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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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Pamela Mackey and Saskia Jordan Successfully Defend Insider Trading Case Filed by the SEC

A decade ago, Roger Parker told two of his closest friends that billionaire Kirk Kerkorian was about to buy a 35 percent share in his Denver-based company, Delta Petroleum Corp.  Five years later, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed an insider trading charge against Parker, alleging that the tip he provided generated more than $890,000 in illicit profits. One of Parker’s friends, Michael Van Gilder, pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge of illegal insider trading, while the other friend, Scott Reiman, settled with the SEC, giving back more than $800,000 without admitting or denying guilt. But Parker, who was CEO of Delta Petroleum at the time, faced a civil complaint filed against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission and spent the last five years fighting the charges. Thanks to the excellent work of his attorneys, Pamela Mackey and Saskia Jordan, partners at Haddon, Morgan and Foreman P.C. in Denver, he was acquitted in a recent federal jury trial. The two-week trial in U.S. District Court occurred after an initial trial that ended with a hung jury.  Van Gilder testified that he did not scheme with Parker to earn a profit and Reiman invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Throughout the trial, Mackey and Jordan argued that although Parker had passed along confidential information to his two friends, he did not profit from the tipping. “They kept the information secret from Mr. Parker,” said Mackey in her closing argument. “He had no information about any trading until the FBI showed up in 2012.” That argument was crucial to the successful conclusion of Parker’s case, since the SEC needed to prove that Parker expected his friends to act on the tip, and that he personally profited from the scheme.  In fact, Parker testified that Van Gilder and Reiman betrayed his professional relationships with them as well as their friendship by profiting from the conversation. Both Mackey and Jordan are experienced Colorado criminal defense lawyers who have handled a number of high-profile cases. For instance, Mackey represented Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant when he was charged with sexual assault. Jordan has represented defendants charged with white-collar crimes, SEC violations and sexual assaults; plaintiffs and defendants in civil fraud trials; and professionals in regulatory actions and civil trials. Because so many SEC cases end in settlement, it is encouraging to see yet another case won at trial, especially by two amazing women defenders. More and more civil enforcement actions need to be tested in the court system. As I have said before, anyone can champion a winning theory in a conference room. It is entirely different to test that theory in a courtroom. Congrats to Pamela and Saskia! The post Pamela Mackey and Saskia Jordan Successfully Defend Insider Trading Case Filed by the SEC appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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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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What Can and Cannot Be Expunged From Your Criminal Record?

It's welcome news to many criminal defendants that they can have their record expunged. While expungement might not be perfect -- most law enforcement agencies will still be able to see your arrest history and any convictions -- it means potential employers will have a harder time seeing your mistakes. But which mistakes are eligible for expungement, and which will remain on your permanent record? General Information For the most part, expungement eligibility is determined by the severity of the crime and the person's criminal record. State law can vary, but expungement is normally available for crimes committed as a juvenile and most misdemeanors, so long as you don't have an extensive criminal history. Also, expungement is usually a one-time deal -- if you're convicted of crimes committed after expungement, those are likely to stay on your record. Arresting Information Just because you've been arrested doesn't mean you're guilty. But a record of your arrest may pop up on a background check. Luckily most states will expunge an arrest record, especially if there was no conviction. And expungement can be part of a negotiated plea bargain. Getting rid of that online mug shot, however, might be a tougher task. Conviction Information If you've been convicted of a crime, whether you can clear your record will come down to state and local rules on expungement. Some states allow you to expunge a DUI conviction, some do not. This can come up especially if you're trying to expunge an out-of-state conviction. And some states are more likely to expunge a conviction after a certain amount of time has passed. No matter where you live, however, felony convictions are very difficult, if not impossible, to get expunged. The main criteria for most expungement decisions is the severity and nature of the event for which expungement is sought. Felony convictions normally involve more serious crimes, making them harder to get off your record. The expungement process can be complicated, and it certainly helps to have an experienced criminal law attorney on your side. If you have questions about your criminal record or want to have it expunged, contact one today. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) The FindLaw Guide to Expungement (FindLaw PDF) Got Priors? How to Expunge Criminal Records (FindLaw Blotter) When Must You Disclose an Expungement? (FindLaw Blotter)
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How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you're accused of a crime, you need a good criminal defense lawyer. But good doesn't come in one style, and what you need will depend on you and the specifics of your case. There are all kinds of counselors with different effective approaches to defense. People pick attorneys based on reputation, experience, word-of-mouth, price, advertising, the feeling they get when meeting counsel, and more. Here are some general principles to consider so you know what to look for when exchanging with defense counsel and deciding about representation. No Accounting for Taste There are many lawyering styles from the aggressive attorney to the zealous defender. Some lawyers are soft-spoken and persuasive, some are charming arguers, others are tenacious and creative and can find a solution where other attorneys see none. The lawyer for you depends on who you are and what your criminal case involves. An articulate attorney is key, however. You need to be able to talk to your lawyer and understand what they are saying and doing for you, even if it's through a language interpreter. Is the person inspiring confidence in you or do you feel like you're being hustled? Do you feel comfortable being represented by this individual based on how they speak and their apparent understanding of the issues? You will have to talk about difficult matters with a lawyer so don't go with someone who is a bully or in a big hurry because they seem slick. Really think about this relationship. It can mean a lot in your life. If, for example, you also have immigration or other legal matters pending, alert the attorney. Lay out all the possible concerns to get good guidance. Assessing Experience When it comes to deciding how much experience is right, this too depends on you. What you need is a dedicated attorney and one willing to work for the best resolution possible in light of your life. Some new attorneys are very good and some old ones have bad habits and vice versa. Look for someone who lays out multiple options or promises to do more research, for example. If the attorney starts by quoting a price and saying you likely have to plead guilty, proceed with caution. A defense attorney works for you. Sometimes that means telling you hard truths but you need explanations of process and some options, not another prosecutor. Consult With Counsel If you're accused of a crime, talk to a few lawyers. Call a few offices and find out what you can. Make an appointment with the lawyers that seem most promising. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to talk about your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw Blotter) How Much Does a Criminal defense Attorney Cost? (FindLaw Blotter) 5 Questions for Your Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw Blotter)
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Your Significant Privacy Interest in Your Phone Doesn’t End at Border

Your phone now contains more information than ever before, more even than your home, and the courts recognize this. You do have a significant privacy interest in your phone and you can challenge a search of your tech just as you would a search of your car. Two years ago, the Supreme Court acknowledged the significant role of technology in our lives in Riley v. California. A recent case out of the Eastern District of Virginia, US v. Kolsuz, illustrates this, saying specifically that search of a smartphone at a border requires reasonable suspicion, according to legal analyst Orin Kerr. Let's consider what it means for you. Attached to our Phones Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a unanimous court in Riley v. California, was cognizant of the role that cell phones play in contemporary life, and our significant attachment to our tech. The phone are, he said, "such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy." In the more recent case, US v Kolsuz, the court rejected prosecutors' attempts to distinguish between two kinds of searches -- an extensive cell phone search from a very extensive one. The court found that either type of forensic search of cell phone data invades privacy and requires a warrant. It noted that the government can reconstruct an individual's private life by putting together the data in the phone and wrote, "Thus although the forensic search of defendant's iPhone did not involve the copying of every bit of data contained on the phone's hard drive, it nonetheless implicated significant privacy interests. To suggest otherwise is like suggesting that a strip search does not implicate a significant privacy interest so long as the government does not look between the person's toes." Search and Seizure The courts are increasingly finding we have a significant privacy interest in our technology, and recent rulings indicate that police must treat personal items like smartphones as they would your home or person. But remember that these cases arise when someone is challenging what already happened. This means that in reality when you are at the border, authorities may ask to search your phone and it is up to you to say no. Even if your phone is taken, you significantly improve your chances of successfully challenging the search by clearly refusing to consent to it. Accused? If you have been accused of a crime, don't delay. Speak to a criminal defense attorney today. Many lawyers consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Probable Cause (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Police Misconduct and Civil Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) The Fourth Amendment Warrant Requirement (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Top 9 Search and Seizure Questions

Now that the FBI has been caught bugging two California courthouses, many people are wondering about the limits of police surveillance. Recording conversations falls under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits "unreasonable searches and seizures." So what's considered unreasonable? It's been a long time since the Constitution was written, and society and technology have changed quite a bit since then. Here are some of the limits of police search and seizure today: 1. Valid Search Warrant? 3 Things to Look For If police have a warrant, the search or seizure will almost always be reasonable. But how do you know if the warrant is legit? 2. When Are Warrantless Searches OK? While police need a warrant to search, seize, or conduct surveillance in most instances, there are quite a few exceptions to the warrant requirement. 3. Can Police Read or Search Through Your Mail? The privacy of written communication was one of the leading interests behind the Fourth Amendment. But it only protects the contents of the letter, and only until you throw it away. 4. Legal for Police to Read My Text Messages? State law on electronic searches can vary, and many allow searches of cell phones if you've been arrested, but the Supreme Court has ruled that police will need a warrant to do so. 5. When Can Police Search Your Home? Police almost always need a warrant to search your home, but can come in without one if you give them permission, if they see something in plain sight, if you've been arrested at home, or there's an emergency. 6. Can My Home Be Searched If I'm on Parole or Probation? Some states require that parolees and probationers sign an agreement giving officers permission to search their homes for contraband. 7. Is it Legal to Search Based on The Smell of Marijuana? Is every officer a K-9? It may depend on whether police smell marijuana in your house or in your car. 8. Can Police Follow You Without a Warrant? What if cops are really searching you, but just keeping an eye on you? What kind of surveillance requires a warrant? 9. When Can Police Conduct a Strip Search? Strip searches and cavity searches are extremely invasive and can be humiliating and embarrassing as well. But they are allowed in some cases. In most cases, if police perform an illegal search or seizure, that evidence can't be used against you. To find out if a particular search was legal, you should ask an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What are my Rights During a Traffic Stop? (FindLaw Blotter) Can Cops Pose as Cable Repairmen and Search My Home? (FindLaw Blotter) Wrongful Arrest? ...
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Can I Keep a Totaled Car?

How attached are you to your car? After a car accident, you call your insurance company. Most of the time, the insurance company will pay to fix your car. However, if the cost of repair is too high, it might declare your car a total loss. Can you keep a car that has been totaled? What Does Totaled Mean? When most people hear that a car is totaled, they think of a smashed and mangled piece of metal. Some people believe that a car is automatically totaled if the airbag deploys or if the car is flooded. However, that is not necessarily true. Insurance companies actually declare cars a total loss based on the value of the car and the cost to repair damages. If the cost of repair exceeds the value of your car, then your car will definitely be declared a total loss. Depending on the state and your insurance company, your car may even be totaled if the cost of the damage is as little as 60 percent of your car’s value. What Happens When Your Car Is Totaled? Once an insurance company declares your car totaled, you’ll likely get a check for the market value of the car minus the deductible. If you believe that the insurance company’s valuation of your car is too low, you can try to dispute that with your claims adjuster by presenting evidence of the car’s exceptionally good condition or special status. After you get your check, the insurance company usually sells your car to a salvage yard. What If I Want to Keep the Car? If you want to keep your car for sentimental reasons or if you think you can fix it, you can! You’ll generally have to buy back the car from the insurance company for the salvage value. Just inform your insurance company that you would like to keep the car, and your insurance will likely give you a check for the car’s market value minus deductible and salvage value. Concerns About Keeping a Totaled Car Just because you can keep your totaled car, do you really want to? In some cases a car may be declared a total loss after only expensive cosmetic damage. If the car is still drivable, and you don’t care that it looks ugly, then go ahead and keep it. However, if there is significant damage to the engine or structure of the car that affect drivability, trying to fix it up may be more trouble than it’s worth. Another concern is insurance. Some insurance companies may be hesitant to insure a totaled car because they view it as a risky liability. Make sure that you find an insurance company that will insure your totaled car before you decide to keep it. If you have been injured in an accident that totaled your car, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for help. Related Resources: Injured in a car accident? Get your claim reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) FBI Agent Wrecks $750K Ferrari, Gets FBI Sued (FindLaw’s Injured) If You’re a Passenger in a Crash, Whom Should You Sue? (FindLaw’s Injured) 5 Things a Car Accident Lawyer Needs to Know About Your Case (FindLaw’s Injured)
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Is Intoxication a Defense to Rape?

Although rape can certainly be committed by the use or threat of violent force, the crime of rape encompasses other forms of non-consensual sexual intercourse in which the perpetrator lacks the consent of the victim. California legislators recently passed a law making the standard of consent for sexual activity on that state's college campuses "affirmative consent," meaning both partners must both say "yes" to sex, as opposed to just not saying "no." The bill also makes it clear that neither the victim being too intoxicated to consent, nor the perpetrator being too intoxicated to confirm consent can be used as a valid excuse for lack of affirmative consent. The law's language does raise the question, however: Is intoxication usually a defense to rape? When the Victim is Intoxicated Rape is characterized by the lack of consent given by the victim. But what if the victim is intoxicated to the point where they are unable to provide consent? If the victim is too intoxicated to provide consent, sex with the victim would likely be considered rape by intoxication. Generally, any situation in which the victim is unable to say "no," such as being intoxicated, asleep, or unconscious, may be considered rape if sexual contact occurs. When the Perpetrator is Intoxicated But what about situations in which the perpetrator is too intoxicated to recognize the need to obtain consent or the lack of consent on the part of the victim? As with the majority of crimes, voluntary intoxication will not typically work as a defense. In some instances so-called "involuntary intoxication" -- such as when a person's drink is spiked or he or she is otherwise drugged without knowledge or consent -- may be used as a defense to a criminal act. But generally, any time you voluntarily consume drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicating substances, the crimes you commit while under the influence are still criminal. When Both Victim and Perpetrator are Intoxicated What if both the victim and the perpetrator are intoxicated? Although this may make proving the facts of the incident difficult for law enforcement, regardless of who's intoxicated or how intoxicated they are, the fact remains: Engaging in sexual intercourse without the other person's consent is probably rape. Related Resources: Men Can be Legally Raped: New FBI Definition (FindLaw's Blotter) There is no 'Legitimate Rape,' Legally Speaking (FindLaw's Blotter) Conor Oberst's Rape Accuser Admits She Lied (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) NYC Tourist, 20, Raped in Midtown Manhattan (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Women Criminal Defense Attorneys: Angie Halim Successfully Defends Philadelphia Traffic Judge

Just last week Angie Halim, a criminal defense lawyer from Philadelphia, won an acquittal of the primary charges for a Traffic Court Judge who was charged with fraud along with five other Traffic Court Judges. The US Government alleged that the group of judges conspired to fix traffic tickets and give associates breaks on traffic tickets, which supposedly cost the city thousands or possibly millions of dollars. The judges were charged with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and perjury. Halim represented Judge Robert Mulgrew who, along with all six judges, was acquitted of the most significant charges. Mulgrew was convicted of perjury, along with some of the other defendants, for lying about receiving consideration for fixing the tickets of certain VIPs. It seems a little counterintuitive but we all know that is how the jury system works sometimes. Halim reportedly used a very effective demonstrative aide in closing that sent a clear message about the ridiculousness of the Government’s case. The Philadelphia Magazine summarized the closing arguments and highlighted a pie chart that Halim used to demonstrate what amounted to a frivolous amount of “fixed” tickets. She pointed out through her chart that of the 66,000 tickets Mulgrew adjudicated from 2008-2011, the FBI deemed only 16, which was 0.01 percent, of them as “fixed.” The Philadelphia Magazine reported that “in what was arguably the most crowd-pleasing visual aid of the day, Halim used a gigantic orange pie chart to demonstrate how miniscule 0.01 percent really is, zooming in on an otherwise invisible green dot that represented the amount of tickets Mulgrew is accused of ‘fixing’.” Halim was reported as arguing, “Mr. Mulgrew did the best he could in an imperfect system.” In the end, the jury clearly agreed with her and acquitted her client of the primary charges, but ironically found him guilty of perjury. Mulgrew was also charged in a separate fraud and tax case which he had previously plead guilty to relating to the misuse of State of Pennsylvania grant funds and filing a false tax return. The sentencing was postponed until the conclusion of the ticket fixing trial. Any criminal defense attorney that has fought for a client in federal court knows that you should never underestimate the Government in a trial. But it is also safe to say the Government should never underestimate Angie Halim. Bravo to her. I continue to be impressed by the caliber of women champions of justice in Philadelphia.
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