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Recently in Criminal Procedure Category

We tend to get most of our legal information, especially in the criminal context, from television and movies, with the odd, sensationalized news story thrown in. And that's true when it comes to criminal appeals as well: prisoners on death row can delay their execution for years on appeal; good convictions get tossed out on a technicality, bad convictions get overturned after an innocent person spends decades in prison; DNA evidence exonerates someone sentenced to die.

But the appeals process isn't quite as simple as saying, "I didn't like the verdict." Nor is it as interminable as many think. Here's what you need to know about criminal appeals.

Back in the day, water bottles were a good way for college kids to hide vodka. Michael Vick once tried to sneak marijuana past airport security using a modified water bottle. And now that everyone's favorite water bottle is double-walled stainless steel, there's no telling what's inside.

But does that give cops the right to search your water bottle? The answer, as always: it depends.

There's little doubt that police will use the latest and greatest technology to track down suspected criminals. One such technology is a cell-site simulator -- often referred to as a Stingray, based on a leading brand.

There's also little doubt that law enforcement tends to use these technologies first, and then worry about whether it was legal later. And Stingray use has become quite controversial, due to its widespread use and later questions regarding its legality. Here's a look at Stingray technology and some recent court rulings on the matter.

Probation can be a pain. Between the restrictive conditions and the aggressive probation officers, it seems like you're set up to fail. And if you're accused of violating your probation, things can get even worse.

While probation officers have the discretion to simply issue a warning for an alleged probation violation, they are generally more likely to request a court hearing to determine if there was a violation and, if so, what the punishment will be. So what exactly happens at the hearing and how can you prepare?

Can Sexting Be a Felony?

With increased access to smartphones with cameras, and limited access to good decision-making skills, teens have turned sexting into a serious issue that parents, educators, and sometimes the police need to deal with. And state laws, prosecutors, and courts have turned sexting into a serious criminal offense that teens may be left dealing with for the rest of their lives.

The Washington State Supreme Court last week upheld a conviction for distribution of child pornography, even though the defendant was 17 at the time, has Asperger's syndrome, and the photo he sent was of himself. The crime is a felony, requiring the teen to register as a sex offender.

Police say that after Gerald Melton, a homeless man trying to sleep on a Nashville sidewalk, asked Katie Quackenbush to move her Porsche SUV, the two engaged in heated argument, Melton walked back to where he was sleeping, and Quackenbush followed him with a gun, shooting him twice in the abdomen and leaving him for dead.

Quackenbush's dad claims Melton threatened his daughter's life, and she was merely firing two "warning shots," "closed her eyes when she shot," thought she pointed the gun away from him, and "didn't know that she hit him." But could that alleged lack of intent be a defense to an attempted murder charge?

It's a question that only raises more questions: Can a person who locks himself in another person's car without permission be convicted of vehicle theft? Who is this person? How'd they get into the car? Isn't the whole point of stealing a car, you know, to drive it away?

But the Minnesota Supreme Court has an answer: Yes.

Cell phones have been the new frontier in search and seizure law, and for a while they've been giving fits to law enforcement and the courts. Can customs search your cloud data at the border? Can the feds force tech companies to provide access to phone data? Can a warrant give police access to everyone's phone at a given location? Can police 3-D print a finger to unlock a phone?

Wait, what?

It may seem weird, but courts actually treat passcodes and fingerprints differently when it comes to unlocking phones, and more and more people are becoming aware that their phones are actually less secure (from law enforcement anyway) with fingerprint access. So, naturally, Apple came up with a fix for that -- the "cop button."

At one point in the not-too-distant past, a fight between spouses -- even a physical one -- was thought to be a personal matter, not the purview of police, prosecutors, or judges. More recently, law enforcement has taken domestic abuse more seriously, although juries were liable to take a he said/she said approach to accusations of violence in the home.

Nowadays, thankfully, it seems like everyone is taking domestic violence seriously, from the expansion of definitions to include other members of the family or household, to the increase in convictions and penalties for domestic abuse. But questions remain.

Here are five of them from our archives:

A victim of domestic violence should generally try to involve law enforcement at the earliest possible time after an incident, assuming police didn't arrive during the incident. The sooner a victim can file a police report, the higher the likelihood that police will investigate, which increases the chances of a city, or state, district attorney prosecuting the matter criminally.

Most states provide that criminal offenses of varying severity can only be prosecuted within a certain window of time, known as a statute of limitations. Although, in some states, certain serious offenses like rape or muder will not be subject to a statute of limitations. In New York, for example, a domestic violence case could have a statute of limitations ranging from one to three years (depending on the severity of the charges).