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Recently in Criminal Procedure Category

Can You Get a Disorderly Conduct Charge Dropped?

So, you stayed out later than planned, had a few too many margaritas, and got arrested for having a loud, one-man dance party in the streets of your quiet neighborhood at 3 a.m. Or maybe you refused to stop shouting angry insults at every person entering the local grocery store. Whatever your disorderly conduct charge was for, you're probably wondering if you can get the charges dropped. It's always possible, but the probability of success depends on a number of factors.

Don't do crime. That's our official stance. But if you're going to disregard our advice and do crime, don't do crime on your smartphone. And if you're going to do crime on your smartphone, maybe don't use it to take pictures of your hands holding drugs and send them to customers.

That's how three dealers in Wales got nabbed, when police found photos on the phone of another suspect clearly showing a man's hand, with enough detail to lift his fingerprints, holding ecstasy tablets. It's not the first time police have used fingerprints lifted from cell phone photos to identify a criminal suspect, but it is another reminder of the power of smartphone evidence in criminal investigations.

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, Vermont went from having some of the least restrictive gun control laws to some of the strictest. Last week, Governor Phil Scott signed three bills into law raising the age to buy firearms to 21, banning high-capacity magazines, and making it easier to take guns from people who pose a threat or keep them from buying guns in the first place.

The AP calls it "the first significant gun ownership restrictions in state history," and according to CBS, the new law may have already been used to prevent a suspected school shooter from acquiring a gun.

Rights of a Witness in a Criminal Case

You hear a lot about defendant rights -- right to an attorney, right to remain silent, right to a speedy trial, etc. And those are very important. But what about victim and witness rights in a criminal case? Do you have any? How do you protect them? These are important questions as you navigate the unfamiliar waters of a criminal trial.

Charged for Theft Under $500 -- Do You Need a Lawyer?

Whether you stole a t-shirt from Target or a couple wireless headphones from the mall, theft is not a crime to take lightly. Even if you're charged for theft under $500, you still need a lawyer. The state will be represented by a prosecuting attorney, so shouldn't you have representation, too?

A lawyer will know how to argue for leniency, obtain the lowest possible sentence, or even a dismissal of the charges. So, whether this is your first run-in with the law, or you're a full-fledged kleptomaniac, an attorney can help guard your interests and protect your rights.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, according to AP reporting in 2011, the New York Police Department rolled out a sprawling and secretive human mapping and surveillance program targeting Muslim communities both inside New York and beyond. The NYPD allegedly spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim Student Associations in New Jersey, and included video surveillance, photographing license plates, community mapping, and infiltration by undercover officers and informants.

And over almost 10 years, the massive spying program failed to produce a single lead.

But it did produce three lawsuits against the NYPD over its spying practices, and the department just settled the last of the three last week, promising to revamp its intelligence gathering processes and compensate victims of the surveillance.

A Facebook crime blogger in Texas writing under the handle 'Gordiloca' (crazy fat lady) had a pair of third-degree felony charges against her dropped this week, based on a little-known legal doctrine.

Priscilla Villarreal had been charged with "misuse of official information" for publishing the names of a suicide victim and a car accident fatality before police had released the information to the public. But a district judge dismissed both counts, deeming the state statute under which Gordiloca (or Priscilla Villareal) was charged unconstitutionally vague. What does that mean?

Police Can Take DNA Upon Arrest for a Felony, California Court Rules

A little cheek swab may not seem like a big deal. After all, many of us readily submit to blood draws, vaccines, flu shots, detailed medical questionnaires, and the like. But the key there is that we submit to those things voluntarily. So, what happens when the state wants to collect your DNA against your will? In California, they already can, as long as you've been arrested for or convicted of a felony. And the state's highest court just upheld the constitutionality of this police practice.

Oklahoma Finds Another Way to Execute People

While Oklahoma used to execute people at a relatively high rate compared with the rest of the country, the state took a three-year break after a series of mishaps occurred in its death chambers. Now, as the state looks for more fool-proof ways to put people to death, the legislature has approved Nitrogen as it's go-to killing cocktail.

But while the gas may simplify the execution procedure, critics argue its use is unprecedented, and the legislation was pushed through with little medical research to support it. Since the tactic is untested it could also violate prisoners' rights.

Warrants Required for Driveway Searches: Minnesota Court Rules

Under the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement needs probable cause in order to conduct a legal search. In general, officers must first obtain a warrant before conducting a search. There are also certain facts and circumstances in which police can search without a warrant, although probable cause is still required. Generally, however, a person's house can't be searched without a warrant. The Minnesota Supreme Court has decided that driveways are also protected from warrantless searches under the Fourth Amendment.