FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

August 2015 Archives

Kids are heading back to school, which may mean your house will be empty while you're at work all day. Even if your neighborhood has never experienced burglaries, that doesn't mean it won't happen.

Daytime burglaries are the most common and can be the costliest. Here are some tips to make your home harder for burglars to break into: 

Aurora, Colorado shooter James Holmes was recently sentenced to over 3,000 years in prison on top of 12 life terms. That could sound lenient (he did avoid the death penalty) or needlessly excessive (he'll never serve that many years). But his is only the fourth-longest prison sentence in United States history.

Who's gotten a longer prison sentence? Here are the top five:

In the two weeks following Dylann Roof's massacre of nine parishioners in a Charleston, South Carolina church, seven other churches in five states caught fire. A connection with the shooting, and with the history of racist violence against black churches, seemed obvious.

But none of these fires have been charged as hate crimes. Why not? Shouldn't all church burnings be hate crimes?

It's all about disruption these days -- Uber disrupted the taxi industry; Airbnb disrupted the hotel industry; Facebook disrupted everyone's productivity at work. So what's the next industry ripe for disruption?

One company will tell you it's the world of private investigations, and considering the recent Hack That Shall Not Be Named, the demand for P.I. services may never have been higher. So is it a good thing (or even legal) to have private investigators at the touch of an app?

Just as the Second Amendment doesn't guarantee you the right to have arms made out of actual, live bears (thanks, framers of the Constitution), it also doesn't guarantee you the right to any type of weaponry. Generally speaking, state gun control laws can restrict the types of firearms citizens may own.

A recent case in Massachusetts may stretch the limits of state gun restrictions, specifically whether the right to bear arms extends to Tasers and stun guns.

There are currently fourteen wildfires burning in California, covering a total of almost 250,000 acres. In the fourth year of a historic drought, keeping these fires contained has been a challenge for fire crews statewide.

So who's doing the firefighting? As it so happens, quite a few of California's prison inmates are helping battle the blazes.

Our legal system is predicated on the rule of law -- that our laws apply to everyone, equally, and that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. Nowhere is this principle more important and necessary than our criminal justice system.

We expect prosecutors to treat every defendant equally, but new research suggests this might not be the case. Instead, prosecutors often treat minority criminals far more harshly -- especially in terms of crimes carrying mandatory minimum sentences.

Most of us have heard the apocryphal tale of Kitty Genovese, a woman who was brutally attacked and murdered in New York in 1964 while her neighbors ignored her screams for help. While many of the details of that particular story have been refuted, anecdotes about neighbors who don't want to get involved in possible criminal situations abound.

As uncomfortable as intervention can be, none of us want to be known as the person who did nothing when calling the police might have saved someone's life. So when you hear your neighbors fighting, and it sounds bad, should you call the cops?

Is it illegal to encourage someone to commit suicide? This question was raised by a tragic incident that recently occurred in Massachusetts.

Teenagers Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III had a complicated friendship. When Roy threatened to commit suicide, Carter encouraged him to complete the act. He did. Now Carter faces twenty years in prison, and her attorneys are arguing with prosecutors over whether her actions were illegal.

Incarceration can be hard for anyone, and for those suffering from mental illness, prison can be a nightmare. As public funding for mental health plummets and prison populations soar, the prospects for mentally ill inmates may only get worse.

While this situation may seem dire, there can be options available for inmates who seek mental health treatment while incarcerated.

Minor crimes happen around us all the time: jaywalking, failing to stop at stop signs, drinking in public ... Chances are, you won't even think twice about ignoring these infractions. But what if you witness a serious crime involving loss of property or harm to others?

Witnessing a crime can be a frightening experience, but it can also be a chance to do the right thing. Here's what you should do if you witness a crime:

Potential uses for risk assessment tools can sound like something out of Tom Cruise's "Minority Report": the tools can potentially punish people based on crimes they may commit in the future. But using risk assessments to aid in sentencing isn't quite as extreme as arresting people based on the predictions of three psychic children.

So how do risk assessments work, and how are they used in criminal sentencing?

Look, it wouldn't be International Beer Day without a few beers. The idea, though, is to not drink a few too many beers. And especially not to get behind the wheel afterwards.

No one wants a good celebration ruined with a costly DUI conviction. So here are a few things to keep in mind while saying "Cheers" to man's greatest invention.

The issue of sexual assault on college campuses has exploded in recent years and some states have responded with strict affirmative consent laws, also known as "Yes Means Yes" laws.

How do these laws work? How can they protect you from sexual assault and how can you make sure you have your partner's full consent before engaging in sexual activity?

How Dangerous Is Jail?

We hear horror stories all the time about jail, from jokes about sexual assault to real cases of inmates dying in jail cells, and most of us are fine assuming the worst things imaginable happen behind bars.

But even people who have been convicted of crimes should not be subjected to additional violence while incarcerated. So how safe or dangerous are our jails and prisons?

In what appears to be a case more about a divorce misunderstanding than an episode of Sister Wives, a Virginia man has been arrested for having multiple wives without ever getting divorced.

Frank Ernest Blake, Jr. was charged with two counts of bigamy and two counts of forgery, the latter for forging marriage licenses by giving false information about his previous marital status. And now he's looking at quite a bit of prison time.

We usually think of criminal charges and our credit score as two separate issues. But when a store is coming after you over a shoplifting incident, you might be worried that one indiscretion could wind up on your criminal and financial record.

Here's what you need to know about the affect a shoplifting charge could have on your credit score.