Policing for Profit Nets Thousands from Innocent Citizens

True or false: carrying a large amount of cash is a crime.  If you answered “false,” you’d be correct. Since the act of keeping paper money in your car or on your person is not inherently criminal, you would rightfully expect that the money in question could not be legally seized by law enforcement. After all, it isn’t a pile of narcotics, or child pornography, or illegal weapons; it’s just money. Nonetheless, the reality of the matter is that any citizen carrying $10,000 or more will be suspected of drug trafficking, and the money in question can be legally seized — and kept — by the authorities. This sort of occurrence is not a hypothetical extreme: it happens right here in Utah on a fairly regular basis.

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Utah’s Meth Labs Are Disappearing, But Meth Abuse Isn’t

Meth and meth charges do not discriminate.  Meth affects users from all age groups, races, economic backgrounds, and lifestyles.  Nonetheless, just as crack was associated with the urban poor of the inner cities during the 1980s and 1990s, today meth has become inextricably linked to the rural poor of America’s farmlands.  In particular, Utah.  Yet a strange trend has been developing over the past 10 years: Utah’s meth labs are disappearing, but meth abuse isn’t.  So what’s driving so much meth abuse in Utah?  Why hasn’t the drug vanished with the closures of the clandestine labs that produce it?

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Rampant Abuse Plagues America’s Prison System

For a decade, Abu Ghraib has been the American buzzword for prisoner abuse and the systematic torture of inmates.  Not many people know the name Ali Qaissi, but everyone knows the infamous image of the cruciform “hooded man,” which has become an iconic and indelible representation of prison torture since its initial publication by the New York Times in 2006. When we are confronted with these dismal realities, it is tempting to think of prison torture as a consequence of war, a crime committed by a tiny handful of sadistic individuals. But the grim truth is that the mistreatment of prisoners isn’t confined to war-torn backdrops — it happens right here in the United States, including Utah, on a daily basis.  In this blog post, our Utah criminal defense lawyers probe into a disturbing system where rampant abuse and neglect is more commonplace than most realize.

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New and Proposed Changes to Utah Gun Laws in 2014

Throughout the United States, guns are the source of a seemingly endless debate.  Some say that access to guns for law-abiding citizens is a fundamental American right, while others argue that guns are a dangerous and unnecessary extravagance in dire need of tighter controls.  Gun proponents argue that firearms help lawful Americans protect themselves against criminals, while opponents counter that guns are the seed of violence and weapons crimes that would have otherwise never have the opportunity to occur.

America is known for nothing if not its diversity, and as with other political, legal, and cultural issues, the states and their residents represent a broad spectrum of opinions.  What may be beloved in one jurisdiction is staunchly opposed just a few hundred miles away, and gun control is no exception.  While no two Utahans are exactly alike, the Beehive State is still famous for its leniency when it comes to gun ownership.  So in the eternal debate over gun control legislature, where does Utah weigh in?  What are the new and proposed changes to Utah gun laws in 2014?

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Should You Choose a Public Defender?

Anyone who’s ever seen a movie or a cheesy detective show — or anyone who’s ever been arrested — is familiar with the following phrase:  ”If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you before any questioning, if you wish.”  When that happens, the randomly-appointed attorney is referred to as a “public defender.”  So besides the procedure for retaining one, what’s the difference between a public defender and a private attorney?  And is one better than the other?

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Potato Named as Culprit in Prison Botulism Outbreak

Prison food isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind in a word association game with “fine cuisine.”  In fact, it’s about as close to the bottom of the barrel as you can get, clocking in somewhere between “school cafeteria food” and “that stuff that accumulates on the deep fryer in fast food restaurants.”  Since prison food doesn’t quite make it into Zagat, you might not expect inmates to do much in the way of culinary experimentation.  But the walls of a jail cell open up more than enough idle hours, and one inmate decided to occupy some time by trying his hand at a batch of homemade prison wine, otherwise known as “pruno.”  And thanks to one small mistake, this particular batch led not to a prison break, but a prison outbreak… of botulism.

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Did Lisa Steed Arrest Innocent Drivers?

From 2009 to 2010, Utah trooper Lisa Steed made a jaw-dropping 750 DUI arrests. That’s nearly two arrests for every single day of the year (which becomes all the more staggering when you stop to consider that Steed, of course, had vacations and days off). Impressing her superiors with an apparently unmatched dedication to justice, Steed was celebrated by the department and named Utah Highway Patrol Trooper of the Year. But, after a brief period in the sun, Steed fell from grace when local media outlets decided to do some digging into her suspiciously prolific arrest record. What they found ultimately cost Steed her job — and now, a year later, prosecutors are seeking a whopping $30 million in damages.

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Wrongful Deaths in County Jails to Challenge Federal Law

While no one thinks of jail as a particularly enjoyable place, no one expects a short stay to result in death. However, that is precisely what happened in the recent cases of Michael Saffioti and Bradley Munroe — both of which are beginning to attract national controversy. Following a missed court date for a marijuana misdemeanor charge, Saffioti turned himself in to local authorities — and died in his jail cell. Bradley Munroe killed himself in a jail cell after signs of a need for medication and close monitoring went ignored. Now, Saffioti’s family is filing a lawsuit for $10 million, and Munroe’s family is taking their case before the United States Supreme Court. The legal community — and the rest of the nation — is watching both cases unfold.

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Stop-and-Frisk Battle in New York City Intensifies After Scheindlin’s Removal

When Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program was unconstitutional in August, for many New Yorkers, it seemed like a victory. But after just a few short months of courtroom scuffling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has taken the dramatic steps of not only staying Scheindlin’s decision, but removing the judge from the case altogether. And now, with a new mayor replacing Bloomberg — Scheindlin’s most vocal detractor — the future of stop-and-frisk in New York City is less certain than ever.

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How a Criminal Conviction or Prison Sentence Damages Your Credit Rating

Being incarcerated in the United States prison system is a worst-case scenario for millions accused of crimes across the country, including Utah. The ramifications of a lengthy sentence aren’t just emotional and physical — they are financial implications to consider as well. Damage done to earning power for inmates who serve their time can make it impossible to recover fully and reintegrate into the community. Our defense attorneys open a small window into the challenges these men and women face. Continue reading