Legislation & Policymaking - FindLaw Blotter
FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Recently in Legislation & Policymaking Category

Just because they're legal doesn't mean they can't get you in trouble. Prescription drug overdoses reached an all time high in 2014, when there were more deaths from prescription drugs than from cocaine and heroin combined. And prescription drugs can be just as addictive as illicit drugs, leading to similar instances of criminal behavior surrounding use, abuse, manufacture, and sale.

Here are five things you need to know about criminal law and prescription drugs:

Virginia Governor Orders Felon Voting Rights Restored

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed an order restoring voting rights to over 200,000 felons in that state. The order applies to both violent and non-violent felons and extends to the right to vote, to sit on a jury, to serve in elected office or to become a notary, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Republican critics are not happy. The rights restoration move is seen by critics as highly political, an effort on McAuliffe's part to boost Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in November, as Virginia is a swing state. Let's examine.

Do Liquor Stores Increase Neighborhood Violent Crime?

Liquor stores are hot spots, attracting crime to a neighborhood "the way honey attracts flies," according to Susan Cheever. She is the prize-winning writer of a memoir on alcoholism recovery and the daughter of a great American storyteller whose work explored the pleasures and perils of booze extensively.

Writing in The Fix, an addiction recovery publication, Susan Cheever examined studies from around the US and the world, concluding that there is a direct link between a liquor store in a neighborhood and the number of homicides that occur nearby, among other alarming things. She makes a case for closing liquor stores altogether. Let's consider it.

Pennsylvania Legislature Votes to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Pennsylvania legislators voted overwhelmingly this week to pass a medical marijuana bill into law, joining the growing group of states to legalize weed in a limited fashion. And it is very limited indeed in Pennsylvania, but the new legislation will address the needs of those who pressed hardest for its passage, a group of parents.

The Pennsylvania medical marijuana law was sought by parents of epileptic children with debilitating seizures, some of whom went door to door trying to convince fellow citizens of the need for this legislation to be approved for over a year. Let's look at the details.

The Legalize It crowd got a bit of a boost last week, as news outlets published a letter from the Drug Enforcement Administration to Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In it, the DEA said it will review marijuana's status as a Schedule 1 banned substance, sometime before the middle of this year.

The DEA has performed these reviews before, but never in a climate so conducive to reclassification, with major newspapers calling for the agency to move pot to a "less restrictive category that better reflects both its danger and the undeniable facts on the ground -- that nearly half the states in the nation allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and several allow it to be used recreationally." So is the DEA about to decriminalize weed?

More and more states are legalizing marijuana. But some allow marijuana only for medicinal purposes, while others are legalizing it for recreational use. And a few jurisdictions have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, regardless of the use. At the same time, federal law still prohibits the manufacture, sale, or possession of any amount of marijuana.

This patchwork of laws can lead to a lot of questions regarding where, how, and why you can possess or use pot, and in some cases, what kind of pot you can use. Here's what you need to know:

Cannabiz: Can I Sell Marijuana to Dispensaries?

Any question about the business of cannabis has to be answered the same way -- it depends. Whether you are interested in growing marijuana for personal use or becoming a professional cultivator, the legality of the endeavor will depend on state and local laws and ordinances.

To the extent that weed is legal today, it is highly regulated and the rules vary quite a bit from one locale to the next, and state to state. Your best bet is to do a lot of research, armed with the following general principles, and then talk to a local lawyer.

If you've never seen or heard of an ignition interlock device, it's pretty much a breathalyzer for your car. You breathe into a sensor, and if your blood alcohol content is above a certain limit (or, in some cases, if alcohol is present at all) the car will not start. Some devices ask for breath samples while your driving, and others can alert law enforcement if you've violated a condition of probation or parole.

States have been passing laws requiring drivers with multiple DUIs, or sometimes just one offense, to install and pay for interlock devices in their vehicles. And there's been some new data on the effect ignition interlock devices have been having on alcohol-related car crashes.

When victims of crime appear to be targeted for their race, nationality, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, one of the first questions that gets asked is whether the attack was a hate crime. As when Dylann Roof shot and killed nine parishioners in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina after telling them, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."

Ultimately, Roof was not charged with a hate crime, which can raise even more questions about what qualifies as a hate crime and when and how they are prosecuted. Here are a few answers to those questions:

Until fairly recently, there were few laws regulating the private sale of guns. Known as the "gun show loophole," secondary sales and gun sales between private parties, such as at gun shows, were not subject to federal and state laws requiring background checks and record-keeping.

But both states and the federal government are cracking down on private gun sales, and in some cases requiring any gun sale to through licensed dealers. Does that apply if you're just trying to sell a gun to a family member?