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What Counts as Criminal Mischief?

Although many criminal charges are very specific, others, such as criminal mischief, can encompass a wide variety of criminal behavior. Criminal mischief generally includes what is commonly known as vandalism, dealing mainly with crimes committed against property such as defacing someone's building with graffiti or breaking the windows of a business. Although vandalism may be included under state criminal statutes forbidding "criminal damage" or "malicious trespass," in many states, vandalism may be charged as criminal mischief. What typically counts as criminal mischief? Here are a few examples of criminal mischief laws in different states: Texas. Under the Texas Penal Code, criminal mischief includes knowingly damaging or destroying another person's property or tampering with the property of a person if that tampering causes loss or substantial inconvenience to the owner or another individual. Texas' criminal mischief statute also forbids intentionally or knowingly making markings "including inscriptions, slogans, drawings, or paintings" on another person's property. In Texas, criminal mischief is a felony if it causes a loss of more than $1,500 or involves fencing used for livestock or game animals. Alabama. Under Alabama law, criminal mischief is considered intentionally inflicting damage to property, when you have no right (or reasonable grounds to believe that you have a right) to do so. Criminal mischief is a felony in Alabama if the damages exceed $2,500 or are inflicted by means of an explosion. Otherwise, criminal mischief is either a Class A or Class B misdemeanor. New York. New York also charges criminal mischief as a felony when a person intentionally damages another person's property (without right or reasonable grounds to believe he has a right) in an amount exceeding $1,500 or by means of an explosion. Misdemeanor criminal mischief in New York includes a number of different acts such as breaking into a locked vehicle to steal property or intentionally participating in the destruction of an abandoned building. If you've been charged with criminal mischief or another crime, a criminal defense attorney can explain your legal options and represent you in court. You can learn more about criminal charges, criminal court procedure, and your constitutional rights at FindLaw's section on Criminal Law. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw) Man Bulldozes Home Without Telling Wife; Gets Arrested (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Doughnut Vandalism Leaves Ore. Town Glazed and Confused (FindLaw's Legal Grounds) Woman Arrested for Vandalizing Florida Satanic Display (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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Joran Van Der Sloot’s U.S. Extradition Set for 2038

Joran van der Sloot is set to be extradited to the United States to stand trial for a crime he allegedly commited in the wake of Natalee Holloway's disappearance. But his extradition won't happen until 2038. Van der Sloot, the main suspect in Holloway's disappearance in Aruba in 2005, will first have to complete his 28-year prison sentence in Peru for killing a 21-year-old woman there in 2010, The Associated Press reports. What's waiting for van der Sloot in 24 years? Extradition for Alleged Extortion, Fraud Van der Sloot was indicted in federal court in Alabama on allegations that he "extorted and defrauded" the mother of Natalee Holloway -- an 18-year-old Alabama girl who went missing in Aruba and whose body has never been found. Extortion, also more commonly known as blackmail, occurs when a defendant extracts money or property from a victim by threat of violence, property damage, harm to reputation, or unfavorable government action. But in van der Sloot's case, he allegedly accepted $25,000 in cash from the Holloways, promising to lead them to their daughter's body -- just before he was arrested for murder in Peru. The Peruvian courts initially approved van der Sloot's extradition to the United States in order to face prosecution for these charges, but Peru's highest court determined that he must serve his sentence for murder first. Van der Sloot confessed to murdering Stephany Flores, 21, a Peruvian student, and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. Van der Sloot has been in custody since 2010 for Flores' murder, so with credit for time served, his 28-year sentence should be completed by 2038. Why Not Extradite Now? Extradition works based on the diplomatic and treaty relations between two nations. There are several countries which have traditionally refused to extradite criminals to the United States, but many of them generally aren't friendly with the United States. Peru isn't one of those countries, and actually has an extradition treaty with the United States. The AP reported in 2012 that Peru's Supreme Court wanted van der Sloot to serve out his sentence before facing justice in the States. Without further diplomatic pressure from U.S. officials, it appears that Joran van der Sloot won't be on trial for allegedly extorting the Holloways for another two decades. Related Resources: Peru agrees to extradite van der Sloot to U.S. ... in 26 years (CNN) Joran van der Sloot's Extradition to US Not a Done Deal (FindLaw's Blotter) Will Amanda Knox Be Extradited? Lawyers Disagree (FindLaw's Blotter) Brit Extradited Over TV Linking Website (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Pointing Lasers at Helicopters Can Lead to Arrest

Laser pointers can be fun, useful gadgets, but pointing them at helicopters can land you in handcuffs. Laser pointer pranksters may think these helicopter hijinks are funny, but state and federal law enforcement aren't laughing. Multiple Arrests for Laser-Pointing Helicopters In recent months, laser pointer pranksters from coast to coast have been arrested for incidents involving laser pointers and helicopters. Here are just a few examples: In California, 19-year-old Jenny Gutierrez of San Bernardino County was arrested Thursday for allegedly shining her green laser pointer at a sheriff's helicopter -- which then followed the car she was riding in and relayed her location to deputies on the ground. If Gutierrez is convicted, she could face up to five years in federal prison, Los Angeles' KCBS-TV reports. In Ohio, 46-year-old Nicholas Vecchiarelli of Hubbard is currently under court order to "stay away from lasers" after allegedly pointing one at a TV news helicopter in October, reports Youngstown's WFMJ-TV. In Nevada, a man with a prior record of aiming lasers at police helicopters in Phoenix is accused of doing the same with Las Vegas police copters. James Zipf, 30, of Henderson, is now facing six federal felony counts, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. In Oklahoma, 42-year-old Carl Don Floyd of Tulsa has been charged in federal court with allegedly shining a green laser at a Tulsa police copter, striking the tactical flight officer in the eyes, reports the Tulsa World. And in Texas, San Antonio's WOAI-TV reports that Don Ray Dorsett, 28, of El Paso, was charged in federal court with pointing a laser a helicopter owned by the Texas Department of Public Safety. Each of these laser-pointer offenders may have particular state or local dimensions to their cases, but they've all allegedly run afoul of federal law. Pointing Lasers at Helicopters Is a Federal Offense For those who didn't get the memo in February, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are cracking down on laser pointing when it involves aircraft. While this strict enforcement effort is somewhat new, the federal law against pointing lasers at aircraft has been on the books since 2012. Federal law prohibits knowingly pointing the beam of a laser at an aircraft or "at the flight path of such an aircraft." ("Aircraft" is defined by federal law as "a civil, military, or public contrivance invented, used, or designated to navigate, fly, or travel in the air" -- which includes helicopters.) Violators can face up to five years in federal prison. Accidentally flashing a helicopter while using a laser pointer for stargazing isn't prohibited. But if you're worried about your potential criminal liability for laser-pointing, or if you've been charged with such a crime, contact a criminal defense attorney today. Related Resources: Laser pointer damages eye of air ambulance medic (Dallas' WFAA-TV) Are Laser Pointers Illegal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Clark Gable's Grandson Gets 10 Days in Jail for Laser Pointing (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) FAA: Laser Strikes on Airplanes a Growing Issue (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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Kerry Kennedy Found Not Guilty of Drugged Driving

After a five-day trial, a New York jury found Kerry Kennedy not guilty of drugged driving on Friday. In 2012, Kennedy -- daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and ex-wife of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo -- was arrested and charged with driving while impaired after she crashed into a tractor-trailer while under the influence of a sleeping pill. Why was she found not guilty? Sleep Driving and DWIs On July 13, 2012, Kennedy drove her Lexus SUV. erratically after taking Zolpidem, a generic form of the sleep medication Ambien. She "sideswiped a tractor-trailer on a highway before she was found, slumped over her steering wheel, her car stalled on a local road," The New York Times reports. One of the common side effects of sleeping pills is sleep-walking and performing other actions while unconscious. Unfortunately for Kennedy and the other 60 million Americans who take prescription sleep aids, "sleep driving" isn't a defense to driving under the influence when a defendant voluntarily takes a sleeping pill. But Kennedy was able to successfully stave off her misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated because of an affirmative defense called a mistake of fact. Mistake of Fact Kennedy testified that she took the pill accidentally, mistaking it for medication she took for a thyroid condition. This type of defense is called a mistake of fact. The case ultimately turned on whether Kennedy should have been aware that she was feeling the drug's soporific effects -- as she was swerving and driving erratically -- and stopped the car. Prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kennedy did realize she accidentally took Zolpidem and knew she was under the influence of the sleeping pill, but continued to drive. Kennedy claimed that she did not realize her mistake until well after the accident. Ultimately, jurors determined there was enough doubt in the case to reject the prosecution's case and find Kennedy not guilty, which is good news for Kennedy: She could have faced up to a year in jail if convicted, the Times reports. Related Resources: Kerry Kennedy 'Incredibly Grateful' for Not Guilty Verdict (ABC News) Are There Any Defenses to Drugged Driving? (FindLaw's Blotter) Can You Get a DUI Driving On Cold Medicine? (FindLaw's Blotter) Browse DUI / DWI Lawyers by Location (FindLaw)
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