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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Cyber Crime Update – Violating Website Terms of Usage May Land Violators in Federal Court

Monday, July 12th, 2010

We’ve all gotten used to typing out the funky words that appear in funky script (e.g., THARN NASES, or some-such nonsense).  It’s designed to keep people from using computer programs to execute mass actions, like ticket purchases or posts to blogs.  Some ticketing agents in New Jersey are being prosecuted for having a computer program do that very thing.  That’s right: PROSECUTED.  Not, sued. PROSECUTED.  On behalf of all of us, the citizens of the Republic.

Threat Level, an on-line section of Wired Magazine that tackles tech and security issues leads its post this way:

“Prosecutors in a New Jersey ticket scalping case are pushing the envelope on the federal computer hacking law, setting a precedent that could make it a felony to violate a website’s terms of service and fool a CAPTCHA, according to electronic civil rights groups intervening in the case.”

Read More http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/07/ticketmaster/#ixzz0tTRYwCuT
As with many white collar prosecutions, the line between criminal and civil misconduct become blurred.  In this case, critics fear that a website proprietor could define criminal conduct merely by defining terms in its terms of service.

Texas DWI Laws to be Re-examined by Legislature

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

As I’ve written about on this blog and elsewhere for years, our enforcement of DWI laws in Texas is broken.  State lawmakers are now reconsidering many aspects of our Driver Responsibility Program and its implications for Texas Citizens, reports the San Antonio Express-News .  The Austin American-Statesman has published an editorial calling for a treatment based approach.

The county courts are bursting at the seams; the prosecutors face tough choices on the allocation of resources; MADD doesn’t like protections afforded by the Constitution and the legislature is going to consider cutting a revenue stream.  Some people are going to be mighty uncomfortable on this one.

Federal Court: Russian Spies Plead guilty Very, Very Quickly

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Boy, that was fast.  The ten people accused of being Russian spies have plead guilty in Federal Court in New York City, reports the BBC.  A spy-swap seems eminent; I don’t expect that the District Judge will order a Pre-Sentence Investigation.  The eleventh alleged spy made his getaway after being arrested in Cyprus.

DNA Testing at Austin Crime Lab Under Scrutiny

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

As many as 2,000 cases are under review for irregularities after allegations surface regarding the Austin PD’s crime lab and DNA testing protocol.

Texas’ “State Jail” System to be Revisited by Legislators

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the legislature may revisit the usefulness of the State Jail system that houses some of the state’s non-violent, felony offenders.  Recidivism concerns for these individuals are feuling the concerns.

Social Networking Cites and Child Pornography

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

ABC News reports that social networking cites are being targeted with child pornography.  The upshot, don’t forward the link, you could be committing a federal crime that carries a minimum of ten years in the federal pen.  Report the offensive and illegal materials to the local F.B.I.

Federal Power to Control Travel of Citizens Challenged

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s ability to keep people from flying into and out of the country, and seeks to test the limits of this federal power.  Threat Level, a feed from WIRED magazine’s website details the story here.  Ten U.S. Citizens or residents are in a legal  no-man’s land that the fly list (which may or may not exist.

The ACLU’s thoughts on the subject can be found here.

Death Row Appeal Regarding Freedom of Religion

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

It’s always interesting when two or more legal theories crash into each other in our courtrooms. A death row inmate claims that the State improperly used evidence of his devil worship as punishment evidence.

The Austin American-Statesman reports.

Fines, Forfeitures, and Surcharges; Revenue Generation in a Tax Cut Era

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

It has been argued before that as our governments (federal, state, and local) decrease our taxes, the governments look to other sources of revenue to keep afloat.  You hear many stories about how fines, now a mainstay in the criminal defense world, were a rarity twenty to thirty years back.  These governments have to get revenue from somewhere, and many times it is through the criminal collections process, civil forfeiture or fines disguised as surcharges, such as DPS’ Driver Responsibility Program.

The perverse structure of Texas forfeiture laws has been documented in this blog (here and here) and elsewhere.  Now, a lawsuit has been filed by the Institue for Justice challenging the system.  We will see how it plays out.

Another example of the revenue generating notions of our legislature at work is chronicled at Grits for Breakfast taking on the DPS Surcharge system.  Those doubting that the surcharge system is both broken and out of control should view this video.

And, finally, we have this story from the Austin American-Statesman about the tiny Texas town of Martindale who was operating outside of the law with regard to traffic tickets and revenues.  Under a 1975 law, a town of less than 5,000 people cannot gain more than thirty percent of its revenue from traffic fines, an anti-speed trap law, if you will.  Martindale was outside the law by a wide margin, and had no idea about the law.  The story is an interesting treatment of the needs of the city for revenue vs. the law in place.  No real mention of how the citizen gets caught in the crunch between the two.

Scent Lineups and The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals: “Son, You smell guilty.”

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will address whether or not scent lineups are reliable evidence and admissible at trial.

The Austin American-Statesman notes in a story that “scent lineups” are investigative lineups where “dogs sniff crime scene evidence and try to match it to smells obtained from suspects or from items they have touched.”

The story goes on to note, that “[f]rom 1993 to 2009, Pikett and his dogs conducted hundreds of scent lineups for about 20 Texas counties, the Texas Rangers, the state attorney general’s office and federal agencies, including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, court documents show.”