FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

July 2014 Archives

What Are Aggravated, Extreme DUIs?

Not all DUIs are created equal.

Just ask Phoenix Suns player P.J. Tucker. He was arrested earlier this summer following a traffic stop and charged with "super extreme DUI." Extreme DUIs, also known as aggravated DUIs, can result in even more severe penalties than the already serious punishments meted out for a DUI conviction, including larger fines and more jail time.

What are aggravated and extreme DUIs?

  • Know someone who has been arrested or charged with a drunken driving offense? Get in touch with a knowledgeable DUI attorney in your area today.

OK to Drive Away When Cop Knocks on Car Window: Wis. High Court

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that a driver is free to ignore a cop who walks up and knocks on the window -- even free to drive away.

In a 5-2 decision, the Wisconsin High Court ruled in County of Grant v. Vogt that an intoxicated Wisconsin driver was not "seized" when the officer approached his car and knocked on his window. The court determined that although this was a close case, a motorist isn't detained when an officer knocks on the driver's window, so he or she is "free" to ignore it or even drive away.

Is the Wisconsin Supreme Court kidding? Is it really legal to drive away from a cop at your car window?

1st-Time Pot Possession: What Penalties Are Possible?

Penalties for first-time pot possession, like real estate, depend primarily on three things: location, location, location.

For example, in Washington and Colorado, possessing marijuana is no longer even a state crime for those old enough to buy it. Even in states where it is still against the law to possess pot, district attorneys are refusing to prosecute low-level pot cases. But what about the states that do still punish possession of marijuana?

What penalties are possible for first-time pot possession?

  • Know someone who has been arrested or charged with a crime? Get in touch with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your area today.

Paying for a Criminal Defense Lawyer: 3 Things to Know About Fees

While experienced criminal defense attorneys are essential to your success, you may run into various ways in which attorneys wish to be paid their fees.

Criminal lawyers may charge a flat fee for something like a basic DUI, or they may charge an hourly rate that requires a substantial down payment. If you're a repeat offender or facing charges that are likely to go to trial, you may be looking at some steep attorney's fees.

Don't fret though, criminal defense attorney's fees can be easy to understand with these principles:

Mom Tells N.J. Officer She Has a Gun; Faces Prison for Gun Charge

A single mom from Philadelphia is facing serious prison time for volunteering to a New Jersey officer at a traffic stop that she had a licensed handgun in her car.

Unfortunately for Shaneen Allen, 27, her Pennsylvania concealed carry permit isn't recognized in New Jersey, and she was arrested and charged with "unlawful possession of a weapon and armor penetrating bullets," reports Philadelphia's WCAU-TV. The incident occurred last October, but Allen has a court date set for August 5.

Why is the Garden State being so hard on this Philly mom?

Is It Legal to Be High in Public?

The notable side effect of consuming marijuana is getting high (duh), and many Americans wonder whether it’s illegal to simply be high in public.

This is an even more pressing question in states where marijuana possession and use is legal — either for medicinal or recreational purposes — but public use is still heavily restricted.

So is it legal to be high in public? Here’s what you need to know:

Underage DUIs: 5 Potential Legal Consequences

If you're pulled over for a DUI and you're under 21, you may not be thinking about the potential legal consequences. You might be thinking about how much your parents will ream you, how much your friends will ridicule you, and how your social life may never be the same.

Well as Cher memorably said in "Moonstruck," snap out of it! (Too young for that reference? Don't worry about it.)

Worry instead about these five potential legal consequences of an underage DUI:

No 'Stand Your Ground' Hearing for Fla. 'Warning Shot' Defendant

A Florida woman who fired a warning shot at her abusive husband will not receive a pretrial "Stand Your Ground" hearing in her assault case, a judge has ruled.

Marissa Alexander, 33, was hoping the judge would take into account Florida's new law extending "Stand Your Ground" to warning shots in granting her a pretrial self-defense hearing. Reuters reports that Alexander, whose original conviction in 2012 was overturned on appeal, had her claim of self-defense rejected during her first trial as well.

With Florida's new law in place, why is Alexander being denied a pretrial "Stand Your Ground" hearing?

Working Mom Arrested for Leaving Daughter, 9, Alone at Park

A South Carolina woman who left her 9-year-old daughter alone at a public park while she went to her job at McDonalds was arrested and charged with a felony.

Debra Harrell, 46, of North Augusta, was arrested after confessing to regularly leaving her daughter in the park while she worked at a McDonald's a mile-and-a-half away. According to CNN, Harrell had given her daughter a cell phone and a key to their house, which was about a six-minute walk from the park.

The arrest is causing many to ask: Is leaving a 9-year-old child in a public park illegal?

Dad Who Beat Up Son's Alleged Molester Won't Be Charged

A Florida dad won't be charged for beating his son's alleged molester, despite leaving him "in a puddle of blood" on the floor.

Raymond Frolander, 18, has been charged with felony sexual battery of a victim under 12, for allegedly assaulting his attacker's 11-year-old son, Reuters reports. The unidentified father, 35, beat Frolander into submission after reportedly finding him sexually assaulting his son.

Why did police choose not to press charges?

NYPD 'Chokeholds' Under Fire After Man's Death

Police officers' use of chokeholds to subdue resisting suspects is coming under fire after a New York man suspected of illegally selling cigarettes died in a confrontation with NYPD officers.

Video of the July 17 incident appears to show officers putting the man, 43-year-old Eric Garner, in a chokehold in order to take him to the ground, reports The New York Times -- desptite chokeholds being forbidden by NYPD policy.

What led to the fatal incident, and is the use of chokeholds by police officers legal?

D.C. Decriminalizes Pot; Possession Now a $25 Fine

Washington, D.C.'s marijuana decriminalization law is now in effect, reducing the penalty for simple marijuana possession to a $25 fine.

The District of Columbia now joins 17 states in reducing penalties for first-time pot possession to a civil, not criminal offense, Reuters reports. The District's law makes possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by anyone 18 and older a civil offense punishable by only a $25 fine and the seizure of drugs and paraphernalia.

What does this new weed law mean for D.C. pot possessors?

What Crimes Require Sex-Offender Registration?

What crimes require sex-offender registration?

Convicts who must register as sex offenders are subject to restrictions on where they may live, work, and their privacy. But it may surprise you that different states have different requirements for which crimes require a convict to register as a sex offender.

Here are a few highlighted examples of which crimes require sex-offender registration:

What Is Cyberstalking?

Cyberstalking is in the news after a prominent New Orleans lawyer was charged with the crime for allegedly sending harassing text messages to an opponent.

Stuart Smith, a noted environmental lawyer and the namesake of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law's legal clinic, was charged with misdemeanor cyberstalking for allegedly threatening someone via text message in a dispute over a proposed noise ordinance. If convicted, Smith could face up to one year behind bars and a $2,000 fine, The Times-Picayune reports.

So what exactly is cyberstalking, and how can you get charged with it?

DUIs and Prescription Drugs: 3 Things Every Driver Should Know

Prescription drugs have become a real part of many drivers’ lives, but they can present a real danger of DUI.

Prescription medication like painkillers, antidepressants, anxiety meds, and even antihistamines can cause a driver to be impaired, and law enforcement is keen to their effects.

In order to be a savvy and safe driver, here are three things about prescription drugs and DUIs that every motorist should know:

Yes, You Can Get Arrested for Attacking an Inanimate Object

In case you missed it, a Connecticut man was arrested this week for allegedly stabbing a watermelon in a "passive aggressive" way.

Of course, violence against fruit isn't typically a crime (otherwise fruit salad would be a lot more expensive). But in this case, police say the man's alleged melon mangling was meant to send a threatening message to his wife -- who had just reported the man's drug stash to police and was going through a divorce, reports The Register Citizen.

The incident brings up an interesting legal question: Under what circumstances can attacking an inanimate object get you arrested?

Is Sex Between Minors a Crime?

Teenage love grips many of the nation's minors, and many minors will become sexually active by sleeping with another minor. But statutory rape laws make it a crime to have sex with any person under the "age of consent."

Lawmakers understand that teens want to make love, but is sex between two minors a crime?

Here's what you need to know:

Identity Theft Charges: What Are the Possible Punishments?

Identity theft charges can encompass a wide range of criminal activity, such as hijacking someone else's Facebook page or using someone's personal financial information to fraudulently obtain a loan.

Equally as wide-ranging are the potential consequences of being caught. For example, a California teen who hacked into another teen's Facebook account and added crude sexual remarks was convicted under the state's identity theft statute and sentenced to juvenile detention and probation.

But depending on both the offense and the state in which it's committed, criminal penalties for identity theft can be far more serious -- and potentially costly too. Here's what you need to know:

Charged With the Wrong Crime? What Can You Do?

Think you've been charged with the wrong crime? What can you do about it? Does it mean your case will automatically be dismissed?

Not necessarily. Defendants who are arrested and called into criminal court often believe they have been charged with the wrong crime. Perhaps you committed a petty theft, but got charged with something completely different because of a clerical error. Or perhaps you feel the seriousness of your charge doesn't fit the allegations.

If you truly believe you've been charged with the "wrong crime," here are a few things to consider:

Meth Baby's Mom Arrested for Drug Assault While Pregnant

A Tennessee mother has been arrested on drug assault charges after giving birth to a "meth baby" who tested positive for amphetamines.

Mallory Loyola, 26, of Madisonville, admitted to Monroe County sheriff's deputies that she'd smoked meth "three to four days" before the birth of her daughter. The Tennessean reports that Loyola is the first to be charged under a new Tennessee law aimed at mothers of drug babies.

What is this new law, and how does it relate to the meth baby's mother?

Public Nudity, Indecent Exposure: 3 Potential Defenses

Today (July 14) is National Nude Day, and everyone has different standards when it comes to how comfortable they are with public nudity. However, no matter what your personal preference may be, public nudity run afoul of your state's indecent exposure laws.

Though indecent exposure laws vary from state to state, they generally prohibit exposing a person's genitals in public, causing alarm or offense to others. In some states, intentional exposure of one's privates in public can also lead to a charge of public lewdness.

But when can public nudity fall short of being "indecent" or "lewd" in the eyes of the law? Here are three potential defenses to an indecent exposure or lewdness charge:

Brooklyn's DA Won't Prosecute Low-Level Pot Cases

Brooklyn's District Attorney has come out against prosecuting low-level pot cases, under a new policy that will provide a clean slate for some drug offenders.

District Attorney Kenneth Thompson's office will not prosecute those who are arrested for possessing less than 25 grams (just under an ounce) of marijuana and will dismiss cases currently in the system. The Wall Street Journal reports that unlike similar programs in the other New York City boroughs, small-time pot offenders in Brooklyn will have their cases dismissed before having to appear in court.

Why is the Brooklyn DA taking this stance on low-level pot cases?

DUI Arrests and Miranda Rights: What You Need to Know

If you’re arrested for a DUI, do police have to read you your Miranda rights?

Anyone who has watched their fair share of TV police dramas probably knows the Miranda rights by heart, or at least the first part: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”

But you might not know is that police don’t necessarily have to read you your Miranda rights upon arrest, especially if you are arrested for DUI. This does not mean, however, that police won’t be able to use evidence against you (although it may determine the type of evidence they use).

Here’s what you need to know about Miranda warnings and how they may apply to DUI arrests:

Criminal Sexting Investigations: 3 Things to Expect

When it comes to investigating allegations of criminal sexting, police and prosecutors are increasingly taking a hard line.

Sexting involving minors can result in felony child pornography charges, and even sexting between adults is costing jobs and leading to harassment lawsuits. These serious consequences are often matched by equally serious investigations which can be invasive, time-consuming, and potentially incriminating.

Here are three things you can expect from a criminal sexting investigation:

Is Illegal Immigration a Crime? Improper Entry v. Unlawful Presence

What's the illegal part of being an illegal immigrant? Is it a crime to simply be an undocumented immigrant residing in the United States? What about sneaking across the border?

The confusion lies in the legal difference between improper entry and unlawful presence. Here's what you need to know:

2 Drone Pilots Arrested for Allegedly 'Endangering' NYPD Helicopter

Two drone pilots were arrested after cops say their tiny craft nearly collided with a NYPD chopper over the George Washington Bridge.

Remy Castro, 23, and Wilkins Mendoza, 34, of Manhattan, have been arraigned on felony reckless endangerment charges, reports the New York Post. The two were released without bail, but face serious felony charges for their allegedly dangerous drone antics.

Why is flying a drone like this a felony?

Should You Call the Cops Over a Video Game Threat?

Online gaming is no stranger to players hurling violent and often offensive threats at each other. But when does humdrum video-game trash talk turn into a criminal threat? And when should gamers call the cops over a video game threat?

In honor of Video Games Day (July 8), here are some key legal features that distinguish vexing virtual banter from something illegal:

Wash.'s Retail Pot Stores Set to Open: 5 Legal Reminders

Washington state's first "legal" recreational pot stores are set to open Tuesday, after months of implementing the state's new marijuana rules.

Initiative 502 went into effect in December 2012, and in the past year and a half, the Washington Liquor Control Board has been reviewing applications for retail stores wishing to sell legal (under state law, anyway), "just-for-fun" pot. The result: A handful of stores will scramble to open on Tuesday, as Washington state electronically issued its first retail pot licenses early Monday, reports NBC News.

So as lines form with law-abiding citizens jonesing for some state-regulated green, keep in mind these five legal reminders:

Can You Transfer to a Different Jail, Prison?

Being locked up in jail or prison can be pretty inconvenient, especially if you're far away from family members. So can you transfer to a different correctional facility?

Jail or prison transfer requests can be based on a variety of factors, but they're not always granted. Generally, county, state, and federal prisons set their own rules for the administration of the correctional facilities they control.

Here's what you need to know about transferring to a different jail or prison:

DUIs and the Fourth of July: 4 Facts Every Driver Should Know

The worst way to celebrate the Fourth of July is with a DUI, and yet many Americans will make poor drinking and driving choices over the Independence Day holiday weekend.

Perhaps these drivers aren't aware of the consequences of choosing to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

For those in the know this Fourth of July, and those who may need some educating, we present these four sobering facts every driver should know:

Can You Get Arrested for Possessing, Setting Off Fireworks?

Fireworks combine our love of bright lights and loud noises with our equal affection for fire. But as many Americans learn first-hand around the Fourth of July, you can be arrested in many states for simply possessing fireworks.

Although enforcement of fireworks laws varies from county to county and state to state, possessing or setting off illegal fireworks can lead to your arrest. It may simply depend on the type or amount of fireworks whether you end up with a citation or in handcuffs.

So before you get on the road with a rocket in your pocket, remember these legal principles about fireworks and your risk of arrest:

Ex-NYPD 'Cannibal Cop's' Conviction Overturned, but Why?

A former New York City police officer -- dubbed the "cannibal cop" after his online postings about wanting to kidnap, murder, and cook women led to his arrest -- was released from jail Tuesday after his conspiracy conviction was overturned.

A federal judge threw out 30-year-old Gilberto Valle's conviction, ordered him to be released on bond, and granted him a new trial. Prosecutors say they will appeal.

Why did the judge reverse the jury's conviction?

Trucker v. Trooper: Traffic Stop Video Goes Viral

Video shot by an Illinois truck driver pulled over for honking at a state trooper has gone viral, racking up almost 3 million views in less than a week.

The video captures a traffic stop initiated by an Illinois trooper after trucker Brian Miner honked his horn at the officer, who Miner claims was speeding and talking on his cell phone, reports ABC News.

The officer seems unapologetic, until he learns that the camera is on.