FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

November 2017 Archives

Descriptions of disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's behavior have ranged from rape and serial sexual assault to sexual harassment and "workplace misconduct." Good Morning America called his behavior "gross," and the New York Attorney General opened a civil rights investigation into his former production company.

And now you can add sex trafficking to the list of descriptions. A British actress is suing Weinstein, claiming his assault on her in a French hotel room falls under the legal description of sex trafficking.

5 Common Holiday Crime Spikes

While most of us are wrapped up in the holiday spirit, there are a few criminals out there looking to take advantage of the holiday season. And, admittedly, some of us enjoy a little too much of the holiday spirits, and get into trouble ourselves.

Nobody wants to celebrate the holidays in prison, so here are the five most common holiday crimes, how you might avoid them, and what to do if you're charged with one. (Hint: Call an attorney.)

We all get in the gift-giving mood around the holidays, and what better gift than that of a good high?

Just kidding. Love is the greatest gift of all, followed closely by a really great bong. No, weed isn't legal in all 50 states (yet), but drug paraphernalia isn't actual drugs, so having it or giving it to someone else shouldn't be against the law, right? So is it illegal to give the gift of drug paraphernalia this holiday season?

Much as some of us would want to, we can't eliminate all physical contact in public interactions. Especially when we enter crowded areas like swarming sidewalks, stuffed shops and stores, and packed public transit. Sound like anywhere you were on Black Friday?

We might have to expect a couple brushes with strangers on Black Friday, but when do those bumps become assault and/or battery? Here's a look.

Legalizing it is no simple task. Just ask Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and other states that have legalized recreational marijuana: from licensing to labeling and from distribution to DUI tests, the regulation of legalized marijuana is a massive task. Still, those states -- and more every year -- have decided that the financial benefits from taxation and decriminalization are worth the regulatory headache during transition.

California was one of those states, voting to legalize marijuana last year. And 12 months later, the Golden State rolled out almost 300 pages of pot rules, set to go into effect January 1, 2018. Here are the *ahem* highlights:

Hate Crimes Hit 5-Year High

According to data released by the FBI last week, law enforcement agencies reported 6,121 hate crimes nationwide in 2016. That's a five percent increase in hate crimes over 2015, and a five-year high.

However, the FBI admits its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program doesn't count jurisdictions of agencies that do not submit reports, and some estimates put the number of hate crimes north of 200,000 per year.

Crooked cops still haven't figured out how their body cameras work. Apparently, no one told them the cameras record the 30 seconds before you turn it on as well. This is good news for defendants accusing cops of planting evidence. And, as we've seen in at least three recent cases, that is bad news for corrupt police officers.

The latest incident comes after an LAPD officer filmed himself placing a baggie of cocaine into a suspect's wallet, then announcing his find to others on the scene. Not a good look on the old body camera.

What Is a 'Body Broker'?

You probably felt pretty good checking the organ donor box on your driver's license application. And the thought of donating your body to science seemed a noble endeavor. After all, you're not going to be using it anymore -- it might as well go to someone in need.

At the same time, you're not able to keep an eye on where your body or organs go after you die. And a new Reuters investigative report claims that cadavers and body parts are being sold in a quasi-black market that's free from regulation or oversight, where so-called "body brokers" can thrive.

Is It Illegal to Honk at a Cop?

"Yeah, seriously -- is your horn stuck?"
"Is your brake stuck?"
"Is your f***in' horn stuck, smarta**?"

Probably not the ideal start for an exchange with a police officer, and it didn't get any better from there for Scott Smith, a St. Louis computer programmer with the temerity to honk at an officer who sat too long at a green light.

"I tell you what, you're gonna either show me your driver's license or you're gonna wind up getting a ticket. I'll tow your car and lock you up," the officer threatened, but in the end Smith was merely ticketed, possibly for excessive noise from a vehicle. Smith says he plans to challenge the ticket, so we'll find out whether it's illegal to honk at a cop.

The American bail system has come under an increasing amount of scrutiny lately. Of course we don't want potentially dangerous criminals in public and we want to make sure defendants stick around for their criminal trials. But too often innocent people languish in jail for no reason other than they cannot afford their bail. Even the Department of Justice argued that pre-trial bail schedules that imprison poor people for not being able to afford bail are unconstitutional.

So if you think your bail is too high, or you're facing jail time just because you can't afford your bail, can you get a judge to reduce it?

Ever since Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman's extradition to the United States, he has been confined to an 80-square-foot cell in Brooklyn's Metropolitan Correctional Complex for 23 hours a day, given just one hour of exercise in a room with a single treadmill and stationary bicycle. And that solitude has taken its toll, according to Guzman's attorney, Eduardo Balarezo.

Balarezo wrote a detailed letter to United States District Judge Brian M. Cogan, describing the conditions of his client's confinement and the effects on his mental state. "Mr. Guzman has suffered a marked deterioration in his mental state," Balarezo wrote, including an "inability to remember people, places and events ... auditory hallucinations ... and ... depression." Judge Cogan ordered Guzman to be examined by a neuropsychologist as a result.

One of the common threads that tie many mass shooters together is a history of domestic violence or abuse. That was certainly the case with Devin Kelley, who gunned down 26 people at a church in Texas. Kelley was convicted and court-martialed by the Air Force for beating his wife and breaking his young stepson's skull in 2012. The question that naturally arises from these revelations is: How are convicted domestic abusers able to purchase firearms? After all, Kelley bought the AR-15 military-style rifle two years after his court-martial.

As it turns out, there are laws prohibiting domestic abusers from buying guns, but they are not so easily enforced.

For almost 20 years, one Long Island City was 'the world's largest open-air aerosol museum,' a mural space where graffiti artists could work free from the worry of prosecution. And then, overnight, it was gone. Well, not the building itself or course, but two decades worth of art (some 350 works) that adorned its walls. At the behest of the building's owner, workers had whitewashed the graffiti from its exterior in the run-up to its demolition.

Twenty-one of the artists sued, claiming a federal statute protected the work, and the building's owner failed to comply with the law's 90-day written removal notice provision. The jury in that case is now deliberating, and will soon decide if graffiti meets the law's "recognized stature" requirement.

We've all thought it at one point -- if I get in trouble, I'll blame it on someone else. As children, we were pointing our fingers at siblings. A little older and everything was that one friend's idea. And plenty of people have thought that giving the police a fake name could throw them off you trail and keep you out of trouble. (Even cops think about trying to cover their tracks with a fake name.)

It rarely works. Most officers are smart enough to spot the lie, and they also have databases to verify identification. And giving false identifying information to police can get you into even more trouble. Here's how:

Top 5 Holiday DUI Tips

The holiday season is a time for celebrating and for spending time with family. And where there are celebrations, libations are sure to follow. But all that holiday drinking doesn't need to lead to drinking and driving charges.

Here are some general legal tips and holiday-specific advice for avoiding DUIs this holiday season, from our archives:

'DEATH PENALTY!' So tweeted President Donald Trump, in response to the deadly truck attack in New York City this week. The president elaborated that he "[w]ould love to send the NYC terrorist to Guantanamo," but "[t]here is also something appropriate about keeping him in the home of the horrible crime he committed."

It's probably for the best that Trump's tweets don't define criminal jurisdiction under federal or state law. But is he right that the suspect, 29-year-old Uzbek immigrant Sayfullo Saipov, could face the death penalty?

Not a question you'd often wonder when it comes to roommates. Most of us don't live with someone we dislike to the degree that we would damage their belongings. But every now and then we don't have a choice in our living arrangements, like when we're assigned a roommate in college. Still, we'd like to think that even if we don't like someone we're sharing a room with, we can still act civilly during the cohabitation.

Then again, not all of us are Brianna Brochu, 18-year-old University of Hartford student who admitted to police that she licked her roommate's dining utensils and smeared bodily fluids on her backpack. So, what criminal charges might Brochu be facing?