FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

February 2014 Archives

Kerry Kennedy Found Not Guilty of Drugged Driving

After a five-day trial, a New York jury found Kerry Kennedy not guilty of drugged driving on Friday.

In 2012, Kennedy -- daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- was arrested and charged with driving while impaired after she crashed into a tractor-trailer while under the influence of a sleeping pill.

Why was she found not guilty?

Police Dashcam Video Can Be Key to Your Case

Police dashcams are tiny eyes on almost all law enforcement encounters, and they may be key to winning your criminal case.

In the past, police misconduct might go unreported because there was no evidence -- like the classic "your taillight is busted" scenario. Now officers who act illegally are being caught by their own dashcams, and defendants are using them to dismiss cases.

How can a dashcam video affect your defense? Here are three ways they can potentially be used in litigation:

Brady Gun Law: What a Background Check Entails

Because of the Brady gun law, which went into effect 20 years ago this week, background checks are typically necessary for a civilian to purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer.

Although some states will have different procedures with regard to gun background checks, the NICS system is the standard in all states and is often administered by the FBI.

What does an NICS background check entail?

Warrantless Home Search OK If 1 Occupant Consents: Sup. Ct.

Police can search a shared home without a warrant as long as an occupant who is present consents to the search, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a 6-3 decision, the High Court affirmed that police don't need the permission of all occupants in a shared residence, as long as officers have the agreement of at least one resident who is physically present, The Associated Press reports.

Does this ruling in Fernandez v. California erode the protection against warrantless searches offered by the Fourth Amendment?

Brady Gun Law Turns 20: A Brief Overview

The Brady Handgun Violence Act -- aka the "Brady Act" or "Brady Law" -- went into effect 20 years ago this week, so it may be time to review the famous gun law.

What triggered the law to begin with, and what are its key provisions?

Here's a general breakdown of the gun law and its impact:

Crimes on Cruise Ships: 3 Things to Know

Cruise ships are often a focal point of criminal activity, with unsuspecting passengers often turning into unwitting victims.

This concept doesn't need to be explained to a 31-year-old Holland America passenger who was allegedly beaten and raped by a cruise ship attendant on Valentine's Day, Reuters reports. Holland America claims this incident is the first in its 140-year history, but is this sort of crime that uncommon on cruise ships?

Here's an overview of what cruise passengers need to know about onboard crimes:

'Dirty DUI' Sentencing: Ex-Cop Gets Prison Time

An ex-cop involved in the infamous "dirty DUI" scandal was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Wednesday, nearly three years after his 2011 arrest.

Stephen Tanabe, 50, spoke contritely before a judge about his part in the scheme, the Contra Costa Times reports. Prosecutors say Tanabe received a Glock handgun in exchange for arresting men who were "baited" into driving drunk. Tanabe, who previously worked as a police officer in suburbs east of San Francisco, resigned from his job as a sheriff's deputy after his arrest.

How did the court arrive at Tanabe's punishment?

Leaving Kids in a Cold Car Can Get You Arrested

A New York father was arrested this week for leaving his children in a cold car -- a legal lesson that other parents won't want to learn the hard way this winter.

It was around 7 degrees below freezing when police found Luis Fajardo's two children parked inside a vehicle outside a shopping center on Long Island. Fajardo, 32, was arrested when he returned to the car.

How is it that parents like Fajardo get arrested for leaving kids in a cold car?

After Michael Dunn Mistrial, State Wants Retrial

In Florida's so-called "loud music murder trial," defendant Michael Dunn was found guilty on four of five counts late Saturday. But jurors failed to reach a verdict on his first-degree murder charge, resulting in a mistrial.

After the verdict, State Attorney Angela Corey vowed to retry Dunn on the first-degree murder charge, defending the state's decision to apply the hefty charge in the first place, Jacksonville's WJXX/WTLV-TV reports.

What will a mistrial on one charge mean for Dunn?

Michael Dunn's Charges: What Jurors Are Debating

The fate of Michael Dunn, the Florida man facing a murder charge for a fatal argument over loud music, hangs in the balance of a jury currently in the throes of deliberations.

What are they debating? A variety of charges. Dunn, 47, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Jordan Davis, an unarmed 17-year-old boy. However, the judge told jurors that they can also consider lesser charges including second degree murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, or excusable homicide, ABC News reports.

Here's a breakdown of the various charges:

FBI: $10K Reward for Lasers Pointed at Planes

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information that sheds light on the identity of pranksters who point lasers at planes.

The new incentive intends to deter people with laser pointers from pointing them at aircraft -- which is a felony -- and encourage informants to come forward. An FBI press release reminds the public that this criminal activity is "dangerous" and has "potentially deadly" repercussions.

So how can tipsters get their rewards for ratting out laser-pointer perpetrators?

3 Ways a Misdemeanor DUI Can Become a Felony

The lowest level of DUI is a misdemeanor, and most first-time DUIs are charged that way. However, there are certain circumstances that can turn a misdemeanor DUI into a felony.

Whether you get charged with a misdemeanor or felony can greatly affect your punishment. Felonies are considered much more serious crimes and can result in more than a year in prison and hefty fines. On the other hand, misdemeanors usually result in less than a year in jail and potentially lesser fines.

Drunken-driving laws vary by state, but in general, here are three ways that a misdemeanor DUI can become a felony:

Fla. Loud Music Murder Case in Jury's Hands

A Florida man facing murder charges for a fatal argument over loud music took the stand earlier this week. Jurors are now deliberating his fate.

Michael Dunn, 47, told jurors about his altercation with a group of young black men over loud music coming from their car at a Jacksonville gas station. Dunn shot and killed one of the car's passengers, 17-year-old Jordan Davis, Reuters reports.

As Davis was unarmed, parallels have been drawn between Dunn's case and George Zimmerman's trial. But will Dunn's jury reach the same verdict?

5 Ways You Can Get Charged With Stalking

Though the exact definition of stalking varies by state, it's generally described as the repeated unwanted pursuit of someone. It typically involves a pattern of conduct in which the offender follows, harasses, or threatens the victim, causing the victim to fear for his or her safety.

But what does that mean in reality, how do you know if you're a stalker?

Specific acts that count as stalking include, but are not limited to, the following five situations:

What Evidence Is Needed for a Search Warrant?

When it comes to obtaining a search warrant, what evidence do law-enforcement agents need?

In general, search warrants are governed by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That means there must be probable cause to issue the warrant, based on an affidavit that describes the persons or things to be searched and seized.

So what is probable cause and what goes in a search warrant affidavit?

Gays Get Spousal, Marital Privileges in Fed. Court: DOJ

Married gay couples can claim spousal and marital privileges in federal court, with the Department of Justice planning to uphold these rights.

In a memo released by the DOJ on Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder espoused the belief that same-sex married couples should be treated the same as their opposite-sex counterparts. And part of that includes being able to claim certain privileges in federal criminal court.

How can the spousal and marital privileges be used by gay spouses?

Is It Legal to Carry a Sword in Public?

Not many Americans walk around carrying swords — at least, not nearly as many who want to carry guns.

But if you are fantasizing about loitering like a modern-day ronin, you’ll want to consider a few legal pointers first.

'Affluenza' DWI Teen Spared Jail Again

The so-called "affluenza" DWI case is back in the news, as the 16-year-old driver who pleaded guilty to causing a fatal crash was spared jail time yet again by a Texas judge.

Ethan Couch was initially sentenced to 10 years of probation for a drunken driving crash that killed four people in 2013; a psychologist testified the privileged teen was "too rich to care about the consequences." However, prosecutors tacked on two charges of intoxication assault and requested jail time, The Dallas Morning News reports.

How did the boy evade jail time once again?

Ex-Teacher Andrea Cardosa Charged in Sex Abuse Case

Prosecutors have filed felony charges against Andrea Cardosa, a former teacher accused of sexually assaulting two students, one of whom made her accusations public in a YouTube video that went viral.

Cardosa recently resigned following the YouTube confrontation with her accuser. But now, Cardosa is facing serious criminal charges.

In addition, two Southern California school districts are also facing civil lawsuits over the alleged abuse, reports Los Angeles' KABC-TV.

7 Key Factors in Setting Bail

Judges typically set bail -- the amount a defendant must pay to be released from custody pending trial -- during the first court appearance following an arrest. So what factors go into setting bail?

A judge typically has a few options in setting bail: He or she can stick to the standard bail amount, raise or lower the standard bail, deny bail altogether, waive bail and grant release on the defendant's "own recognizance," and/or set special conditions for release.

Every case is different, but in general, here are seven factors that a judge will often consider in setting bail:

Will Amanda Knox Be Extradited? Lawyers Disagree

Will Amanda Knox be extradited? Speculation is running rampant, as the 26-year-old Seattle woman has once again been found guilty of murder in Italy for the stabbing death of her former roommate Meredith Kercher in 2007.

Knox's original murder conviction was overturned by an Italian appeals court, but Italy's Supreme Court ordered a retrial, Reuters reports. Knox was sentenced to 28 and a half years in prison in Italy, but she would have to be extradited to serve her time.

Will that actually happen? Even lawyers who focus on international law disagree over the answer to that question. Here are a few factors weighing into the debate: