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Federal Agents Raid Los Angeles Casino for Allegedly Laundering Money, Again

An ongoing investigation against the Bicycle Hotel and Casino in Bell Gardens, a city in Los Angeles, resulted in federal agents raiding the casino and closing the gambling floor this week. Since the warrant issued for the raid by a federal district court judge was filed under seal, there are only a few details about the investigation. However, this same casino was found, after a 1991 investigation, to have been built using drug money. Although numerous gamblers speculated that the raid was a result of rigged gaming tables, unnamed media sources clarified that the casino is under investigation for money laundering. Casino patrons holding stacks of chips will be pleased to know that the casino reopened this week after investigators finished their search. However, there may be some more legal trouble in their future, depending on what the search discovered. What is Money Laundering? The crime of money laundering occurs when a person exchanges illegally obtained money, such as the proceeds from the sale of drugs, stolen goods, or other criminal activities, for "clean" money. Many financial institutions are regulated in such a way that certain transactions are monitored for suspicious activity. However, businesses that operate with modest, or even sometimes large amounts of cash can sometimes fly under the radar of authorities, as we learned in Breaking Bad. Penalties for Money Laundering Money laundering is a relatively common type of white collar crime. Depending on whether charges are brought by federal or state authorities, the penalties for money laundering can vary. State laws tend to mirror federal laws, but vary from state to state. Typically, the penalties will increase with the amount of money laundered as well as the number of transactions. While one-off offenses can result in only misdemeanor charges, simple fines and short jail sentences, multiple money laundering transactions can lead to multiple offenses and felony jail sentences of several years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How Stacks of Cash Get People Arrested (FindLaw Blotter) Founder of For-Profit College Gets Prison Time (FindLaw Blotter) Feds Punish NY Corruption: Sheldon Silver Sentenced to 12 Years (FindLaw Blotter)
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Is Mooning Someone Illegal?

Perhaps you just meant it as a prank among friends. Or maybe you were really mad and meant to insult a neighbor. Does that intent matter under state laws on indecent exposure? Do your bare buttocks count as "genitals" under state statutes? Here's what you need to know about mooning and indecent exposure laws. No Ifs, Ands, or Butts Most indecent exposure laws, like California's for instance, require intent by the exposing party to sexually arouse, or sexually insult or offend. The Golden State statute broadly makes it a crime to willfully expose your genitals to someone else, motivated by a desire to sexually gratify yourself or offend or insult the other person. So if you're not trying to offend or insult someone with your bared buttocks, you're probably alright. Even if you are trying to get a rise out of someone, the law also only applies to exposing one's genitals. Most courts have ruled that showing a bare female breast is not considered exposing your genitals, thus protecting breastfeeding mothers from prosecution on indecent exposure charges. So as long as you're showing your butt, and only your butt, it generally will not constitute indecent exposure under most indecent exposure statutes, including California's. Cheeky Free Speech In 2006, a Maryland court similarly determined that indecent exposure relates only to exposure of the genitals, noting that even if mooning is a "disgusting" and "demeaning" act, it was not illegal. "If exposure of half of the buttocks constituted indecent exposure," the court held, "any woman wearing a thong at the beach at Ocean City would be guilty." The Maryland court also held that mooning is a form of speech, protected by the First Amendment. Relying on a 1983 case where a woman was arrested for wearing nothing but a cardboard sign that only covered the front of her body during a protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, the court ruled the man could not be guilty of indecent exposure, even if the mooning took place in front of a mother and her 8-year-old daughter. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) BofA Exec Can't Moon His Boss and Keep His Job, IL Court Rules (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Foxy Brown Cleared of 'Mooning' Charges: Witness Refused to Testify (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) State Indecent Exposure Laws (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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3 Common Types of Tax Fraud

Taxes can be scary for many people. The system is not necessarily user friendly. While debtors’ prisons are supposed to be a thing of the past, failing to abide by tax laws can result in criminal penalties, including fines and jail time. To make matters even more complicated, in addition to federal tax laws, there are also state and local tax laws that can have just as harsh, if not harsher, penalties, as one California man recently learned. Below, you’ll find three common types of tax fraud. 1. Underreporting Income Underreporting income is extraordinarily common for any person who is paid, or earns money, in cash form. However, this is a form of tax fraud and tax evasion and can result in serious criminal consequences. The IRS, and even state tax boards, require that all income be reported, which includes cash earned from the sale of goods, tips, and even casino winnings. Because there can often be little-to-no paper trail for industries where workers receive cash tips, or cash payments, oftentimes cash income will go unreported. However, not all underreported income will rise to the level of criminality, at least under federal law. It is conceivable that some cash income received is not reported due to ordinary negligence or a genuine mistake. However, underreporting can be charged as a felony with penalties including a couple years behind bars, and up to $250K in fines. 2. Using Fake Numbers Fudging numbers can result in serious criminal penalties for tax fraud. A person should never just guess, and should especially never knowingly use incorrect numbers, as it can be considered as making a false statement or falsifying a document. There are some checks and balances in place, some of which are computer automated, as well as specialized systems and tools, which can alert the IRS to inconsistencies.It will be hard to prove the defense that using wrong dollar amounts was unintentional, particularly if the results weigh in your favor, and there is not a clear explanation on how it unintentionally occurred. Fudging numbers is likely to be charged as a felony, and carry a few year jail sentence and up to $250K in fines. 3. Claiming Unqualified Deductions Another common act of tax fraud is claiming deductions, credits, and expenses, that an individual or business does not actually qualify for. Doing so can expose an individual to felony charges, a few years in jail, and the same hefty fines listed above. Related Resources: Need help with your taxes? Get your tax issue reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) What Is a Tax Haven? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Avoiding Behavior the IRS Considers Criminal or Fraudulent (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Wesley Snipes Must Report to Prison on Tax Evasion Sentence (FindLaw’s Celebrity Justice)
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Can the Feds Force You to Unlock Your Phone With Your Fingerprint?

You might've thought enabling Touch ID on your iPhone made it more secure. After all, it's harder to fake your fingerprint than to guess a passcode. But when it comes to the law enforcement searches, your smartphone might've gotten a lot more vulnerable. According to Forbes, federal law enforcement officers recently served a warrant on a California home which gave them "authorization to depress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be the user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant."Essentially, cops could force everyone in the residence to open their phones. Is this really legal? Fourth Amendment Concerns The Fourth Amendment protects people "against unreasonable searches and seizures," and generally requires law enforcement officers to get a warrant before searching someone's home or personal effects. In order for the Fourth Amendment to apply, a person must show that he or she has a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the place being searched or thing being seized. But courts have consistently found that a person has no expectation of privacy in physical characteristics like fingerprints, and that a police may therefore require that a person give fingerprint samples. So requesting a fingerprint to open a phone likely doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment's reasonableness requirement. In terms of search warrants, they must be based on probable cause, and "particularly [describe] the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." This has generally been interpreted to mean the warrant must be narrow in scope, but, as Electronic Frontier Foundation staff Andrew Crocker told the Washington Post, a warrant that "extended to include any phone that happens to be on the property, and all of the private data that that entails" could stretch those limits. Fifth Amendment Concerns The Fifth Amendment, on the other hand, protects people against self-incrimination and could apply to warrants for biometrics in certain circumstances. In general, courts have not found fingerprints, by themselves, to be self-incrimination because they aren't "testimonial" in the sense that they don't amount to a statement about something. But does that necessarily mean that officers can force you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone? Law professor and blogger Orin Kerr looked at three such scenarios and opined that, as long as the officers already know that the phone is yours, the answer is probably yes. At that point your fingerprint would not be telling officers anything they didn't already know, or, as Kerr put it, "No testimonial statement from the person is implied by the act of placing his finger on the reader." But when -- as in the case above that involves a search of a residence with multiple phones and multiple people -- cops don't know which device belongs to whom, being forced to unlock a phone could be testimonial: It amounts to testimony that says, "yes, this is my phone," or at least, "yes, this phone was set to recognize a part of my body as a means of access." It further says: "I am familiar enough with this phone to know that the fingerprint reader was enabled and which part of me was used by me to program the fingerprint reader." According to Forbes, the warrant in this case is "unprecedented," but we may see similar warrants as more people use their fingerprints to secure their smartphones. If you've been subject to a similar search, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Do You Have to Let Cops Search Your Cell Phone? (FindLaw Blotter) Cell-Phone Fingerprint Ruling: 5 Things You Should Know (FindLaw Blotter) Geo-Tracking: Should Phone Location Info Require a Warrant? (FindLaw Blotter)
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Supreme Court to Decide Which Bathroom Trans High School Student Can Use

Last week, the Supreme Court announced that they will be taking up the case of Gavin Grimm, the high school student who has been told he can't use the boys' restroom because he is transgender. The case will be heard at some point next year, as the Court has only accepted to hear the case at this point. When a case is appealed to the Supreme Court, one party to a case is asking the Court to review a Federal Appeals Court's decision. The Supreme Court is asked to review thousands of cases each year, and only selects about 80 to review. Although Gavin won the last appeal, the Supreme Court ordered that the appeals court's decision not go into effect until they decide to reject the case or after they decide the case. The Case of Gavin Grimm Gavin's case was forced upon him. When he started high school as a freshman, he initially used the unisex/single stall restroom in the nurse's office. However, it was the only single stall in the building and Gavin did not feel like he could solely use that restroom as it was the only one. When he requested that he be allowed to use the regular boys' bathroom, the school approved his request. However, when some other students' parents learned that Gavin was using the regular boys' bathroom, they petitioned the district to stop Gavin, and won. But Gavin didn't stop fighting for his rights as a transgender student. Gavin challenged the school district in court and on appeal, Gavin won. After the appeal, but before the Supreme Court announced that they would weigh in, the Department of Education, with the Department of Justice, issued formal guidance on how public schools should handle any policy relating to sex segregation and gender identity. Basically, both agencies state that Gavin, and other trans students, should be able to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity, regardless of how they are identified in legal documents. Trans Bathrooms: Separate Is Not Equal For the purposes of Title IX, which applies to schools that receive federal funding, a student's gender identity is their sex, and Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex. Soon, the Supreme Court will weigh in and may provide some judicial certainty to this politically divisive question. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Transgender Bathroom Laws in Public Schools: A National Overview (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Primer for Parents and Students on Transgender Bathrooms in Schools (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Do I Need a Lawyer for a Gender Change? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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What’s the Punishment for Selling Stolen Goods?

The law in every state allows some latitude when it comes to the crime of selling and buying stolen goods. The one factor that can make the most significance is whether buyer or seller knew that the goods were stolen. Although knowledge makes all the difference, however, not knowing generally will not allow a purchaser, nor seller, to keep the proceeds, nor the goods. Depending on the jurisdiction and the value of the goods, certain states can charge the offense as a petty crime. Petty crimes, typically, are misdemeanors, or infractions, that do not carry very stringent sentences. Usually, this is reserved for situations where the value of the goods is less than $500 or $1,000, and did not involve an additional crime, such as a weapons, assault or battery charge. If a seller has no knowledge the goods they are selling are stolen, it is likely they would be treated similarly to a buyer who had no knowledge. Value Matters When a prosecutor is deciding whether to charge a defendant with a misdemeanor or felony for selling stolen goods, the value of the goods is very significant. In California, for example, if the value is less than $950, then selling stolen goods cannot be charged as a felony. However, if there were other crimes committed in conjunction with the sale of the stolen goods, this could change how a prosecutor decides to charge the case. Misdemeanor convictions carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail, while felony convictions can carry sentences of several years or more. Typically, for a felony selling stolen goods charge in California, assuming there are no other crimes, a guilty party could be facing up to one to three years in prison. Under the federal law, selling stolen property across state lines could land you a ten year prison sentence. Business Types Matter If you are a private party found to be selling stolen goods, you may have less to be concerned about than if you are a pawn shop owner or swap meet vendor. In most states, these business operators face stricter regulation when it comes to selling goods.Generally, pawn shop owners and swap meet vendors need to keep track of where and from whom they received the items they sell. Some states require these businesses to conduct a reasonable inquiry into whether the item was legally obtained before they offer the item for sale. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Is It Illegal to Threaten Someone Online? (FindLaw Blotter) Arrested for Vaping? (FindLaw Blotter) Juvenile Carjacker Arrested Twice in 48 Hours (FindLaw Blotter)
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How to Keep Your Kids Safe From Sex Offenders on Halloween

For most parents on Halloween, it's not the costumes that scare them. Among the biggest fear that parents have on Halloween is that their child will be abducted or worse. The fear of kidnapping on Halloween seems rational as children are dressed in costume, are out in large numbers (often unsupervised), are out at night, and the whole holiday provides cover for would-be criminals. To help mitigate the concerns of parents, many states and localities have laws regulating the actions of sex offenders during Halloween. In California, for example, sex offenders on parole are required to be at home from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., with any exterior lights turned off, and are not allowed to open their door for anyone except law enforcement. Although laws prohibiting sex offenders from participating in Halloween are not in every state, parents can take other actions to protect their kids. Check the Local Sex Offender Registry While many states have specific laws about sex offenders and Halloween, there are many that do not. Even in states that have laws about this, parents may want to proactively warn their children about which houses to stay away from as most states do not require that sex offenders post "no candy" signs asking people to stay away. In recent years, parents have been utilizing sex offender registries to keep their kids safe on Halloween. Each state has a sex offender registry and database that the public can access via the internet. The databases allow parents to identify where the sex offenders live so that they can advise their children to stay away from those houses. Give Kids a GPS Enabled Cell Phone Some parents may be concerned that simply telling their child to stay away from a house won't actually be enough, or their child won't remember which house. For these parents, letting your child use a GPS enabled cell phone that you can track on a computer or another device can provide much needed peace of mind. Additionally, you can require your child to call or text you to check in every so often, or when they reach certain waypoints, so that you can remind them which houses to skip. For the exceptionally paranoid parent, hiding a GPS tracking device inside your child's costume may be necessary to ease that paranoia for long enough to let your child learn some independence and have some fun. Also, there are several apps that can help you closely monitor your kids while they're out trick-or-treating. Related Resources: Candy or Meth? It May Be Hard to Tell (FindLaw Blotter) Avoid Dangerous, Illegal Halloween Decorations (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Silly Halloween Laws to Make You Scream (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can You Refuse a CPS Drug Test? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Driver Liability for Cell Phone Related Car Accident

How an accident happens will largely determine who is ultimately held liable. If the at fault driver was found to have caused the accident while talking or texting, they will likely have more difficulty defending their case, and they may potentially face additional penalties. Nearly every state has laws on distracted driving, and most include some limitations on the use of cell phones by drivers. Regardless of whether you have an ear piece, integrated Bluetooth, or speakerphone system, if you are talking or texting on a cell phone while driving, an officer or other party can claim that you were driving while distracted. According to the most recent report by the NHTSA, one in ten on the road fatalities involved distraction. Accidents While Phoning or Texting If a driver is found to be at fault for an accident, then they can also be found liable for the injuries and property damage they caused. While a majority of auto accident cases settle out of court, the facts concerning how the crash happened are relevant to establishing the injured party's case for damages. When a jury is asked to decide an auto accident injury case, they will usually be tasked with deciding two primary issues:Whether the defendant caused the injuries and damages.How much money should be awarded to the plaintiff for suffering the injuries and damages. In most jurisdictions, if both parties are considered to be partly at fault, or fault is uncertain, the party that is found to be more than 50% at fault, generally is the party held responsible for the damages. If a party was on the phone when the accident occurred, they may be found some percentage (comparatively) at fault. In states like California, if a driver is found to be 25% at fault, any award they receive will be reduced by their percentage of fault. Rear-Ended While Talking on the Phone There are some auto-accident cases where it won't matter if the victim was on the phone or texting. If you are stopped at a red light, and you get rear-ended while texting or talking on the phone, it is highly unlikely that your texting or talking had anything to do with causing the accident. In this sort of a situation, your phone use, while still potentially against the law, generally cannot be used to attack liability. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What's More Dangerous Than Texting and Driving? (FindLaw's Injured) 1 in 4 Car Crashes Involves Cell Phone Use: Report (FindLaw's Injured) Is Apple Liable for Distracted Driving Accidents? (FindLaw's Injured)
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Juvenile Carjacker Arrested Twice in 48 Hours

Last week, a juvenile carjacker in New Jersey made headlines for being arrested twice within 48 hours for two separate carjacking incidents. Police released the minor into the custody of a relative after his arrest on a Friday for carjacking, and on Sunday, the teen was rearrested for another carjacking. The juvenile carjacker, surprisingly, is only 13 years old. Fortunately, there were no injuries as a result of his actions, however, police have linked an additional two to three car thefts from surrounding communities to the young suspect. Penalties for Juvenile Carjacking While criminal laws vary from state to state, juveniles can face very serious penalties for carjacking. The penalties can become exponentially worse if a weapon, or gun, is involved. Additionally, older juveniles may be charged as adults. While some juvenile offenses may be summarily dealt with if they are minor, or offenses that relate to the minor's age (such as possession of alcohol or tobacco), carjacking, especially when a weapon is involved, is not one of these. Unlike a joyriding charge, which can be charged as a misdemeanor in some jurisdictions, when a carjacker physically removes the driver of a vehicle by force and takes the keys and car, the likelihood is that even a juvenile will be charged with a felony. When a carjacker does not intend to permanently deprive the vehicle owner of possession, a joyriding charge may still apply, however, the act of stealing the car directly from the victim's possession will likely impose additional charges. Recent Trends Over the past few months, there have been several news stories across the country involving juvenile carjackings. The story out of New Jersey comes after a brutal story out of Oakland, California, where four juveniles punched an old lady and stole her vehicle. A month prior to that, a nearby city saw not only a juvenile carjacking, but it led to a high-speed pursuit, ending in a crash and arrest. In Denver, a juvenile carjacker that was fleeing from police was shot in the leg. Carjacking is a serious criminal offense that can land a juvenile in adult prison. Due to the fact that it involves more than simply taking the car, but potentially assault and/or battery (with or without a weapon), the charges tend to more serious than simply joyriding. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Juveniles and Age ("Status") Offenses (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Shooting at George Zimmerman Illegal, Florida Man Learns (FindLaw Blotter) BB Guns Are Not Firearms, Minnesota Supreme Court Rules (FindLaw Blotter)
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Social Media and Voting: Update on ‘Ballot Selfie’ Laws

Ah, the selfie. That staple of social media. Who needs a silly little "I Voted" sticker when you can share your voting status worldwide with a few taps on your smartphone? The ballot selfie has become the most popular way to prove you participated in the political process, but some states aren't too keen on the idea. Quite a few states have banned ballot selfies, and a few state courts have overturned bans. So where does the law stand now? Here's a look. In and Out Whether you can snap a selfie at your polling place can depend on where you live. Some states explicitly bar ballot selfies, some states allow them, and quite a few states have yet to clarify matters, legally. The AP published a comprehensive list of state ballot selfie laws, and here's a quick summary: Legal: Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Not Legal: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Some of these bans are prohibitions on taking photographs of ballots specifically; others are laws against taking any pictures at polling places. And keep in mind that even in states where ballot selfies are legal, there may be limits on where you can snap your selfie and what can be included. Up in the Air There are still 13 states that have yet to decide the issue of ballot selfies definitively. Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia either don't address ballot selfies explicitly, have proposals pending, or have laws on the books that state officials have said may not prohibit ballot selfies. So before you start snapping photos of you and your ballot and post them to social media, you may want to consult with a local civil rights attorney to confirm the ballot selfie laws in your jurisdiction. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) New Hampshire Strikes Down Ban on 'Ballot Selfies' (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Snapchat Stands up for Right to Snap Ballot Selfies (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Rules Around Polling Places (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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