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Recently in Criminal Procedure Category

What's the Penalty for Laptop Theft?

Stealing a laptop comes in so many forms: breaking into a car or a home, or simply grabbing one that is in plain sight from an unsuspecting, or tuned-out, owner. What's the crime for laptop theft? That depends on the jurisdiction and the laptop, but some states are saying it should be an outright felony.

Jose Raman Greer dialed 911 from his third-floor balcony while three men tried to kick in the door of his Atlanta apartment in December 2015. Fearing for his life, Greer jumped from the balcony, suffered multiple fractures, and later died during surgery at a local hospital.

Two of those involved in the home invasion, Mark Spencer and Lil' Che Stafford, were convicted of felony murder this week and sentenced to life in prison. Here's a look at the incident and the charge:

There is a staggering amount of data on our smartphones. So it's no surprise investigators want access to those phones as easily as possible. And we want our privacy. So smartphone companies, like Apple, have attempted to make phones as secure as possible, with passcodes, fingerprints, and now, facial recognition software. And law enforcement and the courts have responded, forcing suspects to hand over passcodes and their fingerprints to open iPhones.

Now we have our first case of the FBI asking a suspect to use his face to open his iPhone. But is it legal?

What's the Penalty for 'Virtual Kidnapping'?

Imagine yourself in this situation. You answer the phone and hear a child cry out, "Help me, help me, do whatever they want!" A man tells you he is about to cut off your child's hand, and maybe even kill them, if a ransom is not paid. Panicking, the next thing you hear is the man ask, "Here's the deal, your child's life is going to cost you."

Consider the following quote from National Security Adviser and former United Nations ambassador John Bolton:

"We will respond against the ICC [International Criminal Court] and its personnel to the extent permitted by U.S. law. We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system, and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans."

Those are pretty strong words. But the United States has for a long time had a strained relationship with the International Criminal Court. It was one of seven nations to vote against the Rome Statute creating the court (along with China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, and Yemen), and while former President Bill Clinton later signed the statute, the treaty was never submitted to Congress.

And now, with news that the ICC will investigate alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, that relationship has gotten even worse. But could the court actually prosecute and punish American citizens?

We all know there can be costs to breaking the law. You may have to pay a fine, or pony up for an attorney. You might have to pay some court costs, and, if you agree to community service or classes, there may be a price tag on those. But some states have added a new wrinkle: prosecution fees. These, allegedly, are the costs borne by the state, county, or municipality associated with prosecuting criminal defendants, which are then passed on to the defendants themselves.

This may sound absurd -- aren't prosecutors, city and county attorneys, and other court officials already paid to do this? Just wait until you hear how much prosecution fees can be.

How Much Does It Cost to Expunge a Criminal Record?

A past criminal record can wreak havoc on so may things: a job application, housing assistance, student loans, child custody, and even a state bar license. Expunging a criminal record can be priceless to some people. For others, price is a consideration. How much can you expect to pay to expunge your criminal record? That depends -- on the number, nature, and location of the crime.

Traffic Cam Class Action Suit Continues in Iowa

In an interesting twist of civil procedure that is taking the country by storm, due process is being used to kick those nasty traffic cameras to the curb! Civil procedure professors are always so oddly excited about their specialty. Finally, a practical application of civil procedure for the Average Joe!

As anyone will tell you, your freedom should not depend on how much money you have. But for many people charged with a crime, whether they could afford bail or not -- to say nothing of their guilt -- determined whether they would remain in jail until their case was resolved. The money bail system has often been the target of criminal justice reformers, and has recently fallen under the scrutiny of courts and judges as well.

A year after a California appeals court determined the state's bail system was unconstitutional, state lawmakers became the first in the country to abolish money bail for suspects awaiting trial.

Even if you're not a criminal defense attorney, watching a couple episodes of "Law and Order" will probably introduce you to the concept of police and prosecutors going after "small fish" in order to get the "big fish," criminally speaking. This process involves lower level suspects or defendants exchanging testimony against higher level targets for lighter sentences or immunity.

The practice of flipping has become especially prominent in the investigation headed Robert Mueller looking into possible collusion between Russia and the Donald Trump presidential campaign. In fact, in the wake of news that Trump longtime lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen would be cooperating with federal prosecutors, the president decried the practice of witness flipping, claimed it encourages criminal defendants to unfairly "make up stories," and asserted that "it almost ought to be illegal."

Flipping may have its issues, but should it be outlawed?