FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

January 2014 Archives

Obama Admin.'s Drug Clemency Drive: Who's Eligible?

The Obama administration is looking for drug clemency candidates -- meaning some lucky prison inmates may be getting out early.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole announced at a New York State Bar Association event Thursday that the Justice Department wanted to send more names to the White House for clemency consideration, The New York Times reports. Cole even took the unusual step of asking criminal defense attorneys to help identify good candidates for clemency.

What is drug clemency? And who may be eligible?

Staged Car-Crash Scam Targeted Elderly: LAPD

A Los Angeles man is accused of staging phony car accidents in order to dupe at least 10 elderly drivers into paying him. Investigators believe there may be more victims.

David Stevens, 42, allegedly waved down senior drivers, accused them of hitting his car, and threatened to report them to the DMV if they didn't pay for his phony repairs, Los Angeles' KABC-TV reports. He was arrested on suspicion of grand theft, felony stalking, and burglary.

And because his alleged victims were all between 70 and 90 years old, Stevens faces an additional charge that he wouldn't have faced had he targeted younger drivers.

How Do Inmates Buy Things in Jail, Prison?

How do inmates buy things in jail or prison? Being incarcerated doesn't mean that you stop being a consumer, and almost every penal institution has a commissary system to allow inmates to buy goods.

Whether you're in jail or prison -- and yes there is a difference -- an inmate with some outside funding can purchase food, clothing, and even hobby supplies.

But getting credit to buy things isn't always so easy.

N.D. Farmer Convicted in 1st Domestic Drone Case

A North Dakota farmer will be spending six months in jail thanks to surveillance by a domestic Predator drone.

Rodney Brossart was arrested in 2011 for refusing to return cows to his neighbor's property and for allegedly "terrorizing" police officers who tried to arrest him, according to U.S. News and World Report. During the standoff, the local SWAT team borrowed a Predator drone from the Department of Homeland Security to locate Brossart and his three armed sons. It was the first time a drone was used to help make an arrest on U.S. soil.

Does Brossart's conviction set a new precedent for "trial by drone"?

Is It Legal to Videotape, Record Police?

While state laws don't explicitly say whether it's legal to videotape police, courts around the country have agreed that it's legal under the First Amendment -- even during protests or during traffic stops.

But like most legal rules of thumb, there are some limits to when you may videotape police.

Here are two questions you may want to ask yourself before you hit the record button:

Can a DUI Result in Deportation?

After pop star Justin Bieber’s DUI arrest and the trending #DeportBieber hashtags on Twitter, many are wondering if a DUI can get a foreigner deported.

The Canadian-born singer’s arrest brings to the forefront the immigration issues surrounding what happens to non-U.S. citizens who commit crimes while in the states. It’s believed Bieber has an O-1 performer’s visa, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Since DUIs are serious and dangerous offenses, can a DUI get a non-citizen deported?

Justin Bieber's DUI Arrest: 5 Legal Lessons

Justin Bieber couldn't keep himself out of trouble for long this year, as he was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of a DUI in Miami Beach.

Police Detective Vivian Hernandez told the New York Daily News that the DUI charge was for "a combination of alcohol and narcotics."

Although it seems the "Boyfriend" singer isn't giving Beliebers much to "belieb" in anymore, these five legal lessons from Bieber's DUI arrest might help:

Teacher Quits After YouTube Sex-Abuse Accusation

Days after a California woman's YouTube video alleging childhood sexual abuse by a teacher went viral, the former teacher, who was working as a high school vice principal, has resigned.

Jamie Carrillo, now 28 years old, claims she made the video to get closure, because the statute of limitations for the alleged crime -- which happened when she was 12 -- had already passed, reports Reuters.

But is it really too late for legal action to commence?

Jonathan Ferrell Killing: Cop May Still Be Charged

A North Carolina grand jury has declined to indict Jonathan Ferrell's killer, a police officer, on voluntary manslaughter charges. But prosecutors aren't giving up just yet.

Because not all members of the grand jury were present, the state Attorney General's office says it will ask a full panel of grand jurors to reconsider charges against Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Randall Kerrick, The Associated Press reports. Kerrick, 27, shot and killed Ferrell, a 24-year-old ex-football player for Florida A&M, as Ferrell was seeking help after a car crash in September.

Can Ferrell's family expect any justice in the wake of his killing?

5 Things You Shouldn't Say to a Criminal Judge

A judge can make or break your criminal case, so you should really watch what you say in his or her presence.

While you probably know well enough that you don't have to answer police questions, you will have to answer to a judge.

Here are five things all defendants will want to avoid saying to a criminal judge:

Teen Driver Guilty in Fatal Leaf-Pile Hit-and-Run

An Oregon teen has been found guilty in a hit-and-run that killed two young girls who were playing in a pile of leaves.

Cinthya Garcia-Cisneros, 19, unknowingly ran over and killed two girls, ages 6 and 11, who were hidden beneath a leaf pile near the curb outside their home, reports The Associated Press.

Garcia now faces immigration problems following her conviction.

5 Potential Ways to Challenge a Breathalyzer

Breathalyzer readings are key in many drunken driving cases, but this type of evidence can also potentially be challenged.

Whether that challenge will be successful depends on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. But in general, here are five possible ways to "beat" Breathalyzer evidence in court:

Walmart Attacker's 'Granny Law' Sentence Reduced

A woman convicted of punching an elderly Walmart greeter had her sentence reduced on Monday, after a court rejected a longer sentence imposed under New York's "Granny Law."

Jacquetta Simmons, who was 27 at the time of the attack in 2011, was convicted of punching a 70-year-old Walmart greeter in the face, for which she was originally sentenced to five years in prison, reports Buffalo's WIVB-TV. A judge imposed a new sentence for Simmons to spend one year in jail.

Did the "Granny Law" fail in Simmons' case?

Kelly Thomas Beating Death: 2 Ex-Cops Acquitted

Two former police officers have been acquitted of all charges in the 2011 beating and stun-gun death of Kelly Thomas, a 37-year-old mentally-ill homeless man.

The gruesome surveillance footage of the beating stirred public outrage and highlighted the public's growing concern over police brutality, particularly toward the mentally ill and homeless population.

But why were ex-Fullerton police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli found not guilty of all charges?

Man Shot, Killed for Texting During Movie Previews

An argument about texting during movie previews at a Florida theater led to a double shooting Monday afternoon, police say. One of the victims was killed.

Two moviegoers, a man and a woman, were shot by another man seated behind them during a screening of "Lone Survivor" at a theater in Wesley Chapel, near Tampa.

Before the movie even began, the gunman quarreled with the two about texting and talking during the previews. He then allegedly unloaded his .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Human Trafficking Awareness Day: 5 Recent Cases

Human trafficking is a worldwide problem, but many Americans may not be aware of the kind of human trafficking that occurs within our own borders.

One of the latest headline-grabbing cases involved a former Indian diplomat accused of confiscating her maid's passport and forcing her to work 100-hour, seven-day weeks at the diplomat's home in New York, according to a federal grand jury indictment. On Thursday, the ex-diplomat was "effectively expelled from the United States ... as part of a deal in which she was granted diplomatic immunity from the charges," Reuters reports.

As Human Trafficking Awareness Day falls on January 11, here are five revealing examples of human trafficking on American soil:

DWI Suspect's BAC Too High for Breathalyzer: Cops

An Iowa man was arrested on suspicion of a DWI, but his actual BAC was apparently too high for the Breathalyzer.

Levi Carter, 28, of Iowa City, allegedly registered a 0.467 percent blood-alcohol concentration, more than five times the legal limit in Iowa; in fact, a BAC of over 0.4 percent can be lethal in some cases. When Carter tried again, the Breathalyzer's display simply said "HI," according to The Huffington Post.

So how did Carter get arrested if police don't know his exact BAC?

Fla. Bill Would Decriminalize Warning Shots

A Florida bill designed to protect those who fire warning shots is making the rounds in the state legislature.

A similar bill failed to survive last year, but recent events -- particularly the case of Marissa Alexander, who fired a warning shot during a dispute with her estranged husband -- spurred the measure to move ahead this time around.

The proposed legislation would expand gun rights and seeks to broaden the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.

Mary Kay Letourneau Arrested in License Case

Infamous ex-teacher Mary Kay Letourneau was arrested Monday for failing to appear in court on charges of driving with a suspended license.

Letourneau was arrested in Seattle late Sunday and was booked in King County Jail on a low-level bench warrant, reports Seattle's KIRO-TV. The focus of a student-teacher sex scandal in the 1990s, Letourneau served more than seven years in prison before being released in 2004.

What does Letourneau have to do to keep herself out of jail?

1 in 2 Black Men, 4 in 10 White Men Arrested by Age 23: Study

A new study compares the arrest rates of Americans between 18 and 23 years of age, and finds significant differences when it comes to gender and race.

In a study published in the journal Crime & Delinquency, researchers from the University of South Carolina used data from the U.S. Department of Labor to evaluate the arrest rates of young adults. Their research suggests that young males are at least twice as likely as their female counterparts to be arrested between the ages of 18 and 23.

What else does this new study reveal?

How Many Middle Schoolers Are 'Sexting'?

The number of middle-school students who engage in "sexting" may be higher than you think. What's more, those suggestive text messages and photos could potentially lead to criminal consequences.

A study conducted by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that more than 1 in 5 middle schoolers reported sending sexually explicit text messages, with some of them having also sent nude or seminude photos, reports Reuters.

The study found that children with emotional and behavioral problems are more at-risk for sexting, and that sexting also correlates with sexual activity.

Is It Illegal to Open Someone Else's Mail?

Is it illegal to open another person's mail, even if it's mistakenly delivered to your address or mailbox?

The answer is generally yes, if you recognize that the letter is not intended for you. If you're caught opening someone else's mail, the federal criminal consequences could be dire.

Here are a few common scenarios when you receive someone else's mail:

Banker Who Faked Own Death Busted by Window Tint

A Georgia banker who allegedly faked his own death in 2012 to escape massive wire and security fraud charges was caught and arrested on New Year's Eve.

To clarify, 47-year-old Aubrey Lee Price was apprehended during a routine traffic stop, not an existential one.

Will Price face criminal repercussions (on Earth) for faking his death?