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child endangerment

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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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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Vermont Legalizes Marijuana: 5 Quick Facts You Should Know

It's official! Vermont became the ninth state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Monday. The state's Republican governor, Phil Scott, signed House Bill 511 into law after it cleared the state legislature earlier this month. The Green Mountain State joins a growing number of states to remove penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The law takes effect on July 1st. Yet aspiring cannabis connoisseurs should be wary of jumping into the Vermont "bud" business prematurely. Here are five quick facts to know about the state of the law in Vermont. 1. You Can Smoke It Vermonters can possess up to one ounce of cannabis under the new law, a limitation that's in line with recent legalizations in Colorado and Washington State. This limit is intended to permit the recreational use of the drug -- but not large scale supply and cultivation. 2. You Can Grow Some of It The law further removes criminal penalties for having your own marijuana plants. Vermont allows the possession of two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants, enough to permit the green-thumb ganja lovers to keep their own fresh supply at home. 3. But You Can't Sell It The law does not legalize a state marijuana market, however. The governor previously vetoed legislation legalizing the sale of marijuana, which the state is leaving open to further action at a later date. 4. You Need to Be Old Enough to Drink Vermont's decriminalization law only applies to people twenty-one years of age and over. Minors (and a great many college students) aren't included. And there are penalties for selling recreational weed to underage persons too. 5. Federal Law Hasn't Changed Despite state decriminalization, federal law still prohibits possessing marijuana. And, at least where U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is concerned, federal prosecution remains a possibility.If you run into legal issues with marijuana in Vermont or another state, contact a criminal defense lawyer for help. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) State Marijuana Laws (FindLaw's State Laws) Vermont Becomes Ninth U.S. State to Legalize Marijuana (Reuters)
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Top 10 Tips for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The National Safety Council has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. According to the Council, thousands of people die each year in crashes caused by cell phone use while driving. But phone calls and text messages aren't the only distractions drivers should try to avoid while behind the wheel. Here are 10 tips and facts to keep in mind for Distracted Driving Awareness Month: New teen drivers are distracted more easily. Drivers between the ages of 15 to 20 make up only 6.4 percent of drivers on the road, but account for 11.4 percent of traffic fatalities. So parents, please teach your kids responsible driving habits. Every distracted second counts. Keep in mind that if you're looking down at your cell phone for only 4 seconds while driving, you could be driving the entire length of a football field without looking at the road. Eating while driving can be considered distracting. Although Distracted Driving Awareness Month focuses more on cell phone use, eating while driving can get you pulled over if cops think your snack time is taking your attention off the road. Cell phone records can be used in court. Think you can keep your cell phone use while driving a secret? Think again. Text-message and call records from cell-phone companies can be used in court to prove that you were distracted when the accident occurred. Texting and driving can lead to child endangerment charges. A California mom was arrested when she was caught texting and driving while she had her 1-year-old baby in her lap without any child restraints. Distracted driving can lead to public shaming. A local project in San Francisco called "TWIT Spotting" encourages bystanders to snap pictures of distracted drivers and turn them in. The photos are then posted on the "TWIT Spotting" website or placed on billboards in an effort to publicly shame the driver for his dangerous behavior. Texting crash videos will make you think twice. While they may be hard to watch, texting crash videos serve as a somber reminder of what can happen when you take your attention away from the road, even for a split second. Hands-free cell phone use can still be distracting. Although hands-free cell phone use while driving is generally legal in many places, it can still be a distraction for drivers who get wrapped up in their conversations and forget about the road. Use an app to curb your bad habits. There are smartphone apps out there that automatically shut off your messaging apps and temporarily stop incoming calls and text messages when you're driving. You could land in some deep doo-doo. Finally, there's a lesson to be learned from the driver who was texting while driving a rented convertible when he crashed into a truck hauling liquid manure. So don't be a doo-doo head and steer clear of all distractions while you're driving. Although Distracted Driving Awareness Month only lasts until the end of April, you should hang up all bad habits that lead to distracted driving year-round. To learn more about distracted driving laws and potential consequences, check out FindLaw's article on Distracted Driving. Related Resources: Cell Phone Crash Data (National Safety Council) Texting and Driving: 3 Ways to Prove It (FindLaw's Blotter) Texting a Driver May Make You Liable: N.J. Court (FindLaw's Injured) Driver's Google Glass Ticket Dismissed; Judge Sees No Proof (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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Baby Left in Car for 5 Hours as Mom Drank: Cops

A Pennsylvania woman was arrested after she allegedly left her 2-month-old baby in a cold car for five hours to go drink at a pub. Police were summoned to a pub in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania, after witnesses spotted an unattended infant in a minivan. The 2-month-old girl was only wearing a onesie and covered in a light blanket; the outdoor temperature was about 39 degrees at the time, according to The Express-Times. The infant's mother, Lisa Altif, 32, was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child. Child Endangerment Alleged Reports of children left in a vehicle in extreme weather conditions are far too common. For example, in the scorching summer heat, parents have left their babies in a hot vehicle to go gamble or take care of personal matters. For Altif and other parents leaving their children alone in cold cars, it could potentially lead to hypothermia. In Pennsylvania, people who leave their children unattended in vehicles for a long period of time can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Any caregiver who "knowingly" endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection, or support, can potentially be convicted under the statute. According to police reports, Altif had been inside the bar drinking for at least five hours while her infant daughter was inside the cold car. The only time Altif left the bar was to smoke cigarettes on the patio, so it's unclear whether she checked on her baby, The Express-Times reports. Possible Punishment Child endangerment is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. So if the mom is convicted, she could face up to five years in prison. However, if there's a pattern of child endangerment, the charge can potentially be elevated to a third-degree felony. While Altif didn't get behind the wheel after she was drinking, police reports indicate that she had a BAC of 0.126 percent at the time of her arrest. If she'd driven drunk with a minor in the car, she could also have faced a felony DUI, which has stuffer penalties and more lasting consequences than a misdemeanor charge. In addition to child endangerment, Altif was also arrested for driving with a suspended license and driving an unregistered vehicle, according to The Express-Times. Her baby is now in state custody as authorities attempt to locate the child's father. Related Resources: Police: Mom Left Baby In Van For 5 Hours While She Drank In Bar (Philadelphia's KYW-TV) Leaving Kids in a Cold Car Can Get You Arrested (FindLaw's Blotter) Don't Leave Kids Alone in Cars, NHTSA Reminds Parents (FindLaw's Injured) Mom Guilty of Murder After Son Dies in Hot Car (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Toddler Heroin Case Lands N.J. Dad in Jail

Police arrested the father of a toddler after daycare providers discovered 48 packets of heroin in his 2-year-old son's jacket. Phillip Young, 27, of New Jersey, has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child. What's in store for him as his case proceeds? Endangering Welfare of a Child In New Jersey, a parent can face child endangerment charges for causing harm to a child in a manner that, in turn, causes the child to be abused or neglected. There are several degrees to the charge. It can encompass behavior spanning from leaving children in cold cars to more willful and extreme actions such as emotionally and physically torturing children. To be convicted, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the parent knew such conduct would make the child abused or neglected. In this case, the father likely knew he was harming his child if he did in fact place heroin in his son's pocket. Considering the child is only 2 years old, there was a very real danger of him ingesting the narcotic. Fortunately, there was no indication the toddler was aware the drugs were in his pocket, New York Daily News reports. Although the child was unscathed, it's pretty safe to say that the father's alleged actions would fit within the state's broad definition of child endangerment. Such charges may also trigger a child welfare investigation. Thus far, it's unclear whether that's happening in this case. Bail Set at $85K Young is being held on $85,000 bail, the Daily News reports. Bail is a process through which an arrested criminal suspect pays a set amount of money to obtain release from police custody, usually after booking. To post bail, Young or someone on his behalf, called a surety, must make the payment to the court. The court will then issue a document or a court order explaining the conditions of his release. If Young fails to show up to court after posting bail, he could face a fine, imprisonment, or both. It would be tacked on consecutively to any other criminal sentence. Related Resources: Toddler: Heroin stuffed in boy's jacket (Reuters) Another Tanning Mom Charged With Child Endangerment (FindLaw's Blotter) Dad Left Baby in Car to Go Gambling (FindLaw's Blotter) 'Hot Sauce Mom' Convicted of Child Abuse in AK (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Leaving Kids in a Cold Car Can Get You Arrested

A New York father was arrested this week for leaving his children in a cold car -- a legal lesson that other parents won't want to learn the hard way this winter. It was around 7 degrees below freezing when police found Luis Fajardo's two children parked inside a vehicle outside a shopping center on Long Island. Fajardo, 32, was arrested when he returned to the car. How is it that parents like Fajardo get arrested for leaving kids in a cold car? Some States Prohibit Leaving Children Unattended According to WCBS-TV, witnesses say Fajardo's children were left unattended in his 1999 Mazda sedan for at least 15 minutes before police arrived on the scene. It doesn't seem like much time at all for children to be left unsupervised, but there are more than a dozen states where doing so is its own crime. KidsAndCars.org, an advocacy group focused on non-traffic car risks for children, cites 19 states which specifically criminalize leaving children unattended in a car. So had Fajardo left his children alone in a cold car in California, he could potentially be facing a separate $100 fine and/or community education class on the risks of leaving children unattended. In Michigan, a state slightly more prone to cold temperatures, a parent like Fajardo could face jail time for leaving kids unattended in a vehicle -- even if his or her children were unharmed. Other Charges Are Possible New York is not one of the 19 states with "child-in-car" laws, but Fajardo is still facing criminal charges of child endangerment. He's due back in court next month, WCBS-TV reports. Leaving your young children alone in a freezing car -- even if only to run a few errands -- may leave them at risk for hypothermia, which would likely qualify as child endangerment. Endangering the welfare of a child by putting them in a potentially risky situation is a misdemeanor in New York. In most states, it can lead to jail time if you're convicted. And though it didn't happen in this case, if a child in your care dies as a result of being left unattended in a car, you may be charged with manslaughter. Children die every year from being left in cars during lethal summer heat, and the same result can potentially happen when the temperature swings down low. This threat is real for law enforcement -- in hot or cold temperatures -- and parents may face arrest for leaving the kids in a cold car. Related Resources: Police: Dad left baby, small child in car (Newsday) Mom Guilty of Murder After Son Dies in Hot Car (FindLaw's Blotter) Dad, 32, Charged in Toddler's Hot Car Death (FindLaw's Blotter) Dad Left Baby in Car to Go Gambling (FindLaw's Blotter)
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