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Connecticut May Soon Employ Deadly Police Drones

A Connecticut bill that originally focused on simply banning all weaponized drones recently had a controversial exemption carved out that's garnering national attention. That controversial legal exemption to the ban on weaponized drones would only apply to law enforcement agencies, allowing only police in the state to use weaponized drones. While it may seem logical to only allow police to use weaponized drones, if the bill passes, it would be the first law in the nation that actually authorizes police to use drones equipped with lethal weapons. North Dakota passed a law in 2015 that permits law enforcement to use drones equipped with non-lethal weapons like tear gas or pepper spray, and other law enforcement agencies use drones for surveillance purposes. Standard Drone Protocol If the bill passes, the state's law enforcement training council will be required to devise a standard operating procedure for when and how law enforcement can use weaponized drones. The bill itself contains some regulations regarding drone use, but leaves the specifics on training and use to be determined by the council. This type of regulatory framework will allow some leeway in how law enforcement use drones as the technology advances over time. Proponents have rallied their support around the contention that allowing law enforcement the right to use weaponized drones could help stop a terrorist attack, or other serious threat. However, there are equally strong contentions that allowing the use of drones will result in civil rights violations against certain segments of the population, as well as misuse by police. Police Drones While there have been plenty of other concerns raised about law enforcement's use of drones, particularly when it comes to surveillance and searches, equipping drones with weapons is a new frontier for policing. Although there is clearly a benefit to sending in a robot over a human in a situation where gunfire is likely to be exchanged, anyone who's seen RoboCop or any other similar fictional work involving robotic police, is aware of the ethical dilemma that can be expected when the human element is removed from policing. Related Resources: N.D. Farmer Convicted in 1st Domestic Drone Case (FindLaw Blotter) No First Amendment Right to Drone Surveillance, Conn. Court Holds (FindLaw's Technologist) Who's Afraid of Domestic Drone Strikes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Drone Operator Attacked: Are They the New 'Glassholes'? (FindLaw's Legal Grounds)
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College Students Arrested Allegedly Selling Xanax to Undercover Officers

Four college students at DePaul University in Chicago have been arrested for selling over 100 Xanax pills to undercover officers. The sales occurred on four separate occasions, for various quantities and prices, over the last few weeks. While Xanax is commonly used to help individuals with serious anxiety or other mental health issues, the drug is also sought after by recreational users. Despite the fact that it is legally available to individuals with a prescription, an individual cannot legally distribute or sell Xanax, or any other prescription drug for that matter, to any other person. Unfortunately for both legal and illegal Xanax users, the drug is reportedly highly addictive, which can lead to severe dependency issues. Selling Prescription Drugs Is Illegal Although individuals can legally purchase prescription drugs if their doctor provides a prescription, without the prescription, it is illegal to buy, or even possess, prescription drugs. This is because prescription drugs are considered controlled substances, similar to the traditionally illegal drugs, like cocaine or heroin. As such, they're regulated by the federal government, as well as state law. Like most state and federal drug laws, penalties for possession and illegal sale of prescription drugs will vary depending on the type and quantity of the drugs involved, as well as the circumstances surrounding the sourcing of the drugs. For instance, if an individual is discovered manufacturing an illegal prescription drug, they could be facing much more severe penalties than for simply possessing, or buying, an illegal prescription. Penalties for Selling Prescription Drugs Since prescription drugs can be legally obtained via a prescription, many times individuals will steal prescription pads in order to get their supply from a legal drug store. However, doing so can result in serious related criminal charges for fraud, or even conspiracy. Also, doctors who are found to be complicit in prescription drug schemes can face censure and serious penalties from medical licensing boards, in addition to serious criminal charges related to drug dealing. For first-time possession offenders, frequently the penalties will not be severe, or rise beyond the level of a misdemeanor. The penalty may not even include any jail time, unless there are extenuating circumstances, like a stolen prescription pad. For first-time distribution offenders, penalties usually will include jail time, and are likely to be charged as a felony. Related Resources: Hit with a drug charge? Have the charges reviewed free. (Consumer Injury - Criminal) If Roommate Sells Drugs, Can You Get Arrested? (FindLaw Blotter) Ice Cream Truck Driver Sold Oxycodone Pills from His Truck (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Drug Trafficking/Distribution (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Federal Criminal Prosecutions Fall to 20 Year Low

According to new research released by the PEW research center, federal criminal prosecutions are on the decline. The new numbers show that federal criminal prosecutions have been on a consistent decline since 2011, and have even fallen to a 20 year low. Much of this is credited to the visionary approach implemented by former Attorney General Eric Holder to not prosecute every federal crime, but to focus on those where there is a substantial federal interest. Since 2011, there has been an approximate 25 percent reduction in new federal criminal cases. Federal prosecutors have gone from charging over 100,000 new cases a year, to charging about 77,000. The most common type of federal crimes that get prosecuted involve drug charges. Despite the recent trend among states to legalize marijuana, there are many other types of illegal drugs, and federal drug charges still account for the majority of federal prosecutions. However, over the past 5 years, there has been nearly a 25 percent reduction in drug prosecutions alone. Federal Crimes Prosecuted Less Most criminal prosecutions are handled by state and local prosecutors. However, when an individual violates federal criminal laws, such as those related to drugs, guns, or financial crimes, federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges in the federal court system. Also, deportation cases are also considered to be federal criminal prosecutions. Although violent crimes make up only a very small percentage of federal criminal prosecutions, that does not mean violent criminals get a pass. Typically, violent crimes are prosecuted by the states. According to the PEW research center, over half of all state prisoners have been sentenced due to violent crimes, compared to less than 10% of federal inmates. The only area where federal prosecutions were noted to have increased involved a small increase in prosecutions for gun and violent crimes. Looking Forward Although the newly appointed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is taking a strong stance and wants to increase federal criminal prosecutions for drug and gun crimes, he will have to do so with a shrinking budget as the DOJ is one of the many agencies that has impending budget cuts. Related Resources: Daylight Savings Time Could Reduce Crime Rates (FindLaw Blotter) 10 States With the Highest Rates of Violent Crime (FindLaw Blotter) Gang Membership Up, Violent Crime Rate Down (FindLaw Blotter) What Is a Special Prosecutor? How Does It Relate to Recusal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Calif. ‘Yes Means Yes’ Sexual Assault Bill Awaits Gov.’s Signature

California lawmakers approved a groundbreaking "Yes Means Yes" bill on Thursday, in an attempt to fight the growing problem of sexual assault on college campuses. The bill must be signed by Governor Jerry Brown before it becomes law, but if/when it becomes effective, all California colleges and universities will have to change their standards. The Los Angeles Times reports that the bill would require "affirmative consent" between college students hoping to have sex -- removing silence or lack of resistance as signs of consent. SB 967 Requires a Sober 'Yes' for Sex The "Yes Means Yes" bill, officially known as California SB 967, seeks to create more institutional protections for college students who may be sexually assaulted by their peers. Authored by state senators Kevin de Leon and Hannah-Beth Jackson, SB 967 sets the standard for consent to sex a bit higher than some colleges have in the past. And that standard is "affirmative consent." The consent of affirmative consent is best understood by the bill's slogan: "yes means yes." The old "no means no" doesn't create a very high burden on would be sexual assaulters to ascertain whether their partners' silence, intoxicated state, or lack of resistance is really tantamount to a "yes." And with the very serious charge of rape being a possibility for sex without consent, this is not a situation to trifle with. With only a "yes" (or each partner affirmatively consenting), can many of their sexual assault fears be silenced. The "affirmative consent" standard also would not allow accused rapists to claim that an intoxicated victim consented or that the accused was too intoxicated to confirm consent. For college students, this may mean a sobering new reality about drunken sex. Critics Worry About Consequences Not everyone is a fan of "Yes Means Yes." Writing for TIME, Cathy Young notes that this law will create "a disturbing precedent for government regulation of consensual sex" and place many young students at the mercy of "vague and capricious rules." While the California criminal law regarding sexual assault will not be altered by SB 967, disciplinary action from a rape accusation may lead to suspension or even expulsion. Students can still appeal these disciplinary actions, but the burden in school rape cases would certainly be shifted to the accused. According to USA Today, Gov. Brown has until the end of September to sign or veto the "Yes Means Yes" bill. Related Resources: California bill defines what it means to say 'yes' to sex (The Washington Post) 55 Colleges Facing Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations (FindLaw's Blotter) 5 Legal Tips for Sexual Assault Victims (FindLaw's Blotter) Calif. Egg Law Challenged in Federal Lawsuit (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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3 Ways Unsecured Home Wi-Fi Can Link You to Crime

Unsecured home Wi-Fi is a terrible idea. Not only does participating in an unsecured network leave you wide open to potential cyberattacks, but it can also get you mixed up in a serious criminal case. Here are three reasons to avoid criminal investigation by securing your home Wi-Fi: 1. Pedophiles Can Use Your Wi-Fi, You Get Arrested. Think that title is a bit far-fetched? Just imagine how one New York resident felt in 2011 when federal agents raided his home, leveled assault weapons at him, and accused him of being a child pornographer. What actually happened? A neighbor had used the man's unsecured Wi-Fi to download child porn; agents had incorrectly assumed that the online activity emanated from the Wi-Fi owner's house. Still, the unsuspecting homeowner watched FBI agents search and confiscate his and his wife's computer and mobile devices -- only to be cleared of the charges three days later, reports The Associated Press. The lesson: Protect your home Wi-Fi so that you don't get blamed for criminal activity of your Internet-mooching neighbors. 2. Neighbors Downloading Illegally, but You Get Charged. It may be a long time since the days of Napster piracy suits, but lawsuits over Internet piracy are still alive and well. Ask the 31 Internet users (who have yet to be identified) who are being sued for illegally downloading copies of "Dallas Buyers Club." Not alright, alright, alright. Production companies seek out the IP addresses of downloaders from their Internet service providers (ISPs) -- companies like Comcast and AT&T. These IP addresses, even with unsecured Wi-Fi, are tied to a physical location, typically your router's location. This means that legal demands for copyright infringement will probably be sent to your house. College students often get nabbed by their colleges for using school Internet for piracy because they have a system for tracking down individual users. But without any protection on home Wi-Fi, most homeowners will be stuck defending themselves against piracy charges. 3. Like Hackers? They Love Your Wi-Fi. Although there are some ways to identify unwelcome strangers on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, sophisticated criminals can potentially use homeowners as a shield to mask their illegal activities. There are some ways to protect yourself while surfing public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, but your home network shouldn't be unsecured. If it is, you leave yourself open to being the target of a state or federal investigation you'll wish you never knew about. Like the hapless New Yorker with unsecured Wi-Fi, you may eventually untangle your innocent self from a legal mess, but why invite the hassle? Secure your home Wi-Fi today. Related Resources: Pa. man sentenced for porn using neighbor's Wi-Fi (The Associated Press) The 10 Most Pirated TV Shows of 2013 (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Illegal Downloads: What Are the Penalties? (FindLaw's Blotter) Apple Security Flaw: Update Software to Thwart Wi-Fi Hackers (FindLaw's Common Law)
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Getty Makes 35M Images Free for Bloggers’ Use

Getty Images is now allowing bloggers to use 35 million of its images for free as long as they're used for non-commercial purposes. Despite Getty placing a watermark on all its online images, Getty executives are aware that people have been copying and pasting copyrighted pictures without permission. So they've created a new system that allows select Getty images to be embedded on websites, with the proper attributions prominently displayed, Forbes reports. What do bloggers need to know about using Getty's free images? Getty's Free 'Embedded Viewer' Now that Getty is allowing users free access to millions of its images, it's also removing the watermark from the photos it's providing for free. The problem with Getty's old watermark system was that once an image was purchased, the watermark would be removed; once removed and placed on a website, anyone online could copy and paste the image and use it without proper attribution or permission from the original owner. Instead of a watermark, Getty is now allowing bloggers to embed many of its photos -- but only via a new "embedded viewer" tool. The tool drops the image into a blog or website with a footer crediting Getty and linking people to its licensing page, according to Forbes. The footer and link could help reduce copyright infringement because they don't allow users to use the image without including a link to Getty's licensing page. A Reminder About Fair Use Laws Bloggers using Getty's new "embedded viewer" generally won't have to worry about copyright infringement -- as long as they're not using the images for a commercial purpose. (However, Getty doesn't mind if you make a little money off your blog via Google Ads, Forbes reports.) Still, it's important to keep fair use laws in mind when adding images, videos, and other multimedia to your personal (or commercial) website. Fair use allows the use of copyrighted material without permission from the original author under certain circumstances, including: Criticism, News reporting, Comment, Teaching, Parody, and Scholarship and research. For example, if you're a college student researching political issues and you use an image of two politicians at a meeting for your term paper, that's probably protected under fair use law. On the other hand, if a person uses a copyrighted image to advertise his lawn-mowing business, then that's likely to be considered copyright infringement. Even with Getty's free images, using them in advertisements, promotions, or advertising is not allowed. Although 35 million of Getty's stock images are now free for non-commercial use by the public, bloggers don't have free access to Getty's entire collection of images, reports Forbes. For that, you'll still have to pay. Related Resources: The world's largest photo service just made its pictures free to use (The Verge) What Is Fair Use? Consider These 4 Factors (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Do Copyright, Trademark Symbols Mean? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal How-To: Copyrighting Your Screenplay (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Spring Break in Mexico: 5 Legal Tips to Know

According to the U.S. State Department, 100,000 American teenagers and young adults travel to Mexico for Spring Break every year. While the vast majority of them enjoy their Mexico vacations without a hitch, the State Department cautions that "several may die, hundreds will be arrested, and still more will make mistakes that could affect them for the rest of their lives," Examiner.com reports. Here are five legal tips for spring breakers in Mexico: Drinking in public. Technically, it is illegal to walk the streets of Mexico with an open container of alcohol, though images of blacked out college kids meandering through Tijuana might suggest otherwise when it comes to actual enforcement of the law. Still, be careful. Using drugs. In 2009, Mexico decriminalized the possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis (roughly four joints), but people caught with that amount can still be detained by police, The Associated Press reports. The same law also decriminalized up to half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams for LSD. Anything more than that can lead to imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is even tried, according to the State Department. Taking a taxi. While in Mexico, only use the licensed and regulated "sitio" taxis (pronounced SEE-tee-oh). Just like in any other place, using an unlicensed taxi in Mexico increases your risk of getting robbed, raped, or kidnapped. Driving in Mexico. Carry your U.S. driver's license with you when driving in Mexico and make sure the owner of the car is in the car with you. If you get into a car accident, know that you may be taken into police custody until it is determined who is at fault and whether you have the ability to pay any penalty. The State Department therefore strongly recommends purchasing a full coverage insurance policy that will cover the cost of bail. If you rent a moped or car, make sure to purchase third-party insurance (your credit card insurance might not cover you in Mexico). Swimming. Standards of security, safety, and supervision may not reach the levels expected in the United States. Watch for safety warnings of rough seas. If black or red flags are displayed, stay out of the water. It's best to swim where there's a lifeguard (and that applies to swimming pools too). Beware undertow and rip tides in some areas of Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Mazatlan and Oaxaca. There are plenty of perfectly safe historic, cultural, and culinary travel adventures to be had in Mexico. It ultimately comes down to being smart and playing by the rules. Related Resources: Mexico: Safety tips for young adults going south for spring break (Los Angeles Times) Spring Break Abroad? Get a Power of Attorney (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What to Do If You're Arrested in a Foreign Country (FindLaw's Blotter) Spring Break Stabbing Leads to Coca-Cola Suit (FindLaw's Injured)
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