DIY Firearms: What Does This Mean and Who Is Fighting Back?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the eight States including Washington, New York, Oregon, and the District of Columbia who are joining in on the lawsuit challenging the outcome of a 2015 case. The verdict of the case allows Defense Distributed’s Cody Wilson to release blueprints for 3D-printed firearms.

In case you are unfamiliar with what is going on, a restraining order blocking the release of downloadable blueprints for 3D-printed firearms has been issued by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik. This is happening one day after Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, filed a suit challenging the Federal Government’s decision to allow their release.  

What exactly are 3D-printed firearms? 3D-printed firearms are guns that are assembled by a 3D printer using ABS plastic (the same kind of plastic used to make Legos).

Anybody who has enough money, can buy the higher end 3D printer that is required to assemble functional firearms.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives conducted a test of the accuracy of 3D-printed firearms in 2013. One gun tested called ABS-M30, fired a .380-caliber round eight times without fail.

The blueprints include plans for an AR-15 style rifle and a Beretta M9 handgun, among other firearms. It is believed that the release of the blueprints would facilitate a broad, unregulated access to dangerous weapons.

This raises concerns because the firearms would be untraceable and virtually undetectable by metal detectors. Also, those who would otherwise be unable to purchase a firearm because, they would fail a background check, could more easily get their hands on one.

For more information check out The Seattle Times  and CNN.

Fewer Juveniles Tried in Adult Court Under New Law

Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed a new law that removes a handful of crimes from the list of auto-decline offenses extending juvenile jurisdiction for those crimes to age 25. The sentences for these crimes will include time served in juvenile rehabilitation facilities instead of state prisons.

Additionally, for violent offenses, such as murder, rape and aggravated assault, county prosecutors can use discretion to decide which of these 16/17 year olds will be tried as adults.

Senate Bill 6160, the bill signed by the governor last month, removes first-degree robbery, drive-by shooping, first-degree burglary if has a prior offense, and any violent crime committed with a firearm from the list of crimes that can automatically send 16 and 17 years into the adult criminal system. It does not affect youth committing crime after age 18.

Read more about the specifics here.

How does DNA testing for evidence work?

DNA is a molecule that contains our genetic code and determines all of our traits. Every cell in the human body contains a complete set of our DNA. 99% of the DNA from two people will be identical, 0.1% of the DNA code is what makes each person unique.

These sequences, genetic markers are used by forensic scientists when doing a DNA test. Identical twins will have identical genetic markets.

Forensic evidence could include samples from skin, hair, blood or other body fluids.

The accuracy of DNA is crucial as it can be life changing for someone on trial. DNA tests can sometimes be the only evidence to prove someone was involved in a crime or free someone wrongly convicted. Testing more markers will insure the accuracy of the test, but this can be expensive. Unrelated people can be the same, however this is only a one in one billion chance.

DNA was not used to profile people until the mid 1980’s. Compared to fingerprints or eyewitness testimony, DNA evidence is a high accurate method. DNA evidence is heavily relied on in court.

For more about DNA evidence in criminal law, check out these resources:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/0/20205874
https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-procedure/how-dna-evidence-works.html

Washington Fair Chance Act- What is it?

The Washington Fair Chance Act was signed into law this week by Governor Jay Inslee. Referred to as “ban the box” by supporters, this law prohibits employers from asking about arrests or convictions until after the employer determines if the applicant is otherwise qualified for the position. Exceptions include law enforcement, state agencies, schools and other jobs that work with children or vulnerable adults.

More than one million people living in Washington State have a criminal record. Nationwide 11 states and 150 cities have adopted a similar concept.

The main goal is to prohibit excluding someone with a criminal history solely based on that fact if they are otherwise qualified during the initial screenings. Many qualified applicants can be discouraged from applying for a position if they need to check a box saying they have a past history with the law.

Another goal of this legislature is to help ex-offenders fine productive employment. The idea is if they are able to make a living wage, provide for their families and have work then they are less likely to re-offend or turn to criminal activities.

You can read more about the bill and what supporters believe are the benefits here.

In the News: Lawyer Admitted Client’s Guilt

The U.S. Supreme Court considers the question: When a defendant in a capital case says, “not guilty,” can his attorney say “guilty?”

This happened in the case of State of Louisiana v. McCoy. Robert McCoy is currently on death row after his conviction for triple murder after being charged with first-degree murder. He claimed he was innocent, but his lawyer thought the evidence against him was overwhelming.

Lawyer, Larry English wanted to spare him from execution and proposed admitting guilt and pleading for a lesser sentence. McCoy did not agree. At trial, McCoy said he was out of the state during the time of the murders. English, mentioned in his closing arguments that his client was guilty of second-degree murder because of mental deficiencies.

The lawyer had told McCoy to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. The lawyer was trying to avoid the death penalty. This strategy failed.

The Supreme Court heard arguments on this case during an appeal. McCoy asked for a new trial because his lawyer disobeyed his instructions. The justices will have to decide “whether the lawyer’s decisions was a reasonable effort to make the best of a bad situation or instead a violation of McCoy’s constitutional rights, entitling him to a new trial.”

Sources: http://blogs.findlaw.com/supreme_court/2018/01/supreme-court-hears-murder-case-where-lawyer-admitted-clients-guilt.html

https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/16/16-8255/26940/20180105201207565_16-8255%20rb.pdf

http://www.wnd.com/2018/01/oops-defense-attorney-admits-clients-guilt/#o3oFidAF5hOOrjkX.99

Avoiding DUI Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up this weekend. A day typically full of food, football and fun, drinking is a part of many Super Bowl parties. After the festivities, many get behind the wheel not realizing how impaired they actually are. The most effective way to avoid a DUI charge is simply to not drink and drive. Even if you think you are sober enough to drive, if you have had any amount of alcohol your BAC could suggest otherwise. If you plan on driving, avoiding drinking completely is the only way to eliminate your chance for a DUI arrest.

Here are some tips to follow to avoid a DUI.

  • Eat plenty of food and alternate drinks with water throughout the day.
  • Keep track of your drinks and have a limit for yourself.
  • Set up a safe, sober ride home.
  • If unable to drive, call Uber or a taxi.
  • Ask a friend if you can stay over for the night.

Always have a backup plan. You may plan on driving home but drink more than you planned. Never get behind the wheel if you are intoxicated. Keep the roads safe and avoid a DUI arrest. If you need more advice regarding DUI and DUI laws, contact Charles A Johnston Law today.

In the News: The Sexual Misconduct Scandals

This fall, Harvey Weinstein,  the Hollywood producer,  was fired after multiple women came forward and accused him of rape and sexual assault.

After this, a series of accusations of sexual misconduct were made on dozens of others. The allegations ranged from inappropriate comments to rape. These allegations have led to multiple high-profile men to be fired or forced to resign. These allegations are continuing to come in.

You can view a full list and read more about the allegations here.

So, what does the law say about sexual harassment? Many companies are examining their current sexual harrassment policies after a barrage of #metoo stories on social media and the conversation on sexual harassment was put front and center on the media.

 

Sexual harassment is defined by the law. According to the University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when either: 

  • The conduct is made as a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, living environment or participation in a University community.
  • The acceptance or refusal of such conduct is used as the basis or a factor in decisions affecting an individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a University community.
  • The conduct unreasonably impacts an individual’s employment or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment for that individual’s employment, education, living environment, or participation in a University community.”

Sexual harassment is a form of Sex Discrimination occurring in the workplace. A key part of the definition is the use of “unwelcome.”

There are two types (generally): quid pro quo and hostile environment.

  • Quid pro quo means “this for that.” Implying that a certain things will depend on the individual submitting to conduct of a sexual nature. For example, implying that a promotion will occur only if the employee goes on a date with their supervisor.
  • Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when the conduct of sexual nature is intimidating, threatening or abusing

 

Learn more about what the law says about sexual harassment here.

 

 

Holiday Theft Prevention Tips

The holiday season is among us, a time for celebration and giving. However with all of purchases, presents and merry partying comes the threat of break-ins and theft. Protect your home, vehicle and your family this holiday season with these seven tips.

1. Leave the lights on. If you are heading out of town to visit family or just going down to the mall for some last minute gifts don’t leave your house in the dark. Empty houses are targets during the holidays. Have your outside lights and holiday lights on timers. Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up your newspaper and mail if you will gone for a few days.

2. Don’t have your gifts visible. After a day of shopping make sure you put your gifts in the trunk of your car, if your trunk is visible cover your packages with a blanket to keep the bags out of view. If you have a Christmas tree in your front window, leave gifts hidden out of sight until Christmas, if all of the wrapped gifts are in view you are more likely to be a target.

3. Install a security system. Using a security alarm can alert you or the police of an intrusion. Install pet-friendly motion detectors in areas like your living room or front door area. The motion detectors will go off when a person triggers them but ignores anything weighing less than 60 lbs. You don’t want Fido or Fluffy triggering the alarm and causing a panic!

4. Lockup valuables. Purchase a safe and keep any valuables, important documents and momentos in here. Keep track of your holiday gift purchases. In the event of a theft you will likely be able to recover some of the value lost from your insurance.

5. Invest in a front-door security camera. (Or at least a decoy!) With many packages and deliveries getting left on your front porch many potential thieves may be tempted to make a grab, installing a security camera at the front door can help deter people from entering. If you don’t want to spend the money on an actual camera system, purchase a realistic decoy that will do the trick.

6. Install a password protected or fingerprint keyless entry lock. Fingerprint locks can give you a little extra protection and the high tech entry systems will keep a record of who goes in and out.

7. Don’t open the door without checking to see who is outside. If you don’t have a peephole- install one and make sure that you can get to the door without being seen from the outside. Teach your children not to open the door if they do not know who is there or to wait for an adult.

 

These are just a few tips to keep in mind when trying to stay safe and secure and prevent theft during the holiday season.

 

Freedom of Speech

With the comments by President Donald Trump and the protests by NFL players being highlighted in the media, it is important to consider what our laws say about “Freedom of Speech” and this right granted to ALL of us in the United States.

This right is not absolute. State, local and federal governments can limit how people express themselves. Threats and incitations to violence – aren’t protected at all.

Free Speech entitles us:

  1. Not to speak (the right to not salute the flag.)
  2. To protest war
  3. To use offensive words and phrases to convey political messages.
  4. To contribute money to a political campaign.
  5. To advertise commercial products and services (with restrictions)
  6. To engage in symbolic speech (flag burning in protest etc.)

Additionally, free speech isn’t limited. We have these same rights every day. This means, that even speech that other people do not like or agree with is legal. The First Amendment protects speech even if most people find it offensive, hurtful or hateful. The government cannot determine what can and cannot be said.

Your right to protest in public places can be limited. And, your right to protest is protected as long as it is peaceful. The First Amendment doesn’t offer protections for a gathering in which a clear, present danger of riot, disorder and interference of traffic or an immediate threat to public safety exists.

For even more information on your right to Freedom of Speech, visit Us Courts
and Cornell Law

Crime Classification 101

Crimes are different depending on their severity. They start with infractions, then misdemeanors and finally the most serious, felonies. These classifications can influence the procedures as well as the charges. Here is some information on the differences.

What is an Infraction?

This type of crime is the least serious. This type of crime typically leads to a ticket in which the person has a pay a fine. These usually involve little or no time in court. Infractions commonly known are traffic tickets, jaywalking, simple speeding tickets, red light tickets, and littering to name a few.

What type of crimes are considered a Misdemeanor?
Misdemeanors usually have the punishment of a substantial fine and may include some jail time, usually less than one year.

What makes a crime a Felony?
A felony is the most serious level of crimes. They are classified by degree with first degree being the most serious. A few examples include murder, treason, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, kidnapping and terrorism.

What are civil cases vs criminal cases?
A civil case is a private dispute between two entities. (People or organizations) Criminal cases include actions that can be harmful to society as a whole.

Source:
FindLaw