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DUI/ DWI

Is It Illegal to Let a Friend Borrow Your Gun?

Your gun, your rights, your problem? It's pretty common in America to let someone borrow, use, try, or otherwise handle a firearm. Hunters do it in the woods, shooters at the range, purchasers at trade shows, and kids at summer camps. Put those scenarios to one side, then consider the other side: criminal defendants arguing about who used whose gun to shoot so-and-so, or an otherwise responsible owner having to explain how his gun ended up in a kid's backpack at school. So what's the law on letting someone borrow your gun? America's Patchwork Gun Laws There's an old legal adage that everything is legal unless prohibited. While it's not necessarily true, it's a fairly good guide when it comes to gun laws. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Constitution grants individuals a right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes, and this applies to states as well. Federal Gun Laws Federal law bans anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a firearm. That's one of the more common federal criminal prosecutions out there. It's also illegal to ship a firearm out of state without a license. Certain types of firearms - assault weapons, military grade hardware, etc. -- are either banned or tightly regulated. It's important to know who you'd be giving your gun to. Note any specific laws about the type of weapon as well. State Gun Laws From there, it really depends where you live. State gun control laws vary considerably. Buying, selling, or transferring ownership of a gun might be regulated where you live. Virtually all states prohibit possessing a gun near a school. Big cities and urban areas may have more restrictive policies than the countryside. Gun laws are for the most part state and laws, and it's difficult to generalize. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) America's Gun Culture in 10 Charts (BBC News) State Gun Control Laws (FindLaw's State Laws) Legal How-To: Giving a Gun as a Gift (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Is It a Crime to Mail White Powder Even If It’s Harmless?

You can never be too careful, opening your mail. Sure, much of it is junk and some of it may include requests for money from your long lost third cousin you never knew you had. But the U.S. Postal Service delivers 506.4 million pieces of mail each day, sent by and to people of all walks of life. So some crazy stuff can get sent through the mail. Including stuff sent by crazy people, like ricin, anthrax, narcotics ... and corn starch, as Donald Trump Jr.'s wife has recently discovered. What Can't Be Mailed? It's (obviously) a crime to mail deadly chemical and biological weapons to people. And using the postal service to commit a crime -- any crime -- is never smart. It is the federal mail, and doing it across state lines can make it an interstate crime. That can land you in federal court facing federal charges. The postal service also has detailed regulations on what and how to mail stuff. Explosives, ammunition, gasoline, and air bags are prohibited. Other items are restricted, and may have to be clearly marked or shipped in limited quantities. These include firearms, propane, alcohol, and prescription drugs. What About Threatening or Suspicious Letters? Threatening, disturbing letters sent through the mail can constitute criminal threats, terroristic threats, stalking, and similar crimes related to making threats. That's the kind of behavior lower-level criminal offenses are designed for, to stop someone before threats become attacks, and are illegal under state laws. Federal crimes cover some specific threats, such a threatening the President or other officials. What About Harmless, Suspicious White Powder? Turns out, there's a handy federal offense covering this sort of thing. 18 U.S.C. section 1038 makes it a crime to "engag[e] in any conduct with intent to convey false or misleading information [that] may reasonably be believed [to indicate] that" a biological agent is present. It also makes doing so a civil action, i.e. allows someone to sue. Which is lawyer-talk for: no, you can't send threatening letters and add sugar, flour -- or corn starch -- to make it legal. Related Resources Find a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) USPS Logs Mail for FBI, and It's Legal (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life) Is It Legal to Mail Marijuana? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Florida Woman Sentenced for Kidnapping Newborn

Kidnapping is a serious crime, usually classified as a felony in most states. Just ask Gloria Williams, who was arrested in January 2017 for kidnapping Kamiyah Mobley as a newborn. Instead of going through a trial for the kidnapping, Williams has decided to plead guilty to the crime she committed 20 years ago. What Exactly Happened? In 1998, Williams, posing as a nurse, walked into University Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida and kidnapped Mobley. She changed Mobley's name to Alexis Manigo, and raised her as her own daughter. After more than two thousand tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Mobley was found in South Carolina, and her DNA matched the DNA of her birth parents. The victim has met her birth parents, but has chosen to continue using the name that Williams gave her. Kidnapping Laws in Florida Under Florida's kidnapping laws, kidnapping is defined as the abduction, confinement, or imprisonment of another person against his or her will. The kidnapping must also be committed "forcibly, secretly, or by threat" and without lawful authority. In the case of children who are less than 13 years old, "against his or her will" means that the offender confined the child without his or her parents' consent. Depending on the circumstances, a person may be committing kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping. In Williams' case, she committed aggravated kidnapping since Mobley was under 13 years old when Williams took her. Had Williams gone to trial and been found guilty, she could have been sentenced to life in prison. Under the terms of the plea agreement, she's facing up to 22 years in prison. She's set to be sentenced in May, although it's been reported that Mobley hopes that Williams gets a sentence of less than 10 years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) After 20 years, woman admits to kidnapping Florida baby (Associated Press) Criminal Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Mom Jailed for Not Vaccinating Son (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Teen Arrested for Throwing Kitten in Water, Joking About Abuse

There seem to be a lot of videos of animals doing cute or funny things on the internet these days. Unfortunately, that's not the case in one video that was posted on social media. The video is of Garratt Haile throwing a kitten into a body of water while joking about it. Shot about a year ago, it was recently shared on social media, at which point several people contacted the police, and Haile was arrested. Animal Abuse and the Law While it seems pretty clear that Haile's conduct constitutes animal abuse, it's important to note that animal abuse laws vary by state. However, animal abuse generally includes both intentionally hurting an animal and neglecting an animal. Many states treat animal abuse as a fairly serious crime, although there are a few that have weak animal abuse laws. Since the teen was arrested in California, let's take a look at California's laws on animal abuse. California Animal Abuse Laws California Penal Code Section 597 defines animal abuse as "maliciously and intentionally" torturing, maiming, mutilating, wounding, or killing an animal. This section also prohibits overworking an animal and depriving an animal of food, water, or shelter. Violation of this statute can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, and can result in imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $20,000.The statute doesn't provide much guidance on when animal abuse is charged as a felony versus when it's charged as a misdemeanor; however, it's safe to assume that the degree of abuse is what determines how to charge someone. In Haile's case, he has been charged with felony animal cruelty. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Is Considered Animal Cruelty Under the Law? (FindLaw's Blotter) Is It Legal to Hit Your Pets? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Are There Any Defenses to an Animal Cruelty Charge? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Elon Musk Sells Flamethrowers: Are They Legal to Own?

Watch out for flamethrower bearing BBQers this summer. Elon Musk, the attention-grabbing entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX, has fired up Twitter and legions of his loyal followers with a brand-spanking new toy -- a commercially available flamethrower. The Future Is Flamethrower? Musk's flamethrower has already become a hit. Pre-sales have quickly sold out online. There's no word about future flamethrowers hitting the market, so this might be a gag gift or the start of a new trend. But it raises interesting legal questions which, yes, we're here to blog about. It's Easier to Buy a Flamethrower Than a Gun You might be surprised to learn that only two states regulate flamethrowers. California requires flamethrower users and buyers to have a permit, while Maryland bans them entirely. But you shouldn't be too surprised. There's never been a wave of flamethrower-related violence to spur states and Congress to enact flamethrower laws. Hence their absence. All flamethrowers will ship with a complimentary boring fire extinguisher February 1, 2018 That might change soon, however. California is already rumbling about a ban on flamethrower sales, and we'd expect other states to follow if necessary. Use Your Flamethrower Wisely What's always prohibited are crimes -- no matter what's used to commit them. Most criminal laws criminalize actions - murder, kidnapping, assault, etc. -- and "add on" counts or prison time for using prohibited items. ELON I BOUGHT 6 FLAMETHROWERS NOW THE TSA IS TELLING ME I'M ON SOME SORT OF WATCHLIST?!? WHAT HAVE I DONE PLEASE HELP February 1, 2018 Those definitions are flexible: a car can be deadly weapon, as can be a surgeon's hands. A flamethrower might pose an interesting case for an appellate court someday, but it's not something we'd expect to be a winning argument. Related Resources Find Your Lawyer (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Is It Legal to Own a Flamethrower? (lifehacker.com) Flamethrower Drone Draws Government Ire. Can the FAA Regulate? (FindLaw's Technologist Blog)
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Past Marijuana Convictions in San Francisco to Be Wiped Clean

It's rare for prosecutors to voluntarily dismiss cases. But thousands in one swoop? That gets headlines. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced Wednesday that his office will review and move to expunge thousands of Marijuana-related convictions in the city going back to 1975. Reversing Course Requires Reversing Convictions California voters legalized the recreational sale of marijuana by passing Proposition 64 in 2016. After decades criminalizing the possession, sale, and transportation of marijuana, the Golden State's about-face has upended California's marijuana laws. It's also left decades worth of convictions for marijuana-related offenses on the books, despite many of those convictions no longer being considered crimes. Prop 64 accordingly created a legal process for people to petition a court to have their convictions thrown out, but the process can be tedious. Dismissing Decades of Drug Convictions Cue the San Francisco DA's announcement. San Francisco will apply Prop 64 retroactively, moving on its own to dismiss and seal 3,038 misdemeanor convictions entered prior to Prop 64's passage. As many as 4,940 felony marijuana convictions will, in due time, be recalled and resentenced as well. It's a big solution to a big problem. Individuals convicted of marijuana offenses have to petition courts individually under the new law to remove their convictions. That kind of legal work takes initiative to commence, time to go to court, and money to file and hire lawyers -- three things many people with marijuana convictions might not have in abundance. The SF DA's move does it en masse. What Happens Next? In the absence of statewide legislation or similar efforts in other jurisdictions, Californians looking to utilize Prop 64's recall route will need to petition a court. That's something a good lawyer can help with. Related Resources: Find a Drug Crime Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) San Francisco to Dismiss Thousands of Pot Convictions (Reuters) What to Do If You Have a Marijuana Conviction in California (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Texas Teen Arrested for Snapchat Threat

There's no messing around with threats to schools. A fourteen year old Texas teen may have learned that lesson the hard way this week, as police in Pearland, Texas (outside of Houston) arrested the student for allegedly making a threat against Berry Miller Junior High School on Snapchat. What Was the Threat? "It was something along the lines of, "Don't come to school tomorrow," alluding to the fact that he was going to bring a gun," said Officer Jason Wells of the Pearland Police, according to Click 2 Houston. Details are still emerging. Police began investigating after a parent reported that her children received a message over Snapchat, a social media platform used for messaging and sharing images and videos. An arrest followed and charges were forwarded on to the Brazoria County District Attorney's Office. The student faces juvenile charges of making terroristic threats and parents received a letter from the school district about the incident. Terroristic Threats Online? Making threats of violence is against the law. This is true for threats made online or elsewhere, and joking about such threats is never a good idea. It's one of those jokes that might sound funny to a fourteen year old texting his friends but won't sound funny at all when parents call the cops. State law may require threats to include a threat of great bodily injury or some level of specificity in to meet the high standards for a criminal conviction. Juveniles face criminal charges under a separate system and generally face lesser punishments than adults on account of their age. The idea is that kids are still kids and shouldn't be held to the same standards as adults. Related Resources Find a Criminal Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Are 'Terroristic Threats'? (FindLaw's Blotter) When Can Posts on Snapchat Get You Arrested? (FindLaw's Blotter) Juvenile Crime (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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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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