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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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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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Sara Kropf Wins Inspiring Not Guilty Verdict for Protester Client in D.C. Street Riot Case

Just before year-end, Sara Kropf and her client got the best holiday gift ever –  an acquittal of all charges.  Sara, a Washington, D.C. defense attorney, was representing a street medic charged with rioting and destruction of property stemming from protests held during President Trump’s January 20, 2017 inauguration. Noting that her client attended the protests armed with bandages, Sara was quoted by Washington’s Tops News as stating, “According to the government, showing up with a fanny pack with Band Aids… is equivalent to the people who smashed the Starbucks window.” Sara’s inspirational closing argument was featured in news articles around the world.  A Washington Post article said Sara focused on a police radio report where a commander identified the demonstrators as “anarchists” and quoted her as stating“[t]his is about politics,” before the six-person D.C. Superior Court jury acquitted all the defendants on the felony charges on December 21. “This is about police and local prosecutors who work for the Department of Justice. And we know who they report to,” she said, referring to President Trump. The defendants included a nurse, a freelance photographer and a college student who were among more than 200 protesters arrested in a police round-up northeast of the White House. During the daylong protest, vandals had caused an estimated $100,000 in property damage, according to the government. Eventually, prosecutors charged 212 people in connection with the protests. Twenty pleaded guilty, and charges were dropped against another 20. In this case, federal prosecutors failed to link the six defendants with any violent or destructive acts. Instead, they argued that they had “provided cover” for the vandalism – an argument immediately challenged by Kropf and her colleagues on the defense side.  For example, they showed that the social media posts and “likes” of a detective who was one of the government’s key witnesses were critical of social protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. They also noted that the commanding officer of the police did not give a dispersal order to the protesters before encircling and arresting them – contrary to the department’s standard procedure. Most importantly, the defense attorneys pointed out that there was no evidence that any of the six participants had broken windows, caused property damage or encouraged others to commit illegal acts. Even before the government presented the case to the jury, Judge Lynn Leibovitz threw out the most serious charge – inciting a riot.  However, it took two full days of deliberations after the nearly four-week trial before the not guilty verdicts were delivered. As Kropf said in her closing, “All the government proved was that these individuals showed up and walked as protesters. And that is not a crime.”  We will always need lawyers and citizens willing to stand up against government over-reach. That is what happened here. What a courageous victory for both Sara Kropf and her client.  Huge congrats! The post Sara Kropf Wins Inspiring Not Guilty Verdict for Protester Client in D.C. Street Riot Case appeared first on Women Criminal Defense Attorneys.
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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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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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New Law Makes Drug Possession a Misdemeanor in Oregon

Oregon legalized recreational marijuana back in 2015. But what about other Schedule 1 narcotics like cocaine, meth, or LSD? While the Beaver State isn't planning on legalizing those any time soon, it is rolling back the penalties for their possession. A new state law will downgrade first-time drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, so long as the amount is under a certain limit. So to which drugs does the new law apply? What are the limits? And how does that change the possible criminal penalties? Possession, Priors, and Penalties Oregon's HB 2355 applies only to first-time offenders, so those with prior felony convictions or with two or more prior convictions for drug possession can still be charged with a felony. The new law also does not change penalties for possession of large, commercial amounts of illegal drugs. Here are the drugs, and amounts addressed by the new statute: Cocaine under two grams Methamphetamine under two grams Heroin under one gram Oxycodone under 40 pills MDMA/Ecstasy under one gram or five pills LSD under 40 units Instead of looking at five to ten years in prison, those charged with first-time drug possession are instead facing a maximum penalty of just one year in prison and/or a $6,250 fine. Police, Policy, and Profiling Both the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association supported the measure, saying convictions include unintended consequences like barriers to housing and employment. But the groups also had some reservations. "Reducing penalties without aggressively addressing underlying addiction is unlikely to help those who need it most," the groups warned in a letter to a state senator who backed the bill, adding the law "will only produce positive results if additional drug treatment resources accompany this change in policy." Another bill appropriated $7 million that can be used to pay for drug treatment. The new law also attempts to address police profiling by directing a state commission to develop methods for recording data concerning police-initiated pedestrian and traffic stops. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Drug Possession Is No Longer A Felony Offense In Oregon (Huffington Post) Recreational Marijuana Sales Now Legal in Oregon (FindLaw Blotter) Oregon Looking to Legalize Pot (FindLaw Blotter)
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Criminal Charges Following Violence, Death in Charlottesville

Much of the country was shocked to see white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, and horrified at the images of one of those men driving a car through a crowd, killing one woman and wounding 19 others. There were clashes throughout the city between protestors (ostensibly there in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee) and counter-protestors, and surely there will be criminal charges and repercussions as well. Here's a roundup of the criminal charges that have been filed so far in the wake of the Charlottesville violence, and a few that may yet be. James Fields, Jr. The worst of the violence was James Fields, Jr.'s attack on a group of counter-protestors, when he drove his car through a peaceful crowd. Fields injured 19 people and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The incident was caught on video and Fields was quickly arrested and initially charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and failure to stop after a crash that resulted in a death. Late last week, the Charlottesville Police Department announced it would be adding five more felonies to Fields' ticket: three counts of aggravated malicious wounding, and two of malicious wounding. Thus far, Fields has not been charged with a hate crime or terrorism. Deandre Harris The other high-profile attack was the beating of 20-year-old Deandre Harris, whose assault at the hands of white supremacists was also caught on camera. "The beating happened right beside the police department," Harris said, "and no police were there to help me at all." No charges or arrest warrants have been filed in the case, despite concerted efforts -- some successful -- to identify his attackers. Other Charges Along with Fields, six other people were arrested following the violence, most charged with misdemeanors ranging from assault and battery to carrying a concealed weapon. Jacob Leigh Smith was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery after allegedly hitting a reporter; Troy Dunigan was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, for throwing objects at "Nazi protesters"; James M. O'Brien was charged with misdemeanor carrying a concealed weapon; David Parrot was charged with failure to disperse a riot; Steven C. Balcaitis was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery; and Robert K. Litzenberger was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery after a Virginia State Trooper allegedly saw him spit on rally organizer Jason Kessler. Additional charges could be filed as investigations progress. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Increased Access to Hate Content Online Leads to More Crime in Real Life, Study Says (FindLaw Blotter) Top Legal Questions on Hate Crimes (FindLaw Blotter) 5 More Tips for Protesting (Legally) (FindLaw Blotter)
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Will a Misdemeanor Conviction Affect My Immigration Status?

Immigration is a complicated and nuanced area of the law. Many different factors can have a significant impact on a person's immigration status. Possibly the most feared factors are criminal convictions. A criminal conviction can result in deportation and other consequences when it comes to a person's immigration status. Fortunately, not all criminal convictions will have a significant impact on a person's immigration status. But, whether or not a person is convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony is actually less significant when it comes to immigration status than the type of crime a person is convicted of. Serious Crimes and Aggravated Felonies Generally, serious crimes, like murder, drug trafficking, human trafficking, conspiracy, and others, will be grounds for deportation. However, starting in 1988, congress created a list of "aggravated felonies" which also can be grounds for deportation, and has expanded that list over time. It is worth noting that the list of aggravated felonies includes many crimes that are typically only charged as misdemeanors. The list initially only included serious offenses that one might expect to be grounds for deportation, but is continually being amended to include more minor violations, such as: Simple battery Theft Filing a fraudulent tax return Failure to appear in court In addition to the above crimes, any crime that is considered a crime of moral turpitude can also have grave impacts on a person's immigration status. Crimes of Moral Turpitude Crimes of moral turpitude generally include acts that infer a person has breached another person's or the public's trust. These can include both felonies and misdemeanors. While crimes like fraud, embezzlement, perjury, child abuse, and tax evasion are easy to understand as crimes where trust has been broken, small crimes like petty theft or shoplifting, which are typically misdemeanors, can also be considered as such. If a non-citizen is convicted of a crime of moral turpitude, or an aggravated felony, they may not only be deported, but they may be ineligible to return to U.S. forever. Therefore, it is incredibly important for any non-citizen facing criminal charges to not only consult a criminal attorney and inform them of their immigration status, but to also consult an experienced immigration attorney, especially before agreeing to any plea bargain. Related Resources: Find Immigration Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How to Fight Wrongful Deportation (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can ICE Agents Make Arrests at Courthouses? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can This New Chatbot Solve Refugee Legal Issues? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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