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Can My Lawyer Turn Me In?

A lawyer can only adequately represent her client if she knows all the facts. On the other hand, a client may be wary of telling his attorney everything, for fear of it reflecting poorly on his case or that the attorney will turn around and spill the beans to prosecutors or the judge.

While there are legal protections in place to foster full communication between criminal defendants and their counsel and you should feel comfortable answering all of your attorney's questions honestly, these protections have their limitations. Here's what you need to know about attorney-client privilege in criminal cases, and when your lawyer might be required to breach it.

Federal Judge Rules Against Cell Phones as Secret Tracking Devices

A stingray, or cell site simulator, is a device that mimics the activity of a cell phone tower and provides authorities with location data. This week, a federal judge in New York ruled that such evidence requires a search warrant.

Cell phones may not be secretly turned into tracking devices, US District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan ruled, finding this violates the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. Reuters reports that this ruling is the first of its kind at the federal level.

Costs of Criminal Justice: Paying Legal Financial Obligations

It costs a lot to run a criminal justice system that accuses, investigates, prosecutes, and incarcerates people. Increasingly, jurisdictions are passing on the costs of the system to those caught up in it.

This is meant to help localities pay for criminal justice, but the result is that poor people especially are finding it very difficult to escape the clutches of the system, sometimes long after they have done the time for their crimes. Let's look at Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) and their impact as reported by the Atlantic.

The End of Money Bail?

Even if you've never been arrested, you've probably heard enough to know that the first thing you probably want to happen is to get bailed out. Bail is an exchange of money for a criminal defendant's freedom pending trial. The payment is designed to ensure a defendant's appearance at subsequent trial proceedings, and can either be a pre-determined amount based on the offense or vary depending on a defendant's criminal history or the circumstances of the case.

But a case coming out of Calhoun, Georgia may be calling the money bail practice into question. The city was jailing indigent defendants accused of misdemeanors and minor ordinance violations who couldn't raise enough money to pay bail, sometimes for as long as a week. After a federal judge ruled this violates a defendant's constitutional rights, the case is headed is headed for a federal circuit court of appeals, and possibly farther. Here's what that could mean for the money bail system.

The vast majority of police interactions and criminal charges are settled long before trial and never see the inside of a courtroom. Those that do, however, can be long, complicated affairs. From setting a trial date to deciding who can testify and choosing a jury, criminal trials can be confusing, but they don't need to be.

Here are seven of the biggest questions concerning criminal trials, and where to go for answers:

When Do Police Need an Arrest Warrant?

It's easy to imagine after watching a few seasons of police procedurals on TV that you basically get criminal procedure, especially arrests. But you probably don't because even lawyers who practice in court every day have to check legal texts when preparing to challenge an arrest.

But understanding arrest is important for all because it can happen to anyone, even those of us who try hard to avoid trouble. So let's consider arrests generally and arrest warrants in particular. When do police need a warrant and what must it specify?

Sometimes talking to a police officer is a friendly chat. Other times you're a suspect in a criminal investigation and it's anything but. Knowing the difference, and what to say and what not to say to cops can mean the difference between going home and going to jail.

So here's some of our best advice for talking to the police, from our archives:

What Is Prosecutorial Misconduct?

Few people have the privilege of seeking truth for a living, but prosecutors do. They are, in theory and often in practice, the guardians of justice. If there is evidence that a person committed a crime, a prosecutor can pursue a case. If not, it is their job to drop it.

Once a case is filed, prosecutors must share relevant evidence with the defense. That's the law, not just a nice thing to do. But sometimes prosecutors want to win convictions rather than pursue justice, and a case at the US Supreme Court this month, Brown v. Louisiana, illustrates this callous approach to truth. Let's take a look at prosecutorial misconduct.

After mass shootings like last weekend's Fuse nightclub massacre in Orlando or last year's church slayings in Charleston, people are left wondering whether the shooting can be classified as a hate crime, an act of terrorism, or both. Mass shootings that target a certain group of people based on their status or affiliation can be a hate crime. And mass shootings intended to intimidate or make a political statement can be acts of terrorism.

There are obviously instances, like Orlando and Charleston, where these definitions can seem to overlap, but how are the two crimes distinguished? What differentiates hate crimes from terrorism?

Not every criminal case goes to trial. In fact, the vast majority are settled by prosecutors offering defendants a lighter sentence in exchange for pleading guilty and avoiding a trial altogether. The plea bargaining process has its pros and cons, with prosecutors at best seeking an appropriate resolution and punishment and at worst intimidating defendants with harsh penalties to bully them into taking a deal.

Each criminal case is unique, but there are some general considerations to taking a plea deal that are common in most situations. Here's what you need to know about plea bargains and plea bargaining, from our archives: