FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

April 2017 Archives

There are many varieties of disorderly conduct charges. Usually these types of charges involve conduct that annoys the public, like loudly yelling in a residential area while stumbling home drunk, fighting with hallucinations while in public, peeing on a public sidewalk, doing donuts in a parking lot, fighting actual people, continually punching the air while advising passerbyers to not walk into your punches, just being overly loud in public, playing music loud during the night, and nearly anything else that goes beyond just annoying or embarrassing.

For the most part, the specific elements of a disorderly conduct charge will vary from state to state, but will require a finding of criminal intent. Additionally, they can sometimes be interchangeable with charges like disturbing the peace, or be more specifically charged as public intoxication, indecent exposure, or public nuisance, depending on the jurisdiction and specific conduct. While often the evidence doesn't look good to the alleged victims and suspects of disorderly conduct, these charges are far from a slam dunk for prosecutors and can be defended.

Over the weekend, a group of over 40 teens jumped the turnstiles at an Oakland, California, public transit station, boarded a commuter train, robbed seven individuals and left two people injured before leaving the train and station. It's possible that as many as 60 teens were involved. Witnesses described the situation as quickly shifting from what seemed like boisterous horseplay to confusion and violence as the large group of teens boarded and ransacked the train.

While many passengers were left shook, police were able to identify some of the teenage suspects caught on the surveillance cameras, and are seeking arrest warrants.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) firmly taking hold of nearly every modern convenience, criminal defendants shouldn't be surprised when the data that gets collected and stored on modern technology gets used against them. This includes things like a person's internet browser history, IP address history, files stored locally, or in the cloud, and potentially even files a person has deleted. And it doesn't stop there.

A recent news story illustrates how IoT data is helping to solve a murder. The data stored on a murder victim's Fitbit, along with other pieces of electronically stored data, are forming the basis of some rather damning evidence against the victim's husband, who is now charged with murder.

When a person is sentenced to probation, or is paroled from prison, many of their individual rights will be restricted until the court appointed supervision gets completed. Among the most serious deprivation of rights includes a parolee’s or probationer’s inability to freely travel around the world, or even just the country.

Generally, a released convict who plans on travelling to another state for less than a few weeks will only need to get permission from their supervising officer, or the court. In many jurisdictions, if the conviction was for a misdemeanor, then permission may not be required except for extended travel.

However, if the plan is to remain in the other state permanently, or for more than a few weeks, then, more than the usual permission to travel is required. For extended travel, or moving across state lines, a person subject to court ordered post conviction supervision will need to get approval before leaving, or moving, to avoid penalties and arrest for violating the terms of their supervision.

Thanks to the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitutional, individuals are guaranteed protection from unreasonable search and seizure. This right not only requires federal, state, and local law enforcement to meet specific requirements before conducting a search, it also permits individuals to sue the police when an officer conducts an unreasonable search.

One officer and police department in Dunwoody, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, are learning some hard and expensive lessons about the limits of reasonableness. Recently, the department settled the fourth lawsuit against them related to an illegal search. The most recent settlement was for over $50,000 and resulted from a traffic stop where an officer claimed to be searching for marijuana. Last year, a six figure settlement prompted department-wide changes that require officers to get approval before extending a traffic stop to hail a unit with a drug sniffing dog.

Whether through new DNA testing, faulty forensic science, or procedural error, many criminal convictions eventually get overturned or vacated. Often, these exonerations don't occur until years or even decades after the fact and in that span a defendant may have already paid thousands of dollars in court costs, fines, fees, and restitution.

So when a conviction is tossed out, what happens to all that money? Until last week, Colorado had a statute on the books that allowed the state to keep fees and restitution paid by criminal defendants, even after their convictions were overturned. But the Supreme Court stepped in and ruled the law unconstitutional.

Back in 2015, the Food and Drug Administration intercepted over 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental bound from India to law enforcement officials in Texas and Arizona. The shipments were an attempt to skirt a 2012 ban on the drug and were intended to be used for lethal injections in death penalty cases.

Last week, the FDA informed the two states that, after much legal back-and-forth, it would not be releasing the drugs. Not only that, but that states have just 90 days to export or destroy their caches of sodium thiopental. Here's a look at why:

In the coming weeks, the New York City Police Department will be rolling out their body camera program to over 1,000 officers. The cameras will record interactions officers have with the public in an effort to increase the transparency of NYC's police practices, which have come under increasing scrutiny due to failing stop and frisk policies, as well as excessive force incidents.

Last Friday, a federal district court judge in Manhattan denied a motion to delay the roll out due to alleged problems with the program. Critics claim that the program does not go far enough and does not require enough types of interactions to be recorded. Perhaps the most concerning criticism involves officers being allowed to review their own body cam footage before making statements or writing reports.

WikiLeaks, true to its name, has been the source of thousands, if not millions of leaked government and intelligence documents. The published documents include videos of airstrikes and diplomatic cables from the Iraq war, leading Democrats' emails during the 2106 presidential campaign, and, most recently, "a trove of C.I.A. documents last month that described sophisticated software and techniques to break into electronics."

The last leak might've been the criminal straw that broke the prosecutorial camel's back. Multiple news organizations are reporting that U.S. Department of Justice is considering an array of criminal charges against WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange. None have been filed as of yet, but it is interesting to look at what those charges might be, what prosecuting them might entail, and why the government has waited until now.

In what reporters are calling the largest mass dismissal of criminal convictions in history, the state of Massachusetts is poised to reverse over 21,000 drug convictions as a result of the 2012- 2013 drug lab scandal. While it has been over three years since the main lab chemist pleaded guilty, the state has finally succumbed to pressures from groups like the ACLU requesting to reexamine all convictions related to the drug lab scandal.

Of all the convictions related to the drug lab scandal, just over 300 cases will be retried. The state prosecutor's office selected less than two percent of the cases to re-prosecute, explaining that the most serious cases, that involve more than just evidence from that one lab, will be retried.

Criminal charges are scary, and convictions are even worse. Being subjected to the criminal justice system is not something anyone really wants to do. However, ignoring the criminal justice system is the surest way to end up on the wrong side of it.

Frequently, when a person gets arrested while on vacation in another state, then gets released, or bails out, they’ll go home and never bother to return. Unfortunately, doing so not only ensures you’ll face additional penalties, but also can severely compound the amount of life disruption you face.

Below you’ll find three tips on how to handle out of state misdemeanor charges.

For some of us, fortune tellers might be a bemusing attraction or a whimsical way to spend a few minutes and (hopefully) just a few bucks. For others, like New Yorker Ali Beck, they can lead to financial ruin. Beck says she gave a fortune teller almost $56,000 over seven months, destroying her credit and forcing her to sell her house.

So is there a legal line between telling someone's fortune and theft? When does fortune telling become illegal?

New York passed sweeping legislation overhauling how its criminal justice system treats teenagers, the central tenet of which is a new rule prohibiting the state from trying juveniles under the age of 18 as adults. The Empire State was one of only two that tried 16-year-olds as adults, and continues a trend of states no longer subjecting teenagers to adult criminal prosecution and incarceration.

While some stipulations of the new law are straightforward, some provisions and their implementation may get a little complicated.

Law enforcement is allowed to collect evidence of a crime, but within certain limits. The Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures sets these limits generally, but it's not very specific. For instance, if a suspect in a domestic dispute changes moods and gets fidgety, do police officers have a right to take him to the hospital, strap him down, and forcibly catheterize him in order to obtain a urine sample?

Forced catheterization may be rare in drug cases, and it may be legal.

A Michigan doctor is being charged in the nation's first ever prosecution under a 1996 federal law prohibiting female genital mutilation. Allegedly, the doctor performed the procedures on girls as young as 6 and 8 years old, and may have even had parental consent. While the charges filed only relate to two minors specifically, the US Attorney's Office is hoping that others will come forward.

The practice of female genital mutilation is also called female circumcision or female genital cutting, and is done in various cultures across the globe for varying dogmatic reasons, despite the fact that international treaties make the practice illegal. In the United States, it is a serious felony that carries a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.

Sniffing glue, paint, gas, or other household products, may seem harmless, but the dangers are very real. In addition to the dangers to one’s health, in most states, using household products to get intoxicated is actually illegal. Although inhalants typically do not fall under the federal controlled substances act, most states have laws specifically banning their use.

Not only are inhalants like glue, spray paint, and even canned air, linked to harmful respiratory problems, their use can be fatal, as a result of Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, or a chemically induced heart arrhythmia.

If you've been charged with a crime, your main priority is to get those charges dismissed or win your criminal case at trial. And the best way to do those things is to have a good criminal defense attorney on your side.

But whether you win or lose your case won't entirely be on your lawyer's account. There are ways to can help -- and hurt -- your case, beginning from your first contact with police and ending with a jury verdict. Here's how to be an asset to your attorney in your criminal case.

The Department of Justice announced the arrest of two Illinois men, Joseph D. Jones and Edward Schimenti, who allegedly pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and advocated their support for violent extremism on social media.

Jones, also known as "Yusuf Abdulhaqq," and Schimenti, also known as "Abdul Wali," were charged with conspiring and attempting to provide material support and resources to ISIS, which has been designated as a terrorist organization. And their support allegedly went beyond just watching some videos and posting photos online.

When a person is accused of cyberstalking, they may be tempted to try to talk their way out of trouble, or maybe try to delete all the evidence. However, cyberstalking is a serious criminal charge that can carry serious criminal penalties. If you are contacted, investigated, or arrested by law enforcement for cyberstalking, exercising your right to remain silent until you have an attorney present is likely the best course of action any person can take.

Depending on state law, cyberstalking charges generally require repeated attempts to harass, threaten, intimidate, or scare another person via the internet, or other electronic mediums. However, singular incidents may also violate other laws designed to protect against cyberbullying and harassment.

While it rarely comes as a surprise to learn that college students experiment with drugs, some might be surprised to learn that many of these experimenting students are experimenting with drugs to help them actually study. Certain drugs, like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse are commonly referred to as “study drugs” as these help individuals focus and stay focused.

What may even be more shocking is that as a result of the popularity of the study drugs, students that have prescriptions for these medications can expect to be asked to share or sell their medication by friends and other students seeking a boost in their focus. However, under the law, selling Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse can be treated just like selling cocaine or meth.

As drones start flooding the skies and regulations over drone use proliferate, the Federal Aviation Administration is constantly updating its guidance for both hobby and commercial drones. And while the latest rule might seem so obvious as to not need a federal administrative order, the FAA and Department of Defense are warning drone pilots to avoid flying over U.S. military bases, lest they face fines or jail time.

Here are more details on the order.

Proving that it's all fun and games until an underage drinker resists arrest, injures a sheriff's deputy, and barricades himself in a house for a half hour, over 100 revelers earned themselves a citation, arrest, or injury while celebrating 'Deltopia,' an annual Santa Barbara spring break party.

Local law enforcement crashed dozens of parties in the Isla Vista neighborhood of Santa Barbara, host to the annual street party blast and popular with students due to its close proximity to UCSB's campus. If the thousands of partygoers were trying to make spring break memories that last a lifetime, more than a few succeeded.

An inhalant can be any type of gas or chemical that a person inhales to get high. Frequently, inhalants are sprayed or poured onto cloth rags, and a person will inhale the chemical or gas fumes to get high.

Most commonly-used illegal inhalants are actually legal products that a person can buy at a general store. For example, whipped cream in a can, rubber cement glue, and spray paint, are common inhalants that can be readily purchased in countless stores. While users might get temporarily intoxicated, the use of inhalants is linked to numerous side effects, including the potential for death.

If you've been falsely accused of domestic violence, the process can be frustrating -- restraining orders, court dates, and attorneys' fees, and that doesn't even include a possible arrest or jail time. The process can also be frightening if you're facing eviction, being forced to stay away from children, or facing long-term incarceration.

So how can you get prosecutors to drop domestic violence charges? Generally that only happens if they don't believe they can prosecute the case, and that decision will depend on two factors:

An ongoing investigation against the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens, a city in Los Angeles, resulted in federal agents raiding the casino and closing the gambling floor this week.

Since the warrant issued for the raid by a federal district court judge was filed under seal, there are only a few details about the investigation. However, this same casino was found, after a 1991 investigation, to have been built using drug money. Although numerous gamblers speculated that the raid was a result of rigged gaming tables, unnamed media sources clarified that the casino is under investigation for money laundering. Casino patrons holding stacks of chips will be pleased to know that the casino reopened this week after investigators finished their search. However, there may be some more legal trouble in their future, depending on what the search discovered.

In 2012, Taylor Huddleston created what is known as a remote management tool, a piece of software that allows users to remotely log keystrokes, download stored passwords, turn on the web cam, access files, and watch a computer screen in real time. Designed, he says, to help low-income users who couldn't afford more expensive remote-access programs monitor online activity for safety reasons, NanoCore was going to be Huddleston's ticket out of a trailer he lived in on his mother's property and into a real house.

And it worked -- Huddlestone sold NanoCore and another piece of software called Net Seal and was able to buy a $60,000 home. But FBI agents and police raided that home last December, and are now charging Huddlestone with conspiracy and aiding and abetting computer intrusions, for all the times hackers used NanoCore to commit crimes.

Finding out that there is an active warrant out for your arrest can be an alarming experience. What you do after learning about a warrant depends largely on what you know about the reason behind the warrant.

Before you go fleeing to a warm weather country with no extradition agreement, or just turning yourself in, you may want to consider seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal attorney. After all, it will definitely be cheaper than attempting to live the rest of your life on the run.

Perhaps you just meant it as a prank among friends. Or maybe you were really mad and meant to insult a neighbor. Does that intent matter under state laws on indecent exposure? Do your bare buttocks count as "genitals" under state statutes?

Here's what you need to know about mooning and indecent exposure laws.

3 Common Types of Tax Fraud

Taxes can be scary for many people. The system is not necessarily user friendly. While debtors’ prisons are supposed to be a thing of the past, failing to abide by tax laws can result in criminal penalties, including fines and jail time.

To make matters even more complicated, in addition to federal tax laws, there are also state and local tax laws that can have just as harsh, if not harsher, penalties, as one California man recently learned.

Below, you’ll find three common types of tax fraud.

Traffic tickets for speeding, running a stop sign, red light violations, and other seemingly minor rules of the road can sometimes result in penalties beyond what one might expect. Frequently, when a person learns that the traffic violation they are charged with has the potential to land them behind bars, or cause them to lose their license, or maybe just inflict financial pain, they will begin to look for a traffic attorney.

But how much should you expect to pay for a traffic attorney? Is it worth the cost? In most jurisdictions, unless you are facing a misdemeanor charge, or potential jail time, the court is not required to provide a public defender. While there are some legal services that offer seemingly unbelievable rates for traffic ticket representation, there may be a few caveats, or even hidden costs.

No matter how many stories get written about criminal activity streamed on Facebook Live, criminals don't cease to record their crimes for prosecutorial prosperity and the crimes themselves don't get any less heinous.

A 14-year old girl in Chicago was lured into a home and raped by as many as six men, one of whom broadcast the sexual assault live on Facebook. The Chicago Tribune notes it's at least the fourth crime in the city captured on Facebook Live since the end of October 2016. Two teens are in custody thus far, and the victim and her family have been moved following threats and online bullying after reporting the crime.

There was no question that Darren Rainey died in the showers of the Dade Correctional Institution in 2012. What was unanswered was whether the officers who locked Rainey for two hours in showers that could run as hot at 160 degrees were criminally liable for his death.

That answer came last month, when the state attorney for Miami-Dade County released an "In Custody Death Investigation Close-Out Memo" that attributed Rainey's death to schizophrenia, heart disease, and "confinement inside the shower room." Yet the state attorney declined to press criminal charges against the officers or the prison, saying instead that "the evidence does not show that Rainey's well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff."

A Connecticut bill that originally focused on simply banning all weaponized drones recently had a controversial exemption carved out that's garnering national attention. That controversial legal exemption to the ban on weaponized drones would only apply to law enforcement agencies, allowing only police in the state to use weaponized drones.

While it may seem logical to only allow police to use weaponized drones, if the bill passes, it would be the first law in the nation that actually authorizes police to use drones equipped with lethal weapons. North Dakota passed a law in 2015 that permits law enforcement to use drones equipped with non-lethal weapons like tear gas or pepper spray, and other law enforcement agencies use drones for surveillance purposes.

Four college students at DePaul University in Chicago have been arrested for selling over 100 Xanax pills to undercover officers. The sales occurred on four separate occasions, for various quantities and prices, over the last few weeks.

While Xanax is commonly used to help individuals with serious anxiety or other mental health issues, the drug is also sought after by recreational users. Despite the fact that it is legally available to individuals with a prescription, an individual cannot legally distribute or sell Xanax, or any other prescription drug for that matter, to any other person. Unfortunately for both legal and illegal Xanax users, the drug is reportedly highly addictive, which can lead to severe dependency issues.