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Homeowners generally have the right to defend themselves and their property in their own home. Specifically, the so-called "castle doctrine" says that a homeowner does not have a duty to retreat if they are in their home, though state laws may limit the amount of force allowed and require that an intruder be in the house to permit that force.

Neither of these legal principles, however, apply to firing a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun at a teenager who knocked on your door for directions to school. So learned Jeffrey Zeigler, who was convicted of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony following an April shooting at his home.

Washington Becomes the Latest State to Abolish the Death Penalty

Washington became the latest state to outlaw the death penalty in the Washington Supreme Court ruling of State v Gregory, in furtherance of Governor Jay Inslee's vow in 2014 to never have another execution while he was in office.

The vote was unanimous, with five justices citing that the "death penalty is invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner." They added, "Given the manner in which it is imposed, the death penalty also fails to serve any legitimate penological goals." The eight individuals currently on death row will have their sentences changed to life in prison. Gregory is one of three African-American men currently on Washington's death row.

Underground Drug Trafficker 'OxyMonster' Sentenced to 20 Years

Gone are the days you went down a dark alley and exchanged $10 for a "dime bag" of weed. Drug dealing has gone international, using the dark web and bitcoin, and they are selling much more than marijuana.

Gal Vallerius, a French international drug dealer, was recently sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his elaborate online drug trafficking scheme. He pleaded guilty in June when arrested upon entering the US en route to Texas for a world beard-growing competition. Turns out he is a professional beard grower as well as an international drug trafficker. Makes you wonder if he's ever smuggled drugs, or an exotic pet, in that beard.

Recycling is a good thing. But people taking advantage of recycling centers to dump things like old furniture, used mattresses, and leftover paint and chemicals can ruin recycling for everyone, as Greensboro, South Carolina is learning. The city already temporarily closed one popular recycling drop-off location due to illegal dumping, and may close more if residents don't clean up their act, so to speak.

Many state statutes and city or county ordinances ban illegal dumping, but how much trouble can you really get in if you break those laws?

The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution clearly prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. But what it doesn't clearly do is describe what punishments, exactly, are cruel and unusual. That's been left up to the courts.

And while one could argue that ending a person's life is the cruelest thing the criminal justice system could do, courts have allowed the death penalty to exist while outlawing some lesser punishments. So how do judges decide what's permitted and what's cruel and unusual?

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."

What Is the Typical Punishment for Petty Theft?

Petty theft - don't let the name fool you.

Theft is a state crime, and therefore determining whether criminal theft is petty or grand differs by state. Generally, classification is determined by the dollar amount of the item stolen, with $500-$1,000 usually being the upper limit for petty theft. Though this is the general definition of petty theft, all generalities stop there. Punishment for petty theft runs the gamut, from probation to life in prison.

First, there were hangings and firing squads. Then, the electric chair and gas chamber. After that, lethal injection. At each step, executions were thought to be getting more humane, less cruel and unusual. And yet we come to find that certain combinations of drugs used for lethal injections are far from as painless as we thought they were. And after several recent botched executions, some states may even be returning to firing squads.

One reason is that drug makers have either been refusing to sell to corrections departments or suing to block executions using their drugs. One such lawsuit may halt Nebraska's first ever lethal injection, and first public execution since 1997.

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.

What Happens When Sentences Are Ruled Unconstitutional?

The fascinating thing about law is that it's always changing. Whether legislators create new ones or the judiciary clarifies or invalidates existing ones, what was legal yesterday might not be legal tomorrow. This is certainly true in the realm of criminal procedure and criminal justice, where prosecutors, law enforcement, defense attorneys, and civil rights activists all battle over what justice and public safety look like.

But what happens when the law changes? Does it also change for people convicted before the new law took effect? For example, of interest to the U.S. population living in prison, what happens when sentences are ruled unconstitutional?