FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

January 2018 Archives

Texas Teen Arrested for Snapchat Threat

There's no messing around with threats to schools. A fourteen year old Texas teen may have learned that lesson the hard way this week, as police in Pearland, Texas (outside of Houston) arrested the student for allegedly making a threat against Berry Miller Junior High School on Snapchat.

Man Pleads Guilty to Harassing LA Islamic Center on Social Media

Mark Feigin wasn't shy about his views. According to CNN, the real estate agent and Uber driver admittedly has 'a big mouth' and strong views on Islam, telling investigators that he wasn't 'really a fan of Islam. I don't like their views.' He freely posted those views on the Facebook page of the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles back in September of 2016.

Those comments, along with a mysterious, threatening phone call, launched a hate crimes investigation that pleaded out last week. It's a tale with some intrigue offering a look at social media harassment and the law.

Is 'Autopilot' a Defense to a Drunk Driving Charge?

Technology may be breaking barriers, but that doesn't mean drivers should be breaking laws. A San Francisco Bay Area driver, charged with driving under the influence after being found asleep behind the wheel on the Bay Bridge last week, apparently claimed that his Tesla was on autopilot when confronted by the California Highway Patrol.

That might be a new one, but it wasn't a successful one. As the C.H.P. noted on Twitter afterward, "no it didn't drive itself to the tow yard."

Vermont Legalizes Marijuana: 5 Quick Facts You Should Know

It's official! Vermont became the ninth state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Monday. The state's Republican governor, Phil Scott, signed House Bill 511 into law after it cleared the state legislature earlier this month. The Green Mountain State joins a growing number of states to remove penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The law takes effect on July 1st.

Yet aspiring cannabis connoisseurs should be wary of jumping into the Vermont "bud" business prematurely. Here are five quick facts to know about the state of the law in Vermont.

More and more states are legalizing it, but legalization has its limits. And many parents are finding out the hard way that while the police may not prosecute you for recreational marijuana use, state child protective services may rely on federal pot prohibitions to remove children from homes, even where parents have a medical marijuana prescription.

And more and more parents are being arrested for marijuana-related child endangerment. A Wyoming mother and two men were arrested for child endangerment after marijuana paraphernalia was found in the home near children watching television, and a New York father faced similar charges after his son ate a pot gummy candy he found in the car. So does smoking marijuana, in a state where recreational use is legal, constitute child endangerment?

Normally, when we think of negligence, we think of traffic accidents and personal injury cases. Legally speaking, negligence is when carelessness results in an injury to a person or property. Such cases are normally dealt with by civil lawsuits for monetary damages to compensate the injured party, although sometimes damages are awarded to punish the negligent party.

But what happens when a person's actions aren't merely careless, but reckless? And what happens when it's not a simple fender bender, but a fatal car crash? There is such a thing as criminal negligence, when recklessness can turn into a prison sentence. Here's a look.

Is Doxing Illegal?

Depending on your point of view, releasing a person's identifying information on the internet might be one of the few ways to hold someone accountable for hateful actions or an avenue to unleashing hate upon an undeserving someone else. Trying to out white supremacists who participated in political violence? You might support it. But what about a person misidentified during those efforts? Or what about the other side using the same tactics to target opponents with harassment?

Either way, doxing has remained, thus far, a largely legal activity. But that doesn't mean doxing can't stem from or lead to a crime.

The money bail system, under which a criminal defendant may be required to post a cash bond to secure his or her release from jail before trial, has come under increasing scrutiny in the past few years. Critics claim that jurisdictions were using automatic bail requirements to raise municipal funds while keeping poor and indigent defendants incarcerated before any determination of guilt.

But several jurisdictions are proactively addressing the problems, one of them being New York City. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance announced the borough will no longer require money bail for most misdemeanor or violation cases. Here's what the change could mean.

With few exceptions, every state set the blood-alcohol bar for drunk driving at .08 percent. And most state alcohol consumption laws are similar, as well. But states are, pardon the pun, all over the map when it comes to marijuana enforcement, ranging from therapeutic CBD oil use only in severe medical cases to legalized recreational use. So it's only natural that state laws regarding marijuana-involved drugged driving offenses would vary as well.

California, which just legalized it starting this year, also announced it would eschew a standard THC limit on high driving. So how do cops know when a driver is too high?

California legalized it. And that's all well and good for budding weed entrepreneurs in the Golden State, but what about the half-million people arrested on marijuana-related offenses over the past decade? Many, if not all of those arrestees have criminal charges on their record, and some may still be incarcerated for doing something that is now legal.

The good news is that legalization has also paved for way for Californians convicted of marijuana crimes to have their criminal records cleared or the charges or sentences reduced. Here's how:

As we've noted before, state marijuana laws often conflict with federal marijuana laws, meaning that state efforts to legalize and decriminalize weed have remained subject to federal law enforcement's acquiescence to the will of state voters and lawmakers. During the Obama presidency, the Justice Department refrained from prosecuting federal drug offenses in states that had legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

But those halcyon days for pot patrons may be over. In a memo sent to U.S. attorneys today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded several Obama-era directives, noting that federal law prohibits the possession and sale of marijuana. So what does this mean for growers, sellers, and buyers in weed-legal jurisdictions?

Swatting, the asinine behavior of gamers reporting crimes at the addresses of other gamers, can have serious consequences. Take the case of Andrew Finch, first the victim of an elaborate swatting prank in which a murder and hostage situation were called into his Wichita, Kansas home, then the victim of a police officer's bullet.

Police are putting the blame for Finch's death squarely on the alleged prankster, Tyler Barriss, a 25-year-old Los Angeles man who was arrested in connection with the killing. But who's ultimately responsible?

California once prohibited any licensed liquor manufacturer or seller from offering any gift or free goods in connection with the sale of any alcoholic beverage, as a way to prevent bars, brewers, and distillers from enticing over consumption of their product. That extended to giving patrons a free ride home if they were too tipsy to get behind the wheel.

But no longer. A new law allows alcohol manufacturers and licensed sellers to offer free or discounted rides to drinkers via ride-sharing services, cabs, or other ride providers to make sure they get home safely. Designated drivers, rejoice!