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Are CSI-Style Forensics Fake Science?

It's long been understood that certain sciences are in fact pseudo-sciences and are often referred to as junk science. Commonly, junk science takes the form of sham products designed to prey on people's insecurities. That flashing light you've velcroed to your body is not going to reduce your waist, despite what that scientist on that 2 a.m. infomercial tells you.

However, last week the Wall Street Journal reported that President Obama's advisors on technology and science are about to issue findings calling into question scientific practices accepted by the court system relating to CSI-style forensic evidence.

While the president's advisors' findings are not saying that all forensics are a sham, they are saying that many of the types of accepted forensic evidence do not actually meet the criterion for what should be accepted as evidence in a court of law.

Bullet Control: What Types of Ammunition Are Illegal?

Gun control laws are a controversial topic that generally focus on the possession and sale of the guns themselves. But what about the bullets the guns fire? Proponents for stricter gun control laws also support regulating the types of ammunition available to the public, as well as who can sell and purchase ammunition. The idea of bullet control has been around since at least Chris Rock explained his solution to the gun violence problem (WARNING: linked video contains Adult Language).

Across the United States, each state is free to regulate guns and ammunition, as long as they don't run afoul of federal laws and the Second Amendment. Certain types of ammunition have been made illegal by several states as these types are seen as having no "sporting" value.

Car Modifications That Will Get You Pulled Over

If you're willing to violate your warranty and the law in order to install that aftermarket mod to make your cars go faster and look furious-er, just be ready to get pulled over for those awesome mods.

Certain performance modifications are completely legal, such as adding a spoiler, high performance suspension, ultra-light wheels, and even some performance engine components. However, sometimes seemingly minor car modifications are not only illegal, but will get you pulled over by the police.

FDA to Ban Popular Pain Drug Kratom

On August 30, 2016, the DEA issued a statement regarding the reclassification of a popular pain drug known as Kratom. Kratom has only recently gained popularity in the United States over the last 6 years as both a pain medication and recreational drug. The drug produces an opioid-like effect for the users and is described as “opium’s mild-mannered little sister, with very low overdose potential.”

The DEA asserts that the widely used drug is frequently abused by recreational drug users and that it does not have an approved medical use in the United States. However, non-recreational users are dismayed by the ban, since the drug is seen by many with chronic pain as a needed substitute for the stronger opioid and pain medications currently available in the U.S. market. While Kratom is not as potent as many of the pain medications on the market, according to the recent Forbes article, many chronic pain suffers report that it provides better relief than available alternatives.

If you charge someone with a crime, you want to guarantee that they'll show up for trial and possible punishment. And the idea behind bail is that if a criminal defendant has a large amount of money on the line, he or she is more likely to appear. The accused (or a bail bondsman) puts up a percentage of the bail amount, and they get that money back when they appear for trial; skip town and you're on the hook for the full amount.

Which is all fine, in theory. But what if you can't afford the bail, or even the bail bondsman's percentage? Then you languish in jail until trial -- incarcerated even though you might be innocent. Critics of this system gained a new and perhaps unexpected ally last week: The U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ filed a brief in a Georgia case, claiming that bail schedules that imprison poor people for not being able to afford bail are unconstitutional, and bad public policy to boot.

Between varying state laws and the seemingly continuous legal challenges, it can be hard to keep track of which open carry gun laws apply in which states (and to which guns). Lucky for us, Thomson Reuters put together a handy interactive map displaying which states allow open carry, which restrict it, and which prohibit it, and how the law differs from hand guns to long guns. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw's parent company.)

So now you have open carry laws from all 50 states in one map, and can easily tell whether you need a license or a permit to open carry in your state.

Whether you're a rancher or a suburban mom, seeing a coyote can be a bit frightening. Shepherds have always tried to keep them away from their flocks, and as neighborhoods expand, seeing a coyote lope down a street or through a city park becomes more common.

So are you free to shoot a coyote if it's near or on your property? And do you have to prove that you, or your children, or your sheep were in danger?

Intent is an important element of criminal law and most crimes have an intent element, called mens rea. This refers to a defendant's mental state.

A defendant must have the requisite intent to be convicted of a crime -- an act alone will usually not suffice. So if you shoot someone with no intent to kill, that is not murder. The requisite mental state, coupled with the defendant's actions, is needed for a conviction for most crimes, and a statute that fails to articulate a defendant's mental state may be challenged.

That is what happened to stalking laws in Illinois, which were recently found unconstitutional.

What to Know About California's New Gun Laws

Just ahead of Independence Day weekend, California's governor addressed the pressing issue of gun ownership. He signed six gun control bills and vetoed five measures, including one that would have allowed people to petition courts for a temporary restraining order on gun ownership for seemingly dangerous coworkers.

The legislation, initiated after the San Bernardino shooting, reached Governor Jerry Brown's desk just the day before he acted, reports the Los Angeles Times. The bills moved quickly after last month's mass shooting in a Miami nightclub. Gun ownership advocates called the measures draconian, although the governor also vetoed certain limits on gun owners.

The first dope dominoes that fell in Colorado and Oregon may start toppling more state prohibitions on marijuana. California, which last put recreational weed on the ballot back in 2010, will give it another go this November, as will four other states; and three more will put medical marijuana to a vote this fall as well.

Along with Congressional pressure on the DEA to reclassify marijuana, these waves are all part of a national sea change on the use, both medicinal and recreational, of pot to treat everything from cancer treatment nausea and post traumatic stress to a bad day at the office. So it's probably a good time to look at where state marijuana laws stand now, and what they might look like come 2017.