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federal criminal law

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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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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