Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

St. Louis Criminal Defense Legal Blog

Criminal law tale of extenuating circumstances, judicial discretion

Many of our readers across Missouri and elsewhere are likely privy to some details regarding a widely reported story concerning a bank heist in Kansas City last year that turned out to be more than a bit anomalous.

In fact, the bank robbery was, well, what … fictional? We impart a summary account here for reasons we believe are relevant and even instructive for readers interested in criminal law matters.

SCOTUS case spotlights cellphone privacy rights

Today you might have gone to a couple stores, maybe a bar or restaurant, a doctor's office and a baseball game. Maybe you went to a place or two you would just as soon not identify to anyone for personal reasons, and you don't really consider that any third party's business.

Especially that of any government official or agency.

When the court weighs in: why a judge hates mandatory sentencing

A packet of sugar.

Things like that are what likely keep Mark Bennett and other similarly thinking federal judges awake at night as they ponder the disconnect between the stated objectives of mandatory minimum sentencing rules in the federal realm and what those guidelines actually achieve.

Do tougher penalties require new drug crime defense strategies?

Drug distribution laws penalize selling or transporting controlled substances. Both federal and state distribution charges vary based on the type of drug and the amount sold. Charges also vary based on whether minors were involved or targeted.

Yet politics also impact drug enforcement. Readers may be familiar with the slogan, America’s War on Drugs. In conjunction with that aggressive stance, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued mandatory minimum sentencing rules.

What activities do white collar criminal laws prohibit?

Crimes involving financial fraud, commonly referred to as white collar crimes, occur in a surprisingly diverse range of contexts. Examples include mail fraud, investment fraud and tax evasion, when an individual willfully defrauds the federal government from taxes owed. There’s even a type of health care fraud, where a provider might over charge or bill for work that was never done.

White collar crimes are typically governed by federal laws, with accompanying severe penalties. For example, the federal RICO Act is a law designed to bring down organized crime. It allows for punishment of the leader of an organized crime organization, even if the leader was not personally involved in committing the offense.

Can your social media profiles be used in court?

When you sign up for social media profiles, you think of them as something over which you have ownership. You expect a certain degree of privacy, and you even get "privacy" settings to help control who can see what. Do you have a right to privacy in all cases, or can courts use this information?

For example, perhaps you're an executive helping run a multi-state corporation. You've been accused of defrauding your investors. They want to pull information from your social media accounts to see if you actually committed fraud or not. Can they do it?

Asset forfeiture: unobjectionable or seizure without due process?

Is it an above-board police tactic or essentially just a grab of citizens' property that nets funds for short-on-cash law enforcement agencies in Missouri and other states across the country?

If you haven't personally heard of asset forfeiture, maybe a friend or acquaintance of yours has had a close encounter with this often employed and much misunderstood state and federal enforcement tool.

Do drug charges miss the real issue?

You're arrested for heroin possession and facing a long jail sentence. Throughout the entire process, the authorities act like this is just a simple choice you made, something you brought upon yourself. They treat it the same as the decision to steal a car or commit fraud on your taxes.

That's often how drug crimes are viewed in the United States, and it's fueled by the so-called War on Drugs. However, some experts believe that this approach completely misses the mark.

Cautionary tale: the dire importance of strong criminal defense

With undue and sad regularity, stories emerge in Missouri and nationally that underscore an unquestionable fallibility inherent in the criminal justice system and the attendant need of every criminal suspect to secure timely, knowledge and aggressive defense representation.

Following is just such a story. Its gripping details and flatly tragic dimensions spotlight the sheer urgency for any individual in America accused of a violent crime or other offense to have a proven and empathetic advocate in his or her corner when the state or federal government alleges criminal misconduct.

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