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Archive for the ‘Criminal Law’ Category

Con Men and Your Rights

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Confidence Man: a person who makes money by defrauding an individual or a group of people.

A confidence man, also known as a conman, is someone who makes money by swindling others out of their own money. They don’t have a legitimate career other than to defraud other people and to take their money. Unfortunately, tons of people get taken by conmen every day and many do not know what rights they have and how to get their money or property back.

The Many Different Cons
As long as people have been making and using money, there have been conmen. There are a number of different types of tricks that conmen have up their sleeves. The first, and most commonly seen are the get rich quick schemes, which you’ve likely seen before. Any time you have seen the words “make money fast”, or “earn money doing nothing”, you may be dealing with a conman. There are a number of these different types of scams, including pyramid schemes, charms, chain letters, wealth seminars, and many more. These types of scams account for a great many of the scams that are done on a daily basis and can be difficult to defeat.

If, for instance, you signed up for a pyramid scheme (without realizing it was, of course), you probably had to sign a number of documents, binding you into the scheme and making it difficult to bring legal actions against the people who swindled you. If you discover the situation early enough, you may be able to get legal help to extricate yourself from the situation. Another way to protect yourself is to keep copies of every document you see to protect yourself. Also, if you have written any checks, put a stop on them immediately, and keep a close eye on your bank account as well.

Another type of classic scam is the medical scams that go on. Someone who is very ill may decide to look to alternative healers to cure them. Some of these healers are no better than conmen in disguise, trying to make it look like they are helping while doing nothing more than taking your money. The most well-known of these is the psychic surgery, where the con artist uses sleight of hand in order to make it look like they took something “toxic” out of your body when they did not. In order to avoid these types of cons, make sure that you take someone who is skeptical along with you. If you find later that you have been swindled, you should seek legal advice immediately to see what options you have available to you.

Being taken by conmen can be a devastating feeling. It can leave you feeling hurt and angry along with feeling broke. The best thing to do when you have been swindled is to seek legal counsel as soon as you can. The faster you do, the greater chance you will have in getting some of your money back.

Finding a Thief in your Midst

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

You open up a business and hire people to help you. You do background checks and believe that you are hiring people who genuinely care as much about your company as you do. Unfortunately occasionally the worst happens and you discover that you have an imposter in your company. It may be a person who has suddenly started to steal from your company, or it may be someone who has been lying from the start about who they are and what they are capable of doing. You then face a quandary: what do you do with an imposter in your company?

Discovering the Truth
The first thing you need to do is to figure out what the truth is. You may believe one thing, your employees may believe another, and the truth may be somewhere in the middle. If you have any hope of getting the imposter out of your organization with the least amount of damage you need to find out what the truth is. In order to do this, you may want to start at the bottom.

Some people would immediately try to speak with the person that the suspicious person is closest to. Instead, try speaking first with people who are further down the food chain but who are still acquainted with the person and the situation. These are often the ones who will notice the most and who can help you to gain understanding about the whole picture. Once you have spoken with those furthest away from the situation, start moving your way closer to those who are close to the suspicious person. It should be done very casually, however, or you risk spooking the suspect.

Gathering Evidence
Before you speak with the person you are concerned with, you should gather as much evidence as possible. If, for instance, the interviews have gotten you any information, keep it in a file. You may want to hire a private investigator for this. Private investigators can run you a hefty fee, but if your company is being taken for hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, it may be a worthwhile sacrifice. A qualified investigator can often get information that you may not be able to get simply because they are an unknown person. Some ask to be “hired” in order to be able to get close to the suspects so that they can learn the truth for themselves.

Once you have discovered that your employee is an imposter, you need to speak with authorities. If you choose to confront the person yourself, chances are high that they will not be brought to justice. Bring all of the information you have to the police and to your lawyer so that you can learn what options you have available to you. Fraud is a crime punishable by sharp fees and court time and is not fair for anyone, so if you suspect that someone in your company is responsible for fraud, it is important that you contact the authorities.

DNA evidence and how it affects a case

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is defined as the fundamental “road map” of an individual’s entire genetic makeup. It is essentially a roadmap of every cell in the human body. DNA can be found in sweat, bone, the root and shaft of a hair follicle, skin tissue, earwax, spit, urine, semen and blood. Any DNA that is collected from the crime scene is used for evidence about who committed the crime, not to determine physical characteristics.

In a criminal hearing, DNA is a useful tool because it can both exonerate and implicate a suspect. No two people have the same DNA, except in the case of identical twins. That is why DNA evidence collected at the crime scene can link a suspect directly to a crime or eliminate a suspect altogether. DNA can also be used to identify victims of homicide.

The most common DNA evidence found at crime scenes is from saliva, blood, hair, skin tissue or seamen, and is essential to the investigation of sexual assaults and other violent crimes. DNA that is properly collected from the victim, crime scene or suspect is then compared with other samples in order to connect the suspect to the crime scene.

It is virtually impossible to deny DNA evidence in court unless it is assumed that it has been planted. Because DNA profiling is widely believed to be almost infallible, cases are often brought with little corroborating evidence. But, unless other evidence points to the defendant, the DNA profile still leaves a one third chance that a suspect is innocent despite the exactness of the match.

DNA evidence was first allowed back in 1990. It has virtually changed the face of the criminal justice system. Relying on DNA evidence and focusing on just the physical evidence can downplay even the basic elements of a trial such as the motive, the police investigation, presumption of innocence, and implications of reasonable doubt. DNA evidence in murder or rape cases often influences the jury and has an effect on verdicts. They are the kinds of cases that are reported on most and often highlighted in the national media.

Important aspects concerning a case, such as motive, should not take a back seat to physical evidence. For example, what if a man finds out his wife is involved with a neighbor and he becomes so enraged that he kills her. Then he plants DNA of the neighbor at the scene. The police find it and now the neighbor is under suspicion. The question that needs to be raised is: how did the DNA get there? Is there room for doubt? Just because physical evidence is found doesn’t mean that the suspect is automatically guilty. DNA evidence can be improperly handled or even planted. That is why it’s extremely important to gather all of the information regarding a criminal case and not just rely on DNA evidence. Though it is vital to criminal cases, DNA should always be weighed against the other evidence in the case.

If you are filing an insurance claim, make sure it’s for real

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

These days, it seems that any accident warrants a lawsuit. But, because many of us our taught to sue rather than take responsibility for our own actions, fraudulent claims are at an all time high. Insurance fraud happens all the time and it happens in every state. That means that individuals of all races, incomes and age brackets are being taken advantage of because insurance fraud costs everyone close to $80 billion a year.

Insurance fraud has existed ever since the insurance industry was established. Types of insurance fraud are diver and ranges from severe to slight exaggeration to calculatingly staging accidents or damage. Insurance premiums are higher as a direct result of these types of crimes and continue to skyrocket.

According to Alfred Manes, a former Professor of Insurance and Economic Research at Indiana University, the single motive in insurance fraud is financial gain. Insurance companies are predisposed to fraud because of the propensity to sue and because false insurance claims can easily be made to look like ordinary claims.

There are two classifications of insurance fraud. These are hard fraud and soft fraud. Hard fraud generally occurs when someone deliberately plans or invents a loss of some kind, such as a collision, auto theft, fire or personal injury. Soft fraud, which is much more common, is considered to be an opportunistic fraud. This type of fraud means that certain policyholders will exaggerate legitimate claims. For example, if someone is involved in a collision he or she might claim more damage than was really done to his or her car if insured.

Healthcare insurance, auto insurance and property insurance are the most taken advantage of. National and local governments, especially in the last half of the 20th century, have recognized insurance fraud as a serious crime. Law enforcement officials have made significant efforts to punish and prevent this type of practice. Insurance Fraud is specifically classified as a crime in 48 out of 50 states. There are 19 states that require mandatory insurer fraud plans and 41 states have fraud bureaus. Section 1347 of Title 18 of the United States Code states that anyone attempting to or carries out a fraudulent claim in an attempt to take advantage of a healthcare benefit program will be fined under or imprisoned for 10 years. In some cases, both may occur. If the fraudulent claim results in bodily injury, the individual may be imprisoned for up to 20 years. If the fraudulent claim results in death, the individual may be imprisoned for life.

For example, when Timothy Nicholls set his Colorado Springs home on fire to steal insurance money so he could escape a mounting debt, three children were perished. He owned a motorcycle gang some money and his business was struggling.. He is now serving life in prison.

Insurance Fraud is a serious criminal offense and should not be taken lightly. As with any other crime, you will be prosecuted and held responsible for your actions in a court of law.

Do I really need to hire a lawyer if I am innocent?

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

If you are under investigation or arrested for a particular crime, you may be wondering whether or not you need a lawyer. If you are even considering the thought, then you need to at least speak with an attorney. One of the main reasons people consult with attorneys is to find out whether they even need to hire one in the first place.

Even if you are innocent of criminal charges, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be found innocent. Unfortunately, many individuals are sentenced to years in prison for crimes that they didn’t commit because the police, prosecutors and jurors are either too quick to convict or too eager to get the case through the system in a timely manner. There is only one way to ensure that your rights under the law are fully protected and that is to hire an experienced lawyer. He or she will make sure that evidence in your favor is fully and fairly presented in court, and advise you on the proper protocol.

Police and prosecutors don’t necessarily give people the benefit of the doubt before filing charges. Don’t assume that you will be judged fairly or that the police will investigate all of the facts of their own accord. Any evidence proving your innocence in the case at hand should be investigated thoroughly and substantiated by your lawyer as soon as possible. He or she can then bring the evidence to the attention of the police and prosecution, and possibly convince them not to file the charges or drop the charges if they have already filed them.

Investigators of a crime don’t always come and speak to you first before filing charges. If they think that you will talk with them openly or that your statement will help solve their case, they might try to question you. But you should only speak to them after you have consulted with a lawyer.

As soon as criminal charges are filed against you, meet with legal counsel. Your lawyer will evaluate all of the evidence to determine whether or not the prosecution will be able to prove its case against you in court. Prosecutors can sometimes be mistaken about the strength of their evidence until they speak to the defense attorney. Once they know both sides of the story, they may lessen the charges against you or even drop the case altogether.

If the evidence against you is strong, a dismissal of charges in highly unlikely. Your lawyer can then best assess whether or not to take the case to trial or bargain a plea deal with the prosecution. This is where an experienced lawyer comes in handy. He or she can tell you whether or not you should go to trial. They can evaluate your chances of success and guide you through the legal process.

Don’t assume that you are innocent until proven guilty because, in some cases, you are often guilty until proven innocent. And only a lawyer can help persuade a jury otherwise.

Staying calm on your court date – it is possible!

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

If you have a court date for any reason, whether summoned, if you are pressing charges or even facing a divorce hearing, the tension can be overwhelming.  In many ways it’s like driving past a police car on the highway – whether you are speeding or not, you can break out in a sweat and overcompensate for an indiscretion you only imagine they see.  To keep your cool in court, there are a few extra things you can do to prepare and overcome the natural anxieties that come of this kind of ordeal.

The first thing you must keep in mind is to be as informed on your subject as you possibly can be.  Think about it – the times when you are most nervous about anything is when you feel out of control in the circumstances, right?  To feel in control of the court session, therefore, (at least as much as you possibly can) you need to know exactly what will happen, what is expected of you and even the most likely outcome.  Without proper preparation, you will be left misunderstanding the court proceedings and even your role within them, so if you do some quick research into the process and your rights as they pertain to your situation, you should be more equipped to handle the court date and less nervous about the whole thing.

Knowing how to conduct yourself in court will also help you keep your composure as well as reflecting well on you in the eyes of the judge.  It is best that you don’t try to act like a legal professional while in court, or act uncouth and disrespectful in any way.  If you come off fake or rude, your respect for the entire proceedings will be called into question and your testimony may be subject to more scrutiny than it might otherwise have been.  Just remember the relevant information, answer questions clearly and under no circumstances interrupt anyone else who is speaking. 

Sometimes, although any other parties involved in the legal proceedings may not be friendly towards you in the slightest, it may help your confidence level to at least explore the possibility of settling out of court.  If you can’t speak directly to another person or representative, explain your feelings to your lawyer and he or she will be able to present the situation clearly to the others so that if a deal can be made, it will be done before the two of you have to be seen in a courtroom.  Even if you fail to make a deal, you can rest easy that you have made the utmost effort to settle the situation down and this will reflect well on you in court.  Judges will be impressed that you made the effort to forget your differences outside of the courtroom.

Basically, you need to be informed and clear of conscience to rest easy and come off calm in court – do your best to achieve this and you will be fine! 

Do I have to tell the police absolutely everything they want to know?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

If an officer stops you out of the blue and wants to ask you questions, you are not legally obligated to tell them anything.  This is true whether you are or are not actually under arrest; if you have simply been stopped on the street or even at your home by a police officer then you can answer whatever questions you like and skip any you feel like skipping.  You are not under arrest and as such you can walk away at any time.  If the officer feels that speaking with you is of particular importance or that you are acting guilty of something, they may stop you again right away but the same rules apply: unless you are being arrested there is no obligation on your part to answer any question at all.

If you are under arrest, however, there are really no differences except that if you do choose to answer questions the answers will be noted for future reference and perhaps use in court.  When you are arrested, you will be told exactly what your rights are in terms of answering questions so that no confusion occurs.  Basically, you do not have to speak to police (as with a non-arrest situation) and if you choose to have a lawyer present when dealing with questions you are fully entitled to do so.  If you do not have a lawyer or can’t afford one, the State will provide one for you.

A lawyer may not seem a necessary provision when speaking to the police, but the face is they will know what questions might cause you to incriminate either yourself or a friend so if you talk to them beforehand and have them present during the discussion you can avoid letting something slip that might hurt your case.  This is only in extreme cases, however, since for the most part a police officer will only want to speak with you briefly about something that you may have a slight knowledge of, say a work colleague’s whereabouts on a certain night or something of that nature.  Again, giving out information like this can seem like the wrong thing to do, especially if it concerns someone else who is unaware of the current questioning, so if you do not want to answer such questions you are within your rights always to refuse to do so.

The key thing to remember if you don’t want to answer police questions but you also don’t want to end up in unnecessary trouble, is that if you seem evasive they probably will come back to try to talk to you again.  Don’t run away, don’t be very rude and hopefully your slight uncooperativeness will just seem like a way to keep your privacy and maintain the trust of others above the strangers that are the police.  Whatever information you wish to divulge is up to you – there are no questions you must answer and if you want to answer none that is completely your call.

How do search warrants work?

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

In the U.S., police officers are allowed limited searches of vehicles and clothing so long as they have cause to believe that the search will reveal drugs or weapons.  Also, if they are pursuing a suspect who flees the scene of a crime and takes shelter in a house or other building, they are allowed to enter the building and perform a search of its contents.  A search warrant is therefore necessary to perform a search of a person’s home or other personal dwelling or workplace.  The warrant can only be obtained if the officer investigating a case has probably cause to believe that such a search will uncover enough evidence to convince a judge or jury that conviction is necessary for a suspect. 

Search warrants are given out on the premise that the evidence already collected by officers and investigators is not enough for a conviction but that it belies such evidence elsewhere.  Warrants such as these are specific; they must state clearly what is being searched for and where it is being looked for.  To search another room, a vehicle or a garage will require another permit and so the investigators must be very certain about what they are looking for and where it might be. 

The exceptions to the search warrant rule, aside from those stated above, are when an emergency situation has arisen and it is believed that the public is in danger.  If a suspect has agreed to let the police come in and perform a search then a warrant is not necessary; also if a police officer is in plain view of weapons or contraband while being in a normal position (at the door) they are required to confiscate it.  When an officer makes an arrest for any reason, it is protocol to search the rooms in which the suspect would have had access and also any vehicles in which he or she has been in recently.  This is to ensure that no evidence has been missed and also to rid the area of any other suspects that may be hiding until the police leave. 

Essentially, police are not allowed to search your home unless they have a warrant, and they cannot obtain a warrant unless they have real reason to think that you are hiding something illegal or pertaining directly to a criminal charge.  If they come to your door without a warrant, you are entitled to turn them away; this does not guarantee that they will not return with the proper documentation, but this is your right nevertheless.  When it comes to your possessions, you are entitled to keep your privacy until the authorities come up with a solid reason to enter your home and find what they are looking for. 

Knowing where your rights stand on searches may not win you any friends on the police force, but when you don’t feel like opening up your own space to scrutiny by strangers who think you are in the wrong, it can’t hurt!

Keep lawyers’ fees down by spending less time in the law office

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Something that scares a lot of us out of taking up legal battles when we really ought to are the costs involved.  We all hear the horror stories of a friend of a friend, forced to empty their life savings because of necessary legal fees.  It is a frightening thought, and if you are considering hiring a lawyer for any reason you will want to know the best ways to cut costs and still obtain the results you need or want.  There are a few things you can do to cut costs and to make sure you are getting a good deal for your money.

Firstly, you should look carefully for a lawyer before deciding who to hire on.  Fees can differ greatly based on the lawyer, the firm and the legality involved and so it is best that you check out several options before agreeing to sign anyone on to your case.  Be sure that you trust your lawyer, but hopefully you will be able to find someone trustworthy who is actually affordable in the first place.

Another way to cut the costs of legal fees is to do some of the groundwork yourself.  There will always be forms to be filled out and a mountain of paperwork to wade through, and if you can see your own way through it you will be able to save yourself a great deal of money.  Of course for most of the necessary forms you will rely on your lawyer to locate and explain them, however there may be some you can obtain directly through the town office or related governmental offices.  Along with such preparations, you should gather all of your own relevant documentation before seeing the lawyer and having your initial discussions.

The reason you need to put your forms and documents in order before seeing your lawyer is simply due to the fact that you are paying for their time, and as such you will spend less of their time (and your money) by being fully prepared.  To cut down conversation time even further, spend some of your own time at home before your meeting going through all the points you want to make and ensuring that you understand exactly what you want achieved.  When you are clear and focused on a goal, it is easier for your lawyer to be quick in making it happen.

It is quite important that if you want to cut lawyer fees down, you must not make unnecessary phone calls to him or her.  These will be charged to your account and therefore if you are simply anxious about a matter you are due to hear about in a day or two, don’t pick up the phone!  If you really want to, you can put your query or information in a letter and send it off without incurring costs. 

If you want to be frugal with lawyer fees, be frugal with their time!

Racism and American Criminal Law

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

America is a nation that has been struggling to overcome its racially discriminatory foundations since the Civil War, and while Americans have made huge steps in the right direction there are still many ways in which racism persists within the society.  This is a fact that has direct repercussions within the American criminal law system, and while there may be many explanations for the apparent racism of the system it does exist nonetheless.

There are 70% of those imprisoned in the United States today that are non-whites, and this is an astounding number.  There are two general belief systems to explain this high percentage, and both have widespread support both in America and throughout the world.  First, it is thought that given the poor conditions that many non-white people grow up in, they are more apt to turn to a life of crime to offset their poverty and low education.  In this sense, poverty and crime breeds more of the same, and until a way is found to break the cycle it may well be expected that the higher crime rate will be found amongst people of color instead of whites who have more often been born into a higher rung of society. 

The other major theory concerning the high proportion of colored people in prison is that although whites and non-whites tend to commit crimes to the same degree, racial prejudice finds the latter more often pursued and imprisoned.  This theory holds that it is those people within law enforcement that expect the higher percentage of crime to come from non-white people and therefore their arrests are made accordingly.  Whether this, the former theory or some other reasoning is true, the fact is that the American criminal law system does appear to be somewhat racist. 

In truth, American law has been in constant flux since the Civil War in trying to deal with new issues surrounding racism because of the new ideal of equality between the races.  Since that initial period of freedom and the following freedom and equality established for people of races other than Caucasian or African-american, law and criminal law has been changing to incorporate new information and to dispel any incorrect notions concerning any race.  Fragments of an original racism throughout America still show through and it is these that must be focused on and changed. 

Perhaps criminal law itself is not to blame so much as a poorly constructed infrastructure that allows for minority groups to reside in poorer areas without generally access to the same public services as better off citizens, who are usually white.  A fairer public service platform might be the first thing that sets true equality in motion and changes the perspective that non-whites are more likely criminal in intent, or that they are in fact inferior at all.  Although on the surface criminal law in America is racist (and this can really not be disputed) we need to look at the reasons underneath such a status before placing blame.