Facebook Pic of Toddler Hanging on Planter Hook Gets Mom Arrested

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

A Virginia mom who took a photo of her 1-year-old son hanging by the shirt from a planter hook was arrested after the photo was posted to Facebook.

The photo shows a 14-month-old boy crying while suspended in mid-air with his shirt bunched around his neck. The boy’s mother, 18-year-old Alexis Breeden was arrested and charged with felony child abuse after authorities were alerted to the photo’s presence on the social network, reports WTVR-TV.

How did the photo end up online, and what kind of criminal sentence is Breeden potentially facing from this unfortunate photo op?

Police Alerted by Concerned Citizens

Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office investigators said they received reports from numerous citizens who saw the picture of the visibly uncomfortable child online. Several people even posted the photo to the Sheriff’s Office’s own Facebook page.

An investigation revealed that the photo, originally taken in early September, was posted to Facebook by the child’s father in retaliation for an argument he had recently gotten into with Breeden. Although the investigation also revealed that the child in the picture was not harmed, …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Voters Legalize Pot in Ore.; Alaska; Washington, D.C.

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

Among the many important offices and issues voted on in yesterday’s midterm elections were marijuana legalization measures in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

And after all was said and done, voters in both states and in Washington, D.C., voted to allow marijuana to be legalized, reports Reuters. Oregon and Alaska now join Washington state and Colorado as the third and fourth states to legalize recreational pot use.

What will these new voter-approved laws allow once they take effect?

Oregon: Measure 91

In Oregon, voters approved Measure 91. The measure will take effect July 1, 2015, and will allow adults 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana in public and eight ounces of marijuana at home. Sales and production of marijuana and marijuana-infused products will be handled by the state’s Liquor Control Commission, and tax money generated by marijuana sales will fund a variety of public services including schools, law enforcement, and …read more

Source:: Law Blog

What Can Happen If You Eat Evidence?

By Brett Snider, Esq.

Eating evidence is never a good idea. It has a very low success rate in actually thwarting a police investigation, and it can significantly increase a suspect’s exposure to criminal charges.

It may be funny to see characters like those in the cult classic “Super Troopers” eat massive quantities of illicit substances in a frantic attempt to not get busted, but the reality is even uglier.

What are some real-life consequences of eating evidence?

Evidence Tampering Charges

Because eating evidence may mean taking something incriminating and then eating it, you may be slapped with an evidence tampering charge. In New York, tampering with physical evidence with intent to keep it from being used in an official proceeding (read: any criminal hearing or trial) is a felony.

Even if law enforcement may not be able to prove that you were attempting to eat evidence with the intent of keeping it from being used at trial, there are lesser criminal tampering charges that only require that you intentionally <a class=”colorbox” title=”Haw. Rev. Stat. Section 708-827 : Hawaii …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Cell-Phone Fingerprint Ruling: 5 Things You Should Know

By Brett Snider, Esq.

With fingerprint-reading technology now being implemented in more and more smartphones, rulings like the one last week really get under people’s skin.

Last Tuesday, a Virginia judge ruled that police officers can force a suspect to unlock a smartphone using that phone’s fingerprint scanner, reports The Wall Street Journal. This ruling has many privacy advocates worried that fingerprint and biometric tech on cell phones will become a loophole for police abuse.

Before you chuck your new phone in the trash, check out our five level-headed takeaways from this ruling:

1. As a General Rule, Cops Still Can’t Search a Cell Phone Without a Warrant.

This Virginia ruling does not change the Supreme Court’s ruling on cell phone searches: Police cannot automatically search your phone upon your arrest without a search warrant, with very few exceptions. Once they obtain a search warrant to get inside your phone, the Virginia ruling allows police to force you to unlock the phone with a fingerprint (if possible).

2. Police Already Take Your Fingerprints.

When a suspect is …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Halloween Hit-and-Run: 3 Teens Killed While Trick-or-Treating

By Brett Snider, Esq.

Several suspects are under arrest in connection with the hit-and-run killing of three trick-or-treaters on Halloween.

Three 13-year-old girls were struck and killed by a driver while moving across a crosswalk in Santa Ana, California, on Friday night. According to the Los Angeles Times, police report the driver of a Honda CR-V was “going at a high rate of speed” when the SUV struck the girls; the vehicle was later found abandoned in a nearby parking lot.

What charges could the arrested individuals face for the Halloween hit-and-run deaths?

Involuntary Manslaughter

When drivers hit and kill pedestrians, it can be considered involuntary manslaughter, where a person’s death results from the dangerous or reckless actions of the driver. Some states, like California, have a separate charge for deaths which are caused by motor vehicles, called vehicular manslaughter.

Depending on the degree of negligence or recklessness by the driver, a vehicular manslaughter conviction in California can mean anywhere from 16 months to 10 years in state prison. Higher degrees of punishment require a finding of gross negligence by the driver, which is very …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Inmate Whose Confession Led Ill. to End Death Penalty Is Released

By Brett Snider, Esq.

An Illinois inmate has been released after over a decade in prison for a double-homicide conviction that was key to ending the state’s death penalty.

Alstory Simon was the second person to be convicted for a 1982 double murder, but there were serious questions about whether Simon’s confession was coerced, the Sun-Times Media Wire reports. Now, more than three decades after the deaths, Illinois prosecutors have asked that charges against Simon be dropped.

What happened in Simon’s case, and why is he now being released?

One Man Convicted, Then Released, Then Another

The man who was originally convicted for the 1982 murders was Anthony Porter, who came within moments of being executed before being released in 1999. According to the Sun-Times Media Wire, the case was instrumental in convincing then-Gov. George Ryan to “declare a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois.”

Simon was then charged for the murders, largely based on the fact that prosecutors were able to secure his confession. The Chicago Tribune reports that Simon’s videotaped confession was obtained by a private …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Attack on Gay Couple Spurs New Philly Hate Crime Law

By Brett Snider, Esq.

Philadelphia is adding increased penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity after a gay couple was attacked in September.

According to The Associated Press, prosecutors claim they couldn’t charge the three assailants with a hate crime because “sexual orientation isn’t covered in the state’s hate crime law.” So Philly’s city council moved quickly and passed a new bill authorizing added penalties for hate crimes left out of Pennsylvania’s law.

What does this new hate crime law entail?

Penalties for LGBT Hate Crimes Added

The bill passed by the Philadelphia City Council on Thursday (Bill No. 14072001) would amend the city’s code to add an entire new section on “Hate Crimes.” If the bill is made effective, assailants who are motivated by hatred against a victim’s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability may be subject to up to 90 days in jail and a $2,000 fine — in addition to their original charges.

Philadelphia need not worry about adding race, religion, or national origin to this list of protected classes, as Pennsylvania law already covers …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Don’t Be Haunted by a Halloween DUI: 4 Sobering Tips

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

You may be too old to worry about overdoing it on Halloween candy, but Halloween may have an ever scarier trick in store for adults: an arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

With Halloween falling on a Friday this year, the large number of Halloween parties and other festivities offer plenty of opportunities for celebrants to get themselves into downright spooky legal predicaments. And with potential criminal penalties for DUI arrests including jail time, costly fines, and a driver’s license suspension, avoiding a DUI is certainly in your best interest.

How can you do yourself (and everyone else) a favor and avoid a Halloween DUI? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Watch your drinking. The most common form of DUI is an alcohol-related DUI. Any time you drive with a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit of 0.08 (or in certain cases, even when your BAC is below that limit) you are at risk of being cited for DUI, even if you don’t necessarily feel “drunk.” If you are at a Halloween party, be sure to …read more

    Source:: Law Blog

Top 7 Personal Injury Myths

[slideshare id=40886157&doc=carlceder-top7personalinjurymonths-141029143524-conversion-gate02]

Do You Have to Let Cops Search Your Cell Phone?

By Brett Snider, Esq.

When a police officer asks to search your cell phone, it may be difficult to know if you can legally refuse.

The situations may vary, but in general, arrestees do not have to let the police search their cell phones, even if cops demand it. As one retired California judge told San Francisco’s KPIX-TV, officers can only look at a suspect’s cell phone with consent, in an emergency, or with a search warrant.

Before you let a cop search your cell phone, consider this:

Officers Can Look If You Let Them

Just like searching your car or your house, police officers can legally search just about anywhere without a warrant if you give them permission to do so. If an officer asks if he or she can search your cell and you say “yes,” there’s not much stopping him or her from doing just that.

Keep in mind that officers are under no obligation to tell you that you can simply say “no.” In fact, they may use threatening tones …read more

Source:: Law Blog