5 Teens Charged in ‘Ice Bucket’ Urine Prank on Autistic Boy

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

Five Ohio teenagers accused of playing an Ice Bucket Challenge prank on an autistic classmate are facing criminal charges.

Prosecutors in Cuyahoga County, Ohio charged the teens — all juveniles, ranging in ages from 14 to 16 — with disorderly conduct. In addition, three of the teens are charged with misdemeanor assault, reports the The Plain Dealer. The charges stem from an incident earlier this year in which the teens dumped a bucket of filled with urine, tobacco, and spit on an autistic classmate who thought he was taking part in an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video.

What are the details of this case, and how are juvenile criminal cases different from crimes involving adults?

Video of Prank Posted on YouTube

The parents of the 15-year-old teen who was subjected to the prank reported the incident to police in September after video of the teen being doused with a bucket of brown liquid was posted on YouTube. The Ice Bucket Challenge typically features a person …read more

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DOJ: Guilty Pleas Won’t Require Waiver for Bad Counsel Claims

By Brett Snider, Esq.

The Department of Justice will no longer ask defendants who accept a plea deal to waive their rights to appeal their case based on bad advice given by their defense attorneys.

This is a bit of a departure from plea bargain tactics employed by federal prosecutors, which sometimes involve requiring an appeal waiver for any sort of plea deal. According to The Associated Press, this might not be that big a change, as only 35 of the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices request that defendants pleading guilty give up their right to sue over ineffective counsel.

What does this change in DOJ policy mean for criminal defendants in federal court?

Appeals for Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) is a common claim among criminal defendants, especially those who have accepted plea bargains. An appeal based on IAC essentially claims that the defendant’s lawyer was so bad that it deprived the defendant of his or her constitutional rights. This can include both the defendant’s rights to a fair trial as well as his or her <a class="colorbox" title="What the Sixth …read more

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If You Witness a Crime, Do You Have to Testify?

By Brett Snider, Esq.

Witnesses to crimes are often nervous about being called upon to testify about what they have seen and heard, but in many instances, there’s no other way to get that important information.

Criminal defendants have the right to confront their accusers, and this right includes the ability to call witnesses into court to testify and be cross-examined. Even if a witness does not have to appear in court, he or she may be ordered to give a recorded deposition under oath.

So when you witness a crime, do you always have to testify?

For Witnesses, No Duty to Report

It can often be a tough call for witnesses of crime to report what they’ve seen to the police. Thankfully, the law does not require any witness to a crime to call 911 or speak with the responding officer. If a witness wishes to remain anonymous, there is no duty to offer up personal identifying information unless an officer asks. And even then, you may only be <a class="colorbox" title="Can You Refuse to Identify Yourself to Police Officers?" …read more

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Man Recording Cops Gets $37K Settlement After ‘Taser Whipping’

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

A man who captured video of a Honolulu police officer attempting to knock an iPhone out of his hand has settled his lawsuit with the city for $37,500.

On New Year’s Day 2013, Randy Salazar Jr. was recording Honolulu police arresting a man outside an apartment complex. Video taken by Salazar’s iPhone shows an officer taking a swipe at his camera as he walks past, reports Honolulu Civil Beat. According to Salazar’s lawsuit, the officer shown in the video hit Salazar with a Taser, breaking a bone in his hand.

The case is just the latest legal action validating the public’s general right to record police activity.

Video Shows Alleged ‘Taser Whipping’

In Salazar’s iPhone video, a group of police officers can be seen handcuffing a man who was reportedly involved in a fight. An officer can be seen holding a Taser, at one point telling the suspect to “shut up.”

As the officers lead the suspect past where Salazar is recording, the officer with Taser appears to lash out at Salazar.

<iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/108434797" width="420" height="237" frameborder="0" …read more

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Should You Call the Cops When Someone Is Mentally Ill?

By Brett Snider, Esq.

When a mentally ill person is not receiving the proper care or medication, it may be necessary to call the cops to intervene.

Individuals suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorders are not easily calmed down or treated by average civilians, even though they may have their best interests in mind. In many cases, calling the police may be the best option.

So how should you deal with calling the cops when someone is mentally ill?

Tips for Keeping the Situation Calm

It’s unfortunate, but often those shot and killed by the police are suffering from mental illnesses. San Francisco’s KQED reports that more than half of those fatally shot by the San Francisco Police Department from 2005 to 2013 had mental illnesses.

Keeping that in mind, here are some tips to consider when calling police on someone who’s mentally ill:

  • Stress to the 911 operator that the mentally ill person needs help and is not dangerous;
  • When officers arrive, don’t let them come to their own conclusions — repeat what you said to the 911 operator;
  • Do not attempt to confront or restrain the mentally …read more

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‘Lewd’ or Just Urinating? NYC Bus Terminal Arrests Challenged

By Brett Snider, Esq.

New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal has its own police officers, and apparently they have arrested more than 60 people this year for alleged public lewdness in the bus station’s restroom.

A sign in the men’s restroom notes that “Restrooms are patrolled by plain clothes officers,” but some of those arrested are questioning those officers’ methods. The New York Times reports that “at least a dozen” of those arrested for lewdness are now represented by the Legal Aid Society, who claim the men “were victims of aggressive and intrusive police tactics.”

What are the cops up to in these lewd bathroom arrests?

Restroom Visitors Accused of Masturbating

Just in case you forgot, simply being nude in New York isn’t necessarily a crime. In fact, the NYPD has reiterated that topless women were just fine as long as they didn’t engage in any lewd conduct. And while “lewdness” is hard to pin down legally, it usually relates to exposing or handling your genitals in a way that is intended to arouse you or others.

For the …read more

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Off-Duty St. Louis Police Officer Shoots, Kills Armed Teen

By Brett Snider, Esq.

An off-duty police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old man in St. Louis on Wednesday, prompting many to draw parallels between this shooting and Michael Brown’s controversial death.

The killing occurred in St. Louis, the teen was black, and the off-duty officer (who fired 17 shots) was white. But as CNN reports, “the commonalities end there.” The teen was reportedly armed with a 9 mm handgun, and after a scuffle with the off-duty officer, he fired three shots before the off-duty officer returned fire and killed him.

What are police saying about this new St. Louis shooting?

Police Chief: Teen Fired First

Since the teen, who was identified as Vonderrit Myers Jr. by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was killed by an off-duty cop acting as a security guard, it may also be easy for some to draw parallels between this case and the shooting of Trayvon Martin. USA Today reports that St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Sam …read more

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Can You Turn Around at a DUI Checkpoint?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

Can you turn around at a DUI checkpoint?

Most drivers have probably encountered a DUI checkpoint, where police randomly check drivers who pass through for possible intoxication. For drivers who may have had one or two drinks, DUI checkpoints can — or perhaps should — cause anxiety; the blood alcohol concentration required for a DUI charge can often be less than what many people would consider “drunk.”

But what can these drivers, or other drivers who may wish to avoid contact with law enforcement, do when they see an upcoming DUI checkpoint? Is it legal to just turn around?

Drivers Are Not Obligated to Proceed Through Checkpoint

If it can be done without breaking any other traffic laws, such as those that prohibit U-turns on certain streets, a driver is generally under no obligation to proceed through a DUI checkpoint.

Although DUI checkpoints have been found to be legal as a reasonable search under the Fourth Amendment, a driver is only required to submit a law enforcement search if he passes through the checkpoint and is selected.

Turning onto a side street or …read more

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Hammond Police Traffic Stop, Video Prompt Federal Lawsuit

By Brett Snider, Esq.

Police in Hammond, Indiana, are the subject of federal lawsuit alleging officers broke a window, used a Taser on a passenger, and terrifed a car full of civilians, including two young children.

On September 24, Lisa Mahone and her boyfriend Jamal Jones were on their way to visit Mahone’s mother in the hospital when Hammond police officers pulled them over for a “routine seat belt violation,” according to the Chicago Tribune. What followed is a matter of contention, but a federal lawsuit accuses Hammond police of using excessive force and battery.

What’s the story with this Hammond traffic stop, which was caught on cell phone video?

Asks for ID Then Drags Passenger Out of Car

The video shot by 14-year-old Joseph Ivy, who was sitting in the car’s backseat, appears to show police berating passenger Jones for his identification.

The tension appears to increase as police are not satisfied with Jones handing officers a paper ticket for “not paying his insurance,” and the officers eventually order Jones to exit the vehicle. When Jones doesn’t comply, an officer smashes the front passenger window and used a Taser on him.

You can …read more

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No Charges for ‘Flash-Bang’ Grenade That Severely Injured Toddler

By Brett Snider, Esq.

A Georgia grand jury has declined to indict sheriff’s deputies on criminal charges for throwing a “flash-bang” grenade that burned and severely injured a 19-month-old boy.

The child, Bounkham Phonesavanh, was injured during a police drug raid when the stun grenade landed in the infant’s crib. The suspect whom police sought in the raid was not actually in the house at the time. According to Reuters, the grand jury found that deputies did not intentionally injure the child and that their conduct was not tantamount to criminal negligence.

Since no charges are filed against the deputies, will there be any justice for baby Bounkham?

Criminal Negligence Defined

There is a large overlap between the crime of criminal negligence and the civil charge of negligence, but they are different in significant ways.

In Georgia, criminal negligence has been defined by case law as “more than ordinary negligence” and is explained as:

  • The reckless disregard of consequences or a heedless indifference to the rights and safety of others; and
  • A reasonable foresight that injury would probably result.

When considering whether …read more

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