FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

March 2014 Archives

Are There Defenses to Criminal Trespassing?

You can be charged with criminal trespassing when you enter someone else's land or use someone else's chattel without permission or authorization.

Police officers, sheriffs, and even park rangers typically enforce criminal trespass law. But there are a few situations in which trespassing charges may be dropped against a defendant.

Here are a few common defenses to trespassing:

3 Ways Unsecured Home Wi-Fi Can Link You to Crime

Unsecured home Wi-Fi is a terrible idea. Not only does participating in an unsecured network leave you wide open to potential cyberattacks, but it can also get you mixed up in a serious criminal case.

Here are three reasons to avoid criminal investigation by securing your home Wi-Fi:

When Can a DUI Be Charged as Murder?

Drunken driving crashes can often be fatal, elevating a simple DUI to a full-blown murder charge.

Case in point: A drunken driver in Colorado accused of killing a 17-year-old boy in an accident Monday is now facing a first-degree murder charge for his alleged actions, reports The Denver Post. Ever Olivos-Gutierrez, 40, lacks a drivers license and has incurred "numerous" DUIs prior to Monday's fatal crash.

So when can a DUI be charged as murder?

Bride Asks to Withdraw Plea in Cliff-Push Murder

A newlywed bride accused of pushing her husband off a cliff last summer asked the court to withdraw her guilty plea.

22-year-old Jordan Graham was to be sentenced this week for the murder of 25-year-old Cody Johnson along a trail in Glacier National Park, Reuters reports.

But now, it's unclear if the sentencing will proceed as scheduled.

Baby Left in Car for 5 Hours as Mom Drank: Cops

A Pennsylvania woman was arrested after she allegedly left her 2-month-old baby in a cold car for five hours to go drink at a pub.

Police were summoned to a pub in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania, after witnesses spotted an unattended infant in a minivan. The 2-month-old girl was only wearing a onesie and covered in a light blanket; the outdoor temperature was about 39 degrees at the time, according to The Express-Times.

The infant's mother, Lisa Altif, 32, was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child.

Should You Take the Stand in Your Own Defense?

To many criminal defendants, taking the stand to defend themselves seems like a righteous and principled choice.

That may have been Sulaiman Abu Ghaith's reasoning last week, when the man better known as Osama bin Laden's son-in-law took the stand during his terrorism trial. However, other high-profile defendants like George Zimmerman have opted not to testify at trial.

Should you be convinced to take the stand in your own defense?

When Can Teens Be Tried as Adults?

When can teenagers be tried as adults?

Teens are often responsible for serious crimes, and in many cases they can face the same punishments as adults.

The decision to try a teen as an adult varies by state, but generally each state considers the following factors:

What Happens After a DUI in a Foreign Country?

Getting a DUI in a foreign country is bad news — just ask “Star Trek” actor Chris Pine, who had to pay more than $400 in fines and court costs after a drunken-driving arrest in New Zealand, Reuters reports.

Although it’s unclear how Pine’s out-of-country DUI will affect him back in the United States, generally speaking, a foreign DUI can still have an impact after you return to your home country.

Here are four things that could potentially happen after getting a DUI in foreign country:

Colo. Pot Law Can Apply Retroactively: Court

A Colorado court has clarified that the state's new marijuana law can apply retroactively to some marijuana convictions.

In a decision released Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals announced that Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state, could be used to challenge old drug offenses -- as long as the cases were already being appealed when the law took effect, reports The New York Times.

What does this mean for those who've been convicted of marijuana offenses in Colorado?

I-80 Drug Stops, Seizures Set Off Lawsuits

A Nevada sheriff is taking flak for his practice of stopping suspected drug runners on a rural stretch of Interstate 80 and confiscating their cash.

Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore assured skeptics that the drug stops were not illegal shakedowns but lawful civil forfeitures, reports The Associated Press.

Are these I-80 stop-and-seizures in step with the law?

What Is a Retrial? When Can You Get One?

What is a retrial, and who is entitled to one?

Retrials are in the news this week. Convicted Arizona murderer Jodi Arias will be retried, but only to determine her punishment for killing her boyfriend in 2008; jury selection is set to begin September 8, The Associated Press reports.

And in another high-profile case, Michael Dunn, the Florida man who allegedly shot and killed unarmed teenager Jordan Davis over loud music, will be retried for murder beginning May 5, the AP reports.

So how do retrials work in our criminal justice system?

Army General in Sex Case Gets Plea Deal

An army general accused of sexual assault accepted a plea deal in exchange for dismissing many of his serious criminal charges.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair appeared in military court at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Monday and admitted to lesser charges in exchange for prosecutors dropping counts which included allegations of death threats and forcing a former mistress to perform oral sex, The New York Times reports.

How does Sinclair's plea wrap up this ugly case?

St. Patrick's Day Weekend: 5 Sobering Legal Tips

St. Patrick's Day weekend is always a risky legal time for revelers. In a haze of green beer and Irish Car Bombs, you might be tempted to take your impaired judgment to the streets.

Well snap out of it! Here are five sobering legal tips to keep you safe this St. Patrick's Day weekend:

SXSW Crash Kills 2; Alleged Drunken Driver Arrested

An alleged drunken driving crash at SXSW claimed two lives and injured about two dozen people after a car barreled into a crowd Thursday morning.

Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo told CNN that an unnamed male suspect is in custody facing two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault by vehicle for plowing into the crowd at the South by Southwest festival.

What will prosecutors have to prove in order to convict, and what legal options may be available for victims of the crash?

Top 7 Tips to Avoid a Spring Break DUI

Spring Break is a time to relax and have fun, but getting a DUI can really ruin your vacation.

To help you stay in your board shorts and out of handcuffs, here are seven DUI legal tips for those on Spring Break:

Toddler Heroin Case Lands N.J. Dad in Jail

Police arrested the father of a toddler after daycare providers discovered 48 packets of heroin in his 2-year-old son's jacket.

Phillip Young, 27, of New Jersey, has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

What's in store for him as his case proceeds?

Fleeing From Justice: What Can Happen?

Fleeing from justice is an overall bad idea. Not only will you be considered a fugitive, but there are no legal benefits for trying to escape criminal prosecution.

Of course, that hasn't stopped criminals from trying to hide from law enforcement. But even some of the most notorious fugitives like mob boss Whitey Bulger eventually get caught. Same with lesser-known folks who try to get away with things like being a deadbeat parent.

So while each situation is different, here are a few examples of what can happen to criminals who try to flee from justice:

Man to Be Tried for Murder for Childhood Crime

A Texas man who is accused of setting an 8-year-old boy on fire in his teens is going to be tried for murder -- more than 15 years later.

A state court judge ruled Thursday that Don Willburns Collins, 28, is eligible to be tried as an adult for a crime he allegedly committed as a 13-year-old. Although the victim, Robert Middleton, didn't die immediately from his burns, he died from skin cancer in 2011 which was "blamed on his burns," reports The Associated Press.

Collins' murder prosecution may force him to come to grips with a gruesome childhood crime.

Joran Van Der Sloot's U.S. Extradition Set for 2038

Joran van der Sloot is set to be extradited to the United States to stand trial for a crime he allegedly commited in the wake of Natalee Holloway's disappearance. But his extradition won't happen until 2038.

Van der Sloot, the main suspect in Holloway's disappearance in Aruba in 2005, will first have to complete his 28-year prison sentence in Peru for killing a 21-year-old woman there in 2010, The Associated Press reports.

What's waiting for van der Sloot in 24 years?

Military Sex-Assault Reform Bill Fails in Senate

Military sexual assault reform took a major blow Thursday, as the U.S. Senate voted down a bill designed to overhaul the way the military handles sexual assault cases.

The bill sought to give power to prosecute military sex assault cases to an independent military prosecutor rather than high ranking officers, but it failed to get the 60 votes necessary to avoid being thrown out, reports Reuters.

What else might this bill have changed in military sexual assault cases?

1st-Time DUI: 5 Things You Should Know

After your first arrest for a DUI, you'll probably have a lot of questions. Don't worry, you're not alone.

First-time DUI, DWI, or OWI defendants typically ask how to potentially beat or reduce their charges, and what the legal consequences may be if they're convicted. As seen in our FindLaw Answers DUI and DWI forum, some questions are much more common than others.

For DUI defendants going through the legal process for the first time, here are five things you should know:

$7M Shoplifting Spree: Ill. Family Arrested

A family from the suburbs of Chicago has been arrested and charged with operating a $7 million shoplifting ring over the last decade.

Branko Bogdanov, 58, along with his wife Lela, 52, and daughter Julia, 34, ran a system of stealing baby toys, baby supplies, and household items from retail stores and selling them on eBay, Reuters reports.

So what's in store for the family of alleged bandits?

D.C. Council Passes Pot Decriminalization Bill

The D.C. Council voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use on Tuesday, leaving the mayor to sign the bill into law.

If approved by Mayor Vincent Gray, the pot bill will have to weather a congressional review period before going into effect. But according to Washington's WRC-TV, Congress has "rarely used" its powers to veto D.C. laws.

But with legal pot possession on the line, the odds seem hardly relevant.

Pointing Lasers at Helicopters Can Lead to Arrest

Laser pointers can be fun, useful gadgets, but pointing them at helicopters can land you in handcuffs.

Laser pointer pranksters may think these helicopter hijinks are funny, but state and federal law enforcement aren't laughing.

Is Cyberbullying a Crime? What Can Victims Do?

A 17-year-old North Carolina is facing cyberbullying charges after posting a nude photo of a 15-year-old girl to Instagram, CNN reports. The incident raises the question: Just when does cyberbullying turn criminal?

Here's an overview of cyberbullying statutes and what you can do when confronted by cyberbullying: