Archive for the 'Criminal Law' CategoryPage 9 of 72

“Go Topless Day” Advocate Fights Indecent Exposure Fine

Over the past decade, a woman’s right to breastfeed in public has gained significant traction. In fact, the right to breastfeed during work is an often overlooked portion of Obamacare. The success of the breastfeeding movement has birthed another movement: women’s right to be topless in public.

goLast August, Sonoko Tagami took part in the annual “Go Topless Day” protest in Chicago. The protest is organized by GoTopless, a non-profit that “advocates for the right of women to appear bare-chested in public.” To comply with city indecent exposure ordinances, Tagami had painted over her breasts with opaque body paint. Tagami had participated in the GoTopless protests since 2010, but 2014 was the first time a police officer had ticketed her for violating the indecent exposure law. The officer also seized GoTopless flyers Tagami passed to onlookers.

The city judge upheld the $150 fine. Tagami now appeals to challenge the city ordinances as a violation of free speech and equal protection. On January 22, 2015, the city filed a motion to dismiss he federal lawsuit.

Baring Breasts Should Not Be Unrestricted

Most cities in the United States restrict exposure of female breasts but allow men to walk around exposed above the waist. Cities justify this one-way restriction by claiming that female breasts are sexual while male breasts are not.

Tagami and GoTopless would point out that sexualization of women’s breasts is likely a result of nurture, not nature. Female breasts are sexualized because of culture. Many African and European countries allow women to walk about in public with their chests fully exposed and no eyebrows are raised. On the other end of the spectrum, many Muslim communities restrict the exposure of women’s faces on the theory that the mere sight of a woman is sexual for men. Sex is cultural. Breasts are primarily for breastfeeding infants. If breasts create lust, it’s because we as a society make it so.

However, just because breasts are sexualized rather than sexual doesn’t mean our laws are wrong. Tagami and GoTopless believe that cultural sexualization of breasts means that we should allow women to go topless. That doesn’t change the fact that, in the United States, breasts are sexual symbols. Our laws restrict exposure of other sexual symbols, including vaginas and penises. Although breasts also have nonsexual functions, so do actual sexual parts. Vaginas are used to give birth and penises are how urine leaves a male body. Sexual anatomy might have nonsexual functions, but that doesn’t exclude them from indecent exposure laws.

GoTopless and Free Speech

I believe most indecent exposure statutes are constitutional as written, but Tagami should not be fined in this case. Illinois law allows women to breastfeed in public and women are only prohibited from exposing their breasts in public if their intent is to arouse or satisfy sexual desire. If there’s anything wrong with Chicago’s indecent exposure laws, it’s that it doesn’t focus on the reason the breasts are open for public view.

It’s pretty clear that Tagami was exposing her breasts as a political statement. She was part of a larger protest and organization advocating a change in culture. This protest takes place on a specific day and has occurred annually. Tagami had flyers on her person so that she could explain to onlookers what she was doing. Tagami and GoTopless believe that if they can change the culture of breasts that lawmakers might also change the laws. Painting her breasts demonstrates her commitment to non-violent protests.

I don’t know if Tagami and GoTopless will succeed in changing cultural sentiments, but they have a right to try without government interference.

Why the Controlled Substances Act Should Be Repealed

Courts have rarely questioned the validity of the Controlled Substances Act‘s classification system, even though the CSA has been law since 1970. Astoundingly, almost all judicial inquiry into the CSA classification system has been confined to footnotes. Judge Mueller herself relied on a Supreme Court footnote in justifying her desire to hear evidence on whether marijuana has any medical value. The branch of government charged with interpreting the law has neglected to interpret whether the CSA scheduling system makes any logical sense.

marijuanaA cursory glance at the drugs classified indicates that the CSA is deeply flawed. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse, no medical value, and lacks safe use even under medical supervision.

Today, the claim that marijuana lacks any medical value or safe use borders on lunacy. As defense attorneys argued, federal prosecutors must essentially “convince the court that the earth is flat when the rest of society appropriately has concluded that the earth is round.” 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and every year that list of states grows. Doctors have testified that marijuana can be used to treat certain illnesses and many patients have come forward to testify that marijuana has helped them when no other treatments could.

Marijuana is just the tip of the iceberg. Peyote is also classified as Schedule I, but Congress granted the Native American Church an exemption if they used Peyote for religious purposes. If Peyote has a high potential for abuse, it shouldn’t be possible for an entire religion to use Peyote without widespread addiction. And yet, the few members of the church who were adversely affected by peyote were able to walk away without any further health problems.

Cocaine is popularly considered more dangerous than marijuana, but cocaine is classified as Schedule II. According to the CSA, Schedule II substances have accepted medical use. It is absolutely silly that the federal government believes cocaine has medical value while marijuana does not. Medical marijuana is recognized in twenty-three states while medical cocaine cannot be legalized in even a single state.

Wait, it gets better. During Judge Mueller’s hearing, prosecutors presented President Bush’s drug czar, Dr. Bertha Madras, as their sole witness. Madras claimed there was “no such thing as medical marijuana” because “it contains significant amounts of toxic chemicals.” One of those toxic chemicals is THC, the chemical compound responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. THC is the chemical that police look for when they drug test people suspected of using marijuana.

Curiously, the CSA classifies THC as Schedule III. According to the CSA, Schedule III drugs have less potential for abuse than Schedule I or Schedule II drugs. THC was classified lower than marijuana because Congress gave one research company its blessings to produce “marijuana pills” out of THC. However, the only way to get THC is to extract it from marijuana plants. It is mind-bending that a Schedule III substance has less potential for abuse when it is the main hallucinatory in a Schedule I drug.

I suspect that federal drug agencies realize that the CSA schedule system is completely irrational. Courts have rarely questioned the CSA classifications and what little probing exists is in footnotes. However, those rare footnotes are very disturbing. A footnote in one case concluded that the CSA classification system “cannot logically be read as cumulative in all situations.” Another footnote contains statements from a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) expert who testified that “marijuana could be rescheduled to Schedule II without a currently accepted medical use.”These footnotes, together with the fact that THC is a Schedule III drug, indicate that the DEA knows that marijuana could safely be removed from the Schedule I list.

The war on drugs is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. Thousands of Americans are denied medication and millions of Americans are incarcerated because of that hoax. It must end.

California Judge to Decide Whether Marijuana Should Still Be a Schedule I Drug

2015 could be the beginning of the end for the war on marijuana. Last year, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller agreed to hear five days of evidence and testimony about whether marijuana has any medical value. Judge Mueller will then rule whether marijuana should continue to be a Schedule I drug.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller

The case seemed ordinary on its face. In 2011, the California Highway Patrol arrested 15 suspects and uncovered a marijuana farm with more than 500 marijuana plants in a national park. The men faced 10-15 years in prison each. Defense attorneys argued that cultivation of marijuana should not warrant punishment because marijuana itself should not be classified as a drug with no medical value.

For those unfamiliar with federal drug laws, illegal drugs are regulated by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA classifies drugs into five different groups known as schedules. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance. In the eyes of the federal government, Schedule I drugs: have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use, and lack accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Under the CSA, it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, purchase, or possess Schedule I drugs. If marijuana were to be rescheduled as a different drug, the sentence could be reduced or marijuana could be decriminalized altogether.

Judge Mueller’s decision to hold the evidence hearing was extraordinary in itself. Defense lawyers have argued that marijuana is misclassified before, but this is first time in many decades that a judge has agreed to take such an argument seriously. It’s possible that Judge Mueller could rule that marijuana should remain a Schedule I drug. However, the fact Judge Mueller even bothered to spend five days on the issue indicates there is a real possibility that she may rule in favor of marijuana reclassification, at least in the case before her.

A judicial ruling that marijuana has been misclassified is a step in the right direction. However, this is only the first step. Congress should scrap and replace the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) altogether.

Even Fake Threats on Social Media Can Get You Arrested

Most people understand that social media posts can get you in trouble. Stories abound about how people have ruined friendships, lost jobs, and even gotten robbed from the information they post online. Here’s a reminder that writing threats on social media can also land you in jail.

social media threatRecently, a man was charged with threatening to kill Darren Wilson, the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. He posted multiple statuses to Facebook, one of which stated he wanted to “give back those bullets to that…[Darren Wilson]” and if he can’t find him then he’ll “return them to his wife and if not her then to his children”. The man’s name is Jaleel Tariq Abdul-Jabbaar, a 46 year old Washington resident. He has been posting threatening Facebook statuses since the decision to not indict Wilson on November 24th. This included messages of an intent to buy an illegal firearm.

Of course, open discussion and debate are welcome in America. It is a part of what makes our country a democracy. Our first amendment allows us the power of freedom of speech. However, there are limits. According to Acting U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes, when “violence or threats of violence that are intended to intimidate, and ultimately silence debate” occur, they are not tolerated and are considered crimes.

Abdul-Jabbaar is facing three counts of making interstate threats, and could face up to 15 years of jail time.

Another act of social media ignorance involves a 14 year old Dutch girl who posted what she thought was a silly prank onto Twitter. Her Twitter handle is @QueenDemetriax_, and on the account she goes by the name “Sarah”. On one clearly boring afternoon, she decided to tweet to American Airlines, for entertainment purposes. The tweet states “Hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan. I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye”. The Airlines didn’t take this so lightly, immediately replying with “Sarah, we take these threats very seriously. Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.” This in turn caused “Sarah” to send out multiple tweets explaining her innocence and how she is “just a girl”.

The Rotterdam Police Department arrested “Sarah” and she almost faced charges for posting a false or alarming announcement. Sarah was released, but still remained a suspect. Tinet de Jonge, a spokeswoman for the police department, said it was up to the Airlines whether or not she will face charges.

The real lesson here, is to just be careful about what you post. No matter how old you are, or where you live, any type of threatening social media post will always be taken seriously by law enforcement authorities. There’s nothing funny about facing jail time for what seemed like a silly prank.

“Family Man” Cosby May Finally End up Going to Trial

After over two dozen women claimed sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby, this last accusation may finally land him in jail. Chloe Goins, a model, is pursuing charges against Cosby for sexually assaulting her in 2008 at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. She pressed charges against him Wednesday morning with the Los Angeles Police Department.

cosby goins rape accusationShe claims she attended the party with a few friends, and received a drink from Cosby. Her memory immediately went fuzzy and blank, and woke up to a naked Cosby standing over her. He was allegedly licking her toes and masturbating, while she lay naked on the bed. She was 18 at the time.

Why is Cosby not already behind bars? In California, rape has a ten year statute of limitations. Every woman except Goins have made claims that exceed this limitation. The over two dozen women have accused Cosby of sexual assault that spans a 50 year time period. Goins may be the only woman in power to finally land Cosby in jail for his crimes.

Another factor that will contribute to the prosecution of Cosby, are the cameras in the Playboy Mansion. Unlike the other accusations against Cosby that took place in hotel or dressing rooms, video proof of the assault might exist. Kuvin has expressed his desire for the LAPD to obtain video records from that night.

Goins’ attorney, Spencer Kuvin, has not commented on the possible charges against Cosby. He stated the police will decide what the appropriate charges will entail. Meanwhile, Cosby’s legal counsel claims there is evidence Cosby was in New York at the time of the alleged sexual assault, so the accusation is completely false.

If Cosby is prosecuted and video footage proves Goin’s accusations to be true, he could be facing hard time behind bars.