FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

June 2015 Archives

A burglar smashed your living room window to break into your home. While he was in the process of taking your flat screen television off the wall, he steps on your kid's toy car and falls on his back, spraining it. The TV then falls on his face breaking his nose. To add insult to injury, the burglar is now suing you for his injuries!

Can a burglar really sue the homeowner for injuries during a break in?

What Are Good Time Credits?

For all but the worst offenders, most convicted prisoners don't spend their whole sentence in prison. Many are released early because of good time credits for good behavior or for working.

What are good time credits?

Has someone hacked your computer? Did someone steal your password? You probably have Alex Yucel and his Blackshades malware to blame.

The co-creator of malware technology has been sentenced to prison for hacking after pleading guilty earlier this year.

Although a jury handed down the death penalty last month, a judge formally sentenced Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death today for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured hundreds more.

While the sentencing in some ways felt like a mere formality, it was noteworthy for those who spoke during the nearly four hour hearing. Two dozen survivors and family members of the victims were allowed to give victim impact statements, and Tsarnaev himself addressed the court and the victims for the first time.

Got a speeding ticket? Your insurance could go up. Got a DUI? Definitely get ready to pay more each month.

What if you got a parking ticket or other non-moving violation? Will non-moving violations cause your insurance rate to go up?

The day after Dylann Roof killed nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, we speculated about whether he would be charged with a hate crime or an act of domestic terrorism. After all, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had already announced its own hate crime investigation.

As it turns out, Roof so far has only been charged with nine counts of murder and an associated weapons charge. So what about the hate crime and terrorism charges?

The days of Dog the Bounty Hunter being a household icon may be over. While the profession was glorified for eight seasons on A&E (as much for the eponymous Duane "Dog" Chapman's hair a sunglass choices as the hot pursuit of criminal suspects), recent events have begun to cast bail enforcement agents in a more negative light.

The killing of country singer Randy Howard and a John Oliver segment about the bail process have left many wondering whether it's wise to have a largely unregulated, pseudo-police force hunting people who skipped a court date for money. So who are these bounty hunters and how much power do they have?

Nobody likes to be caught red handed, but police seem to be especially touchy.

The city of Detroit is being sued by two college students who claim that police beat and arrested them, and destroyed their cell phones -- all over recording officers arresting a third man.

Two convicted murderers who escaped from a maximum-security prison remain at large and U.S. marshals have added the pair to their most-wanted fugitives list. As the manhunt continues in upstate New York and beyond, there is now a $50,000 reward for information that leads to capture of David Sweat and Richard Matt.

The duo escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility over two weeks ago, allegedly with help from prison worker Joyce Mitchell.

We hear a lot about excessive use of force by police against black males in cities such as Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore.

But, have you heard of the shooting of an unarmed 15-year-old Mexican boy? He was shot in the face by a Border Patrol agent for throwing rocks at a border bridge to El Paso. Another 17-year-old boy was shot and killed for throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border fence in Arizona. A third man was shot and killed by Border Patrol officers as he was trying to climb over a border fence into Mexico.

Shootings by Border Patrol officers are investigated by the U.S Customs and Border Protection. Would it surprise you to hear that none of the Border Patrol officers involved were fired, disciplined, or charged with any crimes for these shootings?

Most of us know we have the right to a speedy jury trial. But many of us don't know that we can waive that right, if we choose.

Criminal defendants can choose to have what is known as a bench trial, where a judge takes on the role of the jury. Why would you choose a bench trial instead of a jury trial? And what are the pros and cons of either option?

Late last night, Dylann Roof opened fire on a bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof killed nine parishioners, including Reverend Clementa Pinckney, the church's pastor and a state senator, and wounded three others.

Roof was apprehended in North Carolina this morning, and the Justice Department has already announced it will open a hate crime investigation into the shooting. Some are calling for the mass shooting to also be considered an act of domestic terrorism.

Here is how those laws could apply to this case.

You left your driver's license at home. Or maybe it was in a wallet or purse that was stolen. Or maybe your dog ate it...

Driving without a license can happen to the best of us. (Even DMX. Twice!) So what happens if you get pulled over and you don't have your driver's license with you? Well, like all legal questions, it depends:

Can I Challenge My Bail Amount?

For most people accused of a crime and jailed, the court may grant bail. If the defendant wants to leave jail, he'll need to pay the bail or pay a bail bondsman to post the bail.

However, bail can often be very expensive. If you can't afford to pay your bail or a bail bondsman, can you challenge the bail amount?

The battle between the government and motorcycle clubs engaged in illegal activity has spilled into trademark law. Federal prosecutors are asking a federal court to ban members of the Mongols motorcycle gang from wearing or distributing their trademarked logo and name.

More than 100 Mongols faced criminal charges in state and federal courts under a 2008 racketeering indictment accusing members of drug trafficking, torture, and murder.

Another juror bites the dust.

The original jury in Colorado shooter James Holmes' trial just keeps getting smaller and smaller as yet another is dismissed. Last week, we wrote about how three jurors were dismissed for improper discussion of outside information.

This week another juror was dismissed for possible bias.

More than a week ago, two convicted murderers broke out of Clinton Correction Facility, a prison in Dannemora, New York.

Now, police believe they had help from Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailor. Authorities long suspected that the two escapees, Richard Matt and David Sweat, had help.

The family that fights together ... well, gets in serious trouble together. The mother involved in a fistfight in an Indiana Walmart has been charged with felony child neglect after video of the fight went viral.

On the video below, Amber Stephenson can be heard imploring her 6-year-old son to join the fight, which allegedly erupted after another female shopper, Rebecca Mills, called a store employee the N-word.

A Cleveland judge recommended criminal charges be filed against two police officers in the homicide of Tamir Rice. Rice was shot and killed by officers while holding a toy gun in a park last year.

While Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine could not issue arrest warrants, he did rule that probable cause existed to charge Cleveland Police Officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback with multiple criminal charges.

But as always, it is now up to prosecutors to decide whether those charges will be filed.

As if red light cameras on intersections weren't controversial enough (they're not valid; yes they are; no they're not), at least one Pennsylvania town is planning on using traffic cameras for crime control.

Hazleton, PA will soon link all of its traffic cameras along a central street to city hall, giving police on-demand access to the video. While residents may think the use of cameras to fight crime is necessary, is it legal?

The jury for James Holmes' capital murder trial in Colorado is now three members less.

The three jurors were dismissed after another juror turned them in to the judge for reading a tweet about the case and discussing that information among themselves.

Is it Illegal to Carry a Knife?

After Freddie Gray died, there was a lot of focus on his knife.

The police argued that Gray was illegally carrying a switchblade knife. Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby claimed that the knife was not a switchblade and legal under Maryland law.

So, is it illegal to carry a knife in public?

Do you let your children chat on chat rooms online? Do you know who they're talking to?

Your child could be talking to older men seeking sex with children. Florida police caught 22 such men in an undercover sting, reports The Huffington Post. Among the arrestees are several former workers for Disney's Magic Kingdom, SeaWorld, and Universal Studios.

How did authorities catch these alleged sexual deviants?

A grand jury has indicted former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager for the murder of Walter Scott. Slager shot Scott in the back as he ran from the officer, while a bystander recorded the incident.

While the indictment is just one small step on the path to trial, it is nonetheless noteworthy in comparison to other cases of police officer shootings, most notably Michael Brown's, which failed to clear the indictment hurdle.

Another use of excessive force from police officers on unarmed black civilians. Another citizen-recorded video, uploaded to the Internet. Another round of outrage. And another police officer suspended.

This time it was in McKinney, Texas, a Dallas suburb, and it was a white officer throwing a young black girl in a bikini to the ground, pulling his gun on other teens nearby, and then slamming her face into the ground while kneeling on her back. The officer, identified as Eric Casebolt, is on administrative leave, and the chief of the McKinney Police Department said the video "raised concerns and the department is investigating."

Two years ago, Curtis Wehmeyer, a priest in Minnesota, was convicted of criminal sexual conduct and possession of child pornography. For years, priests allegedly molested children without repercussion because church leadership ignored complaints from victims.

Last Friday, Ramsey County prosecutor John J. Choi announced criminal charges against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for alleged mishandling of complaints of sexual abuse by priests.

Additionally, Mr. Choi filed a civil petition against the archdiocese as well.

A young Texas college student was shot and killed, and two other people were injured after a fight over the rules of beer pong.

Ronald Wayne McNeil, of College Station, Texas, was angry after a fight over the game of beer pong. So, he apparently decided to settle the argument by shooting at, killing, and injuring innocent people.

Have a cloud of malignant ghosts and curses floating around you and preventing you from becoming a millionaire? Have no fear. A fortune teller can help ... if she doesn't land herself in jail first.

April Uwanawich, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been arrested and charged with 55 counts of fortune telling, theft by unlawful taking, and theft by deception.

Seriously? Fortune telling is against the law?

An increased media focus on deadly police shootings, combined with the absence of reliable data on how many people are shot by police officers each year, it can be hard to keep track of which police shooting case is which. The New York Times had compiled 16 cases of fatal police shootings since Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson Missouri, and that was back on April 8.

And that doesn't include older cases that are just making their way through courts, or have recently been decided. Here is the latest on four recent police shootings that have been in the news, and what may be next:

Last week, a woman was groped on a Brooklyn, NY subway. That might have been the end of the story, but instead, she took a photo of the man with her cell phone and gave it to police, who in turn gave it to the press. Now the article is being shared on Facebook and Twitter, and the perpetrator is more likely to be found than if the victim had only given officers a vague physical description.

The NYPD has been famous for using social media to fight crime. (Or infamous, depending on your perspective.) But the department is merely reflecting what citizens are doing more and more for themselves -- utilizing technology and social media to prevent crime and catch criminals.

#Justice4Caitlyn. Have you heard of Caitlyn? No, I'm not talking about Caitlyn Jenner.

I'm talking about Caitlyn the adorable 15-month-old chocolate Staffordshire bull terrier mix who was victimized by her last two owners. Her first owner, tired of the responsibility of caring for an active puppy, dumped her on a stranger to net a $10 (or $20 according to some reports) profit. Her second owner, William Leonard Dodson, of North Charleston, South Carolina, thought it would be funny to tape Caitlyn's mouth shut with electrical tape.

I would say, "What kind of animal would do that?" But it would be an unfair insult to animals.

After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Congress passed the USA Patriot Act giving the government wide power to conduct surveillance in search of terrorist suspects.

However, some of those powers ended Sunday night after the bill lapsed without an extension.

Here's what you need to know:

If you see it on TV or in the movies it must be true, right? And how many times have we seen cops cut the cable, pose as the repairmen, and, once they're invited in, search the home and find the evidence they need.

Surprise! This may not be legal. According to a federal District Court judge in Las Vegas, the FBI overstepped its bounds by disconnecting the Internet to some pricey Caesar's Palace villas and sending in agents dressed as repairmen in order to gather evidence on an illegal online gambling operation. So why can't the cops do this?

Minnesota's Court of Appeals recently ruled the state's criminal defamation law unconstitutional.

In 2013, Minnesota resident Timothy Robert Turner posed as his former girlfriend and her daughter, and posted false ads on Craigslist. The women then started receiving pornographic videos and photos from strange men on their cell phones. Turner was arrested, charged with criminal defamation, and admitted to posting the ads. A judge convicted Turner, and sentenced him to 30 days in jail.

Turner appealed the conviction, arguing that the law he was convicted under was unconstitutional.

Former speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has been indicted by a federal grand jury for skirting banking reporting regulations. The charges stem from Hastert's withdrawal of over $950,000 in cash from various bank accounts, and his attempts to avoid disclosing the transactions.

Additional allegations regarding the purpose of the withdrawals have also surfaced over the weekend. Here's what you need to know: