FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

December 2013 Archives

At DUI Checkpoints, Are Drug Swabs Legal?

To curb a rising tide of drugged driving, law enforcement officers are beginning to use drug swabs at DUI checkpoints to test for marijuana, cocaine, and other illicit substances.

In Los Angeles, City Attorney Mike Feuer is pushing this new drug detection technique as a way of "enforcing all impaired driving laws," reports the Los Angeles Times. LAPD officers will be using drug swabs at DUI checkpoints on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

But is it legal for officers to use these drug swabs at DUI checkpoints?

Military Sexual Assaults Up 50% in 2012-13

It seems military sexual assaults are greatly increasing throughout our nation's armed forces, according to unsettling new reports from Washington.

Defense officials intimate that the 50 percent increase in sexual assault reports between 2011-12 and 2012-13 is a reflection of victims' increasing willingness to come forward in the past year, reports The Associated Press.

What does this mean for safety and privacy in our military?

Msgr. William Lynn's Conviction Reversed, but Why?

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has reversed Monsignor William Lynn's conviction. Lynn was the first Catholic priest in the United States to be sent to prison for covering up sex abuse claims.

But on Thursday, an appeals court reversed the conviction, finding that the state's child endangerment statute did not apply to him.

10 States With the Highest Rates of Property Crime

We previously discussed the FBI's crime report on the states with the highest rates of violent crime. But what about property crime?

According to the FBI's annual Crime in the United States report -- which compiles criminal data under the Uniform Crime Reporting program from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico -- the nation experienced a decrease in property crimes in 2012.

Here are the 10 states with the highest -- and lowest -- rates of property crime, according to the FBI's data:

5 Dumb Ways to Get Arrested Over Christmas

It would be ho-ho-horrible to spend Christmas behind bars, yet people still manage to get arrested over this joyous time of year.

So don't be a merry moron, avoid these five dumb ways to get arrested over Christmas:

5 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Prison

With Christmas and New Year's fast approaching, the millions of Americans currently incarcerated in state or federal prisons will likely be finding ways to celebrate the holidays behind bars.

As an early Christmas present, here are five legal ways to celebrate the holidays in prison:

Obama Commutes Sentences in 8 Crack Cocaine Cases

President Barack Obama has commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine crimes.

The president commuted the prisoners' sentences after deciding that their crack cocaine offenses didn't warrant such lengthy prison sentences, The New York Times reports.

It should be noted, however, that commuting a sentence is not exactly the same as receiving a presidential pardon.

'Affluenza' DWI Case: DA Still Wants Jail Time

The DWI convicted teen with "affluenza" may still be facing incarceration if one Texas DA gets his way.

Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon confirmed Wednesday that his office will attempt to get the "too rich for jail" teen locked in juvenile detention for "two lesser counts of intoxication assault." According to Reuters, these charges were not included in the affluent 16-year-old's trial verdict.

Will this new legal gambit end with the rich Texas teen behind bars?

Target: 40M Customers' Account Data Stolen

Target says that about 40 million credit and debit card accounts may have been affected by a data breach that occurred in the heart of the holiday shopping season. It is the second largest data breach in U.S. retail history.

If you shopped at Target during the period of Thanksgiving to this week, and you used a credit or debit card to make your purchases, your account may be affected.

What Happens If You Make a School Bomb Threat?

School bomb threats can cause real panic even if the threat is a hoax, and the perpetrators can face real legal consequences.

A bomb scare suspect at Harvard University, 20-year-old student Eldo Kim, found that out the hard way when the FBI arrested him Monday after setting the entire college campus on alert, reports Boston Magazine.

Like many others who have made school bomb threats, Kim could face serious punishment if convicted.

7 Carjacking Tips Every Driver Should Know

In the wake of the tragic Short Hills mall shooting that left a 30-year-old man dead in New Jersey, we are reminded that no one is immune to the threat of carjackings.

While there is no guaranteed way to avoid being carjacked, you can still take certain precautions to reduce or minimize the potential of the crime happening to you.

Here are seven carjacking tips every driver should keep in mind:

Using a Fake ID? 5 Potential Legal Consequences

Using a fake ID can lead to serious legal consequences. While it may be tempting to use a fake ID for acts that seem “innocent” or “victimless” — such as purchasing alcohol to drink in your own home — think again. Fake ID-related acts are no joke, and you could be in more trouble than you’ve bargained for.

So before you memorize all the fake info on that little card you somehow got your hands on, keep in mind these potential criminal consequences that could land you behind bars:

Is Teen's 'Affluenza' DWI Sentence Too Lenient?

A Texan teen avoided a 20-year prison sentence for killing four people in a drunken driving crash by citing his affliction with "affluenza."

Ethan Couch, 16, received 10 years of probation after psychologist Dr. Dick Miller testified at his trial that Couch suffered from "affluenza," or the crippling condition of being "too rich to care about consequences," reports the New York Daily News.

Was this boy really too rich to go to jail?

Ex-cop Acquitted for Post-Katrina Shooting

The former New Orleans police officer who shot and killed a man in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was acquitted by a jury on Wednesday.

David Warren, 50, was found not guilty for civil rights and firearm charges in the fatal shooting of Henry Glover in September 2005, although this was Warren's second time in trial for Glover's killing, reports NBC News. Warren was convicted of manslaughter in December 2010 and sentenced to 25 years in prison, but that conviction was vacated by a federal appellate court.

Does Warren's acquittal mean his days in court for Glover's shooting are over?

Texas Actress Admits to Mailing Ricin to Obama

A former actress from Texas pleaded guilty to a biological weapons charge for sending letters laced with ricin to President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The thespian's ricin plot entailed revenge against her husband and threats against politicians, but her punishment will be limited significantly due to her guilty plea.

Why Did Campus Cop Shoot, Kill Honors Student?

A Texas college police officer shot and killed an unarmed honors student following a traffic stop early Friday that went terribly awry.

Friends and family claim the student was a sweet and gentle person, but the officer claims that "a struggle ensued."

Did the officer have the right to fatally shoot the student?

18 L.A. Sheriff's Officials Charged in Jail Abuse Case

Nearly twenty former and current LA County Sheriff's Department officials were charged on Monday, in connection with allegations of of abuse and misconduct inside the county's jails.

The eighteen federal indictments were delivered as the result of a year-long FBI investigation into complaints of beatings and unlawful detainment in Los Angeles jails, as well as accusations that the Sheriff's Department conspired to "obstruct a federal investigation into misconduct at the Men's Central Jail," reports the Los Angeles Times.

As the charges have been revealed, what kind of allegations do the sheriff's officials face?

Newlyweds Arrested for Craigslist 'Thrill Kill'

A newlywed couple was arrested for allegedly luring a man for "companionship" on Craigslist before stabbing and strangling him to death.

Miranda Barbour, 18, and her new spouse, Elytte Barbour, 22, are accused of arranging a meeting with their victim online, killing him in their car, dumping his body, and then heading to a strip club, reports CNN.

What is the state doing to prosecute the alleged thrill killers?

Ex-Cop Offers 5 Tips for Avoiding Arrest

No one knows more about arrests than police officers, and one former cop is spilling his secrets for how ordinary civilians can avoid arrest.

According to The Atlantic, former Miami-Dade police officer Dale Carson is now a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville, Florida, and his new book "Arrest-Proof Yourself" gives readers some key tips on how to stay out of police custody.

Here are five standout tips from Carson on avoiding arrest:

Mars Heiress, 74, Fined $2,500 for Fatal Crash

Just like we predicted, Mars heiress Jacqueline Badger Mars, 74, will be facing light penalties for the fatal crash she caused that killed an 86-year-old woman and caused a pregnant passenger's miscarriage.

A Virginia judge ordered Mars, one of the world's richest women, to pay a $2,500 fine and suspended her driver's license for six months.

How did the candy heiress get such a sweet sentence?

Can You Beat a DUI Charge on a Technicality?

DUI charges can be a pain, but there are a lot of legal myths about how to beat them — for example, potentially getting your charges dismissed because of a legal technicality.

What if the officer misspelled your name, or incorrectly jotted down the time of your arrest? Or what if a blood test report is lacking a witness’ signature? These are just a few questions that have been raised in the FindLaw Answers DUI & DWI forum.

For most errors and omissions, you won’t be able to slip the DUI noose, but there may be some drunken driving charges that you can beat on a technicality.

PS4 Shooting Suspect Could Face Murder Charge

A California man believed to have shot and killed another man for his PS4 has been arrested on suspicion of murder and attempted robbery.

The victim, 22-year-old Ikenna Uwakah of Daly City, was allegedly shot Sunday in San Francisco by Ronnie Collins, 21, who had arranged to meet Uwakah to purchase his gaming console, reports SFGate.

This is the second killing in less than a month over the PlayStation4 since the console's U.S. release.

Mont. Appeals Teacher's 30-Day Rape Sentence

Prosecutors are appealing the infamous Montana teacher rape case -- the one in which a teacher received a 30-day sentence for raping a 14-year-old student.

Stacey Dean Rambold, 47, was released in September after his short stint in jail, but his days of freedom may soon be numbered. The Montana Attorney General's Office filed its appeal with the state supreme court.

Black Friday 2013: A Coast-to-Coast Crime Roundup

Black Friday 2013 has come and gone -- but unfortunately, not without some reports of Black Friday (and pre-Black Friday) crime from coast to coast.

For the vast majority of shoppers, Thanksgiving night doorbusters and Black Friday bargains may have been a retail dream come true. Unfortunately for others, it ended up being more of a nightmare.

Here's hoping your holiday shopping experience didn't turn out as harrowing as it did for some of these people. Check out five types of Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day crime that made headlines on two of the busiest shopping days of the year: