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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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When to Turn Yourself in for a Warrant?

Finding out that there is an active warrant out for your arrest can be an alarming experience. What you do after learning about a warrant depends largely on what you know about the reason behind the warrant. Before you go fleeing to a warm weather country with no extradition agreement, or just turning yourself in, you may want to consider seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal attorney. After all, it will definitely be cheaper than attempting to live the rest of your life on the run. Should You Turn Yourself In? While there is an active warrant, if you are stopped by police, you will likely be arrested, even if the warrant was issued out of a different jurisdiction (SCMODS is not just the bane of Elwood Blues). However, if you are not stopped by the police, it may take some time before police ever bother coming to your home, or work, to make the arrest. If the warrant is issued out of a different county, it could take weeks or months to process the warrant through a different jurisdiction. If your work and home address is unknown, you could have a warrant for several months, or even years, without ever getting arrested for it. If you know that there are serious criminal charges pending behind the warrant, you should retain an attorney, and potentially arrange bail/bond depending on your attorney’s advice, before turning yourself in (assuming your attorney tells you to do so). Frequently, even for serious criminal charges, by retaining an attorney, you may be able to negotiate a favorable surrender, where you can be booked, processed, arraigned, and released on bail, all in the same day. Sometimes, if the warrant is for a relatively minor violation, such as a bench warrant for a failure to appear in court, an attorney may be able to get the warrant squashed without you ever being arrested. You may not even need to show up to court. At the end of the day, turning yourself in can go a long way toward receiving leniency from the court or prosecutor. However, it is best to rely on the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney when making any decisions that could have an impact on your case. Related Resources: Facing criminal charges? Get your case reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury - Criminal) When Do Police Need an Arrest Warrant? (FindLaw Blotter) San Francisco Judges Toss 66,000 Arrest Warrants (FindLaw Blotter) Do Police Have to Inform You of Your Charges? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Do I Need a Lawyer at My DUI Arraignment?

You've been arrested for a DUI, your arraignment is coming up, and you're itching to tell your side of the story. Maybe you weren't drunk, or you think the breathalyzer was broken, or you shouldn't have been pulled over in the first place. All you have to do is explain this to the judge, and everything will be all right. Not so fast, my friend. While an arraignment might be your first court appearance, it's not a full-blown trial. And while you may not be able to win your case at arraignment, you could lose it. So here's why you might want a lawyer by your side at your DUI arraignment. Arraignment ABCs An arraignment is a court hearing when a judge reads the formal charges against a defendant. In case of a DUI, you will be notified of all the charges against you, and ask how you plead. You can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. You may have even already been offered a plea bargain by the prosecutor on the case. Based on your plea, the judge will set your case for further proceedings, whether that is a trial and associated pre-trial proceedings, or further hearings or appearances related with a plea of guilty or no contest. If you've been in custody since your arrest, the judge may also alter your bail amount or release you on your own recognizance. Putting the Defense in DUI This may all seem very straightforward, but DUI arraignments can be complicated. While you're not required to have a lawyer present at arraignment, you have a legal right to one, in part because courts recognize the importance of arraignments in the criminal process. For instance, most DUI defendants don't know whether the plea deal they've been offered is a good one or not, or how to argue for reduced bail. And once you've entered a guilty plea, it's difficult to withdraw. You don't have to go through a DUI alone, so why try? An experienced DUI attorney can advise you on your rights, assess the merits of your case, argue for your release, and even plea bargain on your behalf. If you've been charged with DUI, you should contact a defense lawyer about your case, preferably before your arraignment. Related Resources: Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) 5 Things a DUI Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw Blotter) Why Do DUI Cases Take So Long to Resolve? (FindLaw Blotter) DUI Court Procedure (FindLaw)
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What If I Can’t Pay My Student Loans?

The accumulated student loan debt for all Americans is nearly $1.3 trillion, and rising by the second. And these aren't just people seeking advanced degrees like law and medicine -- some 40 million Americans have some student debt. For many of those who owe money for their education, making payments on those loans is difficult, if not impossible. So what can you do if you can't pay your student loans? Repayment and Settlement Options If you're able to pay some, but not all of your monthly payment amount, you can try restructuring your payments. There are two mains options to help ease your monthly payments:Income-Based Repayment: Some lenders will permit income-based repayments or graduated repayment plans. Income-based repayment (IBR) has been offered since 2009 for federal student loans. The plan is designed to keep loan payments affordable, even if you don't make a substantial income. Monthly loan payments are based upon your income and family size. In general, you should expect to pay 15 percent of your income. The good news is that, under IBR, your loans will be forgiven after 20 or 25 years if you consistently make your payments on time.Settling Your Debts: If your debts are truly out of control, you can try settling with the lender. However, settling student loan debt is notoriously difficult. If you legitimately cannot afford to make payments on your student loans, your options become much more limited. What About Deferment or Forbearance? A deferment on your student loan payments allows you to stop making payments for a specific amount of time, provided you can qualify. A lender may grant a deferment if you can show: Economic hardship. You will need to prove that your income is not sufficient to make payments. Unemployment. You will need to prove your unemployment and/or your search for a job. Re-enrollment in School. You will need to prove your acceptance and continued enrollment in a qualifying educational program. One benefit to a deferment, depending on the type of loan you have, is that it will stop interest from accruing on the unpaid balance during the time you can't make payments. (Although not every loan or lender offers this option.) A forbearance is similar to a deferment, only interest will normally continue to accrue during a forbearance, so your loan balance will be higher when you come out of the forbearance. Forbearances are limited to certain amounts of time and require proof of an inability to meet your loan payments. But a forbearance may be easier to obtain than deferments because they are not always dependant on the type of student loans you have or covered by the rules that apply to deferments. Both deferments and forbearances require you to file applications with your lender, and your eligibility and benefits under deferments and forbearances will vary depending on your loan. Bankruptcy Isn't Much of a Bailout Here's the biggest problem with federal student loans: most student loans can't be discharged through bankruptcy. This means that, in most cases, even if you file for bankruptcy, you'll still owe your student loan debt. In fact, the only way to discharge student loan debt through bankruptcy is to prove that making the loan payments is an undue hardship, a legal standard that is almost impossible to meet. To Default, or Not to Default? The latest information regarding defaulting on your student loans has been confusing at best. It was generally understood that defaulting on federal student loans would produce disastrous consequences: hijacked tax returns, garnished wages, federal lawsuits, and even revoked professional licenses. Conventional wisdom said that all these horrors awaited those with the temerity to stop paying their loans back. But there are stories out there, like urban myths or legends, of people defaulting and turning out fine. These tales include people who ignored the robocalls and potential lawsuits and credit score demolition long enough to have the debt wiped away and their credit restored. One of these fables was recently printed in the New York Times. And of course the obvious backlash followed, noting the extraordinary collection powers of the federal government and the permanence of federal debt. With all of the certainty in this case falling on the side of creditors, those with student loan debt probably shouldn't consider defaulting on that debt as a viable option. Before taking any action on your student loans, you may want to consult with an experienced student loan relief and bankruptcy attorney in your area. Related Resources: Browse Bankruptcy Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) The FindLaw Guide to Student Loan Debt (PDF from FindLaw) Legal How-To: Getting Student Loans Forgiven (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Will Obama's Executive Order on Student Loans Pay Off for You? ...
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‘Suge’ Knight Case: When Can a Judge Revoke Bail?

Last week, we blogged about music producer Marion "Suge" Knight's arrest on suspicion of murder for allegedly running over two men with his car. One of the men died. Today, a Los Angeles judge revoked Knight's bail, which had been set at $2 million. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department claimed that Knight was a flight risk. Under what circumstances can a judge revoke bail? Flight Risk, Criminal History, Danger to Others Bail, of course, is security ensuring that a defendant will come back to court for his trial. Instead of remaining in jail pending, and during, trial, a defendant can pay 10 percent of the bail amount to a bail bondsman, who promises the court that the defendant will appear. Bail schedules are set by law and are roughly proportionate to the offense committed. Knight's bail of $2 million is on the highest end of the amount a judge can require in California. A judge can revoke bail or set a particular bail amount for a number of reasons, but bail is typically revoked when a defendant, who's out on bail already, commits another crime. That didn't happen in Knight's case, but the district attorney apparently thought Knight was enough of a risk that he asked for bail to be revoked during Knight's plea hearing. The California Penal Code allows a judge to consider such things as the defendant's criminal history, the maximum sentence he could face, the danger to others if the defendant is out on bail, and the way the crime was committed. There's one instance where a judge can't release a defendant on bail at all: When a defendant is charged with a capital crime and "the proof of his or her guilt is evident or the presumption thereof great." In order for that to be true, though, the defendant would basically have to be found at the crime scene with the bloody knife. In Knight's case, however, there's at least a dispute about what happened and whether Knight accidentally or intentionally ran over the victim. Check All the Boxes In Knight's case, the sheriff's department and prosecutors asked the judge to revoke bail not only because of the risk that Knight might flee the jurisdiction, but also that he might intimidate witnesses while he's out. The possibility of forfeiting $2 million might not be enough of an incentive to stay in Los Angeles, given that a guilty verdict could mean life in prison, thanks to Knight's criminal history. Knight served five years in prison for beating up a rival of Tupac Shakur on the same night that Shakur was killed while driving in Knight's car. Knight went to prison in 1997 for violating the terms of his probation, was released on parole, then went back to prison in 2003 for violating parole by hitting a parking lot attendant. Related Resources: Suge Knight Charged With Murder in Fatal Compton Hit-and-Run (Los Angeles' KABC-TV) Failure to Appear in Court: What Can Happen? (FindLaw's Blotter) After Arrest, How Long Until a Bond Hearing? (FindLaw's Blotter) Wiz Khalifa Skips Court Hearing on Pot Bust; Arrest Warrant Issued (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
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