FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

August 2017 Archives

Identity theft often involves multiple pieces of identification. That means multiple driver's licenses, all with the same face. So in 2010, the New York Department of Motor Vehicles began using facial recognition software to flag the same face applying for multiple licenses. Turns out it pays off.

The New York Post reports the DMV's facial recognition technology has led to 4,000 arrests and ID'd a total of 21,000 cases of identity theft or fraud.

At one point in the not-too-distant past, a fight between spouses -- even a physical one -- was thought to be a personal matter, not the purview of police, prosecutors, or judges. More recently, law enforcement has taken domestic abuse more seriously, although juries were liable to take a he said/she said approach to accusations of violence in the home.

Nowadays, thankfully, it seems like everyone is taking domestic violence seriously, from the expansion of definitions to include other members of the family or household, to the increase in convictions and penalties for domestic abuse. But questions remain.

Here are five of them from our archives:

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana back in 2015. But what about other Schedule 1 narcotics like cocaine, meth, or LSD? While the Beaver State isn't planning on legalizing those any time soon, it is rolling back the penalties for their possession.

A new state law will downgrade first-time drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, so long as the amount is under a certain limit. So to which drugs does the new law apply? What are the limits? And how does that change the possible criminal penalties?

Much of the country was shocked to see white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, and horrified at the images of one of those men driving a car through a crowd, killing one woman and wounding 19 others. There were clashes throughout the city between protestors (ostensibly there in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee) and counter-protestors, and surely there will be criminal charges and repercussions as well.

Here's a roundup of the criminal charges that have been filed so far in the wake of the Charlottesville violence, and a few that may yet be.

A victim of domestic violence should generally try to involve law enforcement at the earliest possible time after an incident, assuming police didn't arrive during the incident. The sooner a victim can file a police report, the higher the likelihood that police will investigate, which increases the chances of a city, or state, district attorney prosecuting the matter criminally.

Most states provide that criminal offenses of varying severity can only be prosecuted within a certain window of time, known as a statute of limitations. Although, in some states, certain serious offenses like rape or muder will not be subject to a statute of limitations. In New York, for example, a domestic violence case could have a statute of limitations ranging from one to three years (depending on the severity of the charges).

In this hurly-burly, topsy-turvy, crazy messed up world we live in, there's something that we can all agree on. Dogs are good. They catch abusive babysitters. They win Supreme Court cases. Even when they're bad, shockingly bad, they're good. That's why we like to have them around, so much so that they can be registered as service and comfort animals.

And considering the stress of having to go to court, when would you need your best friend more? As it turns out, many courts are using therapy dogs for both witnesses and criminal defendants.

How does an apparently routine traffic stop turn into an $85,000 settlement? When an arresting officer allegedly forcibly removes a Muslim woman's hijab, requiring her to have her head exposed overnight in a jail cell, in plain view of other male officers and dozens of inmates, and have her publicly available booking photo taken without her head covered.

"I would never want anyone to go through what I felt from this experience, it was horrible," Kirsty Powell said when she filed her lawsuit against the city of Long Beach, Police Chief Robert Luna, and six Long Beach Police officers. "I want my Muslim sisters to always feel comfortable and safe wearing a hijab and to stand up for what's right. We are all human, we all deserve justice."

In the wake of mass demonstrations during the 2016 Republican National Convention, we prepared a little primer on protest related laws. And after the tragic and horrifying events in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, we thought it might be time to round up some more questions, answers, and tips for keeping your protest activities legal.

So here are five more legal aspects to protests and public demonstrations to consider before taking it to the streets.

There had already been 31 children killed in hot cars in the United States this year, four in Florida alone. So you would think that day care workers, who are explicitly responsible for the safety of children in their care, would be especially careful about transporting children.

But one day care driver in the Orlando area allegedly didn't count the children entering or exiting the van they were driving, making three-year-old Miles Hill the fifth Florida child to die of heat exposure in a vehicle. And local police say criminal charges may be filed.

The involvement of private enterprise in the criminal justice system has expanded beyond private prisons to include parole and probation monitoring and rehabilitation services. But one Louisiana judge and private, pretrial supervision company have taken things too far, according to an ACLU lawsuit, charging arrestees an additional fee on top of their posted bail in order to be released from jail.

The suit alleges that Judge Trudy White has forced individuals arrested and held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison to pay Rehabilitation Home Incarceration an extra $525 to secure their release, a process ACLU attorney Brandon Buskey calls "a court-approved shakedown."

A new confidential policy of the U.S. armed forces permits consumer and commercially operated drones to be shot down if they enter or approach a no-fly zone. This policy appears to have been recently rolled out, but it does correspond to the warning the FAA issued to consumers earlier this year about flying near military bases. While the details of the policy remain confidential, releasing some info about it will go a long way to help educate the public as well as provide an easy to find answer through Google when a drone operator searches: "My drone got shot down above X military base."

After all, as the number of commercial and hobbyist drone operators continues to increase, the risk of a drone flying into a no-fly zone also increases. Though it may seem like common sense to not fly a drone near an airport or military base, in the excitement of RC aviation, it's not too farfetched that a person might forget, or not actually know what they're flying over. Only Maverick can get away with buzzing the tower.

It seems as though as soon as the car was invented, people were racing cars. We've always wanted to see who's the fastest. The only problem is, racing 4,000-pound automobiles at hundreds of miles per hour on public streets is a bit more dangerous than your average foot race.

That's why many states have enacted specific street racing statutes or allowed for enhanced penalties for racing-related offenses. Here are some of those laws and the penalties for breaking them.

There's no doubt that the opioid crisis has hit epidemic levels. By some estimates, the powerful prescription painkillers are claiming more lives in the U.S. than car accidents. The only question is how best to respond. Local law enforcement has attempted to crack down on illegal possession and sale, but it can be tricky when the drug itself is legal with a prescription. Some jurisdictions have created specialized opiate courts and some states are suing drug manufacturers for drowning their citizens in prescription pills, but both are after-the-fact remedies.

And now the Justice Department has announced the formation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which will be focused on "investigating and prosecuting health care fraud related to prescription opioids, including pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes."

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has seen his fair share of lawsuits. The self-proclaimed "America's Toughest Sheriff" was sued by the Department of Justice for civil rights violations, and found to have routinely engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. He was sued by a newspaper for arresting its owners following some unfavorable coverage. He was sued again for discrimination and was found guilty of racially profiling Latinos on immigration patrols. Most recently, he was charged with contempt for disobeying a court order barring those immigration enforcement patrols.

(Arpaio also lost his bid for reelection last year, ostensibly losing his favored moniker as well.)

Last week, the former sheriff was found guilty of contempt for violating that court order and could be facing serious jail time.

Martin Shkreli, the infamous 'pharma bro' is in the news again, but thankfully this time it is not due to him intentionally trying to become more hated. Instead, Shkreli has just been convicted on federal fraud charges related to his business dealings.

His conviction should not come as a surprise, given that his lack of judgment is what propelled him to fame through infamy. However, with the current news-cycle being as short as it is these days with all the political turmoil, this news of Shkreli's conviction seemed to come out of nowhere.

Criminal investigations often have several distinct stages, starting from the report or discovery of a crime and ending with an acquittal or conviction. And for federal criminal investigations, a key stage in the process is the grand jury and indictment.

Designed as a check on the government's prosecutorial power, many have criticized grand juries for "rubber stamping" whatever charges a prosecutor submits, hence the saying that a grand jury would "indict a ham sandwich" if you wanted them to. So how does a grand jury get the information and evidence that supports an indictment? A grand jury subpoena.

Just two weeks after body camera footage showed a Baltimore police officer placing drugs at the scene of an arrest, a second body cam video has surfaced, depicting other Baltimore officers allegedly planting drugs while searching a vehicle. None of the officers involved, it seems, were aware that the cameras actually save the 30 seconds of recording before they are turned on.

State prosecutors were forced to drop dozens of cases that involved testimony from the officer involved in the first tape. Charges were also dropped in the second case, and seven officers have been suspended for their involvement.

Sure, there are speed limits. But why would a car's speedometer go all the way to 150 mph if you were only supposed to drive 55? Well, one Texas mother put her speedometer, and her luck, to the test early Sunday morning.

Kierra Beaty was arrested and charged with street racing and child endangerment after her car clipped a pole, spun out of control, and crashed. In the car with Beaty were three passengers and her 13-month-old son, who was allegedly unrestrained in the back seat. Police say Beaty hit speeds as high as 120 mph before the crash.

With summer winding down, you're probably trying to squeeze in as much time out on the water as you can before it gets too cold. And whether it's fishing, water skiing, or just cruising, on lakes, rivers, or the open ocean, that time on the water likely includes family.

You want to let your kids have fun on the boat, and you probably want to get them some experience at the helm, but can your children be too young to drive your boat? And what are the penalties for underage boating?