FindLaw Blotter - The FindLaw Crime and Criminals Blog

Recently in Criminal Procedure Category

It's a common misconception about criminal law, and an understandable one -- after all, when it comes to civil litigation, it's a person, company, or group of people filing a lawsuit. But that's not quite how it works in the criminal context. Not just anyone can file criminal charges, prosecute a criminal case, or even dismiss charges after they've been filed.

Because of the serious nature of both criminal activity and corporeal punishment, criminal cases are prosecuted a little differently than their civil counterparts. So how does a criminal case get started?

Understandably, victims of crime often pursue justice against their perpetrators. However, not all are content with the investigations and outcomes achieved by the criminal justice system. So, some will conduct private investigations or pursue civil actions at great personal expense. And while those are perfectly reasonable courses of action to take, the Supreme Court ruled last week that under existing law, convicted defendants can't be required to reimburse crime victims for those expenses.

Whether to solve the crime in the first instance, or to exonerate an innocent person, there are many reasons to fully process rape kits as quickly as possible. And while there is some federal funding set aside to address the enormous backlog of unprocessed sexual assault kits nationwide, the actual processing is left up to local law enforcement.

But that is starting to change. Several states are passing legislation aimed at decreasing the backlog of unprocessed rape and sexual assault kits, as well as requiring law enforcement agencies to fully process kits with a specific amount of time. Those laws can vary, however, so here's a quick overview of rape kit issues and some state laws trying to address them.

Can Pregnant Inmates Be Forced to Give Birth in Jail?

Childbirth is stressful. And it's really, really hard. Sure, the experience is also other-worldly miraculous, but between the pain and the uncertainty, pretty much every woman wants to get it over with as quickly as possible to meet that tiny baby who's been breakdancing inside her for months. But as difficult as your standard labor is, imagine giving birth in jail.

Over the years, pregnant women have been forced to give birth in jail, either because their labor progressed too rapidly, or because they were not cared for quickly enough. In a recent case, a Texas woman claims guards actually ignored her cries for help, forcing her to give birth to her son in her jail cell.

Who Regulates How Police Use New Tech?

The way in which the police go about enforcing the law is an issue that's been debated for a long, long time. Whether it's individual police tactics, the militarization of the police force, or issues with race relations, there are a lot of opinions out there. 

But with advancements in technology like enhanced surveillance and artificial intelligence, new questions and concerns arise. For one, who regulates how the police use new technology?

Manhattan DA Passes on Minor Marijuana Charges

With all the changes happening at the state and local levels regarding weed, it's hard to know exactly what's legal and what's not. Can you smoke at home without a medical marijuana card? Can you grow your own weed? Can you have it on you in public? The answers to these questions depend on where you live, but if you're an herbal aficionado and you live in Manhattan, you don't have to worry as much about being charged for minor marijuana offenses anymore.

As news of yet another school shooting scrolls across our news feeds, the usual questions come to mind. What was school security like? Where did the shooter get the guns? Could it have been prevented?

Sadly, mass shootings have become far too common, so we've covered some of those issues before. Here's a roundup of legal questions regarding school shootings, along with some of the pertinent laws and tips for student safety.

Cops Kill Mother of Two, Charge Teen for Her Murder

A young mother could not have known that by helping the police arrest a teen, she would end up dead. But unfortunately, due to the combined actions of both the Missouri teen and the officers, two young children will be attending the funeral of their 21-year-old mother. And the teen has been charged in her killing.

In 2017, Florida lawmakers shifted the burden of proof in so-called "stand your ground" shootings. Previously it had been up to defendants to prove immunity from prosecution under the state's "stand your ground" statute, but a new bill shifted that burden from defense lawyers to prosecutors, requiring them to prove a shooter is not protected by the statute.

What wasn't clear from the statute, however, was whether this shift applied to cases that had already been filed, but had yet to go trial before it became law. And defendants, defense attorneys, and prosecutors are still waiting on a definitive answer, as two Florida appeals courts issued opposite rulings on the matter.

Unsafe Lane Change Ticket: When Can You Fight It?

Most of us are familiar with that sinking feeling you experience when the glow of police lights appears in your rear-view mirror. "I hope they're after someone in front of me," you mutter unselfishly. But nope, they're after you.

Maybe you know exactly why you're being pulled over (oh, is this not an 80-mph zone?), or maybe you're sure this is a case of mistaken identity. Either way, after the officer explains that he watched you make an unsafe lane change, you're eventually going to wonder, "Can I fight it?" The answer is yes, although your odds of success will depend on the circumstances and your preparation.