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Criminal Procedure

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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Are Programmers Liable If Hackers Misuse Software?

In 2012, Taylor Huddleston created what is known as a remote management tool, a piece of software that allows users to remotely log keystrokes, download stored passwords, turn on the web cam, access files, and watch a computer screen in real time. Designed, he says, to help low-income users who couldn't afford more expensive remote-access programs monitor online activity for safety reasons, NanoCore was going to be Huddleston's ticket out of a trailer he lived in on his mother's property and into a real house. And it worked -- Huddlestone sold NanoCore and another piece of software called Net Seal and was able to buy a $60,000 home. But FBI agents and police raided that home last December, and are now charging Huddlestone conspiracy and aiding and abetting computer intrusions, for all the times hackers used NanoCore to commit crimes. Illegal IT So should Huddlestone be criminally liable if he didn't intend his software to be used for hacking? His attorney, Travis Morrissey, likens the case to firearms manufacturers: "Everybody seems to acknowledge that this software product had a legitimate purpose," he told the Daily Beast. "It's like saying that if someone buys a handgun and uses it to rob a liquor store, that the handgun manufacturer is complicit." Thus far, courts haven't held firearms makers liable for criminal acts committed with their products, but computer crimes laws are written a bit differently. One factor might be where Huddlestone chose to market his software: HackForums.net. As the Daily Beast points out: It would soon become clear that it was a terrible place to launch a legitimate remote administration tool. There aren't a lot of corporate procurement officers on HackForums. Instead, many of Huddleston's new customers had purely illicit uses for a slick remote access tool. Illegal Intent? Huddlestone quickly found out what his buyers were using the software tool for, and, to his credit, attempted to curb illegal activity using NanoCore: In short order, Huddleston found himself routinely admonishing people not to use his software for crime. "NanoCore does not permit illegal use," he wrote in one post. In another, "NanoCore is NOT malware. It is intended to be used legitimately and I don't want to see words like 'slave' and 'infect.'" Huddleston backed his words with action. Whenever he saw evidence that a particular buyer was using the product to hack, he'd log in to Net Seal and disable that user's copy, cutting the hacker off from his infected slaves. But these efforts may not be enough. By then the cat was out of the bag and hackers were trading in copies of NanoCore that bypassed Huddlestone's disabling efforts. Now, he's looking at jail time for making a product he thought would help people. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Programmer Faces Federal Charges for Creating Software Used by Hackers (ABA Journal) What Are the Criminal Penalties for Hacking? (FindLaw Blotter) When Is Computer Hacking a Crime? (FindLaw Blotter)
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When to Turn Yourself in for a Warrant?

Finding out that there is an active warrant out for your arrest can be an alarming experience. What you do after learning about a warrant depends largely on what you know about the reason behind the warrant. Before you go fleeing to a warm weather country with no extradition agreement, or just turning yourself in, you may want to consider seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal attorney. After all, it will definitely be cheaper than attempting to live the rest of your life on the run. Should You Turn Yourself In? While there is an active warrant, if you are stopped by police, you will likely be arrested, even if the warrant was issued out of a different jurisdiction (SCMODS is not just the bane of Elwood Blues). However, if you are not stopped by the police, it may take some time before police ever bother coming to your home, or work, to make the arrest. If the warrant is issued out of a different county, it could take weeks or months to process the warrant through a different jurisdiction. If your work and home address is unknown, you could have a warrant for several months, or even years, without ever getting arrested for it. If you know that there are serious criminal charges pending behind the warrant, you should retain an attorney, and potentially arrange bail/bond depending on your attorney’s advice, before turning yourself in (assuming your attorney tells you to do so). Frequently, even for serious criminal charges, by retaining an attorney, you may be able to negotiate a favorable surrender, where you can be booked, processed, arraigned, and released on bail, all in the same day. Sometimes, if the warrant is for a relatively minor violation, such as a bench warrant for a failure to appear in court, an attorney may be able to get the warrant squashed without you ever being arrested. You may not even need to show up to court. At the end of the day, turning yourself in can go a long way toward receiving leniency from the court or prosecutor. However, it is best to rely on the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney when making any decisions that could have an impact on your case. Related Resources: Facing criminal charges? Get your case reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury - Criminal) When Do Police Need an Arrest Warrant? (FindLaw Blotter) San Francisco Judges Toss 66,000 Arrest Warrants (FindLaw Blotter) Do Police Have to Inform You of Your Charges? (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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Teens Charged in Sexual Assault Live-Streamed on Facebook

No matter how many stories get written about criminal activity streamed on Facebook Live, criminals don't cease to record their crimes for prosecutorial prosperity and the crimes themselves don't get any less heinous. A 14-year old girl in Chicago was lured into a home and raped by as many as six men, one of whom broadcast the sexual assault live on Facebook. The Chicago Tribune notes it's at least the fourth crime in the city captured on Facebook Live since the end of October 2016. Two teens are in custody thus far, and the victim and her family have been moved following threats and online bullying after reporting the crime. Facebook Crime According to the Tribune, the girl was attacked on her way home from church, and not found until two days later. A relative was told the assault was on Facebook, and Chicago activist Andrew Holmes was able to forward the video of the sexual assault to police. The girl's mother was then able to identify her daughter from screen shots of the video. Two boys, one 14 and the other 15, are now in custody facing charges relating to the rape and the posting of the video. Both have been charged as juveniles with aggravated criminal sexual assault, manufacture of child pornography, and dissemination of child pornography, though it is unclear if either was the one who initiated the broadcast of the assault. Social Media Cycle of Trauma Police say their investigation has been hampered by the victim's trauma and harassment of her and her family. Chicago Police Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan described the difficulty at a news conference over the weekend: "She's just having such a difficult time even communicating what occurred to her. We obviously have a video of the incident, so we have verifiable objective evidence of what occurred to this young lady, but she's just having a very difficult time ... On top of it, there's constant social media ... bullying (of the girl), making fun of what occurred. This is just a very traumatic incident." The social media bullying has manifested in real life as well. The victim's mother told the Tribune that after word of the attack got out, people began harassing the family at home, ringing the doorbell and appearing at the house in a threatening manner. Police were also frustrated with the lack of response from the estimated 40 people who viewed the livestream of the assault, none of whom called 911. Deenihan says authorities are exploring what criminal charges may be available against those who watched the video, but proving exactly who did watch the video may be impossible. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 2 Teens Arrested in Chicago Sex Assault Streamed Online (CNN) Police Officer Who Killed Philando Castile Charged With Manslaughter (FindLaw Blotter) Prostitutes Use Facebook to Drum Up Business (FindLaw Blotter)
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No Criminal Charges After Inmate Was Boiled to Death in Florida Prison

There was no question that Darren Rainey died in the showers of the Dade Correctional Institution in 2012. What was unanswered was whether the officers who locked Rainey for two hours in showers that could run as hot at 160 degrees were criminally liable for his death. That answer came last month, when the state attorney for Miami-Dade County released an "In Custody Death Investigation Close-Out Memo" that attributed Rainey's death to schizophrenia, heart disease, and "confinement inside the shower room." Yet the state attorney declined to press criminal charges against the officers or the prison, saying instead that "the evidence does not show that Rainey's well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff." Deadly Disregard The details of Rainey's death are as grisly as they are tragic. Rainey, schizophrenic and heavily medicated, was a resident of Dade's "Temporary Transitional Unit" which houses mentally disabled inmates. According to the report, corrections officers Roland Clarke and Cornelius Thompson took Rainey to the showers after he defecated in his cell and smearing the feces on himself and the cell. Determining what exactly happened from there depends on whom you believe. Harold Hempstead, an inmate whose cell was below the shower, said he heard much of the incident, including Rainey screaming, "I can't take it anymore!" Another inmate said he heard guards sarcastically ask Rainey "Is it hot enough?" Rainey allegedly screamed, kicked the door, and begged to be let out, before he was found unresponsive almost two hours after he was locked in. A later investigation found that the water temperature, which could only be controlled from a closet outside the showers, could reach as high as 160 degrees. Mark Joiner, another former inmate at Dade, said guards ordered him to clean pieces of skin that had peeled off Rainey's body from the shower floor. And nurses allegedly said Rainey's body "was covered in burns so severe that his skin came off at the touch," according to the New Yorker. Charging Accounts The Close-Out Memo, on the other hand gave the benefit of the doubt to Thompson and Clarke, who told detectives he made sure the water wasn't too hot. And although a preliminary medical report detailed "visible trauma ... throughout the decedents' body," the final autopsy, not completed until 2016 and yet to be released found no trauma and "no thermal injuries (burns) of any kind on his body." In the end, the state attorney cited a lack of sufficient and consistent evidence in deciding not to criminally charge any of the officers involved in Rainey's death. Related Resources: No Justice for Inmate Darren Rainey (Miami Herald) $8.3M Jail Death Settlement Sets Record in Calif. (FindLaw's Decided) NYC Inmate 'Baked to Death' in Hot Jail Cell: Report (FindLaw's Injured) Inmate Wrongful Deaths: Suing for Neglect or Abuse in Jail or Prison (FindLaw's Injured)
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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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