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Category: Criminal Law

In Child Abuse Case, Supreme Court Narrows Right to Confront Witnesses

In Child Abuse Case, Supreme Court Narrows Right to Confront Witnesses

In the preschool lunchroom, a teacher notices that a three-year-old pupil has an eye that looks bloodshot. She asks him what happened; he says nothing, then claims that he fell. Shortly after, in a better-lit classroom, the teacher notices a series of marks on the boy. She gets other teachers involved, and they discover even more injuries. They ask the boy who hurt him. He mentions his mother’s boyfriend. The teachers, legally obligated to report suspected abuse, notify the authorities….

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Is a “Negligent” Threat Really a Threat?

Is a “Negligent” Threat Really a Threat?

Federal law makes it a felony to transmit in interstate commerce “any communication containing any threat  . . . to injure” someone. Anyone who sends a message intending to make a threat, or knowing that the communication will come across as a threat, has the state of mind required for a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 875(c). But what about someone who sends a message and doesn’t—but should—know that the recipient will view it as a threat? Has the sender violated…

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SCOTUS Decides What Felons Can Do With Their Surrendered Guns

SCOTUS Decides What Felons Can Do With Their Surrendered Guns

Federal prosecutors charged Tony Henderson with distributing marijuana, a felony. A condition of Henderson’s bail was that he surrender his firearms; the guns went to the FBI. Henderson ended up pleading guilty to the distribution charge. A federal law that prohibits anyone convicted of a felony from possessing a gun—18 U.S.C. § 922(g)—meant that Henderson couldn’t get his weapons back. (States have their own laws on gun possession.) The question was what should happen to the guns. In this kind…

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Laptop Searches at Airports: Another Court Weighs In

Laptop Searches at Airports: Another Court Weighs In

Korean businessman Jae Shik Kim was ready to board a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to South Korea. But a special agent of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) searched the luggage Kim had checked. (The agent didn’t find anything of particular note.) Then, on the jetway between the gate and the airplane, the agent stopped Kim, who was boarding. The agent seized Kim’s laptop “pursuant to a border search,” then left the traveler to depart for his destination….

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Supreme Court Puts Limits on (Dog) Sniffing Around

Supreme Court Puts Limits on (Dog) Sniffing Around

In 2012 a Nebraska police officer pulled over a motorist for driving on the shoulder of a highway. The officer had his trained K-9 in tow. In the course of the stop, the officer spoke with both the driver and the passenger, took information from them, and ran warrant checks. The officer was suspicious, but didn’t seem to have any objective indication that anything other than a traffic violation was in the air. He called for a second officer, then…

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