Category Archives: Legal

Human Trafficking Crime

download-13However, there are some means of enslaving others still occurring that are often even more brutal than the original circumstances. Human trafficking has been an issue in various locations around the world. Even in cities thought to be safe, these crimes have been arising in secret. Since law enforcement has been cracking down on these actions, the fact of human trafficking has come to light for those unaware that a form of slavery is still in existence.

As each year passes, thousands of individuals and groups are forcibly or through devious means taken and forced into various types of labor. The issue affects the entire world, as tourist cities, business locations, remote places and residential areas alike are targeted. Though men are abducted for hard labor, this growing concern mainly involves women and children. They are in many situations forced into working for nothing, sexual situations and various forms of relationships. Some children are kidnapped to be sold for their purity or innocence. In these cases, the victim is often harmed before he or she may be liberated.

Human Trafficking Explained

The illegal abduction of a person for the use in trade involving sexual slavery, reproductive means and any type of forced labor has been deemed human trafficking. It is what used to be traditional slavery. The crime has evolved since its inception due to societal opinions and changes in morals. This violation of the law is an intentional offense with a large industry, and it produces great quantities of money for those overseeing the operations. Women and children are usually taken, kidnapped, deceived in some way or forced to go with their captor. They are subjected to involuntary servitude for some type of business. In some instances, organs are harvested from these individuals that may be vital and sold on the black market.

Profits from Human Trafficking

The industry of human trafficking is highly profitable with large quantities of money coming in from free labor. It has been the fastest growing industry in the criminal world for many years. Since 2004, revenue from this crime has exceeded $9 billion yearly. Due to the nature of this crime, law enforcement has found it difficult to find anyone to arrest. The crossing of borders with these criminals has caused the issue to become an international governmental problem that requires cooperation and communication to resolve. The United Nations explained that since 2008, over 2.5 million individuals from over 120 countries were taken and transported to over 130 countries around the world. These victims are usually abducted and then purchased and sold like someone’s property. The person taken cannot leave where he or she is moved to after being purchased with all the power in the hands of the owner.

Many of these individuals become prostitutes, manual laborers, brides, experiments and many other forced types of workers. The greatest number of smuggled and kidnapped persons are women of younger ages and children. Both may be used for sexual trade or as workers in the sex industry for a variety of clientele. In doing this type of work, these victims are usually drugged to both put up little resistance as well as to become dependent upon their captors. To reinforce who it is in charge, these sufferers may have little to no food, be chained up, may be confined in living quarters and beaten to the point of serious injury. Because living conditions are usually inhumane, numerous taken individuals do not survive to see freedom.

Federal Crime of Human Trafficking

The charges of trafficking women or children to other locations is a serious offense that must be taken seriously. Other agencies such as the International Labor Organization and the United Nations may be involved in these claims if the person abducted crossed the borders of the United States into another area.

This crime of abducting someone and forcing them to perform in some way is a serious federal crime due to the crossing of state and country boundaries. These are considered crimes against humanity with potential years behind bars when a conviction occurs. If for any reason, a person has come under investigation for this crime for any reason, a criminal defense lawyer should be contacted to fight for the innocence of the defendant. As a federal crime, the case may fail without experienced legal representation.

Aggravated Kidnapping

Most instances of this crime have no aggravating factors. Penalties are issued based on these usual kidnapping instances. However, there are specific guidelines followed to determine if the criminal actions are considered aggravated based on some criteria. It is often these aggravating factors that cause a person to find himself or herself behind bars for a lengthy period of time. Additionally, compensation may have to be made to the family of the victim or the person abducted.

Aggravated Kidnapping Explained

When a simple kidnapping charge is elevated to aggravated, this usually means there were additional factors present for the crime to become worse in the eyes of the law. To become aggravated, the kidnapping often must have some kind of violence, injuries to the victim, ransom demands and similar issues attached to the crime. Dangerous weapons are often involved with aggravated criminal actions with the intention of harming or intimidating the person taken. Additional charges may be issued based on various elements of the crime, but these are usually saved for injuries, death and dismemberment of the target person. If multiple persons are taken, each person is counted as one charge each. Penalties are usually much harsher when more than one person has been abducted.

Elements of Aggravated Kidnapping

Some elements alter simple kidnapping charges to aggravated based on the actions the perpetrator took while confining the victim. If the person was forcibly seized, the charges often move up to the harsher crimes. When the person kidnapped is moved from one area to another, this has been considered grounds for aggravated kidnapping, as the abductor does not need to remove the person to kidnap him or her. Another element includes the intention of using force on the victim. This could be used on the victim or on someone else to ensure something of value has been given from him or her. Force may be used on the victim or someone he or she knows to ensure the target person provides the item or objects of value.

History of Kidnapping

Originally, this crime was considered to be one where the perpetrator used force to abduct someone with the action of removing him or her from their initial location to another one. Since the beginning definition of this crime, it has been modified to include when force is used to abduct a person or to confine him or her against his or her will. The crime is basically the same in each state with mild variations based on specific factors, but state laws have different definitions of what constitutes kidnapping as well as accompanying penalties applied through conviction.

Criminal Implications Amended

Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is a crime that is committed when someone lies on their tax return or fails to file a tax return in order to avoid paying the taxes that he or she rightfully owes. The crime is complete when the tax return is filed, even if there is still time to amend it.

However, there are two general exceptions to the rule that the crime is complete once filed. The first exception is if the person filed the return before the normal due date. In order to avoid potential criminal culpability, the individual can file an amended return by the normal due date that does not contain fraudulent information. Another exception is if the superseding return removes the fraud because of an extension period that applies. In most cases in which a fraud charge is a possibility, these exceptions do not apply.

Different Approaches

Due to the exceptions most likely not applying, there are different approaches that people may take in this situation. Practitioners may advise against filing an amended return since doing so can basically prove the government’s case. Key elements of tax evasion include tax due and owed. By admitting to this crime by filing an amended return, the filing itself may be used as evidence against the criminal defendant.

One approach is to amend the tax return. This school of thought is premised on the possibility that an exception may exist through the voluntary disclosure program. This is a policy-based program that promises a taxpayer will not be prosecuted if he or she voluntarily discloses to the IRS his or her misconduct. This program encourages individuals to be honest with the system and seeks to receive the monies due to it. Without this type of program, the government would likely lose revenue since taxpayers would have no incentive to come forward and admit their misdeeds.

This train of thought is also supported by the idea that the government would be less likely to be able to prove its case. It is difficult to show that the defendant acted in a willful manner if the defendant later tried to correct a mistake.

Jury Determination

It is often up to the jury to determine whether the defendant acted in a willful manner. A jury may rule in favor of the notion that the defendant acted in a negligent manner rather than a willful manner if the defendant came forward to correct his or her return before being audited by the IRS. Even if the jury may believe that the defendant did act in a willful manner, it may still feel more compassion for a defendant that tried to do the right thing, even if it was late. While this second determination does not change the legal elements of the crime, the jury may still acquit based on jury nullification.

Qualifying for the Voluntary Disclosure Program

Before a defendant agrees to come forward about misinformation in a previous filing, he or she should know whether or not the defendant is eligible for the program. The first consideration is whether the report is made in a timely manner. The relevant point in time is whether the taxpayer informed the IRS of the information before the IRS gave notice of its intent to audit the taxpayer.

Another consideration is based on whether the defendant cooperated with authorities. This typically means that the taxpayer has made a good-faith effort to pay delinquent taxes, penalties and all interest. Even if these considerations weigh in favor of the defendant, he or she should be made aware that there are no guarantees because the voluntary disclosure policy is merely a policy and not an official law. There is no guarantee that there will be no prosecution. The IRS may find some fact or circumstance particularly compelling to refer the case to the Department of Justice, such as the notorious nature of the crime, the defendant being a public official or publicity surrounding the case.

Charge of Kidnapping

Sometimes the person kidnapped is held captive in some secluded area. Most instances of this crime involve the use of force or violence at some point. Though many cases of this act are for collecting monetary payouts through ransom demands, some are committed for various other purposes. A few persons that commit this crime do so because they have a particular need that they are seeking to satisfy. This may be for companionship such as a person who wants a child but cannot have one, or this could be to commit additional crimes such as rape or murder. Unfortunately, not all kidnapped individuals are returned to their families and friends.

Kidnapping is considered a serious crime that has corresponding harsh penalties when a conviction occurs through the legal system. When someone is accused, he or she may have a difficult case to prove innocence. However, the prosecution may also have the same difficulty if the defending party has little evidence against it. The lack of the victim being present is what usually causes the most issues with proving guilt in claims of kidnapping. However, when the victim has been recovered, he or she may be the foundation these court trials are built upon once the person provides testimony. It is often this testimony that convicts the person accused.

Differing Charges for Different Cases

Because each individual kidnapped is different, charges and cases are often not similar to others that have come before them. Some may be determined to be misdemeanors while others are classified as felonies. There are various forms of kidnapping that may cause additional or completely different charges to be issued to the accused. A person may be forced to become part of a relationship with the kidnapper, do certain tasks, fulfill a sexual role or be required to perform many other instances of forced behavior and actions. No matter what the circumstances contain, most of these cases have harsh penalties with criminal charges issued to the perpetrator.

Some states have different charges added to the original kidnapping charge when applying certain factors. Some of these may include the administering of force or fraud. Fraud may be used as a charge when the person has been concealed or held against consent in the state the charges are issued or outside of this specific state. These are often applied in various states due to the restriction of freedom to the individual abducted. The person taken has no wish to remain with the captor, and he or she is unable to leave of his or her own free will. The limitations of leaving may involve restraints in handcuffs, rope, chain or the threat of injury. When the person does attempt to flee, the abductor may apply violent actions against him or her.

Restriction of Freedom

Violating a person’s rights of freedom is a direct offense against the law. This includes the limiting of a person from being able to leave an area. The original act of taking a person from his or her original location and transporting him or her to another may cause one charge while taking the individual out of the state may lead to harsher sentencing and potentially additional charges. Most individuals who are issued charges for kidnapping face felony cases that are often issued sentences of up to 30 years in prison. Any other penalties may be in addition to these to include fines, programs, reparations to the family of the victim and other punishments. After the convicted person has finished with prison terms, he or she might have a period of probation that restricts his or her traveling for a period of time the judge usually decides.

DNA Advances in Kidnapping Cases

Technological advances in DNA and forensics have pushed prosecution of criminals into the future. Some older cases have gone through these updated processes that allow for the arresting of some individuals for crimes that were committed many years ago. DNA evidence has been and may be used in the future to find perpetrators of crimes for various instances of numerous cases. In particular, kidnapping cases frequently have DNA on or in the victim or on restraints or other materials. If the person is in the criminal database, finding him or her is much easier than when he or she is not.

However, these procedures are not always accurate. When charges of kidnapping arise, it is best to obtain a criminal defense lawyer for assistance in proving innocence.

Tax Return and the Willfulness Element

download-14Willfulness Element

A willful act not to pay is at the heart of many charges of this nature. An act is considered willful if it is an intentional violation of a known legal duty. The prosecution bears the responsibility of proving that the defendant acted willfully. This must be proven by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In tax cases, proving willfulness usually comes down to showing that the defendant knew about the requirement to report and that he or she made a conscious choice not to comply with this mandate.

Willfulness is a mens rea or mental state. Since the defendant may not admit to this state of mind and there likely are no witnesses to this offense, the government can show that the defendant acted in a willful manner based on circumstantial conduct in which this mental state can be inferred.

Inferences of Fraud

The jury can consider if there are suspicious actions that seem to show that the defendant had the mental state to defraud the government. This may be shown through presenting a double set of books that the defendant has, proof of false entries, invoices or documents, destruction of records, the hiding of assets or the source of income or any other conduct that has the likelihood of misleading or concealing information.

Criminal Charges

The government often has the option of which charges to file. It may file a charge for the willful failure to file. In this case, the crime is considered a misdemeanor that carries a potential maximum sentence of one year in prison for each tax year. Another potential charge is that of tax evasion, which is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment for each relevant tax year.

Tax Assessments

The IRS also has the power to make a tax assessment by using a substitute for return procedure. This is the IRS basically filing the return on behalf of the taxpayer with the information known to it. However, the IRS is not required to include any standard deductions. A substitute return only permits two types of filing status: filing single or married filing separate. The second option limits the potential tax liability that a person may face.

Failure to File a Return Elements

The government has the burden of establishing three elements to prove its case. The first is that the defendant was required to file a return. The second was that the defendant failed to file at the time required by law. The third is that such failure was willful. The government is not required to prove an evil motive or a bad purpose since this is not one of the essential elements.

Proving the Case

One common way that the government makes its case by showing a pattern that the defendant failed to file tax returns for several years on end when returns should have been filed. This may be before or after the tax year subject to prosecution. Other ways to prove the case is to show that the defendant mailed tax protests to the IRS, disregarded IRS warning letters or filed contradictory forms such as one form stating that the defendant is exempt and another showing a filing listing multiple allowances.

In some cases, the prosecution relies on common sense to establish the willfulness element in a failure to file case. For example, the government may provide information about the defendant’s background. For example, if the defendant had a college education and accounting knowledge, he or she likely understands laws about tax filing requirements. Likewise, some cases have shown that the defendant was familiar with accounting books and operated a business. The government may show the filing of returns in previous years that indicate the defendant’s knowledge that he or she is required to file a return. If the defendant received a W-2 Form, this information may be used against the defendant to infer that he or she had knowledge about the duty to file. The jury can look at such information as a reminder that it is soon time to file.

Networks are Used for Identity Theft

Internet Fraud Schemes

Internet fraud occurs over a variety of platforms, including websites, chat rooms and social networks. Many victims are minors. Online deception uses the Internet to help induce fraudulent solicitations and conduct deceptive transactions. Common places to lure in victims include email, message boards, forums, chat rooms and social networking sites.

Often, these criminals attempt to acquire personal private information, including the Social Security number, financial account information, credit card number and date of birth.

Social Security Fraud

One common way that criminalizes victimize others is by stealing their Social Security Number and using it for their own benefit. They may reroute benefits to themselves in this manner. In some instances, children are the beneficiaries of such accounts and may have them stolen by individuals when they engage in communications under their parents’ radar, such as in social networking sites, email or chat rooms. Another type of fraud that may occur is someone may work under another person’s Social Security number and not pay required taxes. This can result in the real person being pursued for unpaid taxes.

Prevalence of the Problem

Children are particularly susceptible to being lured into these schemes. Online experts estimate that nearly 41 percent of American children under the age of 18 have received a request from an anonymous person to add them as a friend on a social networking site. Additionally, 63 percent of minors have replied to an online scam or responded to spam.

Preventing Identity Theft

The most important way that parents and others can help is by taking steps to prevent identity theft. Parents must be ever vigilant in protecting their children in this way. They should monitor their children’s use of social networking sites like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Additionally, they should require their children to provide their username and password for these accounts. They should also look for duplicate accounts in case their children only use the one that parents supervise as a dummy account while actively engaging on another account. Knowing that a child is constantly on a social networking site but that his or her status has not been updated in months is often a red flag that he or she has other accounts.

Parents can help change the privacy settings on their children’s account so that unknown individuals do not have access to their children. This can also help limit the amount of information that the public can see about the child. Parents should also be aware of the various ways that children may be able to access the Internet, such as use at school, at their friend’s house or through many portable gaming devices. Additionally, special apps often help children hide activity, so parents should be current on the latest trends.

Parents should also help educate their children about the dangers of having a presence online. They should teach their children safe ways to be online and dangers to avoid. They should instruct their children not to give out personal information on social networking sites, to disengage location services that pinpoint their exact location and to use a code word that is unique to the family in case anyone tries to insinuate themselves into the child’s life. Special educational campaigns help provide a foundation on these issues. Parents may contact their local school or library to get information on available resources.

Writing a Bad Check

Writing a bad check occurs when a person deliberately writes a check for an amount that he or she knows is not available in the bank account for which the check was written. In some cases, it involves writing a check for an account that has already been closed. In other cases, the process involves writing a check for an amount that is over the balance in that account, depositing the check in another account and withdrawing the funds before the check has a chance to clear.

In some cases, a person floats a check for money that is not available but for which they think a future deposit that will be made within a few days will be able to cover. Many states do not consider it a crime or will dismiss charges against someone if the check is paid within a few days, usually ten, after receiving notice of insufficient funds from their bank. However, people that use this process may place themselves in a precarious position in the event that they forget to make the deposit or they ignore a notice they receive from the bank.

Many states have loose definitions of the element of knowing that the account did not have sufficient funds. The law assumes that a person operates as a reasonable person and reviews statements and has an active knowledge of how much is in an account. Therefore, in many states, a person does not have to have actual knowledge of the exact amount in the account in order for the government to be able to prove that the defendant “knew” he or she was writing a bad check.

Criminal Penalties

The severity of being convicted of this crime depends on how the crime is defined under state law. In some cases, there may be criminal and civil implications. In other, there may only be civil penalties. In New York, a person faces up to three months in jail and a fine up to $750 based on the face value of the check. In California, a person may face up to a year in jail if convicted of the crime. In Texas, the penalties are particularly harsh where writing a bad check is considered a felony. A person may face between 180 days to two years in a state jail and a fine up to $10,000.

Some states have treble, or triple, damages so that a person will have to pay three times the face value of the check, subject to certain minimum or maximum payments.

Fraud and Abuse Act

These guidelines have been changed over the years, and some parts of these acts have evolved to allow further instances of crimes that were not conceivable in the 1980s. Various state and federal agencies use the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as a basis for charging criminal activity and the computer logs as evidence for a potential conviction.

Devices have diverted from the simple computer to encompass smartphones, Apple devices, tablets, MP3 players and various other electronics to provide internet access throughout the world. As demand and popularity of advancing technology grow, greater research and development goes into these machines. This means that citizens across the world are able to access the internet almost instantaneously. The need for information has become an obsession in youth and elderly alike. This also correlates to crimes in the computer and internet worlds increasing at an ever-growing rate. Tracking down these perpetrators of law violations has become difficult and time-consuming.

Needed Information about Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

Since 2015, over 60,000 cyber-criminal violations around the world were reported to law enforcement agencies. Many big businesses are victims of these offenses each year due to hacking and infiltration of protected documentation. This could include customer information, financial data, detailed records of how things are fun and other similar documents. While large companies are impacted in varying degrees, even smaller businesses have been hit. A report explained that since 2014, over 60 percent of all attacks completed with the internet and computers has been against small and mid-size companies.

Due to the rise in cyber-criminal violations, Congress altered the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in 1986. Through this alteration, it is illegal to access unauthorized computers and networks by any means of outside individuals or groups. During the years, the Act has been amended several times to attempt to keep up with new age criminal actions of hackers and those determined to ferret out information from companies through the use of the internet and computers. Cyber-criminal offenses may include acts such as espionage, trespassing through a computer, theft of a person’s identity, stolen information, the harm of computers and networks with viruses, scams through phishing, and various instances and types of fraud.

Severity and Penalties of Cyber-Criminal Violations

The levels of severity dealing with these criminal actions may vary depending upon certain factors. The same is said of the penalties applied to convictions for computer and internet offenses. Fines may rise to as much as $100,000. Other penalties may include jail or prison terms, probation, suspension of computer use and various other punishments.

To determine what type of level of severity and its accompanying penalties, certain factors must be in place. The level may be determined if any children were involved in the crimes committed. The type of data stolen or damaged is a large factor when concerning a company, but less of a factor when involving individuals. Additional crimes and penalties may be charged and issues against a person in regards to governmental agency cyber-criminal actions. Another factor to consider when determining the severity level of a charge is the criminal past of the person on trial.

Collar Crime Defendants

This may assist the defendant of these offenses with the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer. Time in many criminal proceedings in court often allows the defending party to provide additional witnesses and evidence to back up the claims of the person accused of the crime. In certain instances, this may assist in acquitting the individual of all charges.

What Are White Collar Crimes?

White collar crimes are those that involve persons out for money with their connection to businesses or within the government. These offenses usually have no violence or force used. Weapons such as firearms, knives and fists are not typical for these violations of the law. If a weapon is used in a white collar crime, it is usually in the form of a computer virus. These offenses are frequently only committed by those of respectable backgrounds and high social status in a job or career. To be considered white collar, the crime is usually done from within the business such as fraud, embezzlement, trade secrets theft of a corporation and similar acts.

Charges and Filing a Case

Many who commit these crimes cause the legal struggle against them to become complicated through various factors. Governmental agencies and law enforcement find prosecuting many of these individuals complex due to strong defenses with legal assistance by these individuals. The problem is usually in trying to simplify the case. Concepts and evidence with these claims of white color crimes are multifaceted in various instances.

Numerous cases of financial white collar crimes need some type of expert with numbers, math or finance in order to fully understand what occurred. This causes doubt and issues with the prosecution. This is especially true if a professional in these matters is unreachable. These cases may require the understanding of hundreds or thousands of pages of financial documents, accounting methods and various additional types of evidence for lawyers and the jury to understand. It is more difficult to convict a person of a crime if the evidence is too complicated for jury members to fully grasp. Adding in the fact that those accused are upstanding persons in communities or members in good standing with honest backgrounds may cause doubt when attempting to convict.

Plea Bargain Instead of Conviction

Because the evidence and person accused may cause a jury to become confused or doubt the crime occurred, legal representatives may confer with each other to reach a plea bargain. These may be more beneficial than a full conviction, but when the outcome looks more like an acquittal, the prosecution may seek this alternative. This may be the option taken if the prosecuting lawyer feels the risk of a trial is too great in favor of the defendant. This information is not shared with the defending party, but a plea bargain is usually offered before any court case may occur. These usually are the only option due to challenges with the investigation, evidence and the character of the accused.

Various Internet Crimes

Knowing what crimes are transpiring online allows many individuals to avoid the scams, violations and criminal activity present online. This may also ensure an individual averts danger by not being drawn into the crime himself or herself. Some offenses may arise with no knowledge that they are occurring or being perpetuated by a specific individual. It is in these situations that knowledge and understanding help a person stay out of trouble with the law.

The Growing Problem

Crimes are growing in frequency and numbers within the United States in regards to the internet with the use of a myriad of devices. These may range from various types of fraud to instances of child pornography possession and distribution. Consequences for violations often vary depending upon certain factors and the offense committed. The severity of the crime committed is often also determined by certain criteria as well as what offense occurred. Cyber crimes are the illegal use of the internet in violation of private computers, network systems, corporate data access and similar regions of online areas.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has stated that special priority for cyber crimes goes to specific areas where attention is needed. These usually include intrusion of computers, predators found online, piracy of media and the many types of fraud. Because intrusion into private computers costs a person so much money, it is important to avert these issues. Company losses are in the billions each year with these violations. Hacking into networks and personal devices, a hacker frequently disturbs, damages or changes information that may cause complete and permanent damages to vital systems of a business or home network. Most instances are for the theft of data, but some include business deals that are deemed illegal as well as potential or actual terrorism.

Crimes of Child Pornography

It is vital for many law enforcement agencies to focus on child predators that use online access to spread their collection, solicit minors and obtain illegal images of children. The FBI has created several task forces to combat this threat. One such created task force is the Innocent Images National Initiative that assists in combating against collection and distribution of pornographic media of minors. Both state and federal laws are broken when a person creates, possesses, sells or distributes any and all media involving what has been considered pornographic images of a minor under the age of eighteen. Though some stipulations vary based on the state, even a single instance of possession may lead to up to five years behind prison bars.

This crime is widespread and is a fast growing issue in the United States with potential for more than one type of offense. Those perpetrating this violation of the law may use the internet for viewing child pornography, in order to prepare minors for prostitution or to groom children for various criminal activities. When convicted of charges involving young persons, the adult may spend up to fifteen years in prison with possible additional fines, programs for rehabilitation and other penalties.

Piracy on the Internet

The news has covered the spread of theft of intellectual property. Though the crime has been occurring by numerous individuals and agencies for hundreds of years, the age of technology has shed light on the theft of media and private property. Intellectual property encompasses music in any form, books for reading and study, individual and collections of art, phrases attributed to persons, designs created by a person or group and other items. It is an illegal act to copy or distribute any material protected by copyright or trademark without the consent of the creator or owner. To prevent accidental crimes of this nature, the FBI has been attempting to educate everyone in the public domain about how serious this crime is and that it has been considered the theft of someone’s property or creation.