FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

April 2014 Archives

Fla. DJ Arrested for Recording Cops on Cell Phone

A Florida DJ was arrested after using his cell phone to record police arresting the owner of a store where he was spinning. The video is now going viral.

Here's what happened: Miami-Dade Police Officer Michael Valdez arrived at a store in Cutler Bay on St. Patrick's Day to arrest the owner for misdemeanor traffic offenses. But after recording the store owner's arrest, DJ Lazaro Estrada was himself arrested for obstruction of justice, reports Miami's WFOR-TV.

Can Estrada be arrested for simply recording the cops?

Okla.'s Botched Execution: What Went Wrong?

A botched execution in Oklahoma led to the grisly death of a Death Row inmate on Tuesday.

There had actually been two executions set for Tuesday, but after Clayton D. Lockett suffered complications in the execution chamber and later died of a heart attack, the planned execution of Charles F. Warner was stayed, reports The New York Times.

What went wrong in this Oklahoma execution?

Supreme Ct. Debates Cell-Phone Searches Upon Arrest

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether cell phones can be searched upon arrest, potentially ending a pivotal legal disagreement in federal and state courts.

Two cases are before the High Court today: one in which a cell phone searche following arrest was upheld, and one in which a warrantless cell phone searches was deemed improper. Opponents of these warrantless cell phone searches argue there is no danger to officer safety or risk of losing evidence when a cell phone is seized, so officers should simply obtain a warrant to search them, reports The Associated Press.

Which way will the Supreme Court lean?

5 Things to Look for on a DUI Lawyer's Website

When you're searching for a DUI lawyer online and click on an attorney or law firm's website, what exactly should you be looking for?

You may have already concluded that you need an attorney's help for your DUI case, but you could probably use some guidance to further narrow your attorney options. Comparing several lawyers' websites can help you choose an attorney who's the right fit for you.

Finding the perfect DUI attorney isn't all that difficult, especially with the Internet at your fingertips. Here are five things to look for on a prospective DUI lawyer's website:

Does Ga.'s New Gun Law Expand 'Stand Your Ground'?

Georgia's controversial new gun law allows firearms in schools, churches, and bars (with some exceptions). But does it also expand the state's "Stand Your Ground" self-defense provision?

Critics are calling attention to language in House Bill 60 (aka the Safe Carry Protection Act) that would effectively "[protect] convicted felons who kill using illegal guns," as MSNBC has reported.

What does the new gun law actually say, and how does it affect Georgia's existing "Stand Your Ground" provision?

Call of Duty 'Swatting' Prank Gets FBI Response

A Call of Duty video gamer may be in big trouble after "swatting" and falsely eliciting a large police response after losing a game.

The gamer apparently called Long Beach, New York police and pretended to be Rafael Castillo, the person to whom the gamer lost. While assuming Castillo's identity, the caller allegedly stated that Castillo killed his mother and brother, according to the New York Post.

So what is "swatting" and can the gamer be charged with a crime?

#MyNYPD Backfires: Alleged Misconduct Is Trending

The New York Police Department seems to have invited a flood of negative tweets with its #MyNYPD hashtag, including photos of alleged police brutality.

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton took to rhyme in explaining that often police "actions are lawful, but they look awful," Reuters reports. One of the more cringe-worthy images attached to #MyNYPD is an officer who appears to be ready to shoot a prone man's dog.

What does #MyNYPD reveal about police brutality and misconduct?

Supreme Ct. on Child Porn Restitution: 5 Key Facts

The U.S. Supreme Court determined Wednesday that child porn victims cannot collect restitution for their total losses from a single child porn possessor, but offenders do have to pay something.

In a 5-4 decision, the High Court determined that "Amy," a woman whose explicit child photos are among the "most popular" for traffickers in child pornography, could not recover $3.4 million for her total losses from one man who possessed two child-porn images of her, reports USA Today.

Victims of child porn, however, are still owed restitution under the law, the Court explained. Here are five key facts to help you understand the Supreme Court's position:

5 Reasons a DUI Trial May Be Delayed

A DUI trial may not be something you’d want to drag out, but there are many ways a drunken driving case can stall in court.

Don’t be surprised to wait months before your trial date — and then wait even longer when that date is pushed back.

Check out these five common reasons why a DUI trial may be delayed:

Can a Fake Twitter Account Get You Arrested?

A fake Twitter account can potentially lead to real criminal consequences, beginning with your arrest.

Just ask Jacob L. Elliott, 36, who was arrested after police served a search warrant on a home where they believed someone was operating a Twitter account posing as the mayor of Peoria, Illinois, the Peoria Journal Star reports.

Technically, Elliott was booked on drug charges and not in connection with the @peoriamayor account. Still, how can a fake Twitter account get you arrested?

Colo. Pot Wafting Into Neighboring States

As Colorado closes out its fourth month with operating recreational pot stores, folks in neighboring states are beginning to get irritated.

Some adjacent state lawmakers are vexed that the Rocky Mountain State's weed is making its way across state lines, leaving neighboring states' law-enforcement officers to deal with the pot problem.

What do Colorado's neighbors make of this legal situation?

10 Cities With the Most Police, Firefighters Per Capita

When choosing where to live or work, public safety is a top concern. That's why it may be a smart move to consider a city with more police officers and firefighters per capita.

With many cities facing budget cuts, some local police and fire departments have been reduced in size. Still, many jurisdictions have managed to make funding for first responders a priority.

The website NerdWallet compiled a list of the Top 10 cities that it claims "invest the most resources in public safety" (though it only looked at cops and firefighters per capita, and not other types of "investment" in safety, such as paying for training or equipment). NerdWallet's Top 10 cities are:

How to Celebrate '4/20' Without Getting Arrested

The reefer-reveler's annual "holiday," 4/20, is this weekend. And while some state and local laws have changed to allow slightly more mnarijuana in our lives, you can still be arrested for participating in this popular annual pot party.

So avoid buzzkills this 4/20 and celebrate without getting arrested. Here are four tips to help you keep things legal:

Staged Child Abduction Triggers Investigation, Outrage

A fake child abduction has parents upset and police investigating possible charges against the participants, including the "abducted" boy's parents.

Onlookers in a park in Sequim, Washington, watched a masked man grab a toddler and make off with him in a minivan. Frightened parents called 911, and one woman even attempted to chase the van in an attempt to record its license plate number, reports The Associated Press.

What could possibly happen to these fake child abductors?

5 Things a DUI Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

What can a DUI lawyer do for you? An experienced attorney can do many things well that most DUI defendants would struggle to do passably.

And we aren't talking about mundane things like changing the oil in your car. In a DUI case, your freedom could be on the line.

To press this point further, here are five things a DUI lawyer can do that you probably can't do (or wouldn't know how to do) on your own:

More Google Glass Muggings Reported in Calif.

Google Glass muggings are on the rise, at least in California, as the expensive devices are being seen more often in public.

The most recent incident involved a man who says he was robbed at taser-point for his laptop and Google Glass on Monday, Los Angeles' KNBC-TV reports. It happened as the man was working on his patio along the popular Venice Beach Boardwalk.

With another Google Glass mugging reported Friday in San Francisco, are Glass-related robberies a new trend?

Boston Marathon Bomb Hoax Suspect Arrested

A man who allegedly planted a backback containing a rice cooker at the Boston Marathon finish line has been arrested and charged with possession of a hoax explosive device.

Later identified as Kevin Edson, 25, the Boston man was spotted on Tuesday night "barefoot, yelling, and holding a backpack." Bomb squads were called in to safely dispose of Edson's backpack and another unattended backpack left by a news crew, both of which were not deemed to be explosive, reports The Washington Post.

This alleged hoax on the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing will be no joke when Edson appears before a judge.

Can Police Read or Search Through Your Mail?

Is it legal for police to read or search through your mail?

Your mail is one thing you'd probably prefer the cops not to peek at, but in many cases they can. Still, the Fourth Amendment protects our papers and effects from unlawful search and seizure. That potentially includes some of your most intimate letters and private correspondence, depending on the circumstances.

So when is it OK for law-enforcement officers to read or sift through your mail?

Boston Bombing Anniversary: A Legal Update

Today marks one year since the Boston Marathon bombing, and much has happened since April 2013.

As the nation reflects on that tragic day, let's take a moment to catch up on all the legal events surrounding the explosion that rocked Boston one year ago.

Making a Bomb Threat: What Can Happen?

What can happen to a person who makes a bomb threat?

Bomb threats are taken very seriously by local and federal law enforcement, as San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith learned Sunday. Smith was arrested after allegedly making a false bomb threat during a dispute at Los Angeles International Airport.

Responding to a fake bomb threat is costly to law enforcement, and the legal system doesn't look too kindly upon it either. Here's what state and federal laws say can potentially happen to anyone who makes a bomb threat:

Was Jewish Center Shooting a Hate Crime?

The suspect of Jewish center shooting in Kansas has been charged with premeditated murder, but some groups believe that the killings were hate crimes.

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, is accused of going on a shooting spree at a Jewish community center and nearby Jewish retirement home in Overland Park, Kansas. A 14-year-old boy, his grandfather, and an unrelated woman were killed, according to Reuters.

Cross allegedly has a long history of racism and anti-Semitism, but police say it's too early to determine if the killings were motivated by those factors.

Mattress Fire Gets 'Bored' Teen Charged With Murder

A New York teen has been charged with murder after setting a mattress on fire because he was bored.

Marcell Dockery, 16, allegedly told the NYPD that he lit a mattress on fire in a Brooklyn high-rise because "he was bored," reports New York City's WABC-TV. Unfortunately, an NYPD Housing officer who responded to the blaze succumbed to smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Dockery now faces felony murder charges for his death. So what exactly is "felony murder"?

5 Legal Tips for Weekend DUI Arrests

Getting arrested for DUI over the weekend can be tricky, seeing as most courts (and most lawyer's offices) are closed.

But even if you do get busted for drunken driving on Friday night, Saturday, or Sunday, don't panic. Here are five legal tips for dealing with weekend DUI arrests:

School Stabbing Suspect, 16, to Be Tried as Adult

A Pennsylvania teen accused of stabbing his classmates and school employees has been charged with four counts of attempted homicide and will be tried as an adult.

Alex Hribal, 16, allegedly stabbed 21 other students and a security guard at his high school. Although prosecutors are trying Hribal as an adult, his attorney wants a mental health expert to evaluate the teen's state of mind in hopes of getting him rehabilitated in a juvenile facility, Reuters reports.

So when can minors be tried as adults in criminal court?

Man Convicted Despite Alibi Freed After 24 Years

A New York man wrongly convicted of murder more than 24 years ago was freed on Tuesday after a judge vacated the decades-old conviction.

Jonathan Fleming, 51, was found guilty in a Brooklyn killing in 1989, despite the fact that he had an alibi that placed him in Florida at the time of the shooting, reports CNN.

Now that he's been freed, what is Fleming's next legal move?

Stiletto Heel Killer Convicted, Awaits Sentencing

A Texas jury has convicted a Houston woman of murder for killing her boyfriend in a stiletto heel stabbing.

Ana Trujillo, 45, alleged that she was acting in self-defense against her boyfriend Alf Stefan Andersson, 59, but jurors saw it as a homicide. The sentencing phase of Trujillo's trial is currently underway, The Associated Press reports.

So what kind of punishment may be ahead for the stiletto heel killer?

After Arrest, How Long Until a Bond Hearing?

Although TV criminals often assert that they'll be bailed out "before dinnertime," in real life, how long does it take before a suspect gets a bond hearing after an arrest?

The answer depends on your state's laws and the type of crime the suspect is accused of having committed.

Here's a general legal overview:

DUI Lawyer or Public Defender? Pros and Cons

When you're facing a DUI charge, you won't feel like you have many options. But in most places, you have at least two: a private attorney or a public defender.

Which is the best choice for you? It may depend on your situation and whether (or how much) you're willing or able to pay.

Here are a few pros and cons to consider when deciding between a private DUI attorney versus a public defender for your drunken driving case:

When Can You Call Police on Your Landlord?

Calling the police on your landlord shouldn't be your first response to landlord problems, but it may be smart in certain situations.

Paying rent entitles you to certain rights to your apartment. And when your landlord atempts to deny you those rights, it may be time to get the police involved.

So when are those times when you can call the cops on your landlord? Here are three common situations that may warrant police involvement:

Mom Left Kids in Car During Job Interview: Cops

A mother in Arizona was charged with child abuse after she left her two young children in a locked car while she went to a job interview.

Shanesha Taylor, 35, claims that she's homeless, needed a job, and couldn't find anyone to watch her children when she went for the job interview in March, according to Phoenix's KSAZ-TV.

While some have criticized Taylor for her actions, thousands more are sympathetic to her plight. Supporters have raised more than $77,000 in donations to help her get back on her feet and pay her legal fees.

Yes, You Can Get a DUI in a Wheelchair

Being drunk on wheels is never a good idea, but can you be slapped with a DUI for being drunk in a wheelchair? It may sound ludicrous, but the answer is typically yes.

Case in point: A disabled Ohio man was found swerving in his motorized wheelchair on a road about a mile from his home, the New York Daily News reported this week. Donald Law, 44, was charged with a misdemeanor OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence).

Here’s what you need to know about wheelchair DUIs:

10 Dumb DUI Mistakes You'll Want to Avoid

Drivers are human, and even some of the smartest ones have been slapped with a DUI.

But as some notable drunken-driving defendants have shown us, there are also many incredibly dumb mistakes that can lead to a DUI -- and many more dumb mistakes you can make when getting pulled over.

Here are 10 not-so-smart DUI mistakes you'll want to avoid:

What Happens When a Company Gets Indicted?

Like individuals, companies can be indicted if they violate criminal laws. So what happens when a corporation is criminally charged?

This has just happened to California's largest utility, Pacific Gas and Electric. The company is facing 12 federal criminal charges stemming from a 2010 gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and leveled a suburban neighborhood. Prosecutors allege that the company didn't conduct required inspections that may have prevented the massive blast, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

So when a company like PG&E is criminally charged, what happens next? The answer will vary by case, but here are a few common questions and answers:

When Can Police Open Fire on Protesters?

When protests have the potential of becoming violent, police often open fire on crowds.

Even those who support law enforcement in maintaining civil order can recognize that firing on civilians is an extreme use of government power, and it can't be used recklessly.

So when can police open fire on protesters?

White House Shooter Sentenced to 25 Years

The White House shooter was sentenced to 25 years in prison for weapons charges and for placing lives in jeopardy.

Although Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, 23, of Idaho Falls, Idaho was originally charged with attempting to assassinate the president, but the charges were reduced pursuant to a plea bargain, according to Reuters.

Ortega-Hernandez's criminal charges are considered terrorism-related acts.

5 Legal Tips for Sexual Assault Victims

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an effort to educate the public about the crime, its consequences, and how to prevent it.

Sexual assault occurs when a person forces you to participate in sexual contact without your consent. It can have devastating and long-lasting effects on a victim, but victims should try to remember that legal protections are in place to help them on their road to recovery.

Here are five tips for sexual assault victims to keep in mind when seeking help from the legal system: