Birmingham AL Criminal Defense Law Blog

Kid exonerated for posting 'terroristic' rap lyrics on Facebook

An interesting case recently came up in Massachusetts in which the criminal charges brought against an 18-year-old aspiring rapper have been found to violate his First Amendment rights. While the case didn't take place here in Alabama, the implications are pretty far-reaching. With the government and law enforcement increasingly coming down hard on the side of security from terrorism versus citizens' civil rights, here is one case in which citizens -- in the form of a grand jury -- decided otherwise.

Shortly after the Boston bombing, the young man composed some rap lyrics and posted them on Facebook: "[expletive] a boston bombinb [sic] wait til u see the shit I do, I'ma be famous for rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me."

After concerned fellow students notified the police, the 18-year-old was arrested on suspicion of making terroristic threats -- and not of the misdemeanor variety more familiar in Alabama. The terroristic threats he was accused of making were charged as a felony because the police believed he was threatening to hijack a car or build a bomb. Those criminal charges could have sent him to prison for 20 years.

For new citizen DNA database, what counts as a 'serious' crime?

Technically, DNA databases aren't new. Right now, 26 states including Alabama have DNA databases, and federal agencies have had them for years. Last year, the Obama Administration passed the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act, which gives states grants to build genetic databases or participate in a nationwide version.

What's new about the national DNA database is that it will include the genetic profiles of potentially hundreds of thousands of people who have never been convicted of any crime. That's because the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that it's constitutional for law enforcement to collect the genetic profiles of anyone arrested for any "serious crime" -- even if the arrest was the result of racial profiling, police misconduct, a mistake or another constitutional violation.

Criminal defense and civil rights activists were stunned to learn that merely being arrested is enough to overcome any objections a U.S. citizen may have to their genetic code being included in a program meant to match them with unsolved crimes.

Alabama man gets lighter sentence for cooperating with feds

While most everyone in Alabama knows that drug charges are incredibly serious, many may not be aware that being hit with federal drug charges is even worse. Three men in Alabama who were accused of trafficking drugs in the state found this out the hard way, when they were hit with strict sentences in federal court recently. 

According to federal prosecutors, a 34-, a 51- and a 24-year-old man all conspired to distribute more than 500 grams each of methamphetamine and cocaine and more than 28 grams of crack cocaine. The three men, along with a fourth, all pleaded guilty to the federal drug crimes

Federal judge jails anarchist indefinitely for refusal to testify

A federal grand jury is believed to be in the midst of investigating the March 2008 bombing of an armed forces recruiting station in Times Square. The explosion in that case was small, and no one was injured, although the storefront recruiting station was damaged. According to police, the explosive device was an ammunition box stuffed with low-grade explosives, and a surveillance camera caught the image of a man getting off his bicycle, walking around near the station, and then getting back on his bike and riding away.

A 24-year-old man who describes himself as an anarchist and a member of the Occupy Wall Street movement is not a suspect, nor is he in any way a target of the federal investigation. His only apparent connection to the case is that prosecutors believe he happened to be at a bar in 2008 or 2009, when someone allegedly said they knew who was responsible for the bombing.

Alleged 'bulldozer rampage' brings deadly-weapon burglary charges

Did you know that a criminal charge exists called burglary with a deadly weapon? It's true -- here in Alabama, the offense is just part of our statute against burglary. Essentially, burglary is defined as unlawfully entering a building with the intent to commit a felony, and Alabama, like many states, ups the ante if the person is "armed with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument."

When lawmakers put the phrase "deadly weapon or dangerous instrument" in the statute, they were trying to be reasonably broad, but they probably weren't thinking of a bulldozer. That, however, is the weapon one man is accused of using in a case in Washington state.

According to reports, the man was evidently involved in a fence-line dispute with a neighbor, and certain non-criminal threats were issued. After a confrontation, however, the man apparently got into a logging bulldozer, ran down the fence in question -- and then tried to run down the neighbor, forcing the man to jump aside or be struck by the blade.

FBI wants to eavesdrop on Skype for evidence of federal crimes

Back when everyone got their phone service over physical phone lines, federal law enforcement had it easy. They essentially have "turnkey" access to phone company records, and there are no real barriers to getting a federal wiretapping warrant for a phone line. Increasingly, however, agents have been thwarted in their relentless quest for evidence of federal crimes by a simple change in technology. With cellphones, Internet chat and VoIP, the targets of federal investigations don't have to use traditional phone companies to discuss alleged crimes.

More important than the actual technology change is the fact that the providers of the phone connection are no longer Ma Bell, but an array of private companies large and small. And, unlike the heavily regulated landline companies, cellphone and Internet companies aren't under any obligation to fork over information to federal law enforcement, or let them listen in to customer phone calls.

17-year-old Birmingham man charged with murder after March shooting

In March, a 15-year-old Birmingham teenager was killed in Railroad Park. Just recently, police arrested a 17-year-old man for his alleged involvement in the shooting and charged him with murder. Police aren't saying specifically what led them to the 17-year-old man. However, they did note that the teenager was arrested peacefully at his place of employment around 5:15 p.m.

The shooting occurred on March 17. Authorities say the park was filled with people the night of the shooting. People there say they heard six shots fired. Police do not believe that the 15-year-old was the intended target.

Police charge Birmingham man after recent stabbing death

When someone is charged with a serious crime, people may assume that they are guilty. However, there are often many complex aspects to a case. Much must be done before an individual can be convicted of a crime.

A Birmingham man is now facing a murder charge after police say he stabbed a man to death. The stabbing reportedly occurred on April 20 around 2:45 p.m. The accused, a 50-year-old man, allegedly got into a fight with a 57-year-old man. Authorities claim the 50-year-old stabbed the other man.

Former Alabama police officer pleads guilty in federal drug case

Many criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains. As we've discussed before on this blog, those accused of serious crimes may choose to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for a reduced sentence.

A former Alabama police officer recently pleaded guilty in a criminal case against him. He faced federal drug charges for his involvement in a marijuana trafficking operation.

Death penalty a form of punishment in Alabama and 32 other states

Last week, we wrote about two Alabama men who were recently charged with capital murder. Authorities claim the men killed a man last July by beating him to death and then throwing his body in the Warrior River. If convicted, the two could be sentenced to death.

A man in another state was recently executed. The 50-year-old man was convicted of shooting a man to death and raping his fiancé while two others stole items from the couple's home in 1990.

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Birmingham, AL 35205
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