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While it may seem like a good or clever idea in the heat of the moment, lying to a police officer can land you in some real serious trouble. While the Fifth Amendment provides individuals with the right to be free from self-incrimination, otherwise known as the right to remain silent, there is no constitutional right that provides the freedom to lie to cops. Not even the First Amendment’s freedom of speech will protect a person if they are caught lying to police.

The penalties for lying to the police vary depending on the severity of the falsehood and the response/result of the falsehood. Additionally, aside from the differences in criminal law from state to state, lying to federal officers is treated much more seriously and is punished as a federal crime.

Penalty for Gun Store Robbery

The criminal charge of robbery is actually something different than what most people expect. In most states, in order to be charged with robbery, there must a victim present at the scene of the crime, as opposed to a burglary charge, which does not require that a victim be physically present at the scene of the crime.

As you can see in the this news story about a gun story burglary, the crime is being called a robbery. Burglary, in most jurisdictions, is a felony because it involves not just a theft, but also, unlawful entry onto another’s property. So in the above gun store burglary, it is likely the defendants would face felony charges if caught.

Is Identity Theft a Felony?

Like many other crimes, identity theft is a wobbler. Depending on the state and the severity of the crime, identity theft can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Sometimes, it's not even called identity theft, but rather impersonation, or fraud. Generally, an identity thief will gain access to a person's bank or credit card information, or enough personal information to open a new credit card, and use the credit to make purchases or cash withdrawals or cash transfers.

Typically, when an identity thief uses their illicitly gained information to steal money, or make purchases, in the absence of specific identity theft laws, the crime will usually be treated like any other theft. Theft crimes tend to wobble between misdemeanor and felony charges depending on the circumstances and value of the stolen or illegally purchased items. Additionally, restitution is usually part of the punishment, regardless of whether it is charged as a felony or misdemeanor.

So you decided to throw some eggs during Halloween and now you’re facing vandalism charges. Unfortunately, despite your desire to express your opinion through the hurling of eggs, there’s no freedom of egg-spression in this country. Throwing an egg can actually land you with a vandalism charge and leave you asking: how do I defend myself against a vandalism charge?

The bad news is that there really isn’t much you can do if you were caught in the act, or if there is surveillance footage clearly implicating you. Unless you have an attorney telling you the evidence against you is not strong enough, there’s a good chance your best way out of trouble is via a plea bargain to a lesser charge or a civil compromise. The way vandalism is charged varies from state to state, and may even vary depending on the value of the property defaced or destroyed, as well as the cost to clean or repair the property.

Is Arson Always a Felony?

One of the hottest areas of criminal law, literally, is arson. Arson is defined as willfully, wrongfully, and unjustifiably setting property on fire, often for the purpose of committing fraud. However, like a fire, in most states, arson is measured in degrees, meaning that not all acts of arson are punished equally.

Generally, if a person is injured, or the value of the property destroyed exceeds a few hundred dollars, arson will be charged as a felony. However, because of the deadly potential of fire, if a person dies, a defendant could be facing felony murder charges on top of felony arson charges.

The law in every state allows some latitude when it comes to the crime of selling and buying stolen goods. The one factor that can make the most significance is whether buyer or seller knew that the goods were stolen. Although knowledge makes all the difference, however, not knowing generally will not allow a purchaser, nor seller, to keep the proceeds, nor the goods.

Depending on the jurisdiction and the value of the goods, certain states can charge the offense as a petty crime. Petty crimes, typically, are misdemeanors, or infractions, that do not carry very stringent sentences. Usually, this is reserved for situations where the value of the goods is less than $500 or $1,000, and did not involve an additional crime, such as a weapons, assault or battery charge. If a seller has no knowledge the goods they are selling are stolen, it is likely they would be treated similarly to a buyer who had no knowledge.

While the First Amendment provides the freedom to associate, people often wonder about whether gang affiliation is a crime or considered free association. Generally, being a member of a gang is not in and of itself illegal; however, it is likely to lead to illegal activity which is generally punished more harshly if there is a gang affiliation. This is because many states define gangs as groups that include a purpose of committing crimes or illegal acts. However, as history has shown, figuring out who is actually in a gang is not easy.

To fight the gang problem, a majority of states have gang enhancements that can be applied to other criminal charges that will typically make the punishment, if convicted, stricter. Additionally, state and federal law enforcement maintain gang member databases, so that law enforcement can more easily determine if a suspect, arrestee, or detainee is a current or former gang member. While it may be legal to be a member, when a gang injunction has been issued, then being a gang member out in public, or even being misidentified as a gang member in public, can lead to arrest and/or prosecution.

Using a stolen credit card is a serious crime that carries serious penalties. Even if the card was not stolen, per se, but rather found on the sidewalk, using the card is still illegal in all 50 states. Unlike using stolen or found cash, using a stolen credit card involves an act of fraud on top of theft, on top of the underlying theft of the card potentially.

Like most criminal statutes, the laws prohibiting using a stolen credit card vary from state to state. Some states have stricter penalties than others. Most states however do differentiate between when using a stolen credit card is a misdemeanor or felony. Sometimes, if the value of the goods or services purchased were below a certain threshold, a prosecutor can opt to charge a lesser crime, such as petty larceny or petty theft, which typically are misdemeanors. However, if the value exceeds the state’s misdemeanor threshold, or there were multiple cards involved, it is likely that felony charges will be brought.

First Time Misdemeanor Offense

There are a lot of ‘first times’ to look forward to in life, but catching your first misdemeanor charge is not one of them. Being charged with a misdemeanor offense is not something to take lightly. You can go to jail, face serious fines, and endure severe life disruptions that can have an effect on your family, career, friendships, and other obligations.

At the outset, there are a few things you should know. To start, being charged with a misdemeanor does not mean you are guilty. The prosecutor must prove guilt. If you were arrested and/or booked into custody prior to the charges being brought, then you will have an arrest record, but not a criminal record. If you are convicted, or even accept a plea bargain, then you will have a criminal record.

In an effort to help control the recidivism rates of inmates, states are beginning to adopt the practice of 'flash incarceration.' Flash incarceration is the practice of locking up parole violators for short periods of time for violating the terms of their parole. The periods of time can range from one to ten days, and states like Hawaii, California, and Washington have seen some success with the practice.

While sending a parole violator to jail for a couple nights for returning a positive drug test may sound lenient to some, the fact of the matter is that sometimes a violation will go completely unpunished. Under the flash incarceration practices, every violation is punished with a short term in jail. Also, the punishment is frequently handed out swiftly, without requiring a parole revocation hearing.