(844) 815-9632

capital crime

‘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)
continue reading

When Can Teens Be Tried as Adults?

When can teenagers be tried as adults? Teens are often responsible for serious crimes, and in many cases they can face the same punishments as adults. The decision to try a teen as an adult varies by state, but generally each state considers the following factors: 1. How Serious Is the Alleged Crime? Serious crimes committed by teens can mandate transferring their cases to adult criminal court. This transfer is called a juvenile waiver, and it typically won't occur unless a serious crime has been committed. For example, in Texas, a child who may have otherwise been tried in juvenile court may be tried as an adult for any felony offense so long as there is: Probable cause to believe the child committed the offense, and The juvenile court believes that the seriousness of the crime or the child's background requires adult criminal proceedings. Capital crime charges like first degree murder often make a teen eligible to be tried as an adult, but many states limit even these cases by the age of the child. 2. Minimum, Maximum Age Limits. For most states, minors may be tried as adults unless they are younger than a certain age. The majority of states will not allow a child who's 13 or younger to be tried as an adult. In California, for example, the minimum age in most cases for a transfer from juvenile to adult criminal court is 14. Teens 14 years or older are not automatically tried as adults in California unless they commit certain heinous crimes. Other states have a lower maximum age for children to be tried in juvenile court. New York has notably tried most 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for all crimes, even for minor offenses like shoplifting. The New York Daily News reports that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has plans to raise this age limit to allow more teens to be tried in juvenile court, but the issue is far from settled. 3. Judicial or Prosecutorial Discretion. Under many states' laws, a juvenile court judge must decide whether a case should be transferred to criminal court. In addition to a child's age and the crime's severity, a judge may consider the circumstances of the accused act and the child's home life. A prosecutor may also have the discretion to either pursue or decline to try a teen as an adult, much in the way they can drop charges against adults. Related Resources: Teens to be tried as adults for alleged 'heinous' Marysville kidnapping (Sacramento, California's KCRA-TV) 10 Illegal Activities Your Kids May Be Up To (FindLaw's Blotter) Man to Be Tried for Murder for Childhood Crime (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Blotter)
continue reading

SXSW Crash Kills 2; Alleged Drunken Driver Arrested

An alleged drunken driving crash at SXSW claimed two lives and injured about two dozen people after a car barreled into a crowd Thursday morning. Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo told CNN that an unnamed male suspect is in custody facing two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault by vehicle for plowing into the crowd at the South by Southwest festival. What will prosecutors have to prove in order to convict, and what legal options may be available for victims of the crash? Driver Faces Serious Criminal Charges The driver responsible for killing two and putting at least 23 in the hospital was allegedly intoxicated and fleeing police when he collided with the SXSW crowd. According to CNN, the two persons who were killed in the crash were riding their light motorcycles (read: scooters) when the allegedly drunken driver hit them. Under Texas law, causing the death of a person while committing a felony is first degree murder. Since the unnamed driver is also alleged to have caused the death of the two SXSW attendees, he could potentially face the death penalty. In addition to the threat of capital punishment, the man accused of injuring at least 23 people is facing 23 corresponding aggravated assault charges. Aggravated assault is applied when there are serious bodily injuries, and CNN reports that some of the injured are in critical condition. Even without the two capital murder charges, the allegedly drunken driver could be facing anywhere from 46 to 460 years in prison. Civil Lawsuits Possible The criminal charges facing the driver aren't the only way his victims will find justice -- he can also face lawsuits in civil court. The families and loved ones of the two persons killed in the SXSW crash can certainly file wrongful death charges against the man alleged to have run over the two. The 23 survivors (and any others injured by the crash) can potentially sue the drunken driver for battery, and can hope to collect damages for any medical bills or associated costs stemming from their injuries. These civil suits will likely be put on hold until the suspect's criminal charges have been resolved. If he is convicted for the assaults and murders, then the victims should easily obtain a civil judgment against him. Given the extent of the injuries and damages, however, it is unclear whether the suspected killer will have the money to pay for these judgments. Related Resources: 2 dead after car crashes into SXSW crowd (The Austin American-Statesman) In Car v. Bike Crashes, Why Are Charges So Rare? (FindLaw's Blotter) Mars Heiress Charged in Fatal Crash (FindLaw's Blotter) Dad Gets 90 Years for DUI Crash; 5 Kids Killed (FindLaw's Blotter)
continue reading

Man to Be Tried for Murder for Childhood Crime

A Texas man who is accused of setting an 8-year-old boy on fire in his teens is going to be tried for murder -- more than 15 years later. A state court judge ruled Thursday that Don Willburns Collins, 28, is eligible to be tried as an adult for a crime he allegedly committed as a 13-year-old. Although the victim, Robert Middleton, didn't die immediately from his burns, he died from skin cancer in 2011 which was "blamed on his burns," reports The Associated Press. Collins' murder prosecution may force him to come to grips with a gruesome childhood crime. Past Crime, Present-Day Charge Complicated murder cases often take years after a victim's death to coalesce, so Collins' case isn't entirely unheard of. For murderers like Whitey Bulger, it took decades for prosecutors to try and convict him for his killings -- many of which occurred in the 1970s. There is no statute of limitations for murder charges in Texas (or any other state for that matter), so Texas prosecutors are free to bring charges against Collins for murder -- no matter when the alleged act occurred. The only problem is that Collins was a child when he allegedly doused Middleton in gasoline and set him ablaze; when Middleton died in 2011, Collins was already in his 20s. Trying Juveniles as Adults In Collins' case, a judge not only found that there was probable cause for prosecutors to try him for murder, but she found that he could be tried as an adult, the AP reports. In general, defendants who commit crimes as juveniles can still be tried as adults if the crime is serious enough and state law allows it. Texas law allows adults who allegedly committed capital crimes (like murder) as children age 10 and above to be tried as adults as long as: The case hadn't been tried in juvenile court, The state received new evidence of the crime after the defendant's 18th birthday, and There is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime. Collins' attorney argued that this law didn't apply to Collins, as it was passed one year after he allegedly set Middleton on fire, reports the AP. But for now, it appears that Collins is headed to adult court for his crimes as a child. Related Resources: Ruling in '98 assault is 'tremendous victory' for Robbie Middleton's family (Houston Chronicle) Can You Expunge Your Juvenile Record? (FindLaw's Blotter) Juvenile Incarceration Rate Lowest Since 1975 (FindLaw's Blotter) Juvenile Life Sentences Unconstitutional Without Parole (FindLaw's Decided)
continue reading