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Is It Illegal to Let a Friend Borrow Your Gun?

Your gun, your rights, your problem? It's pretty common in America to let someone borrow, use, try, or otherwise handle a firearm. Hunters do it in the woods, shooters at the range, purchasers at trade shows, and kids at summer camps. Put those scenarios to one side, then consider the other side: criminal defendants arguing about who used whose gun to shoot so-and-so, or an otherwise responsible owner having to explain how his gun ended up in a kid's backpack at school. So what's the law on letting someone borrow your gun? America's Patchwork Gun Laws There's an old legal adage that everything is legal unless prohibited. While it's not necessarily true, it's a fairly good guide when it comes to gun laws. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Constitution grants individuals a right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, and this applies to states as well. Federal Gun Laws Federal law bans anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm. That's one of the more common federal criminal prosecutions out there. It's also illegal to ship a firearm out of state without a license. Certain types of firearms - assault weapons, military grade hardware, etc. -- are either banned or tightly regulated. It's important to know who you'd be giving your gun to. Note any specific laws about the type of weapon as well. State Gun Laws From there, it really depends where you live. State gun control laws vary considerably. Buying, selling, or transferring ownership of a gun might be regulated where you live. Virtually all states prohibit possessing a gun near a school. Big cities and urban areas may have more restrictive policies than the countryside. Gun laws are for the most part state and laws, and it's difficult to generalize. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) America's Gun Culture in 10 Charts (BBC News) State Gun Control Laws (FindLaw's State Laws) Legal How-To: Giving a Gun as a Gift (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Is It a Crime to Mail White Powder Even If It’s Harmless?

You can never be too careful, opening your mail. Sure, much of it is junk and some of it may include requests for money from your long lost third cousin you never knew you had. But the U.S. Postal Service delivers 506.4 million pieces of mail each day, sent by and to people of all walks of life. So some crazy stuff can get sent through the mail. Including stuff sent by crazy people, like ricin, anthrax, narcotics ... and corn starch, as Donald Trump Jr.'s wife has recently discovered. What Can't Be Mailed? It's (obviously) a crime to mail deadly chemical and biological weapons to people. And using the postal service to commit a crime -- any crime -- is never smart. It is the federal mail, and doing it across state lines can make it an interstate crime. That can land you in federal court facing federal charges. The postal service also has detailed regulations on what and how to mail stuff. Explosives, ammunition, gasoline, and air bags are prohibited. Other items are restricted, and may have to be clearly marked or shipped in limited quantities. These include firearms, propane, alcohol, and prescription drugs. What About Threatening or Suspicious Letters? Threatening, disturbing letters sent through the mail can constitute criminal threats, terroristic threats, stalking, and similar crimes related to making threats. That's the kind of behavior lower-level criminal offenses are designed for, to stop someone before threats become attacks, and are illegal under state laws. Federal crimes cover some specific threats, such a threatening the President or other officials. What About Harmless, Suspicious White Powder? Turns out, there's a handy federal offense covering this sort of thing. 18 U.S.C. section 1038 makes it a crime to "engag[e] in any conduct with intent to convey false or misleading information [that] may reasonably be believed [to indicate] that" a biological agent is present. It also makes doing so a civil action, i.e. allows someone to sue. Which is lawyer-talk for: no, you can't send threatening letters and add sugar, flour -- or corn starch -- to make it legal. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) USPS Logs Mail for FBI, and It's Legal (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life) Is It Legal to Mail Marijuana? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Florida Woman Sentenced for Kidnapping Newborn

Kidnapping is a serious crime, usually classified as a felony in most states. Just ask Gloria Williams, who was arrested in January 2017 for kidnapping Kamiyah Mobley as a newborn. Instead of going through a trial for the kidnapping, Williams has decided to plead guilty to the crime she committed 20 years ago. What Exactly Happened? In 1998, Williams, posing as a nurse, walked into University Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida and kidnapped Mobley. She changed Mobley's name to Alexis Manigo, and raised her as her own daughter. After more than two thousand tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Mobley was found in South Carolina, and her DNA matched the DNA of her birth parents. The victim has met her birth parents, but has chosen to continue using the name that Williams gave her. Kidnapping Laws in Florida Under Florida's kidnapping laws, kidnapping is defined as the abduction, confinement, or imprisonment of another person against his or her will. The kidnapping must also be committed "forcibly, secretly, or by threat" and without lawful authority. In the case of children who are less than 13 years old, "against his or her will" means that the offender confined the child without his or her parents' consent. Depending on the circumstances, a person may be committing kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping. In Williams' case, she committed aggravated kidnapping since Mobley was under 13 years old when Williams took her. Had Williams gone to trial and been found guilty, she could have been sentenced to life in prison. Under the terms of the plea agreement, she's facing up to 22 years in prison. She's set to be sentenced in May, although it's been reported that Mobley hopes that Williams gets a sentence of less than 10 years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) After 20 years, woman admits to kidnapping Florida baby (Associated Press) Criminal Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Mom Jailed for Not Vaccinating Son (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Sara Kropf Wins Inspiring Not Guilty Verdict for Protester Client in D.C. Street Riot Case

Just before year-end, Sara Kropf and her client got the best holiday gift ever –  an acquittal of all charges.  Sara, a Washington, D.C. defense attorney, was representing a street medic charged with rioting and destruction of property stemming from protests held during President Trump’s January 20, 2017 inauguration. Noting that her client attended the protests armed with bandages, Sara was quoted by Washington’s Tops News as stating, “According to the government, showing up with a fanny pack with Band Aids… is equivalent to the people who smashed the Starbucks window.” Sara’s inspirational closing argument was featured in news articles around the world.  A Washington Post article said Sara focused on a police radio report where a commander identified the demonstrators as “anarchists” and quoted her as stating“[t]his is about politics,” before the six-person D.C. Superior Court jury acquitted all the defendants on the felony charges on December 21. “This is about police and local prosecutors who work for the Department of Justice. And we know who they report to,” she said, referring to President Trump. The defendants included a nurse, a freelance photographer and a college student who were among more than 200 protesters arrested in a police round-up northeast of the White House. During the daylong protest, vandals had caused an estimated $100,000 in property damage, according to the government. Eventually, prosecutors charged 212 people in connection with the protests. Twenty pleaded guilty, and charges were dropped against another 20. In this case, federal prosecutors failed to link the six defendants with any violent or destructive acts. Instead, they argued that they had “provided cover” for the vandalism – an argument immediately challenged by Kropf and her colleagues on the defense side.  For example, they showed that the social media posts and “likes” of a detective who was one of the government’s key witnesses were critical of social protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. They also noted that the commanding officer of the police did not give a dispersal order to the protesters before encircling and arresting them – contrary to the department’s standard procedure. Most importantly, the defense attorneys pointed out that there was no evidence that any of the six participants had broken windows, caused property damage or encouraged others to commit illegal acts. Even before the government presented the case to the jury, Judge Lynn Leibovitz threw out the most serious charge – inciting a riot.  However, it took two full days of deliberations after the nearly four-week trial before the not guilty verdicts were delivered. As Kropf said in her closing, “All the government proved was that these individuals showed up and walked as protesters. And that is not a crime.”  We will always need lawyers and citizens willing to stand up against government over-reach. That is what happened here. What a courageous victory for both Sara Kropf and her client.  Huge congrats! The post Sara Kropf Wins Inspiring Not Guilty Verdict for Protester Client in D.C. Street Riot Case appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Teen Arrested for Throwing Kitten in Water, Joking About Abuse

There seem to be a lot of videos of animals doing cute or funny things on the internet these days. Unfortunately, that's not the case in one video that was posted on social media. The video is of Garratt Haile throwing a kitten into a body of water while joking about it. Shot about a year ago, it was recently shared on social media, at which point several people contacted the police, and Haile was arrested. Animal Abuse and the Law While it seems pretty clear that Haile's conduct constitutes animal abuse, it's important to note that animal abuse laws vary by state. However, animal abuse generally includes both intentionally hurting an animal and neglecting an animal. Many states treat animal abuse as a fairly serious crime, although there are a few that have weak animal abuse laws. Since the teen was arrested in California, let's take a look at California's laws on animal abuse. California Animal Abuse Laws California Penal Code Section 597 defines animal abuse as "maliciously and intentionally" torturing, maiming, mutilating, wounding, or killing an animal. This section also prohibits overworking an animal and depriving an animal of food, water, or shelter. Violation of this statute can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, and can result in imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $20,000.The statute doesn't provide much guidance on when animal abuse is charged as a felony versus when it's charged as a misdemeanor; however, it's safe to assume that the degree of abuse is what determines how to charge someone. In Haile's case, he has been charged with felony animal cruelty. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Is Considered Animal Cruelty Under the Law? (FindLaw's Blotter) Is It Legal to Hit Your Pets? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Are There Any Defenses to an Animal Cruelty Charge? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Past Marijuana Convictions in San Francisco to Be Wiped Clean

It's rare for prosecutors to voluntarily dismiss cases. But thousands in one swoop? That gets headlines. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced Wednesday that his office will review and move to expunge thousands of Marijuana-related convictions in the city going back to 1975. Reversing Course Requires Reversing Convictions California voters legalized the recreational sale of marijuana by passing Proposition 64 in 2016. After decades criminalizing the possession, sale, and transportation of marijuana, the Golden State's about-face has upended California's marijuana laws. It's also left decades worth of convictions for marijuana-related offenses on the books, despite many of those convictions no longer being considered crimes. Prop 64 accordingly created a legal process for people to petition a court to have their convictions thrown out, but the process can be tedious. Dismissing Decades of Drug Convictions Cue the San Francisco DA's announcement. San Francisco will apply Prop 64 retroactively, moving on its own to dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions entered prior to Prop 64's passage. As many as 4,940 felony marijuana convictions will, in due time, be recalled and resentenced as well. It's a big solution to a big problem. Individuals convicted of marijuana offenses have to petition courts individually under the new law to remove their convictions. That kind of legal work takes initiative to commence, time to go to court, and money to file and hire lawyers -- three things many people with marijuana convictions might not have in abundance. The SF DA's move does it en masse. What Happens Next? In the absence of statewide legislation or similar efforts in other jurisdictions, Californians looking to utilize Prop 64's recall route will need to petition a court. That's something a good lawyer can help with. Related Resources: Find a Drug Crime Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) San Francisco to Dismiss Thousands of Pot Convictions (Reuters) What to Do If You Have a Marijuana Conviction in California (FindLaw's Blotter)
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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. What Was the Threat? "It was something along the lines of, "Don't come to school tomorrow," alluding to the fact that he was going to bring a gun," said Officer Jason Wells of the Pearland Police, according to Click 2 Houston. Details are still emerging. Police began investigating after a parent reported that her children received a message over Snapchat, a social media platform used for messaging and sharing images and videos. An arrest followed and charges were forwarded on to the Brazoria County District Attorney's Office. The student faces juvenile charges of making terroristic threats and parents received a letter from the school district about the incident. Terroristic Threats Online? Making threats of violence is against the law. This is true for threats made online or elsewhere, and joking about such threats is never a good idea. It's one of those jokes that might sound funny to a fourteen year old texting his friends but won't sound funny at all when parents call the cops. State law may require threats to include a threat of great bodily injury or some level of specificity in to meet the high standards for a criminal conviction. Juveniles face criminal charges under a separate system and generally face lesser punishments than adults on account of their age. The idea is that kids are still kids and shouldn't be held to the same standards as adults. Related Resources Find a Criminal Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Are 'Terroristic Threats'? (FindLaw's Blotter) When Can Posts on Snapchat Get You Arrested? (FindLaw's Blotter) Juvenile Crime (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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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. Facebook Threats and Felony Charges The case arose after a call placed to the Islamic Center purportedly threatened to "annihilate Muslims." When an employee reported the threat to police, it didn't take long for them to suspect Feigin based on comments he'd left on the center's Facebook page. The California Attorney General's Office charged Feigin with felony criminal threats; but while investigation confirmed Feigin's views, connecting him to the threatening phone call proved elusive. Feigin pleaded guilty to making harassing electronic communications and another misdemeanor, avoiding a more serious felony charge of making criminal threats. By pleading guilty, Fagan's conviction for harassment rests on his admission. When Is Social Media Harassment a Crime? There's a line to be crossed online, just as there is in person or over the phone. California law prohibits a person from "willfully threaten[ing] to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person by means of an electronic communication device." That includes your phone, tablet, or computer. While opinions can spark a social media firestorm, mere opinions (even reprehensible ones) are different from threatening a person with harm. Contact law enforcement if you believe the line's been crossed and a threat made against you. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Cyber Crimes (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Teens Arrested for Facebook Death Threats (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Do You Need to Actually Drive a Car to Be Guilty of Theft?

It's a question that only raises more questions: Can a person who locks himself in another person's car without permission be convicted of vehicle theft? Who is this person? How'd they get into the car? Isn't the whole point of stealing a car, you know, to drive it away? But the Minnesota Supreme Court has an answer: Yes. To Drive or to Take? According to prosecutors, the owner of the vehicle left it idling in his driveway one winter morning to warm up, when Somsalao Thonesavanh knocked on his front door. The owner called 911, but by the time an officer arrived, Thonesavanh had locked himself in the car, still in the driveway. Police eventually persuaded him to leave the car, placed him under arrest, and charged him with motor vehicle theft. Under Minnesota's vehicle theft statute, someone is guilty of theft if he or she "takes or drives a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner or an authorized agent of the owner, knowing or having reason to know that the owner or an authorized agent of the owner did not give consent." Clearly Thonesavanh didn't "drive" the car; but did he "take" it? One Too Many Words The Minnesota Supreme Court admitted that the word "takes" in the statute is ambiguous, but decided it could clear up that ambiguity, agreeing with prosecutors that "all that is required to 'take' a motor vehicle is to adversely possess it." How does one adversely possess a car? The court cited the state's simple robbery statute, which requires only temporary control over property to count as theft. The court also pointed to a perhaps esoteric aspect of judicial decision-making: canons of interpretation. One such canon -- the one against "surplusage" -- "favors giving each word or phrase in a statute a distinct, not an identical, meaning." If the justices held that "takes" has the same meaning as "drives," one of those words would be extraneous, so lawmakers must have intended one of those words to have a different meaning. So yeah, lock yourself in someone else's car in Minnesota? You can be guilty of vehicle theft. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) MN Supreme Court: Car Doesn't Have to Move to Be Stolen (Minnesota Public Radio) Grand Theft Auto vs. Joyriding: Which Crime Depends on Time (FindLaw Blotter) When Does Borrowing Become Stealing? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Burglar Who Targeted Senior Citizens Gets 327 Year Sentence

A burglar in San Francisco has just been sentenced to 327 years to life for a string of home invasion robberies against local senior citizens. The convicted burglar, 60 year old German Woods, targeted vulnerable seniors, many of whom didn't speak English, or did so poorly. Woods' modus operandi included lying in wait for seniors that lived alone to return home, then as they were entering their homes, he would attack, forcing them into and ransacking their homes. The charges against Woods go back to 2014. Between then and 2016, he committed numerous burglaries, and was ultimately convicted in July 2016 on 17 different counts, including some charges for elder abuse. Penalties for Burglary While burglary is often equated with theft or robbery, it is a little bit different. Burglary is actually just the unlawful entry into any structure with the intent to commit a crime. As such, when it comes to a burglary conviction, the penalties will generally depend upon the severity of the crimes associated with the entry into another's home or business. For instance, a burglary with the intent just to trespass is going to be punished much more leniently than a burglary with the intent to attack another person or steal valuable property. Additionally, the intended crime does not have to be completed for a person to be charged with burglary. Consecutive or Concurrent Sentencing When a defendant is convicted on multiple counts or charges, judges often have several options when it comes to sentencing (though sentencing guidelines, statutes, and case law often limit those options somewhat).However, one of the primary decisions a judge can make is whether a convict will serve multiple count sentences consecutively or concurrently. For instance, if a defendant is convicted on 4 counts, and is sentenced to 25 years for each count, a consecutive sentence means he must serve 100 years behind bars, while concurrent sentencing means he would be out in 25. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 5 Tips to Prevent Daytime Burglaries (FindLaw Blotter) What is Looting? (FindLaw Blotter) Penalty for Gun Store Robbery (FindLaw Blotter)
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