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August 2013 Archives

WA, CO Marijuana Laws: Will DOJ Really Back Off?

Washington and Colorado marijuana retailers and growers are getting some legal breathing room, as the Justice Department announced Thursday that it will refocus on more serious drug offenses. But will the DEA and fedreal prosecutors really back off?

Many cannabis advocates see the DOJ's announcement as a welcome change from the raids and seizures of a "marijuana prohibition" era -- a time which may be coming to an end as more states experiment with new pot laws, reports Reuters.

But does this really give the green light to Washington and Colorado pot distributors?

Mont. Judge Apologizes for Teen Rape Remarks

A Montana judge has apologized for remarks he made about a 14-year-old rape victim who committed suicide. But he's not sorry about the 30-day jail sentence he handed down to the convicted rapist, an ex-high school teacher.

Yellowstone County Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold, 54, to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended. He also gave Rambold credit for one day served, so his jail time is down to 30 days.

That's right, Baugh is sending someone who allegedly drove a young victim to suicide to jail for one month. Not surprisingly, the sentence has sparked outrage -- and comments the judge made about the victim only made matters worse.

9 No-Nos at DUI Checkpoints

At DUI checkpoints from coast to coast, law enforcement agencies are cracking down on drunken driving. You don't want to end your Labor Day weekend with a DUI arrest.

To help you avoid the unpleasantness that follows a drunken driving conviction, here are nine "no-nos" to avoid when you encounter a DUI checkpoint:

Guns Fired at Campsite; 2 L.A. Deputies Arrested

A campground dispute led to gunfire and the arrest of two angry campers last weekend. Not surprisingly, the incident involved booze; surprisingly, both men turned out to be off-duty Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies.

During a drunken argument about loud music at a campground in Chino, east of Los Angeles, two men drew guns and fired into the air. Shockingly, no tumbleweeds rolled by.

Soon after, deputies Dejay Barber, 44, and Matthew Rincon, 24, were each arrested on suspicion of negligent discharge of a firearm. Neither one of them knew that they worked for the same law-enforcement agency.

Ah, The Law in the Wild, Wild West.

5 Ways Hazing Can Get You Arrested

Every year when the school year begins, a new class of freshmen becomes acquainted with the strange and time-honored traditions of hazing that exist on high school and college campuses.

Like veterans and childhood abuse survivors, some hazing alums believe that these barbaric practices serve to draw new students closer to a tight-knit community. But this reasoning is often a thin veneer for what's essentially criminal activity.

Not convinced? Check out these five ways in which hazing can potentially get you arrested.

Zimmerman's Lawyers Want State to Pay Expenses

The lawyers who helped acquit Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, are now petitioning the state of Florida to pay for their legal expenses, claiming they are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars under state law.

Lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara explained Monday that he was preparing to file a motion with the district court requesting compensation for $200,000 to $300,000 for Zimmerman's defense, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Why should the state have to pay for Zimmerman's legal expenses?

Top 10 Tips to Avoid College Crime

With students heading off to college, taking safety precautions is essential.

From Yale to Duke, quite a few colleges across the country are coming to grips with soaring crime rates, as The Daily Beast has reported. Vigilance is the key to safety.

Here are 10 tips to stay vigilant and steer clear of college crime:

NYC Officer Shoots Shoplifter Son in Stomach

A more-than-tough-love father is alleged to have shot his son during an argument about the boy's Saturday arrest for shoplifting, leaving the NYC correction officer facing charges for assault and weapons possession.

Robert Smalls, 39, is accused of blasting his son in the stomach after his son Quasaun, 17, returned home after his shoplifting arrest and got into a physical confrontation with his dad, reports the New York Post.

Quasaun was rushed to the hospital for his injuries and told the Post he's doing "all right." But how will his father fare in the coming weeks?

3 Ways Texting and Driving Can Land You in Jail

Texting and driving doesn't just lead to possible accidents, but it could also land you in jail.

The dangers of texting and driving may not be obvious to many. Some do it at a red light, or at a stop sign, thinking it's safe. But it's not safe, and should never be done while one is operating a moving vehicle.

Not only is texting and driving incredibly dangerous, but those few seconds in which you take your eyes are off the road can also land you in jail. Here are three ways this can potentially happen:

10 Terrible Teachers: Lessons in What Not to Do

As the school year begins anew, parents may recall some of the more nefarious teachers they had to deal with in grades K-12. But probably few, if any, were bad enough to be criminal.

Not so with these egregious educators, who may exemplify the Pink Floyd cry of "Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!"

Here are 10 terrible teachers we've covered in recent years:

Ex-Teacher Jailed Over 6-Year-Old Boy's Beating

An ex-kindergarten teacher in Texas was sentenced to jail on Tuesday for telling her students to line up and hit a student to teach him a lesson about bullying.

The former teacher, Cynthia Ambrose, 44, will have to serve 30 days in jail in addition to two years of probation for her "eye for an eye" lesson to her kindergarten class in 2012, reports CBS.

It isn't illegal for teachers to control bullying, but creative punishments may start to look a lot like child abuse.

BAC Below 0.08%? It Can Still Be a DUI

Even if you have a blood alcohol concentration of less than 0.08 percent, you can still be charged with a DUI or DWI under certain circumstances.

Generally, anyone with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more is considered “per se intoxicated,” which means there’s no other evidence necessary to prove a driver’s impairment. But just because you’re not at the 0.08 percent threshhold doesn’t make “buzzed” driving OK.

Here are situations that can trigger a DUI or DWI when you have a BAC of less than 0.08 percent:

School Shooting, Lockdown Tips for Parents

Tuesday's elementary school gunman incident near Atlanta reminds us that school shooting threats are all too real nowadays.

Reports of a shooting or a gunman on school grounds may be a parent's worst nightmare, but sufficient preparation can possibly save a child's life -- and give parents some peace of mind.

Here are five school shooting tips for parents to keep in mind:

Okla. Shooting: Teens Killed Jogger 'for Fun'

Three Oklahoma teens are under arrest in connection with the shooting death of an Australian college student. Police say they decided to kill him "for the fun of it."

The victim, 22-year-old Christopher Lane, was jogging in Duncan, Oklahoma, on Friday afternoon when the three boys followed him in a car. Allegedly out of boredom, they decided Lane would be their "target" and fatally shot him in the back, reports Reuters.

Charges were filed against the three suspects on Tuesday, but only two of the teens are charged with murder.

Stiletto Stabbing at Baby Shower Ends in Arrest

A baby shower in Nebraska took a violent turn with a stiletto stabbing -- as in, one woman stabbing another guest with her six-inch stiletto high heel. The victim was struck so hard that the heel allegedly had to be pulled out of her face.

The stiletto stabber was arrested on suspicion of strangulation and assault.

How to Make a Citizen's Arrest

Have you ever wondered how to make a citizen's arrest? In certain situations, ordinary folks are allowed to legally detain criminals until sworn law-enforcement agents arrive. Think of it as a "do-it-yourself" arrest.

But before you go all vigilante on your sketchy neighbors, remember that there are certain legal hoops you must jump through before you can make a citizen's arrest.

Here's what you have to do to make a lawful citizen's arrest:

NSA Audit Shows Surveillance Rules Often Broken

An NSA audit released last week reveals the agency has violated privacy rules protecting Americans' communications thousands of times over the course of just one year.

An internal audit leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden to The Washington Post contained an analysis of the National Security Agency's practices between 2011 and 2012.

Those NSA practices included the erroneous targeting of innocent Americans in wiretaps at home and abroad, reports The New York Times.

When Does Borrowing Become Stealing?

Anyone can make the honest mistake of forgetting to return a borrowed item. Time passes, memory slips and before you know it, the person from whom you borrowed the item will wonder whether he or she will ever get their goods back.

Even if the owner is miffed about you keeping something for too long, your actions do not amount to theft if you simply, honestly forgot to return the item.

But when does borrowing become stealing?

Teen Driver's Tweets Cited in Murder Charge

A California teen will now be charged with murder for the death of a bicyclist, partly because he allegedly boasted about speeding on Twitter.

Cody Hall, 18, of Pleasanton, was initially charged with vehicular manslaughter when he struck and killed a bicyclist. But because of his troubling tweets and his driving record, prosecutors decided to up the ante and upgrade his charge to second-degree murder.

But what exactly warrants second-degree murder?

Day Care Owner Busted; Toddler Sickened by Pot

A home day care owner in California is under arrest after a toddler in her care was hospitalized for allegedly ingesting pot.

Bina's Family Child Care in Glendale was shut down and tagged as uninhabitable after code enforcement officials found marijuana pipes, mouse droppings and a host of other unsafe conditions.

The day care owner, Roubena Hartounian, is now facing charges of child neglect and endangerment, reports Los Angeles' KNBC-TV.

Nationwide DUI Crackdown: 5 Sobering Facts

There's a national DUI crackdown looming in the very short distance, beginning Friday (August 16) and running through Labor Day (September 2). So before you decide to celebrate the unofficial end of summer by tossing back a cold one, be smart.

Remember that if you plan to drive at all after drinking, you risk losing a lot. From a DUI arrest to fines, jail time, and a tarnished rap sheet, the bottom line is that it's just not worth it.

As a refresher, here are five sobering DUI facts that you may want to keep in mind as the nationwide DUI crackdown gets underway:

2 Teens Killed in Sex Video Extortion Plot: Cops

An alleged sex video extortion plot gone tragically wrong led to two teens being killed and a man being charged with murder, investigators say.

The man, 43-year-old William Otto of Adams County, Colorado, confessed to shooting and killing the two teenage boys when they allegedly hatched a plot to blackmail him for $20,000 with a video of him asking one of the boys for sex.

Otto has been charged with first-degree murder. What defenses could he potentially try to claim?

Top 10 Tips to Get Your Stolen Bike Back

If your bike gets stolen, how can you get your stolen bike back?

Unfortunately, sometimes this doesn't ever happen. However, these days, you may be surprised by how easily you can recover your stolen bicycle if your thief isn't exactly a criminal mastermind -- and if you get yourself into gear and take some action.

Here are 10 tips that can potenailly help you get your stolen bike back:

What Is Stop-and-Frisk? Is It Ever Legal?

The stop-and-frisk tactics of the NYPD were halted Monday by a federal judge's ruling that the practice violated the constitutional rights of those who were targeted, mainly minorities.

Calling the New York Police Department's practice a "policy of indirect racial profiling," Judge Shira A. Scheindlin called for broad reforms to end the abuse, including the use of "body-worn cameras" for specific officers, reports The New York Times.

But this isn't the end of stop-and-frisk in New York City, and the general practice may still be legal elsewhere in the nation.

'Whitey' Bulger Guilty of Murder, Racketeering

Notorious gangster "Whitey" Bulger was found guilty on almost all counts by a federal jury Monday, after five days of deliberation in a case that spanned more than 40 years.

Jurors found the former leader of Boston's "Winter Hill" crime gang was responsible for 11 of the 19 murders he'd been charged with. Although Bulger does not face the death penalty, he is almost certain to "go to jail for the rest of his life," reports Reuters.

What exactly was the jury's verdict?

Holder's Plan for Drug Offenders: 5 Things to Know

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is set to announce a new plan for drug offenders, ordering prosecutors to ease up on low-level drug cases to avoid overcrowding in federal prisons. (Head to FindLaw's Strategist blog for live updates from the speech as it happens.)

Attempting to correct "unfairness in the justice system," Holder's plan for the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeks to avoid the harsh imposition of strict mandatory minimum sentences for minor drug offenders by encouraging alternatives to incarceration and "compassionate release" for non-violent, elderly offenders, reports The New York Times.

Here are five things to take away from Holder's new plan:

Man Allegedly Kills Wife, Posts Photos on Facebook

After a Florida man allegedly killed his wife, he reportedly posted photos of her body on Facebook.

Derek Medina, 31, turned himself in to authorities and confessed to fatally shooting his wife, Jennifer Alonso. A Facebook page with the name Derek Medina showed a grisly photo of a woman lying on the floor with her arm and face drenched in blood, Reuters reports.

The Facebook post could be a smoking gun for proescutors, but is it admissible?

How to Deal With Violent Threats in MMORPGs

Anyone who has played a game online in the last decade will attest that there are plenty of moments in which normal trash talk turns to racial slurs and threats of violence.

One MMORPG player was consistently affronted by threats of rape and murder, and even when she brought the problem to the game's CEO, he banned her saying he was "tired of hearing about this problem," reports The Guardian. (MMORPG stands for "massively multiplayer online role-playing game.")

When reporting the issue to game administrators yields nothing but frustration, here are three steps MMORPG players can potentially take when confronted with violent threats:

Trooper Probed Women's Privates for Pot: Lawsuit

A video that's gone viral shows the reactions of two women being probed in their vaginas and rectums based on an officer's suspicion that they were smuggling marijuana.

The women were pulled over on Texas Highway 288 in 2012. After allowing a state trooper to search their vehicle for narcotics, which allegedly revealed a small amount of marijuana, a female officer proceeded to slap on gloves and perform a cavity search on both women, reports Houston's KHOU-TV.

Is this kind of invasive and warrantless probing legal?

What Does 'Wet Reckless' Mean in a DUI Case?

The world of DUI arrests is populated by somewhat opaque terms like "horizontal nystagmus" as well as euphemistic ones like "wet reckless."

Sometimes referred to as "wet and reckless" or "baby DUI," a wet reckless charge covers situations in which a driver may have been near the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08 percent, but the driver was still found to be intoxicated or driving recklessly.

Such a defendant can often avoid a DUI charge by pleading guilty to a "wet reckless," accepting a lesser charge and probation by agreeing to a plea bargain.

DEA Directed Secret Cover-Up in Drug Cases: Report

The DEA has been secretly using information from informants, telephone records, and intelligence intercepts to aid criminal arrests by local law enforcement agents -- who then cover up the investigation's tracks, according to a recent report.

Undated documents obtained by Reuters refer to a Drug Enforcement Administration program of allegedly "recreating" an investigative trail post-arrest in order to "cover up where the information originated," especially when that information came from a classified source.

Based on Reuters' report, the alleged DEA cover-up program raises a few legal concerns.

Officer Arrests Woman Who Lied to Avoid Ticket

Lying to get out of a speeding ticket may not be the best move, as a New Hampshire woman has learned. A state trooper tracked her down and arrested her at her home, after she allegedly told the officer a lie about her dying father.

Carley Williams, 28, of Nashua, was pulled over Friday night for speeding. She allegedly told Trooper Christopher J. Cummings that she was on the way to the hospital to see her father who she claimed had "stage 4 cancer," reports ABC News.

How did an alleged traffic ticket lie end with Williams' arrest?

Who Gets Protective Custody in Jail or Prison?

Some convicts and people who get arrested (especially celebrities) are placed in a sort of "protective custody" in jail or prison, segregated from the general population. But it's not just TV and movie stars who get this kind of treatment.

Often a person is placed in protective custody because of an increased risk of harm or death from other inmates. In some cases, it is a measure to prevent potential self-harm or suicide.

What exactly is protective custody behind bars, and who gets it?

In School Bus Fight, Driver Won't Be Charged

A Florida bus driver will not face criminal charges for a brutal school bus fight, caught on cell phone video, that left a bullied boy with a broken arm.

John Moody, 64, was driving students home from summer school July 9 when three 15-year-old boys on his bus attacked a 13-year-old boy, stomping on him 23 times and breaking his arm. One of the attackers also stole the boy's money, reports The Associated Press.

Moody never intervened in the fight. So why didn't he face a child neglect charge, which authorities initially said they would pursue?

Wife Crashes SUV, Kills Husband Clinging to Hood

A New York wife accused of killing her husband with her SUV is now in custody on murder charges.

The Queens woman allegedly sped around two boroughs of New York City with her husband clinging to the hood of the SUV before she crashed into another SUV and killed the man Sunday morning.

Police sources told the New York Post that the husband, 34-year-old Soria Espinosa, was screaming, "Stop the car!" -- but that only made suspect Maria Espinosa, 51, allegedly floor it, hitting speeds up to 80 mph.

Venice Beach Hit-and-Run Leads to Murder Charge

After a scary incident at the Venice Beach boardwalk involving a hit-and-run, the driver has now been charged with murder. Nathan Louis Campbell, 38, turned himself in to the Los Angeles Police Department hours after the incident.

Campbell allegedly sped onto the pedestrian boardwalk Saturday night, killing one woman and injuring nearly a dozen other people. Alice Gruppioni of Italy, who was killed, was 32 and on her honeymoon, CNN reports.

According to a witness, it looked as if Campbell's only goal was to create chaos and to massacre boardwalk patrons.

Is 'Fake Pot' (aka K2 or Spice) Illegal?

K2 or Spice -- commonly known as "fake pot" -- is made up of plant materials that are laced with synthetic marijuana compounds. They have become increasingly popular among teens and young adults, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

But is "fake pot" illegal?

In many of its compositions, the answer is yes.

Will Racial Profiling Mediation Work for LAPD?

The LAPD has gotten the green light to launch an experimental mediation program that would bring officers face-to-face with people who have accused them of racial profiling.

Signaling a desire (and pressure) for change, LA's Police Commission unanimously approved the Los Angeles Police Department's three-year pilot program.

The goal, according to the LAPD, is to have officers and their accusers "stand in each other's shoes" -- but will it work?

At Ariel Castro's Sentencing, Victims Speak Out

Ariel Castro has been sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for the kidnapping, torture, and rape of three women whom he imprisoned in his Cleveland home for as long as 11 years.

At Castro's sentencing hearing Thursday, one of his victims, Michelle Knight, spoke publicly about her ordeal. Relatives of the two other victims, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, also had choice words for the convicted kidnapper.

"You took 11 years of my life away. I spent 11 years in hell, now your hell is just beginning," Knight said, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

How Does the Driver License Compact Affect DUIs?

The Driver License Compact is an interstate agreement between 45 states to exchange information about license suspensions and traffic violations of non-residents, including DUI offenses. Its theme is “One Driver, One License, One Record.”

The five non-member states are Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Tennessee. All other states, and the District of Columbia, are members.

So what does it mean if your state has (or has not) signed on to the Driver License Compact? Here are a few DLC provisions and how they can affect DUI convictions: