime Heat Up Over the Summer?

Ice cream, swimming pools, and crime -- ah, summer.

Over the weekend, New York City saw its warmest weather so far this year, and as it turns out, the weekend was also marked by violence. The sweltering Big Apple had 25 shootings in a span of 48 hours, leading many to believe there's a correlation between heat and violence, reports Gothamist.

But does heat really inspire crime?

Dad Who Put Baby in Freezer Held on $1M Bail

A young dad accused of putting his crying baby in a freezer and then falling asleep is being held on $1 million bail.

Tyler Deutsch, 25, of Roy, Washington, was apparently tired of hearing his 6-week-old daughter cry. So he put her in the freezer, and then took a nap. When the baby's 22-year-old mother returned and found her daughter in the freezer, it was an hour later. The infant's body temperature had dropped to 84 degrees, Seattle's KOMO-TV reports.

Deutsch then allegedly tried to stop the mother from calling 911, for fear of getting into trouble.

Police DNA Swabs OK Upon Arrest: Supreme Court

Police and law-enforcement officers can collect DNA samples from arrestees facing a "serious offense" without violating their Fourth Amendment rights, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The 5-4 decision in Maryland v. King overturned a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling which threw out a rape conviction and life sentence for Alonzo Jay King based on evidence collected from a post-arrest DNA swab, reports Reuters.

Is this case another erosion of arrestees' Fourth Amendment rights?