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.

 

 

Factors Judge Considers During Sentencing

Judges determine the punishments for a crime. (Capital punishment cases the jury will decide life in prison or death). The 8th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

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Once a person has been found guilty in the court of law or pleads guilty, sentencing will be the next step. A judge will need to review relevant information and consider many factors. The mandatory minimum along with social factors, severity of crime and victim statements all play a part in the sentencing.

Additionally, the crime must fit the punishment. A Judge will consider the punishment and then consider “aggravating” or “mitigating” circumstances. A few of these factors considered include:

  • First time or repeat offender
  • Main offender or accessory
  • If anyone was hurt or if crime was unlikely to hurt anyone
  • If crime was committed under stress
  • If offender was very cruel
  • If offender is remorseful

Provisions state that the court must give counsel an opportunity to speak on behalf of the defendant. Defendant will be allowed to prevent any information or make a statement on his own behalf. In many states, a victim or victims family may also be given the opportunity to address the court and recommend leniency or strictness.

If you need help and want to know more about the sentencing laws in Washington State, contact Charles A Johnston law.

Real Law: Fitbit Data Solving a Murder

What can be used in a criminal case is constantly changing as modern technology becomes involved. Data is collected and stored on a variety of places including your computer. These things can be used in court. Things such as an internet browser history, files, and data in the cloud can be used.

In a recent murder case, IoT (Internet of Things) data is helping to solve a murder. The data stored on a murder victim’s Fitbit and other electronically stored data are forming evidence against the victim’s husband who has now been charged with murder.

The victim had been wearing her Fitbit activity tracker which showed that she was still moving around and posting on Facebook an hour after her husband claimed she had been murdered by an intruder. The husband had been involved in an extramarital affair in which the women was pregnant. Mounting evidence points to him trying to cover up the murder. The husband also sought to collect on a half million dollar life insurance policy only days after the murder.

There is a right to privacy, and police will generally need a warrant to access IoT data. The data on victim’s devices typically will be available to law enforcement without difficulty.

Sources: FindLaw
NYMag

Types of Tax Fraud

Tax Day is just around the corner. Taxes can be a scary and confusing thing for many people. Failing to follow the tax laws can lead to criminal penalties, even jail time. Here are some of the common types of tax fraud.

  • Underreporting Income
    This is commonly seen with people that are paid in cash form. All income is required by law to be reported including tips. This type of income doesn’t leave a paper trail and often times will go unreported. Under reporting can be charged as a felony with penalties including a couple years behind bars and fines.

  • Making Up Numbers
    You should never guess. Incorrect numbers is considered falsifying a document. This can be hard to prove as unintentional and will likely lead to jail time and fines.

  • Claiming Unqualified Deductions
    It is considered fraud to claim deductions that you personally or that your business does not qualify for. This also can lead to hefty fines and even jail time.

    For more information on tax fraud and help with your taxes visit: FindLaw

In the News: Double Murder Trial Against Lawyer Accused of Killing Millionaire Father

This case has been deemed one of strangest double murder trials in Missouri (and maybe the United States). Susan Elizabeth Van Note was a well known lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri. It was shocking when she was first charged in 2010 with the murder of her father, a successful business man. She was first charged based on the fact that she forged her father’s signature on a do nut resuscitate order (DNR) to have him taken off life support.

Van Note’s father and his girlfriend, Sharon Dickson were shot in her father’s home in Missouri. Dickson died on the scene and her father was taken to the hospital after being shot in the head where he later died after being removed from life support four days later.

Van Note was the alleged shooter according to prosecutors. Claiming her motive to kill was money. Prosecutors claim she obtained a copy of her father’s will weeks before the shooting and discovered she was only the executor and Dickson was the primary beneficiary.

The case was set for trial January 2015, but mistrial was declared due to jury misconduct. Additionally, problems with the admission of cell phone data also have plagued the case. Van Note’s lawyers argued the subpoenas used to obtain the cell phone data violate her 4th Amendment rights (illegal search and seizure).

Liz’s mother swore to investigators that her daughter was approximately 2 and a half hours away from Missouri with her on the night of the shootings.

The case will be going to trial this week after jury selection begins today.

(Source: Law Newz)

What is Double Jeopardy?

According to the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, “No personal shall be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This guarantee is important because it prevents prosecutors from continually prosecuting until they come up with a conviction. Double Jeopardy prevents being prosecuted twice for the same offense.

Source: Thebrianmo.com

Source: Thebrianmo.com

Jeopardy begins when someone is charged with a crime. Here are the important stages to be aware of:

  • When Jury is sworn.
  • When first witness is sworn.
  • When court first hears evidence (for juvenile proceedings).
  • When a plea is excepted as an agreement between the defendant and prosecutor.

When the defendant is found innocent, jeopardy ends. The government cannot detain them for additional court proceedings. Therefore, it ends when:

  • An acquittal.
  • Trial court judge grants a dismissal.
  • Post-conviction appeal is a success.

Double Jeopardy is one of the oldest legal concepts dating back to 355 B.C. The Romans codified this principle that “the law forbids the same man to be tried twice on the same issue.

The Courts can bring further criminal action against someone as long as it is not for the same offense. For example, an individual who has stolen a car to facilitate abduction can be prosecuted and receive separate punishments for auto theft, kidnapping, attempted rape etc.

To learn more about Double Jeopardy, visit Legal Dictionary or FindLaw.

What is “Social Host Liability?”

Have you ever hosted a party and served alcohol? If so, you could face legal consequences if one of your guests drives and injures someone or if your guest is under 21. These laws are put in place to deter hosts from allowing intoxicated guests to drive after attending a private social event.

What is the definition of “social host”?

A social host is someone that provides alcohol to your guests for free. It can be a dinner, house party, or graduation party hosted at your residence, or it can be an event you host in a rented property.

What is the liability?

Common law generally says that social hosts are not liable for injury or death related to alcohol they serve to guests, there are exceptions.

  1. Adults have a duty to refrain from negligently or intentionally supplying alcohol to minors. If they knew the minor was driving under the influence they can be liable.
  2. Party hosts have a responsibility not to “furnish” (make available) or “serve” (deliver) alcohol to minors.

 

What does WA law say?

In RCW 66.44.270 it states, “It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control.”

What are the consequences?

Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in jail.

Parents, what can you do?

Hosting a party and allowing underage drinking sends the message that underage drinking and breaking the law is ok. Draw the line at underage drinking. Do not supply or encourage underage drinking in your home. Talk to your children about the consequences and provide activities in your home (alcohol free) that make your child’s friends feel welcome.

 

 

Source: http://liq.wa.gov/education/social-hosting-0

 

 

Early Release- About the Parole Process

Parole is when you are released early from prison, before you have served the entire sentence. Parolees will be under supervision and typically have to follow a set of conditions. Not everyone is eligible for parole, but the boards will consider a number of factors when deciding whether to grant parole.

Prisoners can earn “good time” credits for good behavior. These credits count toward early release. Parole isn’t granted by a judge, but rather a “parole board” made up of prison officials.


A few different factors are considered by the parole boards.

  • How serious was the offense?
  • Has the prisoner followed prison rules?
  • Have any victims expressed strong concern about the possibility of parole?
  • Will this person be able to successfully reintegrate into society?

The parolee will have a period of supervision following release. They will have conditions that must be met including:

  • Obey all laws.
  • Report location to parole officer.
  • Get permission when traveling.
  • Avoid alcohol and drug use.
  • Pay fines/restitution.
  • Avoid contact with gang members, witnesses and victims.
  • Allow random searches. These do not need probable cause.If you have questions regarding parole or regarding a specific case, contact your attorney.

    Source:Criminal Lawyers

In The News: People on the No-Fly List Banned from Guns in CT

The Governor of Connecticut, Dannel P. Malloy has proposed to use an executive order banning gun sales to those on the federal no-fly list. This would make Connecticut the first state to do so. Connecticut state officials are working to get access to these lists.

Malloy had previously passed expanded limits on the state’s assault weapon ban. The possession and sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines are banned. This measure was enacted following the tragic shooting deaths of 20 children and 6 educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary.

Currently, background checks for those seeking gun permits is done by State Police. This new order would require State Police to cross-check these names with the government watch lists. Permits can be revoked for anyone on the watch list that already has a gun permit.

President Barack Obama has called for legislature to make a move regarding preventing people on the no-fly list from buying guns.

 

 

Source: AP

 

 

Legal Terms 101: Crime Classification

Crimes will receive different classifications depending on how severe the are. These classifications are known as infractions for the mildest crimes and felonies for most serious. The classification of the crime has influence on sentencing and court proceedings. Here are some of the key differences.

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1. Infractions

  • An infraction (petty offense) is a violation in the municipal code, or ordinance. In most states, an infraction is not considered a criminal offense and is not punishable by law. There is no jail time associated with it.

Examples:

  • Jaywalking
  • Speeding ticket
  • Littering
  • Cell phone while driving
  • Not wearing seatbelt

Options:

  • Pay a fine
  • Provide explanation and pay the fine
  • Request informal hearing with no attorney (could cost you)
  • Request court hearing with attorney to dispute ticket

2. Misdemeanor 

  • Misdemeanors are criminal offenses less serious than a felony, more serious than infraction. They are punishable by a fine, jail time or both. There are different levels of misdemeanors as well (petty, ordinary, and high/gross)

Examples:

  • Petty theft
  • Public intoxication
  • Trespass
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Simple assault

Options:

  • Contact an attorney
  • Attend pretrial
  • Plead either guilty, not guilty or no contest
  • If given a fine, pay the fine.
  • Your may be able to enter a plea bargain or you may have to go to trial.slide-6

 3. Felonies

  • Felonies are the most serious offense in the United States. Many states will give harsher punishment to repeat offenders. If you are charged with a felony, you may face more than a year of jail time, fines or both.

Examples:

  • Treason
  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Terrorism
  • Burglary

Options:

  • Contact a criminal defense attorney
  • Possibility of a dismissal (due to unconstitutional search and seizure, evidence…)
  • You will be arrested and can meet with pretrial services to determine your bond.
  • Arraignment is your first appearance before a judge. You can plea guilty or not guilty.
  • Preliminary hearing will determine if substantive evidence exists to charge you.
  • If evidence exists, the grand jury will hear your case.
  • Eventually a jury will hear your case.
  • If found guilty you may be sent to prison or be charged with fines. If eligable, you may receive probation.
  • If you are acquitted, you will be released and the charge will be expunged in 60 days.

 

Sources:

FindLaw

Avvo.com

Attorneys.com