Is It Legal to Use a Taser for Personal Protection?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

Tasers and other brands of stun guns are commonly used by law enforcement for subduing fleeing or combative suspects.

Increasingly, however, interest in Tasers is extending beyond law enforcement, with regular citizens looking to possess or even carry a Taser on their person for their own protection.

Is it legal to possess and potentially use a Taser? Here’s a general overview:

Consumer Possession Laws Vary by State

Tasers are legal for law enforcement use in every state, according to Taser International. But when it comes to consumer use and possession, there are several states in which consumers are not allowed to possess a Taser, including Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.

In other states, possession and use may be limited. In Connecticut, for example, consumers can possess Tasers, but are prohibited from carrying them either on their person or in their car. Several other states limit possession to a person’s home or place of business without a permit or <a class="colorbox" title="Concealed …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Jodi Arias’ Sentencing Retrial Begins With Jury Selection

By Brett Snider, Esq.

Jodi Arias is approaching the final phase of her murder trial, but like many trials, this ultimate step will begin with jury selection.

Arias had a 12-person jury for her last trial — a jury which was unable to reach a verdict with respect to her punishment. The woman convicted of murdering Travis Alexander will now participate in picking a second jury, one that will only deliberate on how Arias may be punished.

Will it be difficult to pick a jury for someone who’s already been found guilty?

Finding Unbiased Jurors

Jury selection for a case as dire as Arias’ requires both defense and prosecution lawyers to figure out which jurors are more likely to lean their way when it comes to a verdict. That task is difficult enough when there are 12 jurors, let alone when the defendant has already been convicted for the crime for which she was accused.

You may recall at George Zimmerman’s trial, one defense attorney joked during opening arguments that the jury was likely chosen because they had no idea who …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Can a DUI Lead to a CPS Investigation?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

A DUI arrest can lead to a wide range of penalties: jail time, fines, a suspended license, and being forced to install an ignition interlock device, just to name a few.

But DUI charges can also cause trouble in other areas of your life, as one Florida woman discovered when her DUI arrest led to an investigation by the state’s Department of Children and Families, reports WCTV.

How did this woman’s drunken driving charge lead to potentially losing custody of her children?

DUI With Minors in the Vehicle

Christina West was arrested for suspected DUI after crashing into in a house Tallahassee, Florida, in 2013. When the accident occurred, she had three 16-year-old passengers in her car. Being arrested for DUI with minor passengers can often lead to aggravated DUI charges and/or child abuse, child endangerment, or child cruelty charges.

In West’s case, despite the charges against her eventually being reduced to reckless driving (not to mention a $475,000 settlement in …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Eric Holder Stepping Down as Atty. Gen.: 5 Things You Should Know

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced today he will be stepping down as soon as his successor can be nominated and confirmed.

Holder, the first African-American to hold the post, took office shortly after President Barack Obama began his first term in 2009. Holder leaves on something of a high note, reports The New York Times: Earlier this week, he announced that the federal prison population declined for the first time since 1980 on his watch, and should continue to do so for at least the next two years.

What the story behind Holder’s time in office and his forthcoming departure? Here are five things you should know:

  1. He’s not going anywhere yet. In his official remarks announcing his resignation, Holder mentioned that he would be leaving sometime “in the months ahead.” He will remain in the job while President Obama searches …read more

    Source:: Law Blog

Can You Go to Jail for Refusing to Testify?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq.

In any court proceeding, witness testimony can be an important source of evidence.

It follows, then, that courts take calling witnesses pretty seriously. How seriously? Seriously enough that those who refuse to testify can, in some situations, be held in contempt of court, which may result in penalties including fines and even jail time.

What are the rules for testifying in court and how can you keep yourself from running afoul of them?

Fifth Amendment Right against Self-Incrimination

One person who can generally never be forced to testify in court is a criminal defendant. Under the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” This means that a defendant that is charged with a crime can choose whether or not to testify in court. However, if the defendant does choose to testify, he generally cannot choose which questions to answer.

The Fifth Amendment also extends to other witnesses in criminal and civil proceedings; any time a …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Do You Have to Report a Crime If You See One?

By Brett Snider, Esq.

Reporting crime is certainly a public service, but is there any legal obligation for you to report a crime if you see one?

You may recall the series finale of “Seinfeld,” in which the four New Yorkers were arrested in Massachusetts under a fictional law that made it an arrestable offense not to rescue someone whom they see being carjacked. And while that episode devolved into a comical courtroom scene, many viewers may have been left wondering if they could be arrested for doing the same.

So do you have to report a crime if you see one?

Duty to Rescue: Generally Civil not Criminal

The legal duty to rescue does not exist for civilians, and unless you are an emergency responder (police, firefighter, EMT, etc.), you likely will not be held accountable for failing to rescue a victim of a crime. However, if you are in one of these specified roles or you happen to be the parent of a child in danger, you may be held accountable for refusing to offer help — even if it’s simply by calling 911.

Even if …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Distracted Driver Who Killed 2 Gets 1 Year in Jail

By Brett Snider, Esq.

A Northern California man has been sentenced to a year in jail for a distracted-driving crash that killed two women in March.

Nicholas Tognozzi, 30, of Rohnert Park, pleaded no contest to two felony gross vehicular manslaughter charges in August, reports San Francisco’s KPIX-TV. The charges stemmed from allegations that Tognozzi was checking a cell-phone text message moments before his SUV rear-ended into the victims’ car, killing them both.

How did Tognozzi get such a light sentence?

Sentence Includes Probation, Jail Time

Pleading “no contest” typically means that you will accept the punishment for your crime, but you do not admit guilt or present any defense. For most intents and purposes, it is similar to pleading guilty to a crime, and a no contest plea will largely be regarded as similar to any other conviction.

Tognozzi pleaded no contest to the charges against him, and the sentence he accepted included:

  • One year in jail,
  • 300 hours of community service,
  • 18 months of probation, and
  • Credit for time served.

Tognozzi had already spent …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Cook County, Ill., to Monitor Juvie Probationers 24/7

By Brett Snider, Esq.

Cook County probation officials are making a technological upgrade for juvenile probationers, implementing 24-hour monitoring for those on house arrest.

Up until now, young offenders placed on electronic home confinement faced only part-time monitoring, enforced manually by juvenile probation officers doing in-home checks. The round-the-clock monitoring of these offenders will now be handled by a private company based in Irvine, California, reports Chicago’s WMAQ-TV.

Why the sudden change in monitoring juvenile offenders?

Assault Spurs Changes

Unfortunately, the new monitoring policy was brought on by an assault which occurred while a Cook County juvenile offender was supposed to be on house arrest. Aaron Parks, 17, allegedly assaulted a pregnant college student September 10 while he was wearing a home monitoring bracelet, reports WMAQ.

The prior system required probation officers to manually check the bracelets for non-compliance, but this new system will “send an email alert for each instance of non-compliance to the electronic monitoring probation officer, all three supervisors, and the Deputy Chief Probation Officer.” Since placing juveniles on house arrest (especially when they are young) …read more

Source:: Law Blog

Mom Tells N.J. Officer She Has a Gun; Faces Prison for Gun Charge

What do you do when you have you are stopped by the police with a licensed hand gun?  In the case of a Philadelphian single mother, Shaneen Allen, 27, she decided to reveal she had a gun. Unfortunatenly for Ms. Allen, her Pennsylvania Concealed weapons permit was not valid in New Jersey.  She was then arrested for “Unlawful possessions of a weapon and armor penetrating bullets” according to Find Law.

What went wrong?  Concealed-Carry permits don’t travel and many people don’t know there is no obligation for states to honor out-of-state concealed carry permits.  In the case of Ms. Allen, she had ammunition that was heavily regulated in New Jersey and cannot be legally possessed outside of private property.  When in transport it must be in a locked container and not in a loaded gun.

Ms. Allen is facing a 3 year prison sentence because of the mandatory minimums.  What do you think?  Should Ms. Allen go to jail over her crime?

California Overturns Law Requiring Ballot Sponsors to Identify Themselves

According to an article completed by CBS Sacramento, the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a case centering on a debate in disclosing the identification of ballot sponsors.  Previously in California, all sponsors seeking to change a measure on a ballot were required to disclose their identity directly on the petition where signatures were gathered.  A question arose from the issue in regards to the Constitutional right of anonymous speech, included in the First Amendment.

For the decision, the Court of Appeals looked to two previous Supreme Court rulings.  The first took place in Colorado, where a ruling overturned a requirement that signature gatherers wear badges to declare who they were collecting signatures for.  In Ohio, there was a law banning anonymous campaign leaflets that was overturned on the grounds of the First Amendment.  From these two cases, the Court of Appeals decided to overturn the California law requiring all sponsors declare their identity directly on the petition in a two to one decision.

Judge Susan Graber, the justice who voted against overturning the law, insisted that requiring identification on the petition helps individuals who are making a snap decision on whether to support the issue and the individual.  Those who may be on the fence may need to know who they are supporting—not just what—in order to make their final decision.  Specifically, she believes overturning this law no longer allows voters to know whose hands will now be in charge of making their future laws.

While the decision was not a unanimous one, the entire court did agree on one issue in the case.  Corporations and organizations are not allowed to sponsor ballot measures; that power remains in the hands of the individuals and no one else.