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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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Elon Musk Sells Flamethrowers: Are They Legal to Own?

Watch out for flamethrower bearing BBQers this summer. Elon Musk, the attention-grabbing entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, has fired up Twitter and legions of his loyal followers with a brand-spanking new toy -- a commercially available flamethrower. The Future Is Flamethrower? Musk's flamethrower has already become a hit. Pre-sales have quickly sold out online. There's no word about future flamethrowers hitting the market, so this might be a gag gift or the start of a new trend. But it raises interesting legal questions which, yes, we're here to blog about. It's Easier to Buy a Flamethrower Than a Gun You might be surprised to learn that only two states regulate flamethrowers. California requires flamethrower users and buyers to have a permit, while Maryland bans them entirely. But you shouldn't be too surprised. There's never been a wave of flamethrower-related violence to spur states and Congress to enact flamethrower laws. Hence their absence. All flamethrowers will ship with a complimentary boring fire extinguisher February 1, 2018 That might change soon, however. California is already rumbling about a ban on flamethrower sales, and we'd expect other states to follow if necessary. Use Your Flamethrower Wisely What's always prohibited are crimes -- no matter what's used to commit them. Most criminal laws criminalize actions - murder, kidnapping, assault, etc. -- and "add on" counts or prison time for using prohibited items. ELON I BOUGHT 6 FLAMETHROWERS NOW THE TSA IS TELLING ME I'M ON SOME SORT OF WATCHLIST?!? WHAT HAVE I DONE PLEASE HELP February 1, 2018 Those definitions are flexible: a car can be deadly weapon, as can be a surgeon's hands. A flamethrower might pose an interesting case for an appellate court someday, but it's not something we'd expect to be a winning argument. Related Resources Find Your Lawyer (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Is It Legal to Own a Flamethrower? (lifehacker.com) Flamethrower Drone Draws Government Ire. Can the FAA Regulate? (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
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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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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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If I Get Into a Fight at Work, Can I Still Get Workers’ Comp?

It's not common, but workplace fights do happen. Tensions build. Voices are raised. Tempers flare. And, in the extreme, shoves, punches, and piledrivers may get thrown about. Whether it's started by an argumentative customer upset about their caramel macchiato or two colleagues having a heated debate about something-totally-not-worth-fighting-about, injuries can result. So when you're injured in a fight at work, is workers' compensation still a thing? What Is Workers Compensation? Workers' compensation is a workplace insurance system for work-related injuries. Injured workers may have medical costs, lose wages while out of work, and sometimes suffer long-term disabilities as a result. That's what workers' compensation is for. Construction workers, delivery drivers, even dishwashers who die taking out the trash can receive workers' compensation benefits. Police and fire departments often carry extensive (and expensive) workers' compensation policies due to the physically taxing and dangerous nature of their jobs. Workers' Comp for Workplace Fights So long as it's a work-related injury, it's potentially covered. But it shouldn't surprise anyone that the law imposes limits on workers' compensation eligibility when fights occur. Under California law, for example, a worker who's the initial aggressor isn't eligible for workers' comp. Purely personal disputes that overflow into a place of business might not qualify either. The idea behind the entire system is compensating injured workers, after all. The further the facts stray from that legal standard, the more tenuous the case. Find Out If You're Eligible for Workers' Compensation Workers' compensation cases can be complicated. Claims are heard through state agencies, and when an employer contests a claim, the going can get tougher. If you're injured following a fight at work, speaking to a workers' comp attorney is a smart move. Related Resources Find a Workers' Compensation Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Workers' Compensation Laws by State (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Can I Get Workers' Compensation If Assaulted at Work? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Is ‘Autopilot’ a Defense to a Drunk Driving Charge?

Technology may be breaking barriers, but that doesn't mean drivers should be breaking laws. A San Francisco Bay Area driver, charged with driving under the influence after being found asleep behind the wheel on the Bay Bridge last week, apparently claimed that his Tesla was on autopilot when confronted by the California Highway Patrol. That might be a new one, but it wasn't a successful one. As the C.H.P. noted on Twitter afterward, "no it didn't drive itself to the tow yard." The Drunk Part Really Hurts His Drunk Driving Defense When telling it to the judge, context matters. According to the C.H.P., the suspect was two-times above California's Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit at the time. That's not close, just like Oakland and San Francisco really aren't that close when trying to sneak your car home after a night out either. And that's wandering into the range for an Aggravated DUI for that matter, though we haven't seen the exact test results yet. Let's Put "Autopilot" in Quotes Here Tesla has yet to confirm if the autopilot feature was used here, but it likely won't matter. According to Fortune, 'Tesla's autopilot is not fully autonomous driving' as the 'autopilot system is [merely] designed to get a driver's attention if it detects a challenging situation.' Which can be a nice feature to have, but isn't quite at a 'drive me home, Tesla' level of technology yet. It should still count as 'driving' under California DUI law as well. Autonomous Driving and the Law Someday there will be a case asking what constitutes "driving" when a truly self-driving car is involved in a DUI. California is shaping up to be a likely test state for answering that question. But until then, a better defense might be a good attorney.Related Resources: Find DUI/DWI Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Does Autopilot Absolve One Who Drives Drunk or Has an Accident? (ABA Journal) Can You Get a DUI in a Self-Driving Car? (FindLaw's Blotter) DUI Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Women Play Leading Roles in Volkswagen’s Defense

It is apparent that Volkswagen AG understands the value of having women attorneys in lead defense roles.  Sharon L. Nelles, a New York partner in Sullivan & Cromwell’s litigation group, has served as lead and national coordinating counsel for Volkswagen advising the German automaker on the $14.7 billion resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and also in the multi-district consumer plaintiff committee over diesel emissions. In addition to Nelles’ involvement in the criminal case, two women partners at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s New York office – Olivia A. Radin, who focuses on white collar and complex litigation, and Linda H. Martin, a member of the firm’s dispute resolution practice –  were also key players on the three-firm legal team that worked out a plea agreement to settle the DOJ criminal charges earlier this year. More recently, Nelles and two of her partners at Sullivan helped Volkswagen AG successfully stop the DOJ’s attempt to turn 25 million pages of discovery material related to multidistrict litigation in California over to GSK Stockman, a German law firm. At issue was whether a pretrial order in the U.S. diesel emissions civil case –Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales Practices, and Products Liability Litigation – bars the sharing of discovery material with attorneys litigating against Volkswagen outside the U.S.  The DOJ argued that GSK Stockmann was the “model plaintiff” and entitled to see the discovery documents. However, there are 1,600 plaintiffs suing Volkswagen in Germany, making it almost inevitable that information from the 25 million pages would be made public – a clear violation of the pretrial order, according to VW’s U.S. legal team. “In fact, there is nothing in [the order] authorizing a law enforcement or regulatory agency, including DOJ civil, to share the MDL production with non-U.S. private counsel for use in a non-U.S. private securities lawsuit against VWAG,” said the company in a statement. On September 15, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline S. Corley, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, agreed with Volkswagen’s legal team and denied the DOJ request to share the MDL information with the German firm. Volkswagen’s team that argued against this DOJ overreach in a civil case included Laura Kabler Oswell, a partner in Sullivan’s Palo Alto office and a group leader for the firm’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act practice, who was recently named a “Rising Star” by Law360 after two big litigation wins in other matters. Suhana S. Han was the third Sullivan partner on the litigation team, which included three male partners. A partner in the litigation group, Han’s practice covers commercial litigation, including securities matters.  It is almost unheard of for the women on a corporate defense team to equal or outnumber the men. Kudos to the women of Sullivan & Cromwell and to all the women involved in lead roles defending Volkswagen The post Women Play Leading Roles in Volkswagen’s Defense appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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Los Angeles Settles Cyclist’s Pothole Injury Lawsuit for $6.5M

Peter Godefroy was riding his bicycle on Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California two years ago when struck a pothole, crashed his bike, and suffered "severe traumatic brain injury and numerous broken or fractured bones throughout his body." Godefroy sued the City of Los Angeles, claiming poor lighting and even worse maintenance led to a simple pothole becoming a "concealed trap for bicyclists." The L.A. City Council settled that lawsuit last week, voting 11-0 to approve granting Godefroy $6.5 million in damages. It's the second such settlement this year, after the council also awarded $4.5 million to the family of a man killed after he was thrown from his bike when he hit uneven pavement in the city. Bike Suits Bicycle accidents are sadly more common than you would hope. And if you don't have cycling insurance (yes, those policies do exist), you may be wondering about your legal options. In a crash scenario, hopefully the other party -- whether it be a driver in their car, a business-owned vehicle, another cyclist, or even a pedestrian -- will be insured and that will cover your injuries. If not, you may have to file a lawsuit in order to recoup medical bills and lost wages. Most cycling accidents can be treated just like car accidents: exchange insurance information with the other party or parties, document the accident and any injuries as thoroughly as possible, and consider contacting the police if there are serious injuries or property damage. And the work doesn't stop the day after an accident -- make sure to track initial ambulance or hospital bills, additional or ongoing medical expenses, and lost work or wages as well as future income. City Liability It may sound daunting, but you can sue city hall. You may have to file a claim of injury with the city before filing a civil lawsuit to give the city a chance to compensate you or respond to the claim, and you'll have to do so within specific statutes of limitation. If the city fails to respond or denies your claim, you can move on to a full-blown lawsuit. As a general rule, municipalities are responsible for maintaining roadways (including bike lanes and sidewalks) so that they're safe for cyclists, and can be held liable for injuries caused by dangerous conditions on public roadways. If a city or municipal entity fails to exercise reasonable care in keeping the roadways in good repair, they can be found liable for injuries that occur. However, in order to prove a city was negligent in repairing the road, you would also need to prove the city had or should have had notice of the dangerous condition and failed to fix it. If you're considering a bike injury lawsuit against a city, talk to an experienced attorney first. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Severely Injured Cyclist Settles Broken Sidewalk 'Launch Ramp' Case for $4.84M (FindLaw's Injured) San Diego Cyclist Injured by Pothole Gets $235K Settlement From City (FindLaw's Injured) NYPD Accused of 'Hit and Lie' on Cyclist (FindLaw's Injured)
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Judge to Allow Jury to Decide If ‘Brain Dead’ Teen Is Alive

Jahi McMath was thirteen years old when a routine tonsillectomy went wrong and left the teen brain dead. After the surgery in 2013, she was pronounced dead, and the county coroner even signed a death certificate a month later. However, Jahi was never taken off life support. Her parents insist that she is still alive, based upon their Christian faith, regardless of the fact that she has been declared brain dead. While Jahi has been kept on life support, her parents have pursued a medical malpractice claim against the hospital as a result of the surgery. But, unlike typical medical malpractice claims where the plaintiff is either alive and injured, or dead, the court is sending that issue to the jury to decide. What's Life Anyway? Jahi's mother believes that it is her duty to keep fighting for her daughter. Despite knowing that her daughter has a severe and irreparable brain injury, she sees her daughters fingers twitch, and sees her react to unpleasant smells, and this clearly give her hope for the future. In short, whether Jahi is deemed to be alive or dead by the jury will impact the size of the potential jury verdict. If Jahi is found to still be alive, her parents will be able to seek damages for future medical care, and other damages that they would not be entitled to seek on behalf of a deceased child.State of Life California doctors were able to secure an order from the court to withdraw life support, however, before that could happen, Jahi was moved to New Jersey. The state of New Jersey is the only state where religious beliefs that do not accept brain death as actual death will prevail over medical opinion. Jahi's current doctor testified that not only has her body not started deteriorating, but that she has started puberty and even began menstruation. He testified that she is in a "minimally responsive state." Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Jahi McMath Case: What Is Brain Death? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman's Husband Sues Hospital (FindLaw's Injured) Brain-Dead Pregnant Woman Taken Off Life Support (FindLaw's Injured)
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Is Police Body Cam Footage Public Record?

Over the past few years, more and more police departments have adopted the use of officer body cams. The devices attach to an officer's uniform and record what the officers do while on duty. However, there is no uniform law of the land when it comes to the public's right to access the footage from the body cams. Depending on the local jurisdiction, or state, different standards are used for the release of the footage. Some will only allow the footage to be released publicly as part of a criminal or civil trial (as the law requires the disclosure then), while others allow the recordings to be released on YouTube (after private and identifying information is edited out). Video for the People, Not of the People The purpose of police body cams is to engender the public's trust. The idea is essentially that officers will be less likely to not follow the rules, and will be more likely to do everything exactly by the book, if there is a video record of all their actions. These cams can also provide evidence of corrupt police practices, at least when the corrupt officers are not selectively recording with their body cams. The recordings are not just of public civil servants (police officers), but the individuals they encounter are, naturally, caught on camera too. This complicates public disclosure as private individuals have privacy rights, even when they are out in public. Those privacy rights can be violated by allowing the public unfettered access to the footage. A simple example involves a traffic stop. If an officer is not careful when handling a pulled over driver's documents, or the footage is not redacted/edited before it is released publicly, a person's driver's license number, address, height, birth date, and (alleged) weight, could all be captured by a body cam. Who's Watching? Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of police body cam footage, it would likely be impractical, or a drain on police resources, for all of it to be reviewed. Instead, generally, departments review the footage when necessary to review high profile incidents, arrests that lead to prosecutions, or sometimes when officers need help to remember what happened for their reports. Also, when complaints against officers are made by the public, or other officers, the body cam footage can be reviewed. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Police Body Cameras: What Defendants, Victims Need to Know (FindLaw Blotter) Body Cams Embraced, But Who Will Have Access to Footage? (FindLaw's California Case Law) How Does the iPhone's New 'Cop Button' Work? (FindLaw Blotter)
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