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As a child I loved watching Allen Funt’s groundbreaking show, “Candid Camera.” There was a certain voyeurism to observing people caught in the act of being human. There have been many hidden camera shows, the latest being “What would You Do?”, which addresses the morality of being human and whether we will get involved to help a stranger or simply mind our own business, afraid to speak out or “do the right thing,” as Spike Lee says.

While cameras have been around for a long time, body cameras and hidden cameras are a more recent development and remind us of George Orwell’s “1984” where “Big Brother” was always watching het citizens, keeping them in line. With surveillance cameras, police cameras, cell phones, we are constantly being monitored, whether we like it or not, and that is not going to change. Continue reading

In New York State, when one is charged with a felony, the State can only bring one to trial on the felony charge if it can obtain an indictment by a grand jury.  To indict someone, the state must present evidence to a grand jury that demonstrates there is reasonable cause to believe a felony occurred and the defendant is responsible for it.  It is a secret proceeding, and the defendant cannot cross-examine any witnesses.

However, under NY Criminal Procedure Law Section 190.50, the defendant does have a statutory right to testify in the grand jury.  That is, he can try and avoid or seek lesser charges by telling his side of the story.  Doing so has risks, but it could result in a dismissal of the case. Defense lawyers and their clients often have different opinions on whether the client testifying in the grand jury is a good idea.  As a result, there is often a healthy conflict between the parties as to what is the best course of action to take. Continue reading

Eli Cherkasky is a well-respected Assistant District Attorney and the son of Michael Cherkasky, a former top deputy under retired District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. He was handling a very high-profile case of three Manhattan attorneys who were accused of bribing a CJA official to steer them cushy cases. There are lawyers, known as hallway lizards, jail-house lawyers, or any number of names, who hang out in the halls of any busy courtroom, especially on weekends. They strike up conversations with the families of the defendants, the girlfriends, or others who show up in court. They may have a case that night and have a right to go back to the lock-up to talk to their client, but the rules can be blurred as to whether passing out cards or asking your client to see if anyone needs a lawyer is appropriate or ethical.

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Recently Civil Rights leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton have complained that stores like Macys and Barneys are guilty of “Shop and Frisk” by profiling Black or other minorities. Several Black shoppers were handcuffed and detained in security rooms because the store security or NYPD viewed their credit card purchases as suspicious.

This has been going on for 30 years or more as store security, cashiers, and the police tend to pay more attention or stop and check the bags of those individuals who look like the people who they arrest every day in thier stores. They follow and profile not just minorities, but also young people, people with large shopping bags, women with large open purses, and people who look “poor or homeless”.

The stores lose millions of dollars of merchandise every year to credit card fraud, shoplifters, employee theft, and have to pay for video surveillance cameras, store security officers, and court appearances. Credit card fraud and identity theft have become a huge peoblem for banks, credit card companies, stores, and insurance companies. We all pay for these crimes by the increase in the cost of goods, services, and interest rates.

Stores and credit card companies would argue that they are targeting “suspicious behavior” not just Blacks and that it is the only way to try to limit the loss of mechandise that they suffer every day. The cost of all this theft and added security actually gets passed on to the comsumers who must pay about 15%-20% more for certain items due to the loss of profits by every major retailer. The most commonly stolen items are jewelry, electronic items, cigarettes, medicines, perfume, and any small items that are high ticket merchandice that can be easily resold like razor blades.

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After a ruling from a federal judge that criticized the stop and frisk policy of the  NYPD, police officers are now being instructed to take action only if they see a crime being committed. Many have said that since the new policies allow civilians to sue them in state court for racial profiling they will be extremely reluctant to stop anyone, especially a minority and that the number of stops has dropped in half even in the first month since the ruling.

The mayor and police commissioner have stated that this ruling and the new policies will cause the crime rate to go back up to where it was before the stop and frisk was initiated some 10 years ago. They point out that the reason only one in ten of the prople stopped had a weapon is that they knew they are going to be stopped and frisked in high crime neighborhoods and that is why they were afraid to carry a gun. There is no doubt that the stop and frisk policy has saved lives and cut the murder rate in half, but it has also harassed millions of citizens who have to be embarrassed or harassed by a police officer every time they want to go to the store for some Watermelon Snapple and Skittles. Continue reading

I get hundreds of phone calls a month from people all over the state of New York who have been arrested. Many of them have been charged with Shoplifting, which is also known as Petty Larceny if it is under $1,000 and Grand Larceny if the value of the merchandise is over $1,000.

There are basically three types of people who get caught shoplifting. First, you have young people who are totally clueless as to the consequences of their actions and who are acting on a combination of impulse and very poor decision making. They are risking their career, their family name, their reputation, and a criminal record for a few dollars worth of stuff that they do not even need. This is not a mother stealing a loaf of bread and a quart of milk to feed her three starving children, this is a young person who cannot control the impulse to take what they want and who do not know that there are security cameras, secret shoppers, security guards, and employees who are trained to profile potential shoplifters (young people, people carrying shopping bags, etc). They are being watched closely and the minute they put an item in their bag or under their clothes they have committed a crime. The security officers or managers do not have to wait until they leave the store, they can be taken into custody and searched or held for the police. Continue reading

People have been driving drunk ever since the automobile was invented. I suppose they rode drunk in buggies and on horses before there were cars. There was not much traffic back then and the cost of being drunk while traveling was probably a lot less in terms of injuries to property and people.

In this age of mass communication, computers, and television people have been become much more aware of saftey and crime. We have many more inventions to make things safer and to avoid serious injuries. We have seat belts, air bags, bike helmets, and crash test dummies. We are much more aware of how crime effects people and how many victims are injured by the crimes and the negligence of others.

We are aware of this because it is in the papers, on the TV news, and on the internet. The legislatures are making DWI punishments much more severe by making certain crimes a felony instead of a misdemeanor such as Leandra’a Law which makes it a felony in New York to drive drunk with a minor in the car.

Judges are requiring people with DWI convictions to install ignition interlock devices which cost around $1,200 on average. Fines have increased and offenders are required to pay for Drunk Driver programs. The cost of car insurance is very high for anyone with a DWI conviction. You can lose your license for many years for a second or third conviction which often means the loss of your job or career. Continue reading

For many years prostitutes have been using the internet to ply their trade, long since banished from the streets by the mayors and Police Commissioners of most major cities.

Craigslist was forced to stop running ads for escorts a few years ago and now Backpage.com is being threatened by law enforcement officials to stop running ads for escorts or they will face prosecution. The other site that escorts use is Eros.com, which is a more upscale operation with high price escorts who pay a fee for the ads.

Backpage.com makes a lot of money selling ads in many cities and has become the largest internet escort referral agency. The other sites are much less known but there are many of them operating in every major city, especially New York.

Recently, the Nassau County District Attorney, Kathleen Rice and Police Commissioner Thomas Dale decided to expose 104 of the patrons or “Johns” by posting them online and on a large billboard in the county courtroom. Continue reading

In one of the most important and hotely contested dedions of the last 20 years, the Supreme Court recently upheld a Maryland law that allows officials to take DNA without a warrant from people who have been arrested, but not convicted of a crime.

The law already allows the police to mug and print a person who is arrested so this was considered a minor intrusion similar to fingerprinting as all they do is swab the person’s ckeek to collect their DNA. This is called a bucco swab and it is routinely done, either by consent or by a warrant signed by a judge.

Those who oppose this procedure argue that it is too intrusive and only those who are convicted of serious crimes should have to be subjected to such a procedure.

The dissent argues that “solving unsolved crimes” is a noble objective, but it “occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law-enforcement searches.” Continue reading

Life is about making good decisions, having morals, getting a good ecucation, and staying out of trouble. Avoiding the pitfalls in life is as important as being successful. You should try to be happy, healthy, educated, and find a career that you love. People who earn a goog living are much happier than those who have constant money problems.

Money problems is the number one reason that people commit crimes. They want fast cash so they sell drugs, steal, or do something they probably would not have done if they did not need the money.

People who are less educated, less sophisticated, and lack communication skills are much more likely to have anger management problems. They will turn violent when they are drunk, angry, or do not get their way. They will threaten, manipulate, and get physical much more often than people who are well educated and who do not wish to get arrested or to be known as a violent person.

Some people are irresponsible and do not like to follow rules. They get a speeding ticket but they do not send it in. They ignore it and their licese gets suspended. They keep driving until they are arrested for driving on a suspended license. They still have to pay the ticket, but now they have a misdemeanor charge and a larger fine. Thet may even have a criminal record. Their insurance may go up and in the long run they will have much more trouble than if they just answered the ticket in the first place. Continue reading