(844) 815-9632

Freddie Gray

Controversial Louisiana Law Makes Targeting Police a Hate Crime

A new law in Louisiana makes it a hate crime to target law enforcement and emergency personnel. The bill making these professions a protected class -- dubbed Blue Lives Matter -- was reportedly proposed in response to the Black Lives Matter movement criticizing police brutality in the black community. It is the first of its kind in the country. Hate crime legislation makes punishments more severe when crimes target a protected class, such as age, race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability. Critics say that adding law enforcement to this list of protected classes dilutes the value of this type of legislation by basing it on a mutable or changing characteristic, such as a profession, rather than an unchangeable one like race or national origin. Protecting Blue Lives According to NPR, crime statistics show an overall decline in officer killings. Still, the Louisiana law making police, firefighters, emergency medical crews, and other first responders a protected class reportedly passed easily. Anyone convicted of intentionally targeting someone in this protected class will be punished more severely than previously based on the now-protected status. "Coming from a family of law enforcement officers," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said in a statement. announcing the signing of the bill into law, "I have great respect for the work that they do and the risks they take to ensure our safety." State Police Superintendent Colonel Mike Edmonson expressed his support of the law, too, pointing out the heroism of law enforcement and first responders who run toward trouble when others are running away. Edmonds said, "For those individuals who choose to target our heroes, the message formalized in this legislative act should be clear and the consequences severe. On behalf of first responders throughout Louisiana, we thank the legislature and the governor for helping to make this law a reality." Diluting Hate Crime Legislation? Critics say, however, that this legislation dilutes hate crime laws by enlarging the protected class to include people who are not targeted for what they are but for what they do for a living. The Anti-Defamation League, for example, opposed the legislation and explained the basis for its opposition to what it called the "Blue Lives Matter" bill before it was signed into law. In a statement issued earlier this month, it wrote, "The ADL strongly believes that the list of personal characteristics included in hate crimes laws should remain limited to immutable characteristics, those qualities that can or should not be changed. Working in a profession is not a personal characteristic, and it is not immutable ...This bill confuses the purpose of the Hate Crimes Act and weakens its impact by adding more categories of people, who are better protected under other laws." There is something to that argument. After all, people can choose to be blue. But there is little choice about being foreign or black or having a handicap or any of the more traditional protected classes. Accused? If you are accused of a crime of any kind, talk to a lawyer. Get help with your defense. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Understanding Criminal Law -- How to Read a Statute (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Are Judges Becoming More Critical of Excessive Force? (FindLaw Blotter) Top Legal Questions on Hate Crimes (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

Prior Bad Acts: Who Can Testify in Bill Cosby’s Criminal Trial?

Bill Cosby is the elder statesman of American comedy whose life has turned into a bad drama, now including a criminal case. Next month, Cosby will return to criminal court in Pennsylvania for pretrial proceedings on three charges of felony indecent assault of Barbara Constand and faces ten years in prison if convicted. Despite the dozens of accusations of abuse that have surfaced from women all over the country, this is Cosby's first criminal prosecution. The case was filed just two days before the 12-year statute of limitations on such claims in Pennsylvania expired, according to USA Today. It raises many interesting legal questions, all complex. Today, let's consider prior bad acts and whether Cosby's other accusers can testify against him. Prior Bad Acts Generally speaking, a crime cannot be proven based on a defendant's behavior in other situations. While a criminal record informs sentencing, each crime must be proven based on the facts of the case at hand and not based on evidence of similar acts in the past . But for every rule in the law, there are important exceptions because a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. That is to say, sometimes it makes sense to consider external evidence if it is highly relevant to the matter at hand. In a case like this one, where there are about 50 women saying that Cosby drugged and touched them without their consent, the prosecution will no doubt argue that it's relevant. Prosecutors will seek to admit evidence from other women whose stories are consistent with Constand's. To the extent that there are questions about the alleged victim's credibility because she waited a year to report the crime and thus there is no physical evidence, a slew of witnesses telling the same story would certainly support her claim that Cosby drugged and touched her against her will. Admitting the Evidence Admitting evidence of prior bad acts is not a given, however. The defense will no doubt fight it, relying on precedent to show that the stories would not be considered consistent evidence. The burden of proof on prosecutors is high -- they must show the evidence is more relevant than prejudicial. Dennis McAndrews, a former prosecutor, who teaches criminal law at Villanova University explained to reporters, according to USA Today: "It's very challenging because courts are reluctant. They hold the prosecution to a tight burden to establish that (the testimony) is highly relevant, that the facts of other cases are close to the case (on trial), and that the probative value significantly outweighs the prejudicial effect." In light of this, it is not yet clear that the judge will allow the testimony of other women to prove Bill Cosby assaulted Barbara Constand, But it's certain the Cosby's defense lawyers will challenge admission of that evidence at every turn. If he is convicted, admission of prior bad acts will be a major issue in the inevitable appeal. Accused? If you have been accused of a crime, don't delay. Meet with a criminal defense attorney today. Many lawyers consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Cosby Counterclaims Against 7 Accusers (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Cosby Complains in Court: Insurers Threaten Defamation Claim (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Model Drops Playboy Assault Case Against Cosby (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Janice Dickinson Sues Bill Cosby for Defamation (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice)
continue reading

Top 5 Reckless Driving Issues

The dangers of driving are many and you must pay close attention when you're on the road. Not only do you risk serious injury or even death when you're distracted, but there is also the possibility of being stopped by the cops and being charged with a traffic infraction or crime. Aggressive driving and road rage are not crimes in and of themselves. But they do lead to reckless driving, which is an offense. Let's look at the top issues surrounding reckless driving. 1. How Road Rage and Reckless Driving Are Related The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers aggressive driving a serious danger. Aggressive driving occurs, according to the NHTSA, when "an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." Aggressive driving and road rage lead to reckless driving, which leads to accidents and criminal cases. 2. Is Road Rage a Crime? In some states there are added penalties for crimes that arise from road rage. According to the NHTSA two-thirds of all accidents are caused by road rage, which leads to recklessness. So keep your eyes open, signal lane changes, and breathe deep when you feel angry, t could save you time, money, and your life. 3. Distracted Driving: Would You Pass a Textalyzer? Law enforcement officers are concerned about the prevalence of phone use on the road and though there is not yet a way to examine the role of phones in accidents, there may soon be. The textalyzer will allow police to analyze the phone activity of drivers before a crash =, and New York is the first state considering adopting the technology. 4. Can My Car Turn Me In for a Hit and Run? New cars are great for their innovations but would you feel the same way if one of those developments allowed your car to call the cops on you? Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime and, depending on your car's Emergency Assist functions, your car could call the police even if you don't think you need it. 5. Texting and Driving: 5 Potential Consequences You don't want to miss a text as plans can change at any minute. But you also don't want to drive and text or you could end up in an accident or facing a reckless driving charge. In California, fees and fines stemming from a first texting and driving ticket can reach $300. Talk to a Lawyer: If you are charged with a driving offense or a crime, speak to a lawyer today. Many criminal defense atorneys 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) Reckless Driving (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Distracted Driving and Texting While Driving (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) State Traffic Laws Directory (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
continue reading

Arresting Officer in Freddie Gray Case Found Not Guilty

Baltimore policeman Edward Nero, implicated in the death of Freddie Gray last year, was found not guilty of all criminal charges. Nero was tried before a judge and is the second officer of six charged to stand trial for Gray's death. But Nero is the first to resolve his case, according to Slate. A trial last year for Officer William Porter ended in a hung jury and the case will be tried again. Perhaps informed by Porter's experience, Nero opted for a bench trial, meaning this case was argued before a judge only and not a jury. It was a good choice for him, considering he was found not guilty. The State's Arguments The judge reportedly accepted Officer Nero's defense and was said to be unconvinced by the state's case throughout the five-day trial. His hesitation may have stemmed from the state's arguments, which essentially blamed Nero for his involvement in an arrest with no probable cause and called for judicial scrutiny of day-to-day policing. Prosecutors said Nero, who was on bike patrol and asked to chase Gray, should not have aided in the arrest without inquiring as to the circumstances. Nero should have asked why his fellow officers were chasing Freddy Gray, rather than just following orders and going after the fleeing suspect, the state argued. But Judge Barry Williams was not buying it. According to Slate, he "made [that] abundantly clear ... at one point asking Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe whether she was suggesting that every time there is an arrest without probable cause, it is a crime." The Defense's Arguments The defense argued that Nero had a limited role in the arrest and did not arrest or cuff Gray. Judge Williams apparently accepted this, in part based on witness testimony corroborating the claim that Nero did not contribute as much to Gray's arrest as other officers. Next Up Another officer is scheduled to stand trial next month, on June 6, and there are four more cases to resolve after that. The Baltimore Police Department issued a statement after Nero's case concluded today, saying he will remain under internal investigation and on administrative duties until all of the officers implicated in Freddie Gray's death have resolved their criminal cases. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can You Choose Not to Have a Jury Trial? (FindLaw Blotter) 4 Updates on Recent Police Shootings (FindLaw Blotter) What Are the Charges in the Freddie Gray Cases? (FindLaw Blotter) First Freddie Gray Death Case Ends in in Mistrial (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading

Oklahoma Bill Punishing Doctors for Abortions Vetoed

Last week, Oklahoma's governor vetoed a bill that would have made it a felony, punishable by three years in prison, for doctors to provide abortions. Republican Governor Mary Fallin said the bill would not survive constitutional challenges, Reuters reports, and abortion rights groups had already promised to fight it hard. The Oklahoma bill would have revoked medical licenses for doctors who performed abortions, but did make allowances for the procedure under certain medical circumstances to save a mother's life. The governor, who is considered staunchly anti-abortion, complained in a statement that the bill was too vague and ambiguous. Constitutionally Challenged The controversial legislation proposed to criminalize abortions and strip doctors of their medical licenses for performing them. Although Oklahoma would not have been the first state to try to ban abortion despite the US Supreme Court's holding in Roe v. Wade in 1973 legalizing it, this proposed legislation was unique insofar as it relied on doctors' professional code of conduct. If the bill had not been vetoed by Governor Fallin, Oklahoma would have become the first state to use professional conduct codes to, basically, ban abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute. It seems that Oklahoma sought to make performing an abortion a violation of medical ethics punishable as a felony with prison time and loss of a license, with the charge hinging on the conduct codes. But the bill did not pass because, Governor Fallin said, it's insufficiently clear. "The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered 'necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'" Fallin said in a statement, Reuters reports. Costly Lawsuits It is believed that Fallin vetoed the bill in part because it was sure to bring battles, and Oklahoma can't afford that. The cash-strapped state is already ailing and this law would have led to lawsuits promised by abortion rights groups. They seem pleased with the decision to veto the measure. "Governor Fallin did the right thing today in vetoing this utterly unconstitutional and dangerous bill," said Nancy Northup, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Reproductive Rights, an abortion rights group. But this is probably just a momentary reprieve, and the fight over abortion rights is likely to continue in Oklahoma. Reportedly the state has been a leader in increasing restrictions on abortion since Governor Fallin took office in 2011. In the words of Think Progress, Governor Fallin "has rarely met an abortion restriction she didn't like." Related Resources: Abortion Laws (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) After Roe v. Wade (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Birth Control and the Law Basics (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Abortion Rights FAQ (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
continue reading

First Trial in Freddie Gray Homicide Ends in Mistrial

After 16 hours of deadlocked jury deliberations, the judge finally declared a mistrial in Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter's trial in the homicide of Freddie Gray. Jurors told the judge they could not reach a verdict on any of the charges against Porter, the first of six officers to stand trial after Gray died in police custody last April. The Baltimore Sun is reporting that a new trial date for Porter will be set on Thursday morning. Homicide, but Is It Manslaughter? Six Baltimore Police officers face charges relating to Gray's homicide. Porter specifically was charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. Each of the six is scheduled to be tried separately and consecutively, although it is unclear how Porter's mistrial will affect that schedule. Gray was allegedly the victim of a "rough ride," during which suspects are handcuffed but not secured to a seat in a police vehicle and then intentionally battered by a rugged and bumpy ride to the station. Gray suffered fatal injuries to his spine after being placed in police custody, and an investigation suggested his arrest may have been illegal in the first place. Deadlock in Death Case Porter's trial lasted two weeks and jury deliberations spanned three days. It was apparent to Judge Barry G. Williams that further discussion wouldn't lead to a verdict: "You clearly have been diligent," he told jurors. "You are a hung jury." Following a deadlocked jury, prosecutors have the option of a retrial on any charges on which the jury was unable to come to a verdict. And because the jury did not decide any of the charges in this case, double jeopardy doesn't apply. Prosecutors declined to comment after the mistrial ruling, citing a "gag order that pertains to all cases related to Freddie Gray." Related Resources: Mistrial Declared in Baltimore Police Officer's Trial (Reuters) Baltimore Offers Freddie Gray's Family $6.4M to Settle Civil Claims (FindLaw's Injured) 6 Police Officers Involved in Freddie Gray Homicide Indicted (FindLaw Blotter) 4 Updates on Recent Police Shootings (FindLaw Blotter)
continue reading