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Indianapolis Criminal Defense Law Blog

When can the police search your vehicle?

Let’s say you travel some place where marijuana is legal and enjoy some. Then back in Indiana, you’re speeding along the highway when you suddenly see a patrol car’s take-down lights start flashing. Suddenly, you remember that you still have some weed in the car. What might happen?

The first thing would be to pull over and wait for the officer. But after that? Could you be arrested for marijuana possession? If so, you could find yourself in big trouble. Weed is still illegal here. Depending on the amount in your possession, you could be looking at misdemeanor charges—or a felony. But there might not be any reason to worry.

The problems with eyewitness testimony

One of the most surprising things you might hear after being charged for a crime you didn’t commit is that someone saw you do it. How could that be possible? If you were walking out of a store when someone else was robbing it, or if you were miles away, how could someone say they’d seen you?

The fact is that eyewitness testimony is often completely bogus. Scientists and legal professionals have known for years that it can go horribly wrong. But prosecutors still make heavy use of it, largely because it’s effective. It might not be good evidence, but it’s the sort of evidence that can wow a jury.

What type of person lies about being sexually assaulted?

In the wake of the #MeToo movement and Kavanaugh hearings, men across the United States worried aloud about the impact of false claims of rape or sexual assault. What happens, they wondered, if everyone believes the women by default? How many men’s lives could be ruined?

The truth is most allegations of sexual assault are rooted in fact. The vast majority. It’s not even close. An article in the Minnesota Law Review noted that only two to eight percent of rape claims are false. It also pointed out that most rapes go unreported. As a result, the ratio of false reports is likely closer to .002% or .008% of all incidents. But in the rare case someone does stand falsely accused, the statistics don’t matter.

How does someone prove intent in a fraud case?

You don’t need to commit a fraud to find yourself under investigation for one. You might have made a billing mistake or misunderstood the terms of a contract. Maybe you decided to buy stock in your company at just the wrong time. Or perhaps someone in your office was committing fraud, but it wasn’t you.

No matter why you find yourself under investigation, you want to understand what the investigators are trying to do. Most fraud charges require proof of intent, so the investigators will likely be looking for proof of your intentions. Now, you might think that should clear you. After all, it’s reasonable to expect no one could find proof you intended something you never intended. But that’s not necessarily the case.

How many people have been wrongfully convicted?

It is a fact that bias exists in the world. Our laws and courts take steps to reduce the ways bias can affect criminal cases, but they are imperfect. In the end, if you put someone charged with a serious crime on the witness stand and then ask a jury to compare his testimony to that of a veteran police officer, most juries will side with the cop. If that cop is unfairly biased, the results can be devastating for the individuals and families involved.

FBI information gathering

Many science fiction movies offer visions of dystopian futures. The scariest ones often look calm and happy on the outside. That appearance is deceiving, as the people in those futures are often completely controlled and constantly monitored.

Even scarier? That future might already be here. According to New York magazine, the United States is deeply invested in facial recognition technologies that can identify us with 99.8% accuracy. If your face is in a database, the cameras know who you are. So do the agencies behind them. And there are legal concerns tied to this form of information gathering and storage.

What is Indiana's "Romeo and Juliet" Criminal Code?

In Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo and Juliet are young lovers from families at war with each other. They meet, fall in love, find their love shaken by a series of violent incidents and die tragic deaths. Also, they’re young. Very young. We don’t know Romeo’s exact age, but Juliet was 13.

If you’re thinking in modern terms, that would put Juliet well below Indiana’s age of consent, which is 16. And if Romeo were at least 18? According to the Indiana criminal code, that would make him guilty of sexual misconduct with a minor. But we don’t know his age. Instead, Shakespeare focuses on the power of the couple’s love. And in some cases, Indiana also focuses more on a couple’s relationship than the age of consent.

Can sexting make you a sex offender?

What do you get when you combine cameras and text messages? The answer, it appears, is sexting. Sexting is everywhere. And it can present real dangers for those who aren’t careful.

Fox news recently reported the results of a sexting survey. It found that people of all ages had sent nude photos of themselves via texts and other instant messages. But the numbers rose sharply as the ages dropped. According to the study, 37% of adults ages 22 to 38 had sexted. So had 40% of everyone ages 18 to 22. What about teens? The survey didn’t say.

What should you know about Marion County's new drug policy?

It's understandable if you're a little confused by Marion County's new marijuana policy. Generally, you just need to know if certain things are legal or illegal. But the new policy adds another whole dimension.

Since September 30, Marion County has said it won't bring criminal charges against people caught with less than an ounce of marijuana. This doesn't make the drug legal. It remains illegal per state law. The policy merely reflects the county's decision to focus on other crimes. And as the Indy Star notes, the policy does not apply outside of Marion County.

How often are people falsely accused of child porn?

It's an ugly thought--the idea of some quiet, middle-aged man sitting in the dark somewhere while watching children subjected to sex acts. In fact, it's such a sickening thought that Indiana has strict child porn laws to protect children from such situations. However, these laws can backfire when people are falsely accused.

Few crimes stain a reputation as much as child porn. People who face charges may already be guilty in the public eye before they've even had a trial. But the truth is that not everyone is guilty, and people have the right to defend their names.

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