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You may have heard recently that universities and the federal government are working to remove barriers for college hopefuls with criminal records. While this may be welcome news to those with youthful indiscretions in their past or those trying to turn lives around, there remains one crucial hurdle left: financial aid.

Even if someone with a criminal conviction on their record is accepted to college, he or she may not be able to afford it without help, and a drug conviction especially can make securing a student loan far more difficult.

Hope for the Wrongfully Convicted: Exonerations Are on the Rise

Last year more than 151 people were exonerated after spending an average of 15 years in prison, despite being innocent. Some were sentenced to death and pardoned before the ultimate punishment.

This reveals something about the criminal justice system. That is why, according to the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School, increasingly even prosecuting offices are focusing on innocence to regain public trust. What does that mean for all of us or you individually if you've been falsely convicted?

Tennessee Gang Enhancement Statute Found Unconstitutional

In an effort to target gang violence, states create statutes that punish gang-related crime more severely than other offenses. Enhancement statutes are used as a tool in plea negotiations by prosecutors and in sentencing by judges.

But now one such law in Tennessee has been struck down as overly-broad and unconstitutional, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel, which means that defendants sentenced under this statute will need new hearings. Let's look at why it was unconstitutional and who might get a new hearing.

Criminal Law Definition: What Is an Aggravator?

The law has its own vocabulary, although often the words sound just like those we use in regular life. For example the word "aggravator" has a particular legal meaning in the context of criminal law, which is related to the way we use the word aggravation generally. Let's consider the term in the context of crime prosecution, where it arises during sentencing.

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.

In 2009, the state of Ohio attempted to execute convicted murderer Romell Broom. Over the course of 95 minutes a medical team tried fruitlessly to find a suitable vein through which to administer a lethal dose of drugs. As The Washington Post reported, "they jabbed, poked and stuck the man at least 18 times, twisting and turning catheters this way and that ... They made holes in his arms, legs and elbows, his wrists, the backs of his hands and his ankles ... They took breaks, leaving the man on the gurney, and then came back to try again ... And at one point, a physician came in and inserted a needle until 'she struck bone.'"

In the end, the medical team gave up and Broom, in pain throughout the botched execution, was given a temporary reprieve. But that reprieve may be over. The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that the state can try to execute Broom a second time.

Caring for those in need can be a dangerous proposition. According to one recent study, almost 80 percent of nurses reported they were attacked while on the job in the past year. And health care workers overall are subject to more workplace violence and missed more work due to workplace assaults than any other profession.

Assaulting anyone is a crime, but assaulting certain people can mean increased criminal charges and penalties. Do these protections apply to nurses?

Of the many things you should never say to a cop, a lie is near the top of the list -- especially if that lie is regarding a crime that was never committed. Filing a false police report can be a costly waste of time for law enforcement, not to mention a permanent stain on someone's reputation. And it might also land you in jail.

Almost every state makes false reporting of a crime its own criminal offense. And although the penalties can vary from state to state, they are all serious.

How Much Jail Time for Stealing a Car?

You were a fan of the video game grand theft auto, and now you wonder what would happen if you played in real life. How much jail or prison time would you serve for stealing a car if caught and convicted?

The answer will depend on numerous considerations, such as where the crime takes place, the value of the car, how the theft occurs, whether you have a prior criminal record, and other factors. So let's take a look at some key terms and state laws to see what's involved in possible punishments.

Spartan Man Found Guilty of Intentionally Killing Bears

An elderly man from Sparta, who shot and killed three bears on his lawn and was caught trying to dispose of the carcasses, was found guilty and fined by a New Jersey judge last week. The judge called the defendant's actions those of "a vigilante, usurping the right of the state," according to the New Jersey Herald.

Although this tale reads like fiction, it is fact. The 76-year-old Robert Ehling shot two adult bears and a cub on his lawn with a loaded firearm and was then caught disposing of the carcasses in a ravine. He claimed self-defense but the claim was rejected by Municipal Court Judge James Devine, who said Ehling acted as an aggressor when he shot the bears and was not threatened by them.