An Overview of Misdemeanor Crimes and Probation

Crimes are not all alike. Although all immoral, crimes range in severity from minor infractions to major ones. This is why the law breaks down crimes into two categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime is called a misdemeanant, whereas anyone convicted of a felony is called a felon. Felonies are the worse of the two, including major crimes like murder, forgery, tax evasion, robbery, auto theft, and repeat offenses. Misdemeanors on the other hand are less severe than felonies, but still carry a cumbersome load of consequences and legal penalties.

This is why it is vital to retain the service of an experienced criminal lawyer for the best chance at reducing or dismissing misdemeanor charges in the case that you are ever charged with a crime. Often times, and especially for first-time offenders, lawyers can get lesser felony crimes reduced to misdemeanors. One of the most common penalties for misdemeanor crimes is probation. Continue reading to learn the basics surrounding misdemeanor crimes and probation, and who to turn to if facing such charges.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanor offenses are crimes that are punishable by up to one year in jail. There are three “classes” of misdemeanor crimes. Depending on the state you live, these can include a series of letters or numbers. In states that classify misdemeanors with letters, they generally range from “A” to “C”, with Class C misdemeanors being the least serious and Class A being the most serious. In states that use numbers to classify their misdemeanors, they generally range from Class 1 to 4, with four being the least serious.

Even though misdemeanors are less serious, but still come with notable penalties. A misdemeanant can expect to pay fines, complete a certain amount of community service hours, serve probation, and possibly pay restitution. The combination or extent of penalties largely depends on the defendant’s criminal history, the particular crimes they are convicted of, and the strength of their legal defense.

Probation is generally between 3 months and one year for misdemeanants. Terms of probation can include, but is not limited to, regular drug screening, monthly meetings with a probation officer, mandatory employment, refraining from committing any more crimes, and more. Breaking the terms of probation results in a probation violation, which in turn, carries a whole other set of penalties, including extension of probation and even possible jail time. It is critical to the sake of your freedom and your rights to obtain the services of a licensed criminal lawyer if ever charged with a crime of any level.

Vigilante Justice – When the Law Fails

People take the law for granted, until it fails. We assume that the man who steals our car or breaks into our house will be prosecuted and punished. What happens when that assumption is no longer valid? When the law fails to protect the citizens and punish the lawbreakers?
The small town of Skidmore, Missouri found out on July 10, 1981, when Ken Rex McElroy was shot to death as he sat in his pickup on the main street of town. McElroy had waged a twenty-year reign of terror over all of northwest Missouri, getting away with almost every crime in the book: rape, arson, kidnapping, burglary, theft, assault, you name it. The law seemed powerless to stop him; witnesses changed their stories; judges recused themselves from his cases; prosecutors dismissed indictments; the town marshal resigned.

I told the story of McElroy’s reign of terror, his shooting, and the ensuing silence by the numerous witnesses to the murder in the book In Broad Daylight, which was published by HarperCollins in 1989, and which won an Edgar Award for Best True Crime and was made into a movie starring Brian Denehey. I revisited the story in a twenty-five year anniversary edition of the book published by St. Martins Press in December 2006. This edition contains startling new information on the killing and the identity of the killers.

It is not surprising that after all this time the witnesses to the killing still have not talked about what they saw that hot July morning. You might hear them say something like “McElroy needed killing,” and what they mean is that the town believed it had no choice but to take the law into its own hands. In their view, the town had returned to the lawlessness of the frontier days, when individuals undertook their own protection at the end of a barrel. Indeed, McElroy was stalking, with a weapon, several witnesses who were scheduled to testify against him in a bond revocation hearing the next week.

You can argue whether what happened that day was morally right or wrong. On Larry King Live, King opined that taking a life outside the law was never the right thing to do. Others argue that it should have happened long before it did.

Behind the discussion is a very basic principle of civilized society, a contract between the government and its citizens: you give up the right to enforce the law and punish lawbreakers in exchange for the government’s promise to do it for you. Put your weapons away and the government–in the form of the criminal justice system–will protect you.

In general, when one party fails to a contract fails to live up to his obligations the other party is released from his promise. If the government cannot protect me, I am entitled to protect myself. If the law t cannot protect the town, the town is entitled to protect itself, to “take the law into its own hands,” as the saying goes. It’s a scary notion in many ways, and it certainly sets a dangerous precedent, in effect allowing individual citizens to decide when they are entitled to engage in “self help.”

One of the most intriguing aspects of the story was the very fragile nature of what we call law and order. We might think that the criminal justice system is rooted in reality through law and courts and cops; the fact is, the criminal justice system is rooted in perception. Once the people no longer believe that it works, it no longer works. If witnesses no longer believe the law can protect them, that it can catch and punish the lawbreakers, they won’t come forward to testify. Cops won’t put their lives on the line. Citizens won’t go to their neighbors’ aid.
In the last few weeks of his life, McElroy had reduced the town of Skidmore to a community where it was every man for himself. When McElroy fired his shotgun over a house in the middle of the night, the neighbors turned away. McElroy, of course, finally pushed the town to far. When the people, with good reason, lost their faith in the system, when they felt exposed and vulnerable to the raging of a violent sociopath, they undertook to solve the problem themselves, they exercised the fundamental right of self-protection.

If there is a lesson to be learned in this cautionary tale, it’s that the criminal justice system in the end is about protecting the citizens and when the citizens fail to perceive that the system is doing its job the descent into lawlessness is rapid and certain.

Identity Theft Crimes Against Seniors – How to Stop Them!

Seniors are victims of cons more often than any other age group. Seniors tend to be more trusting, and less apt to question someone who portrays himself as an “expert”. Here are two common scams against seniors that you should look out for!

Scam #1: Disabled Access Telephone Scam
According to the IRS, a new tax scam has been uncovered. Con artists sell expensive coin-operated telephones to individuals. Then, the salespeople offer to “lease back” the phones and service them for a fee. The unsuspecting “investors” are then charged outrageous amounts. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the phones are often never delivered, and the fees continue to be charged anyway.

The telephone salesman also informs the “investor” that they qualify for IRS Disabled Access Credits; a substantial tax break offered to businesses who invest in equipment and upgrades designed to make their businesses more accessible to disabled individuals. The phones do not qualify for the credit, and the victim is then also in trouble because of tax fraud. The responsibility for tax mistakes always lies with the taxpayer, regardless of where the information came from.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable, because most of them are unfamiliar with complex tax law. Seniors are eager for passive income, since most are retired and do not work. The scam artists promise to provide enormous tax breaks and a steady income. Multiple tax cases have been brought before the IRS regarding this scam. In at least three cases, the company “Alpha Telecom” incorrectly advised investors that the pay phones qualified for a Disabled Access tax deduction. Alpha Telecom was cited by the Federal Trade Commission for violating Federal law. Unsuspecting investors lost thousands of dollars, and Alpha Telecom filed for bankruptcy after being investigated in at least twelve states.

Scam #2: Website Mall Scams
In a similar scam, a salesman offers to set up an internet “virtual mall.” The internet mall supposedly qualifies the buyer for the Disabled Access Credit, and the scam promises huge profits from internet sales, which, of course, never materialize. The website company sets up a “dummy” website and then charges the buyer an inflated commission. When the unsuspecting investor attempts to claim the tax credit, the IRS disallows the deduction. The investor is then liable for additional taxes and penalties.

A Las Vegas telemarketing company, National Audit Defense Network (NADN), is one of the companies involved in this “Virtual Mall” scheme. In 2004, NADN filed for bankruptcy after the justice department discovered that it had sold numerous abusive tax shelters, costing the US Treasury over $320 million dollars. The justice department obtained NADN’s customer list, allegedly comprised of 640,000 taxpayers, all of which may have unknowingly participated in an unlawful tax shelter.

If you feel that you may have been a victim of an abusive tax shelter, contact a tax professional immediately. Enrolled Agents, CPAs, and attorneys are all qualified to represent taxpayers in an audit and in tax court. They can file an amended return for you, and help represent you, if necessary. Enrolled Agents may be the least expensive of the three, because they specialize only in tax.

Remember, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Credit Repair Law – When Ever Identity Theft Strikes

Credit repair law is usually a highly important topic for most individuals to be aware of, specially those who have happen to be victimized via identity theft. Identity theft is actually a crime in which just one person or even a team of people steal some other individual’s identification for their very own financial gain. These people might get out loans in this individual’s name and / or steal significant data files off their particular pc. Identity theft is definitely a terrifying crime as well as it happens all around the entire world.

Men and women seriously need to figure out just how problematic a crime this specific is, and also if you’re at any time made a victim of identity theft you’re going to need to understand regarding credit repair law. Credit repair law is usually the law referred to which will requires precisely what happens to the perpetrator and victim of the particular crime. It determines exactly what happens to the criminal of the crime and even the victim. You might want to get started with the help of a credit repair specialist, a pro who’s going to be able to appropriately assess your current situation.

Recently there will be a very few things you could do on your own that may help you restore your credit score. This is going to take time for the reason that unfortunately there is no miraculous spell which may get it back quickly for you. Specially considering a few victims of identity theft have been taken for thousands and thousands of bucks, this particular can be some thing that you’re going to need to work at. Just ensure that you communicate to each and every one of your debtors.

You would like to let them know that you’re a victim of identity theft as well as that the particular financial debt racked up was definitely not even by you. Even while you are still going to owe this money, at least they are much more likely to be lenient with you if these people know that you just have really been a victim of this sort of a horrible criminal offenses. They will be going to be much more lenient and understanding if ever they will know you’ve been a victim of this nasty criminal offense. Debt consolidation loans can even be very helpful, to get all your debtors paid off after which you only have a unique credit to be concerned about each and every 30 days.

This loan will take on just about all of all the various debts you owe and consolidate all of them down into a single loan. This can be incredibly difficult to have to go through however at least you realize you can certainly restore your credit scores and finally have got it back wherever it had been to begin with. Then you will be able to focus much more on your financial situation and also making sure that you’re promptly with payments. Its essential to possess good credit and even immediately after going through a horrifying criminal offense like identity theft you have to have to try and so get back again on good track.

Hawaii Law Briefing – Hawaii Security Breach Law and Identity Theft Notification

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes committed throughout the United States. Criminals who steal personal information use the information to open credit card accounts, write bad checks, buy cars, and commit other financial crimes with other people’s identities.

Hawaii has the sixth worst record of identity theft in the nation, according to a 2007 report.

I. Hawaii’s Security Breach Law

Identity theft in Hawaii has resulted in significant losses to both businesses and consumers. This epidemic motivated the Hawaii legislature in 2006 to pass several bills whose purpose is to provide increased protection to Hawaii residents from identity theft:

Act 135: Requires businesses and government agencies that keep confidential information about consumers to notify those consumers if that information has been compromised by an unauthorized disclosure;

Act 136: Requires reasonable measures to protect against unauthorized access to personal information to be taken when disposing of records;

Act 137: Restricts businesses and government agencies from disclosing/requiring social security numbers to/from the public;

Act 138: Permits consumer who has been the victim of identity theft to place a security freeze on their credit report;

Act 139: Intentional or knowing possession without authorization of confidential personal information is a class C felony.

Together, the bills signed into law by Governor Linda Lingle as HRS Chapter 487R impose obligations on businesses in Hawaii to notify residents whenever their personal information maintained by the business has been compromised by unauthorized disclosure.

HRS Chapter 487R does not cover financial institutions subject to the Federal Interagency Guidance on Response Programs for Unauthorized Access to Consumer Information and Customer Notice, or Health plans and providers subject to HIPAA.

The underlying policy behind HRS Chapter 487R is that prompt notification will help potential victims to act against identity theft by initiating steps to monitor their credit reputation. Thus, it is critical that any business subject to HRS Chapter 487R audit the manner in which confidential personal information is maintained and have a security breach team prepared to comply with the notice obligations and effectively deal with any breach of personal information.

II. Security Breach

HRS 487R imposes obligations on the part of Hawaii businesses to notify an individual whenever the individual’s personal information that is maintained by the business has been compromised by unauthorized disclosure and to do so in a timely manner.

Under the statute, “Personal Information” consists of an individual’s first name or first initial AND last name in combination with any one or more of the following data elements, when either the name OR the data elements are not encrypted: Social Security Number, driver’s license or Hawaii Identification Number; or an account number, credit or debit card number, or password that would permit access to an individual’s financial account.

The personal information is protected if on a “record.” A “record” is any material on which written, drawn, spoken, visual, or electromagnetic information is recorded or preserved, regardless of physical form or characteristics. Thus, a “record” can be in digital form or on a paper document, which differs significantly from other states that might cover only digital information.

The notice obligations are triggered when a “security breach” occurs. A “security breach” is defined as an incident of unauthorized access to AND acquisition of unencrypted or unredacted records of data containing personal information, where illegal use of the personal information has occurred, OR is reasonably likely to occur; AND that creates a risk of harm to a person. As the definition indicates many times it is difficult to determine whether information has been “acquired” or to the extent that a “risk of harm” exists.

Several states, including Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, and Florida have devised a risk of harm exception. Such exception generally relieves the business from the notice obligation requirement after consultation with law enforcement. Since Hawaii law has no such exception most incidents of unencrypted/unredacted theft or loss of records containing personal information should carry the presumption that illegal use is likely to occur and a risk of harm. In addition, even if a statutory obligation does not arise other legal obligations may exist with respect to the theft or loss.

III. Notification Obligations

To the extent a security breach has occurred, and personal information has been compromised, the business must satisfy the notification obligations imposed by HRS Chapter 487R. Form notices are made part of this article for educational purposes only. The notice obligations must be satisfied without “unreasonable delay.” The only exception would be if a law enforcement agency informs the business in writing that notification may impede a criminal investigation or jeopardize national security. Once it has been determined that the notice will no longer impede the investigation, the notice must be promptly provided.

Under HRS Chapter 487R, the business must notify the resident (and the Office of Consumer Protection/credit reporting agencies where notice has been provided to 1,000 persons).
The notice must be given to the last available address. The notice may be sent to the resident’s email address only if the person has “opted in” to receive notices in that manner. Direct telephonic notice may be given under the statute, but generally is not the recommended way to notify the resident given the potential legal risk with such form of communication.

Under the statute, “substitute notice” may be provided where the costs to provide if the business can demonstrate that the cost of providing notice would exceed $100,000 or that the affected class of subject persons to be notified exceeds two hundred thousand, or if the business does not have sufficient contact information or is unable to identify particular affected persons.

Substitute notice shall consist of emailing the person when the email address is known, the conspicuous posting of a notice on the website maintained by the business, and notification of the security breach to major statewide media.

IV. Penalties

Statutory penalties can be significant. However, government agencies are exempt from statutory penalties under HRS ยง 487R-3. Under the law, businesses can be fined not more than $2,500 for each violation. Such penalty can add up quickly where hundreds or even thousands of Hawaii residents are not informed that their personal information has been compromised.

In addition, a court may impose an injunction on the business and the business may be liable for actual damages and attorneys’ fees.

V. Final Word

Hawaii and other states have taken significant steps to combat the growing epidemic of identity theft. It is important that both Hawaii businesses and employers, and consumers take reasonable steps to protect their interests and reputations.

For Hawaii employers and businesses:

o Enter into agreements imposing obligations on third-party companies to handle sensitive and personal information of your employees and customers in a reasonable manner and to report security breaches immediately;

o Ensure reasonable administrative, physical, and technical safeguards are placed over the personal information handled both the third-party company and internally;

o Periodically have the IT department conduct a risk analysis over electronically-stored information and computer network systems of the company;

o Have IT draft and periodically review comprehensive security procedures to limit vulnerability of the company’s systems and a plan of action;

o Train and retrain employees on privacy policies;

o Ensure company employees collect only the minimum amount of information necessary to accomplish the business purpose.

For consumers:

o Ask your employer, doctor, bank, etc., what steps are taken to protect against misappropriation of private information;

o Treat your mail and trash carefully; use cross cut shredders;

o Use locked mailboxes;

o Keep private information kept in your home hidden and secure;

o Don’t give out private information over the phone;

o Use care when using your computer; create strong passwords;

o Use common sense and stay alert (for example, write to your creditor as soon as you believe you have not timely received a billing statement);

o File a police report and obtain the police report number when you learn that your personal information has been compromised and close accounts, e.g., credit card, bank accounts, etc.;

o Follow up with law enforcement in writing and maintain a file; dispute bad checks written directly with merchants;

o Place a fraud alert/freeze on your credit files (Equifax, Experian or Transunion);

o Periodically obtain your credit report and look it over carefully; note inquiries from companies you did not contact, accounts you did not open, debts you cannot explain and report such information immediately to law enforcement.

SAMPLE LETTER 1

Data Acquired: Account Number, Credit Card or Debit Number, Access Code or Password that would permit access to Individual’s Financial Account

Dear

We are writing to you because of a recent security incident at [name of organization].
[Describe what happened in general terms, what type of personal information was involved, and what you are doing in response, including acts to protect further unauthorized access.]

To protect yourself from the possibility of identity theft, we recommend that you immediately contact [credit card or financial account issuer] at [phone number] and tell them that your account may have been compromised. Continue to monitor your account statements.

If you want to open a new account, ask [name of account insurer] to give you a PIN or password. This will help control access to the account.

To further protect yourself, we recommend that you review your credit reports at least every three months for at least the next year. Just call any one of the three credit reporting agencies at a number below. Ask for instructions on how to get a free copy of your credit report from each.

Experian Equifax TransUnion
888-397-3742 888-766-0008 800-680-7289

For more information on identity theft, we suggest that you visit the Web site of the Hawai’i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs at ______________ [or the Federal Trade Commission at ___________________]. If there is anything [name of your organization] can do to assist you, please call [toll-free (if phone number].

[Closing]

SAMPLE LETTER 2

Data Acquired: Driver’s License or Hawai’i Identification Card Number

Dear

We are writing to you because of a recent security incident at [name qt. organization].
[Describe what happened in general terms, what kind of personal information was involved, and what you are doing in response, including acts to protect further unauthorized access.]

Since your Driver’s License [or Hawai’i Identification Card] number was involved, we recommend that you immediately contact your local DMV office to report the theft. Ask them to put a fraud alert on your license.

To further protect yourself, we recommend that you place a fraud alert on your credit files. A fraud alert lets creditors know to contact you before opening new accounts. Just call any one of the three credit reporting agencies at a number below. This will let you automatically place fraud alerts with all of the agencies. You will then receive letters from ail of them, with instructions on how to get a free copy of your credit report from each.

Experian Equifax Trans-Union
888-397-3742 888-766-0008 800-680-7289

When you receive your credit reports, look them over carefully. Look for accounts you did not open. Look for inquiries from creditors that you did not initiate and look for personal information, such as home address and Social Security number, that is not accurate. If you see anything you do not understand, call the credit reporting agency at the telephone number on the report.

If you do find suspicious activity on your credit reports, call local law enforcement and file a report of identity theft. [Or, if appropriate, give contact number for law enforcement agency investigating the incident for you.] Get a copy of the police report. You may need to give copies to creditors to clear up your records.

Even if you do not find any signs of fraud on your reports, we recommend that you check your credit reports at least every three months for at least the next year. Just call one of the numbers above to order your reports and keep the fraud alert in place.

For more information on identity theft, we suggest that you visit the Web site of the Hawai’i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs at _________________ [or the Federal Trade Commission at __________________]. If there is anything [name of your organization] can do to assist you, please call [toll free (if possible) phone number].

[Closing]

SAMPLE LETTER 3

Data Acquired: Social Security Number

Dear

We are writing to you because of a recent security incident at [name of organization]. [Describe what happened in general terms, what kind of personal information was involved, and what you are doing in response, including acts to protect further unauthorized access.]

To protect yourself from the possibility of identity theft, we recommend that you place a fraud alert on your credit files. A fraud alert lets creditors know to contact you before opening new accounts. Just call any one of the three credit reporting agencies at a number below. This will let you automatically place fraud alerts with all of the agencies. You will then receive letters from all of them, with instructions on how to get a free copy of your credit report from each.

Experian Equifax TransUnion
888-397-3742 888-766-0008 800-680-7289

When you receive your credit reports, look them over carefully. Look for accounts you did not open. Look for inquiries from creditors that you did not initiate and look for personal information, such as home address and Social Security number, that is not accurate. If you see anything you do not understand, call the credit reporting agency at the telephone number on the report.

If you do find suspicious activity on your credit reports, call local law enforcement and file a police report of identity theft. [Or, if appropriate, give contact number fur law enforcement agency investigating the incident, for you.] Get a copy of the police report. You may need to give copies of the police report to creditors to clear up your records.

Even if you do not find any signs of fraud on your reports, we recommend that you check your credit reports at least every three months for at least the next year. Just call one of the numbers above to order your reports and keep the fraud alert in place.

For more information on identity theft, we suggest that you visit the Web site of the Hawai’i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs at ____________ [or the Federal Trade Commission at ______________]. If there is anything [name of your organization] can do to assist you, please call [toll-free (if possible) phone number].

[Closing]