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criminal laws

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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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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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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Can You Give Someone Marijuana as a Gift?

'Tis the season for giving, and some of you may be wondering if your gifts can be a little ... greener this year. And while we would love to give you a clear-cut answer on giving the gift of marijuana, the fact remains that pot laws and your ability to give someone pot as a gift will depend on where you, and that person, live. So before you put a bow on that bud, here are some drug laws to keep in mind: State-by-State Statutes Currently the legal status of marijuana is a patchwork of varying state laws overlaid with a nationwide prohibition. (Although federal authorities have said they will allow states to prosecute their own drug laws, you should know that any marijuana cultivation, possession, or distribution remains illegal under federal drug laws.) And even among states that do allow recreational pot sales, regulations may differ: Alaska restricts plant possession: Residents may have six marijuana plants, but only three can be mature and flowering at one time; Colorado sales depend on your residency: Coloradans can purchase 1 ounce of marijuana, out-of-staters can only purchase half an ounce; D.C. doesn't allow sales: While you can possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to six plants in the nation's capital, the district didn't legalize pot shops or sales; Oregon bans weed delivery: You can possess up to eight ounces of marijuana, but delivery of pot is a felony; Washington pot limited to in-store sales: The state hasn't approved home ownership of marijuana plants. So don't do anything with weed this holiday season before you know the marijuana laws in your state. More Marijuana Mandates Obviously whether you can even legally purchase marijuana will be the first concern when it comes to giving pot as a gift, but even if you can buy it, there are some other restrictions and regulations you may want to be aware of. First off, the feds are still in charge of postal service, so you can't just mail the marijuana to your friends or family. Second, there are legal limits on travelling with pot, and crossing state lines with marijuana is generally a no-no. So just because it's easier to get weed doesn't mean it's easy to give weed. While that special person may appreciate the gift of marijuana, make sure your giving is legal. Related Resources: Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization Overview (FindLaw) Seven States Struggling With Medical Marijuana (FindLaw Blotter) Snoop Dogg Invests in Medical Marijuana Delivery Service (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Does Indiana's Religious Freedom Law Cover Marijuana Church? (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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National Park Drug Laws

We go to national parks to commune with nature, but if your communion includes more than sacramental wafers and wine, you may want to leave it at home. Park rangers are cracking down on drugs in national parks, especially Yosemite National Park, whose visitors are four times as likely to be arrested for drug possession. Party in the Park The majority of the drug busts are for marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and ecstasy, and occur in Yosemite's crowded Valley area, where the majority of the park's three million visitors camp within seven square miles. Many believe that this high concentration of visitors into a relatively small area accounts for Yosemite's abnormally high drug arrest rate. Arrests for drug possession far outstrip those for other crimes in Yosemite, whereas disorderly conduct, liquor violations are the most common in Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park, respectively. In fact, drug arrests in Yosemite accounted for almost a quarter of all arrests made in national parks nationwide from 2010 to 2012. Party Like a Park Star While some states may be relaxing their drug possession laws, and a few have legalized recreational marijuana possession and use, possession of any controlled substance remains illegal under federal law. As national parks, Yosemite and others fall under federal jurisdiction, and federal law trumps state law if there is a conflict. And, under federal law, a National Park System officer doesn't even need a warrant to arrest someone if the officer "has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing" a federal crime. The best policy when visiting a national park is probably to leave the drugs at home (provided of, course, that you're allowed to have them there). It's far better (and safer) to get high on El Capitan than El Cannabis. If you find yourself facing criminal charges because a park ranger found some drugs in your camping bag, you'll probably want to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney near you. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw Directory) Drug Busts Going Up in Yosemite (NBC Bay Area) Buzzkills: 3 Places You Can't Picnic With Beer (Law and Daily Life) Vandalize a National Park, Go to Jail (FindLaw Blotter)
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When Can Kids Legally Own, Shoot Guns?

Firearm enthusiasts who may also be parents or grandparents should be aware that the laws regulating the ownership, possession, and use of guns by kids are often different from the laws for adults. These rules are also facing increased scrutiny following a fatal accident at an Arizona gun range in which a nine-year-old girl shot an instructor in the head when she lost control of a fully automatic Uzi submachine gun, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. What are the rules for when kids can legally own or shoot a gun? Is it Legal for Kids to Have a Gun? Both federal and state gun laws typically distinguish between long guns, such as rifles and shotguns, and handguns. Under federal firearms law, licensed firearm dealers may not sell a handgun to anyone under age 21, or sell a long gun to anyone under age 18. Unlicensed individuals may not sell, deliver, or permanently transfer (such as giving a gun as a gift) a handgun to anyone they have reasonable cause to believe is under age 18, but there is no minimum age for selling, delivering, or transferring a shotgun or a rifle for individuals not licensed as a firearm dealer under federal law. Know someone who has been arrested or charged with a crime? Get in touch with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your area today. There is also no minimum age for possession of a long gun under federal law. However, those under 18 are prohibited from possessing handguns or handgun ammunition, except if doing so in the course of employment, in the course of ranching or farming related activities, for target practice, hunting, or during the course of instruction in the "safe and lawful use of a handgun." In addition to federal laws, individual states each have their own laws regulating the possession and use of firearms, which may affect the legality of a minor's ability to own or possess a firearm. Is it Legal for Children to Fire Guns at Gun Ranges? Many states choose not to further restrict the temporary transfer of firearms to minors for use in target practice or firearm safety training allowed by federal firearms law. These exceptions to the general rules for firearm possession by minors have led to something of a cottage industry in some states. One Texas gun range even opened up two rooms for hosting children's birthday parties. In Arizona, the state in which the nine-year-old girl inadvertently killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi, state law allows for the temporary transfer of firearms to minors by firearms safety instructors or by another adult accompanying a minor in hunting or target shooting activities -- so long as the child's parents give consent. And though the incident in Arizona was tragic, the Mohave County Sheriff's office told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that no citations or charges will be filed in the incident Related Resources: 9-year-old girl accidentally kills gun instructor with Uzi (San Jose Mercury News) Legal to Bring Your Gun to Work? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 BB Gun Laws You Need to Know (FindLaw's Blotter) Does Ga.'s New Gun Law Expand 'Stand Your Ground'? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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5 Legal Tips for Sexual Assault Victims

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an effort to educate the public about the crime, its consequences, and how to prevent it. Sexual assault occurs when a person forces you to participate in sexual contact without your consent. It can have devastating and long-lasting effects on a victim, but victims should try to remember that legal protections are in place to help them on their road to recovery. Here are five tips for sexual assault victims to keep in mind when seeking help from the legal system: Report your attack to the police. You are encouraged to report any sexual assault, rape, dating/partner violence, domestic violence, stalking and/or hate crimes. Authorities will investigate your complaint and help you move forward with criminal charges. That being said, filing a police report does not necessarily mean that you have to press criminal charges. You may need a restraining order. A restraining order is a court-ordered tool used to stop someone from engaging in threatening behavior. When you decide you want to request a restraining order, you should make a list of all of the threatening or intimidating behaviors you want to stop. Specific examples are important. Know your rights as a victim. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you have the right to make your own choices about how to respond to what has happened to you. Don't be afraid to tell your attorney how you want to approach your situation. What to do at trial. A trial can be an overwhelming experience and cause you to re-live memories of your assault. But there are certain steps you can take to ease the painful and emotionally exhausting process of coming face-to-face with your attacker. A lawyer may be a big help. Through direct legal services, a sexual assault attorney can not only help you in your case, but also help protect your mental health, medical, and education records. Your attorney can also help restore the necessities of your life -- housing, employment, education, public benefits, privacy, safety, and, in some cases, citizenship and immigration. To learn more about sex-related offenses, you may want to explore FindLaw's section on Sex Crimes. Related Resources: State Sexual Assault Laws (FindLaw) Military Sex-Assault Reform Bill Fails in Senate (FindLaw's Blotter) Ex-Teacher Andrea Cardosa Charged in Sex Abuse Case (FindLaw's Blotter) Man in Beer Pong League Charged With Sex Abuse (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Fleeing From Justice: What Can Happen?

Fleeing from justice is an overall bad idea. Not only will you be considered a fugitive, but there are no legal benefits for trying to escape criminal prosecution. Of course, that hasn't stopped criminals from trying to hide from law enforcement. But even some of the most notorious fugitives like mob boss Whitey Bulger eventually get caught. Same with lesser-known folks who try to get away with things like being a deadbeat parent. So while each situation is different, here are a few examples of what can happen to criminals who try to flee from justice: The statute of limitations for the crime won't apply. For federal crimes, the statute of limitations for the crime committed doesn't run out just because the criminal is on the run. For example, if the statute of limitations for a crime is five years, but the criminal intentionally hides out in another country for 10 years to avoid prosecution, he can still be prosecuted for the crime if he's caught even though the five-year limitations period has passed. A warrant will be issued for your arrest. If a criminal has an upcoming court date but doesn't show up, a bench warrant will be issued for his arrest because he's in contempt of court. For fugitives who flee from one state to another to avoid arrest, a fugitive from justice warrant will be issued in one jurisdiction for someone who's a fugitive in another jurisdiction. Your mugshot may make you (in)famous. Criminals attempting to escape the law are not only facing legal problems, but could also face reputational issues. Law enforcement frequently shares mugshots of wanted criminals on its social media pages and with the media, so everyone will know you're fleeing from justice. Bounty hunters can potentially track you down. Bounty hunters are authorized by the law to track down criminal defendants who skip out on their bail and fail to appear for their court dates. Bounty hunters have a monetary incentive to track down criminals on the run, so even if law enforcement officers don't catch you, a bounty hunter might. You may face extradition. Criminals who flee to another state or country can face extradition back to the jurisdiction where the crime occurred. For criminals who've fled to other states, the state seeking extradition must file the proper documents, show that you've been charged with a crime in that state, and show that you're a fugitive. This means that you intentionally went to another jurisdiction to avoid getting caught. If you need more help understanding how the law applies to criminals fleeing from justice, consult a criminal defense attorney in your area. Related Resources: Fugitive sought since 1977 found in California (MSN News) Fleeing Police by Car is a Violent Felony (FindLaw's Blotter) Joran Van Der Sloot's U.S. Extradition Set for 2038 (FindLaw's Blotter) 5 Countries With No U.S. Extradition Treaty (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Is Cyberbullying a Crime? What Can Victims Do?

A 17-year-old North Carolina is facing cyberbullying charges after posting a nude photo of a 15-year-old girl to Instagram, CNN reports. The incident raises the question: Just when does cyberbullying turn criminal? Here's an overview of cyberbullying statutes and what you can do when confronted by cyberbullying: Can cyberbullying be criminal? Nineteen states now have cyberbullying-specific laws on the books, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center; 14 states impose criminal sanctions for cyberbullying. Definitions of criminal cyberbullying and corresponding penalties vary by state, but generally speaking, the laws encompass acts of online harassment -- words or images sent via email, texts, or social media that are intended to intimidate or embarrass another person -- and typically categorize the offense as a misdemeanor. The penalty may also be age-specific. For example, the 17-year-old student from North Carolina faces a Class 2 misdemeanor under the state's criminal cyberbullying statute; if the defendant is over 18, the offense is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. What can you do? According to a new FindLaw.com survey, three out of four surveyed parents reported incidents of cyberbullying typically to "friends, school, relatives, law enforcement, and church or clergy." If you become aware of an act of cyberbullying, your first step may be to notify school authorities. If the situation is serious, you may even want to involve law enforcement. In such a case, make sure to give law enforcement copies of the bullying messages or images. How can a lawyer help? With the assistance of an attorney, parents may be able to sue for cyberbullying as an alternative way of reaching parents, school authorities, or law enforcement when other more direct paths prove fruitless -- especially in a state without a cyberbullying statute in place, as Yahoo! Shine reports. The field of cyberbullying-related litigation is still evolving, but there are now examples of victims and their families suing cyberbullies. Before filing a lawsuit, however, perhaps your attorney can write a strongly worded demand letter to a school (or parent) that is slow to respond to cyberbullying. To learn more about how the law can help in your personal cyberbullying case, check out our page on Cyberbullying. Parents of cyberbullying victims may also want to consult an education attorney or an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options. Related Resources: Alleged Bullies Arrested in Fla. Girl's Suicide (FindLaw's Blotter) 2 Teens Cleared in Fla. Cyberbullying Case (FindLaw's Blotter) Sarcastic Facebook Threat Lands Teen in Jail (FindLaw's Blotter) WA Girl, 12, Sentenced for Facebook Cyberstalking (FindLaw's Blotter)
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