FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

August 2014 Archives

New App Lets Bay Area Commuters Silently Report Crime

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has released a new mobile app that allows riders to discreetly report criminal activity on the trains.

BART Watch, available on iTunes and Android in English, Spanish, and Chinese, empowers users to snap photos or send quick texts to BART police rather than try to call 911 or run to a train's intercom. BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost told SFGate that it's "sort of like texting police," and you can even do it anonymously.

How does this app square with other tech efforts by law enforcement?

When Can Kids Legally Own, Shoot Guns?

Firearm enthusiasts who may also be parents or grandparents should be aware that the laws regulating the ownership, possession, and use of guns by kids are often different from the laws for adults.

These rules are also facing increased scrutiny following a fatal accident at an Arizona gun range in which a nine-year-old girl shot an instructor in the head when she lost control of a fully automatic Uzi submachine gun, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

What are the rules for when kids can legally own or shoot a gun?

ASU Back-to-School Alcohol Crackdown Nets 392 Arrests

Police in Tempe, Arizona arrested 392 people as part of an alcohol-crime-focused task force last weekend, which not coincidentally kicked off the first weekend of the fall semester for Arizona State University.

The "Safe and Sober" campaign, according to the Tempe Police Department, is a collaborative effort between 18 law-enforcement agencies and is scheduled to last until September 6. The Phoenix New Times reports that of the hundreds arrested, approximately one in three were arrested for DUI.

What can we learn from this ASU alcohol crackdown?

Can You Get Arrested for Buying Stolen Goods?

You may not know it, but the item you just bought via eBay or Craigslist may have been stolen. But don’t worry. While there are laws against receiving stolen goods, they typically state that the purchaser or receiver must know (or should know) that the items are stolen.

So what can happen if you unknowingly buy stolen goods (especially for purchases that, in hindsight, just seemed too good to be true)? Can you get arrested? The answer depends on your specific situation. Here are a few possibilities:

5 Things TV Cops Always Manage to Get Wrong

We all have our favorite TV cop shows, but these fictional men and women in blue always seem to get the law wrong. If the increasing reports of police misconduct and brutality are any indication, maybe art is imitating life.

So for the benefit of real-life cops and real-life TV viewers, we present the five things that TV cops always manage to get wrong:

How to Obtain a Police Report: 3 Scenarios

Police reports contain important legal information for any criminal case, and they can help both victims and defendants find justice.

They go by many names -- such as offense report, incident report, or police report -- but they all serve the same purpose. These reports memorialize an officer's actions in investigating a crime and in making an arrest.

Here are the basics on how to obtain a police report:

Do Convicted Felons Have Voting Rights?

Not being able to vote as a convicted felon may seem harsh, but the practice of disenfranchisement varies widely, depending on where you live.

Each state has the power to regulate the ability of convicted felons to vote, and they don't all agree on whether (or even how long) a felon should lose the right to vote.

So when and where do convicted felons have voting rights?

What Is a DUI 'No Refusal' Weekend?

If you've heard about an upcoming DUI "No Refusal" Weekend but weren't exactly sure what that meant, don't feel too out of the loop. There have been quite a few questions about "No Refusal" Weekends on our FindLaw Answers DUI & DWI Forum.

As the Austin American-Statesman reports, law enforcement agencies in Texas are planning on making the upcoming Labor Day weekend a "No Refusal" Weekend. And with Texas being just one of a number of states making a push for "no refusal" drunken driving stops, it's a good time to learn more about this program, supported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

So what exactly is a DUI "No Refusal" Weekend?

'Affluenza' Teen's Dad Arrested for Impersonating a Cop

The so-called "affluenza" DWI teen's father didn't provide much of a good example this week after he was arrested for allegedly impersonating a cop.

Frederick Anthony Couch, father of Ethan Couch, the boy responsible for killing four people during a drunken driving incident, was arrested Tuesday after being accused of telling real police officers that he was Texas law enforcement, Reuters reports. The elder Couch is out on bail while his son is still on probation for his "affluenza" DWI.

What do these charges mean for the "affluenza" teen's father?

Ferguson Grand Jury: 3 Legal Facts to Keep in Mind

St. Louis County prosecutors will begin presenting evidence to a grand jury this week in connection with the fatal officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The grand jury will be tasked with evaluating testimony and evidence regarding the unarmed 18-year-old's death and will consider criminal charges against those responsible. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, assistant St. Louis County prosecutors Kathi Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley have been selected to present the case to the jurors.

As the grand jury process begins, here are three legal facts to keep in mind:

What Is Jury Nullification?

Jury nullification is a legal phenomenon in which jurors choose to acquit a defendant despite the facts and law presented to them supporting conviction. The practice is often cited as a boon for juries who wish to free sympathetic defendants and block unjust enforcement or unjust laws.

Do juries have the right to nullification, and is there any recourse for refusing to convict a defendant?

Calling 911 for a Mental Health Emergency: 5 Things to Know

Sometimes, the only choice a family member or friend of someone suffering a mental health emergency may have is to call 911. Unfortunately, encounters between police and those suffering from mental illness have resulted in the injury or death of the person suffering the crisis.

In a case from earlier this year, a California woman was shot and killed by police after her family called 911 to report she hadn't taken her medication and was acting out, according to The Daily Journal. The officer was cleared of wrongdoing after an investigation found he was justified in using lethal force.

If you're dealing with a mental health emergency, what should you know about calling 911? Here are five things to keep in mind:

Why Don't Police Shoot to Wound?

Police are often harshly criticized for their lethal use of firearms, giving many reason to wonder: Why don't police shoot to wound?

That was CNN's Wolf Blitzer's question to legal scholar Jeffrey Toobin when discussing the shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri, teenager Michael Brown. "Why can't they shoot a warning shot?... Why can't they shoot to injure?" Blitzer queried.

To answer Blitzer's (and your) questions, here's a general overview of why police don't shoot to wound:

5 Legal Facts About Autopsies That You May Not Know

You probably know that an autopsy is an examination performed on a body after death, usually to determine the cause of death.

But with the autopsy of Ferguson, Missouri, police-shooting victim Michael Brown making news (Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a federal autopsy in addition to the state-performed autopsy and a private autopsy requested by Brown's family, reports Reuters), there are a few aspects of autopsies you may not be familiar with.

Here are five legal facts about autopsies:

How Long Is Too Long for a Traffic Stop?

A traffic stop should be reasonably short, but often drivers are subjected to what may seem like hours of detention. Sitting behind the wheel interminably with a cop's spotlight pointed directly in your side view mirror, you may feel like something unlawful is going on.

There are legal standards for judging how long a police officer may hold a driver during a traffic stop, but it doesn't come down to minutes or seconds.

Here are some of the principles that can determine how long is too long for a traffic stop:

Following Ferguson: 5 Legal Questions Answered

Ferguson, Missouri, has been a hotbed of conflict between protesters, reporters, and law enforcement, with police seemingly arresting and allegedly abusing members of the press earlier this week.

As civilians feel more and more squeezed by the authority and force of police, it's only natural for the public to demand answers to serious legal questions.

Here are five common legal questions (and some general answers) relating to the events in Ferguson:

Reporter's Arrest in Ferguson Raises Legal Questions

The arrest of a reporter who's covering the continuing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, is raising eyebrows... and legal questions.

Wesley Lowery was in Ferguson reporting on the protests that followed the shooting of an unarmed teenager by police last weekend. According to Lowery's first-person account in The Washington Post, he (along with other reporters) has been using a McDonald's near the demonstration to charge his devices and use the restaurant's free WiFi.

Lowery was in the McDonald's on Wednesday when he was arrested and allegedly assaulted by police.

Can a REDDI Report Be the Legal Basis for a Traffic Stop?

What is a REDDI report, and can it be used as the legal basis for a traffic stop?

A REDDI report (the acronym stands for "Report Every Dangerous/Drunk Driver Immediately") is a way for civilians to notify law enforcement when they notice dangerous driving conduct. They also may serve as part of the legal justification for a police officer stopping a driver to investigate a traffic offense or even a DUI.

But what separates these REDDI reports from simple anonymous tips, and what makes them reliable enough to allow an officer to stop a vehicle?

When Can Police Place You in Handcuffs?

Many people associate being handcuffed by police with being arrested and read Miranda rights.

However, there are several different situations, including but not limited to being arrested, in which police may place you in handcuffs or other restraints without violating your civil rights.

So when can police put you in handcuffs? Here are a few common scenarios:

5 BB Gun Laws You Need to Know

BB and pellet guns may seem like toys to some, but legally, they may be treated more like weapons.

Police in Ohio certainly considered the BB/pellet rifle being carried by 22-year-old John Crawford inside a local Walmart to be a dangerous weapon. Beavercreek Police officers fatally shot Crawford after Crawford allegedly refused to comply with officers' commands, reports the New York Daily News. The Crosman MK-177 rifle Crawford was holding when he was shot is sold at Walmart. Crawford's wife told the Dayton Daily News that Crawford did not bring a gun with him when the couple went to the Walmart and was killed while holding a "toy gun" he picked up at the store.

What are the laws regarding BB guns? Here are five you need to know:

James Brady's Homicide: Murder, 33 Years Later?

James Brady, President Ronald Reagan's former press secretary, died last week at a Virginia retirement community. However, the medical examiner's office ruled his death a homicide, from a shooting that occurred more than 30 years prior.

Brady was shot in 1981 during an assassination attempt on President Reagan by John W. Hinckley Jr. The Washington Post reports that Hinckley, now 59, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the shooting, and has been housed at St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital ever since.

With Brady's death being ruled a homicide, many are wondering: Could Hinckley be brought up on new murder charges for shooting Brady?

Mike Brown, 18, Killed by Police in Mo.; Protests Ensue

Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by police near St. Louis on Saturday, spurring a number of protests.

Demonstrators expressed their outrage over the death of Brown, 18, who was shot after an altercation with a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri; witnesses say Brown had his hands in the air and was unarmed. CNN reports the protests turned violent late Sunday, with police responding in riot gear.

What are the allegations surrounding Brown's death, and what liability could the protesters potentially face for violence?

7 Facts About Criminal Law Every College Student Should Know

College students may think they're up to date on just about everything. Well news flash, taking that American Law 101 class didn't give you innate knowledge of all the ways the law intersects with your life.

Take a slice of humble pie sprinkled with these seven basic facts about criminal law that every college student should know:

What Can Happen If You Skip Your Criminal Court Hearing?

So you skipped a criminal court hearing. You may be hoping to read that it's no big deal, but this isn't something trivial.

Real talk: It won't change the facts in your case, but it will change how the justice system treats you. Judges are given a large amount of discretion regarding bail and sentencing, even for very minor offenses, and missing a criminal hearing date may get you a raw deal.

So what can happen if you skip your criminal court hearing? Here are a few potential consequences:

Detroit Porch Shooter Convicted of 2nd Degree Murder

A suburban Detroit homeowner has been convicted of second-degree murder for fatally shooting a woman on his porch who was looking for help.

Jurors found Theodore Wafer, 55, of Dearborn Heights, guilty of second-degree murder for shooting and killing Renisha McBride, 19, of Detroit, who showed up knocking on his door last November. Defense lawyers argued the shooting was in self-defense, but prosecutors insisted McBride was only seeking help after a car crash, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Why second-degree murder, and what will happen to Wafer now?

5 DUI Terms Every Driver Should Know

Chances are good that you already know what DUI means.

After all, drunken driving -- no matter what you call the offense -- is a crime in every state. But while DUI might be a familiar legal term to most laypeople, many of the other words and phrases associated with DUI law may not be.

Here are five DUI terms that every driver should know:

Can You Put Your Dog to Sleep Yourself?

A photo essay documenting a dog's final day before being euthanized is going viral online and generating questions about the euthanasia process.

The series of photographs, titled "I Died Today" and attributed to Duke Roberts, Jordan Roberts' black lab, ends with Duke being euthanized by a Houston veterinarian. But the euthanasia in this instance takes place in a local park instead of a veterinarian's office. Although Duke was put to sleep by a trained professional, what if a pet owner wanted to euthanize their animal in a similarly peaceful setting by themselves?

Can you legally put your dog to sleep yourself?

Jodi Arias Can Represent Herself at Sentencing Retrial: Judge

Convicted murderer Jodi Arias is getting another chance to tell her story during her upcoming sentencing retrial, and this time she'll be representing herself.

An Arizona judge agreed on Monday to allow Arias to represent herself in a retrial that could end with Arias facing the death penalty. Reuters reports that Judge Sherry Stephens advised Arias against taking over for her current attorneys, who will now "act as advisory counsels."

Can Arias really represent herself at her retrial?

Can a Speeding Ticket Land You in Jail?

Most people consider speeding tickets to be a pain in the neck, not to mention a pain in the wallet.

But in some circumstances, speeding tickets can have far more dire legal consequences. A writer for car website Jalopnik found this out the hard way after having to spend three days in a Virginia jail following a speeding citation.

When can a speeding ticket land you in jail?

Rap Lyrics Rejected as Evidence in N.J. Shooting Case

A New Jersey defendant was granted a new trial after the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that gangster rap lyrics found in his car cannot be used as evidence to help prove motive for attempted murder.

Vonte Skinner was convicted of shooting and paralyzing a drug dealer in 2005 based on rap lyrics that officers had found in Skinner's car -- lyrics which were read to the jury during his trial. The Star-Ledger reports that New Jersey's High Court decided unanimously that the fictional exploits described in Skinner's rap lyrics should not have been introduced as evidence of Skinner's guilt.

Is this a win for rap lyricists over prosecutors?

Are Cops Required to Carry, Display Badges?

One of the features that distinguishes a cop from a regular civilian is a badge, but on-duty cops may not necessarily be required to wear them.

Critics of police misconduct often point to plainclothed officers who never produce a badge but still impose their authority. Case in point: Keeshan Harley, 19, of Brooklyn, who claims he was arrested for riding his bike on the sidewalk last year by two NYPD officers who "never produced badges but proceeded to try and intimidate [him]," reports The Huffington Post.

So are police officers required to carry or display a badge?

NYPD 'Chokehold' Victim's Death Was a Homicide: Coroner

The death of a New York man who was placed in a "chokehold" by NYPD officers while being arrested has been ruled a homicide by the city's medical examiner's office.

Investigators determined that 43-year-old Eric Garner died from "compression of neck (chokehold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police," reports the New York Post. Chronic bronchial asthma, obesity, and cardiovascular disease also contributed to Garner's death, according to the medical examiner's report.

What does this mean for potential criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits against the officers implicated in Garner's death?

Do Game Wardens Have the Same Powers as Police Officers?

If you live in or have traveled to an area frequented by outdoor enthusiasts, you may come across a game warden, a local state or federal official tasked with enforcing the laws regarding hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation.

But what other powers do game wardens have? Are game warden's law enforcement powers limited to issuing citations for hunting out of season, or can they enforce other criminal laws such as DUI?

Do game wardens have the same powers as police?

  • Know someone who has been arrested or charged with a crime? Get in touch with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your area today.