FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

December 2012 Archives

Subway Pusher Faces Hate Crime, Murder Charges

Alleged subway pusher Erika Menendez will be charged with murder as a hate crime for killing Sunando Sen.

The 31-year-old woman is accused of pushing Sen into the path of an oncoming train last Thursday. Menendez apparently did not know Sen, and the alleged crime was seemingly motivated by Sen's race, reports the The New York Times.

Following her arrest, Menendez allegedly told police that she pushed the 46-year-old Indian immigrant to his death because she hated Muslims and Hindus.

New Year's DUIs: 3 Reminders to Ring In 2013

New Year's Eve is just around the corner. And just as you can count on college bowl games, a large crowd in Times Square, and plenty of champagne, you can also count on law enforcement officers making many New Year's DUI arrests.

New Year's Eve is, of course, one of the heaviest drinking days of the year. After all, what else are people supposed to do but drink as they wait for the clock to strike midnight?

As a result, officers will be out in full force to stop those who are driving under the influence. So as you prepare to celebrate what happened in 2012 and what will happen in 2013, here are three reminders about New Year's DUI patrols:

3 Ways to Get a Confession Tossed Out of Court

A confession to a crime seems like a pretty solid piece of evidence, but there are times a confession can be tossed out of court.

Courts are very picky about what statements will be permitted as evidence if they're made outside the courtroom. Not only that, but there are certain kinds of statements that are legally protected and can't be used against you.

In run-ins with police, it's generally best to keep your mouth shut until you've talked to an attorney. But for the curious, here are some common situations in which confessions can't be admitted in court:

Pastor in Pajamas Foils Christmas Burglary

A pastor in pajamas helped foil a burglary attempt on Christmas morning, just as he was opening presents with his wife and kids.

The grinches who would have stolen Christmas targeted the home of a children's pastor at a church in Colorado Springs.

When neighbors saw the suspicious activity, they called another youth pastor, Jim Stevens, who lived behind the church. Dressed only in his pajamas, the pastor stumbled upon the active burglary attempt, reports KRDO-TV. For his efforts, Stevens was assaulted, but still managed to capture two of the intruders.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo Arrested for DUI

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo was arrested on suspicion of DUI over the weekend.

The Republican lawmaker was driving in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, where a police officer stopped him after seeing him run a red light, Reuters reports.

Crapo was given "several" field sobriety tests, which he allegedly failed. He also took a blood alcohol test and measured 0.11 percent, slightly above the legal driving limit of 0.08.

Top 3 Santa Claus DUI Arrest Videos

Oh Santa, it looks like you've been naughty from the Santa Claus DUI videos we've seen on the Internet.

Are Kris Kringle's cheeks red from the cold or the booze? Is that "Ho Ho Ho" because he's so jolly or because he's drunk? Does he know that his sleigh is a vehicle and he can't drive it while he's intoxicated?

It doesn't matter who you are, if you have too many drinks and get behind the wheel you're going to get busted for a DUI. But if you're Santa, someone might make a video of it and then everyone will know.

Here are three Santa-related DUI arrest videos and the lessons we can learn from them:

'Stand Your Ground' Invoked in Shooting Over Pizza

Florida's "stand your ground" law has taken a political beating this year, and its involvement in a shooting over pizza is not helping.

On Sunday, Randall White was at Little Caesars in St. Petersburg, Florida, waiting to enjoy his pizza. When his pie took too long to arrive, he started complaining. Another man named Michael Jock was also waiting in line, and told White to stop whining.

White then raised his fist and in response Jock pulled out a gun. A struggle ensued, and Jock shot White twice. When police arrived Jock tried to defend his actions.

When Can Police Conduct a Strip Search?

You've probably heard stories about this before: police forcing someone to undergo a strip search following a minor traffic violation or even for littering, as allegedly happened in Texas recently.

While strip searches and cavity searches can be extremely invasive, humiliating, and embarrassing, these searches are sometimes necessary, and allowed under the law.

So just when can the police force you to undergo a strip search?

Craigslist iPhone Ad Leads to Robbery, Shooting

Be careful when you buy or sell things on Craigslist. A California couple got shot when they tried to sell an iPhone over the popular online classified website.

The man and woman reportedly met the would-be iPhone buyer at a McDonald's parking lot in San Diego to conduct the transaction Monday night.

The couple was seated in their BMW and let the prospective buyer into the car. The man then pulled out a gun and demanded their iPhone and their cash, NBC News reports. A struggle ensued.

Victim of 'Swatting'? Here's What to Do

You may have read about "swatting" pranks on celebrities and how they could potentially lead to death and serious injury. As a result, you may be wondering how to protect yourself if you are ever a victim of swatting.

If you haven't heard, celebrity swatting is the latest prank sweeping Hollywood. People like Simon Cowell, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher have all fallen victim to this hoax. (Police arrested Bieber and Kutcher's alleged "swatter" last week, E! News reports.)

But what distinguishes swatting from other pranks is the potential for danger. After all, the prank involves an anonymous caller reporting an ongoing crime at someone's house, triggering an armed response by the local SWAT team. One wrong move, and an innocent person may be killed.

Marijuana DUI: 1 Dead, 1 Arrested in WA

When DUIs hit the news, the cause is often alcohol. But a marijuana DUI can be just as deadly.

Just 11 days after Washington state's new pot law went into effect, police on Monday responded to an accident in which a driver had hit a pedestrian. The victim, an unidentified man in his 50s, was walking across the street with some groceries. The man allegedly stepped out into traffic, which may put him at fault.

The driver, 47-year-old Scotty Rowles, cooperated with the investigation. But by the end of the interview, police had enough reason to suspect he was under the influence of marijuana, so they arrested him.

22 NIU Frat Members Charged in Hazing Death

Twenty-two arrest warrants have been issued in connection with an alleged hazing death of a freshman at Northern Illinois University. Prosecutors believe that the NIU frat hazing killed 19-year-old David Bogenberger.

In November, Bogenberger was found dead at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house near NIU's DeKalb campus.

Toxicology tests showed the freshman had a blood-alcohol concentration about five times the legal limit for driving, reports Chicago's WMAQ-TV. While cardiac arrhythmia is listed as the official cause of death, police believe that alcohol intoxication was a significant factor.

Should You Report a Crime Anonymously?

If you are a victim of a crime or witness a crime, you may have second thoughts about reporting it. You may think reporting the crime is more trouble than it's worth, as happened with the infamous murder of Kitty Genovese in the 1960s. But instead of ignoring the crime, you may want to consider reporting it anonymously.

Some of the benefits of reporting a crime anonymously are that it may encourage you to report it in the first place. Other benefits can include leaving you out of it.

However, there are some drawbacks to anonymous reporting as well.

10 States With the Toughest Gun Laws

State gun laws are unfortunately on everyone's minds in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school shootings.

Each state has its own gun laws with varying degrees of effectiveness and toughness. Some states like California are known to be notoriously tough on gun owners, while other states like Utah and Alaska have comparatively lax laws, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

In fact, the Brady Campaign issues "scorecards" to rank each state's gun laws. Here are the 10 states with the toughest gun laws, according to the Brady Campaign's latest report:

Racial Justice Act: 3 Death Sentences Voided

Three convicted murderers on death row have had their punishments commuted to life in prison without parole under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act.

The three cases mark the second time the Act has been used to convert death sentences to life in prison, and the first time it's happened under the newly amended Act, The New York Times reports. The original law passed in 2009 and was amended earlier this year.

The goal of the Act is to seek justice for inmates whose race was a "significant factor" during sentencing. But it has been controversial in North Carolina since is passage.

CT School Shooting Puts Gun-Seizure Law in Focus

A Connecticut school shooting at an elementary school in Newtown has unfortunately claimed at least 27 lives, police say.

About 9:30 a.m. Friday, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and proceeded to open fire, killing six teachers and 20 students. The gunman was found dead at the scene.

A tragedy like this will undoubtedly raise questions about gun control laws. But in this case, Connecticut's laws are already pretty strict; in fact, the state has a unique law that was designed to prevent mass shootings like this one.

How to Get Along With Your Probation Officer

Let's say you've been found guilty of a crime, and received probation rather than jail time. Now you have to figure out how to get along with your probation officer.

Failure isn't an option, since if you don't meet the terms of probation you'll be hauled back into court. You're going to have to find a way to make friends, or if that's not possible, at least get through however long it takes.

Even if your probation officer isn't someone you'd normally give the time of day to, these rules for interaction will make you time together easier so you can be on your way:

5 Tips to Prevent Gun Theft

If you're a gun owner, preventing gun theft should be a high priority so you can keep your community safe.

As more facts about the Portland-area mall shooting come to light, investigators now believe that shooter Jacob Tyler Roberts stole the rifle he used from a friend. Not only does that friend have to live with the tragic consequences of his rifle being stolen, but depending on how he stored the firearm he could end up being the target of a civil lawsuit as well.

That's right: You can potentially be held liable for injuries caused by your gun if it's stolen. So here are some tips to prevent gun theft and keep your name clear.

NTSB Wants Ignition Locks for 1st-Time DUIs

The National Transportation Safety Board wants every state to adopt laws that would require even first-time DUI offenders to get an ignition interlock device installed in their cars.

The non-binding NTSB recommendation is aimed at the 33 states that do not currently have an ignition interlock law in place, reports the Associated Press.

The recommendation comes on the heels of a study of wrong-way driving accidents and the finding that many of these accidents are caused by drunken drivers.

Are Guns Allowed in Shopping Malls?

A gunman opened fire inside an Oregon shopping mall Tuesday afternoon. The Portland-area mall shooting resulted in the killing of two people and the apparent suicide of the shooter. Many are now wondering whether having a gun in a shopping mall is legal and if there was anything that could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

The shooting happened during the peak holiday shopping season at the Clackamas Town Center in the Portland suburbs, reports Reuters.

Investigators are still trying to piece together what happened, and many may be reminded of the movie theater shooting in Colorado earlier this year.

10 States With the Most Hate Crimes Per Capita

In the category of most overused legal terms, hate crimes is up near the top especially since it's often misused as well.

A hate crime is related to discrimination, but not all discrimination constitutes a hate crime. To further confuse the matter, a hate crime can be committed by one member of a minority against another member of that same group, as shown by the case of Samuel Mullet, an Amish man in Ohio.

The list of states with the most hate crimes per capita may appear surprising on its surface. But first, let's review the definition of a hate crime.

With CO's Pot Law in Place, Fewer Prosecutions

Colorado's pot law is now officially in effect. Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a declaration Monday formalizing the law, known as Amendment 64. Hickenlooper could have waited until January, but chose not to because "voters were loud and clear on Election Day," The Coloradan reports.

This means people 21 or older may now use, possess, distribute, and cultivate limited quantities of marijuana, according to Colorado's new law. However, those eligible to smoke weed must still do so in a private place -- not outdoors like the pot-smoking revelers who celebrated in public Monday night.

Those pot supporters should keep in mind that smoking marijuana in public can still get you arrested. And there are other caveats to keep in mind as well.

3 Ways Road Rage Can Get You Arrested

There is perhaps no other incident quite like road rage in which an everyday ordinary person with no history of violent behavior can suddenly get arrested for a felony.

Perhaps it’s because people are emboldened when they encase themselves in their cars that manners are thrown out and tempers are escalated.

Regardless of the reason, here are three reasons to keep your road rage in check, as your actions can get you arrested:

Pot Brownie Prank Gets 2 CU Students Arrested

A couple of University of Colorado students are in serious trouble after allegedly feeding pot brownies to unsuspecting classmates and their professor. The CU students face multiple felony charges for what they likely considered a practical joke.

Police say three people, including the professor, were sent to the hospital as a result of eating the brownies and that five others were sickened, the Daily Camera reports.

The students, 21-year-old Thomas Ricardo Cunningham and 19-year-old Mary Elizabeth Essa, face felony charges of second-degree assault, inducing the consumption of controlled substances by fraudulent means, conspiracy to commit second-degree assault, and conspiracy to induce the consumption of controlled substances by fraudulent means, according to the Camera.

What's the Difference Between Jail and Prison?

The terms are often used interchangeably, but there's a difference between jail and prison.

It's not just a case of semantics. Whether a criminal is being held in jail or prison says something about the crime committed and the stage in the process. The way inmates are treated also differs between the two.

Despite the differences, people confuse the terms all the time because they don't realize what each one means. Do you know how to tell them apart?

Babysitter Faces 100 Counts of Child Sex Abuse

A babysitter in Massachusetts has been charged with 100 counts of child sex abuse, which should be a warning to all parents.

John Burbine's indictment accuses him of rape, assault and battery, and child pornography. He worked as a babysitter though his wife's childcare service, Waterfall Education Center.

Perhaps the saddest part about this case is that this isn't Burbine's first offense against children. But the families affected wouldn't have known that.

Karate-Chopping Cowboy, 79, Nabs Intruder

You don't want to mess with a Texas cowboy, even a 79-year-old Texas cowboy. An allegedly armed home intruder, Charles Brian Smith, learned this the hard way as he was karate-chopped by Ervin Brittnacher.

Brittnacher, a member of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, heard his dog barking early Monday and got up to investigate, reports Houston's KHOU-TV.

When the homeowner got to the front door, he saw Smith carrying a rifle and trying to break in. Brittnacher owns quite a few rifles, but instead of shooting the intruder, he just karate-chopped Smith in the throat.

Handyman Held Hostage, Forced to Fix Home

A handyman trying to settle a payment dispute ended up being held hostage in Morgan Hill, California.

The handyman arrived at the home of Jason DeJesus and Chanelle Troedson on Monday morning, presumably to talk about a dispute over past work he'd done. The man had previously worked on repairs for DeJesus' mother, and not been paid in full.

But that morning the pair beat him, threatened his life, and forced the handyman to make repairs around the house. So the man bided his time and waited for a chance to escape.

Medical Pot Patients Fear WA's Marijuana DUI Law

Recreational marijuana use is now legal in Washington state. Ironically, this may be bad news for the state's medical pot users, as they may be more susceptible to marijuana-related DUIs.

The ballot initiative that made it legal to smoke marijuana recreationally in the state also contained a new DUI standard for drugged driving, reports NPR.

So while the new law makes it legal for adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, these same adults can now be busted for driving under the influence if they have a certain blood level of THC -- the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Viral Bullying Video Gets 2 Brothers Arrested

A middle school student and his 15-year-old brother were arrested after a video of them bullying a special-education student was posted online. Now police are looking for the people who filmed the incident.

The video shows the boys beating up 13-year-old Gregory Sams after accusing him of "talking bad" about the bullies. In the video, the older boy is seen flashing a gang sign at the camera.

This incident has led to some serious legal troubles for the two boys. But it's also been a very upsetting experience for their mother.

When Can Police Search Cell Phones, Laptops?

There's a hot legal topic affecting law enforcement in the digital age: When can police conduct searches of cell phones and laptops?

As you may know, smartphones and laptops can contain a wealth of information that was not contemplated in 1986, when Congress passed laws about government monitoring of digital communications.

So courts in different states have had a hard time coming up with a uniform rule as to when police can, and cannot, search your cell phone or laptop. In some states, police searches of digital devices may be thrown out if officers do not have a warrant, while in other states, the evidence may be perfectly admissible in court, reports The New York Times.

Single-Car Crash Leads to 3 DUI Arrests

A single-car crash in Rhode Island led to three separate DUI arrests, all of which had nothing to do with the initial crash.

A van slammed into a utility pole about 1 a.m. Sunday, police told WLNE-TV in Providence. That crash was not DUI-related, but it set off a chain of events that kept police busy over the next few hours.

Because the pole was linked to important electrical transformers, cops set up a roadblock so utility crews could make repairs. But to at least one driver, this roadblock looked just like a DUI sobriety checkpoint that you often see on heavy drinking nights like July Fourth and New Year's Eve.

How Your Christmas Tree May Attract Criminals

Christmas trees are popping up in people's windows all over town, but those cheerful decorations can also lead to an increase in crime.

To you it may look like a festive decoration of pine, lights, and ornaments. But to a potential robber, that pile of presents under the tree is almost like a home-shopping catalog, law-enforcement experts warn.

Keeping your presents to yourself doesn't mean you have to take down your Christmas decorations. But you may want to keep in mind some tips for preventing burglary during the holidays. For example:

Holiday Domestic Violence Prevention Tips

The holidays are upon us, a time for family and friends to reunite. It's also a time of year when the number of calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline drops dramatically.

While this may sound like good news, the hotline says that the drop in calls may be due to victims trying to put on a happy face when family and friends are around, reports CBS News.

In fact, instead of a time for peace and accord, the holidays can be an extremely stressful time for many couples leading to an actual increase in violent confrontations. With that in mind, here are some tips to prevent domestic violence this holiday season:

Man Jailed After Mocking Girl With Cerebral Palsy

Bullying is illegal -- a fact that William Bailey of Ohio learned after he was put in jail for taunting a child with cerebral palsy.

Bailey was picking up his son from a bus stop at the same Tricia Knight was picking up her children, including her 10-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy. When Bailey starting imitating the way Knight's daughter walked, she asked him to stop, the New York Daily News reports.

Bailey then allegedly told his son to walk like the "r-word." Knight's mother-in-law caught the whole thing on tape.