Are Online Threats Equally as Punishable as Verbal Threats?

Lately, several incidents concerning people posting online threats have been in the news. From the controversy at University of Missouri to other violent online threats directed towards a Dallas high school, cyber threats are being taken much more seriously. Legally though, are online threats equally as punishable as in person verbal threats?

The answer is dependent upon each case but in the situation that took place at the University of Missouri, the answer was yes. Two college students were arrested for making death threats against African American students over an online social media app called Yik Yak.

University of Missouri first issued a security alert to all students and faculty, then were able to find those that made the threats and proceeded to arrest them. In this case, the threats were directed at a specific group of individuals and categorized as terrorist threats.

These death threats and other online threats are illegal in most cases, just as they would be in person. However, this past June, the Supreme Court specified the legal repercussions concerning online threats and arresting those involved.

The Supreme Court ruled that an online threat is not criminal unless the person writing the threat planned for it to be understand as legitimate and others believed this as well.

In discussing the decision of the Supreme Court, ACLU legal director Steven R. Shapiro said the “decision properly recognizes that the law has for centuries required the government to prove criminal intent before putting someone in jail.”

The decision comes at a time when these threats will have to be more deeply assessed. Another important factor when considering the prosecution of an online threat is determining the mental health of the person posting the threat.

In the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote “Federal criminal liability generally does not turn solely on the results of an act without considering the defendant’s mental state.”

Overall while each case is determined separately, online threats are not taken lightly and can result in similar if not worse repercussions than in person threats.

Why You Need a Defense Attorney Instead of a Public Defender

No matter the crime, representation is a vital aspect of a criminal proceeding. Whether the charges are mild or severe, the repercussions of committing a crime could result in a range of outcomes from community service to years in prison. With such high stakes involved, the right defense is invaluable when it comes to protecting your rights and your future.

While anyone who has committed a crime has the option to defend themselves or rely on a court-appointed, public defender to represent their case, that doesn’t mean either of those options are a good idea.

Although both private criminal defense attorneys and public defenders have undergone years of higher education and testing to understand the legal system and different defense options, the differentiating factors between the two are specialized experience and workload.

Special Skills and Experience

Hiring a criminal defense attorney means you’re in charge of selecting a professional with the right experience and a specific set of skills that are beneficial to your case instead of settling for a public defender who has been chosen for you.

A private criminal defense attorney can work from a background of prior legal experience to provide optimal, individualized defense for your case, whereas a public defender who works with the same prosecutors and judges everyday might not be as comfortable with trying different defense strategies.

Excessive Workload

Private criminal defense attorneys have a say in not only the types of cases they take on, but also the number of cases they work on, allowing them more time to dedicate to each client from start to finish.

A major problem many public defenders face are excessive workloads. Many have huge caseloads to manage that exceed national standards. For example, the standard number of felony cases per year for public defenders is limited to 150, but it is not uncommon for them to have anywhere from 500 to 800 felony cases annually, according to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. This can make it difficult for them to prioritize your needs and provide the most effective representation.

For the most effective and highest quality representation, it’s important to do your research. Hire an attorney with experience handling the charges in your case, who will take the time to get to know you and produce a specialized defense strategy.

At Corso Law Group, you can rely on our skilled criminal defense attorneys to do everything in their power to protect your rights and fight to defend your voice in the courtroom.

Are No-Refusal Weekends Here to Stay?

Another No Refusal weekend was implemented recently over the Halloween holiday in Texas.  This follows No-Refusal weekends that took place this past Labor Day and Fourth of July.

These No-Refusal weekends are being put into place during holiday weekends that are celebrated heavily by drinking alcohol. During a No Refusal weekend, officers have the right to obtain a warrant allowing them to conduct blood alcohol tests on those they’ve pulled over for DWIs if they’ve refused to comply with a Breathalyzer test.

This initiative continues to be implemented at a time when Texas is experiencing some of the highest DWI rates in the country. The most recent study conducted by MADD revealed that over 15,680 people experienced injuries from alcohol-related accidents and 1,337 died from alcohol-related crashes in 2013.

It’s clear that law enforcement authorities have implemented this policy in order to reduce drunk drivers on the roads and to create a safer environment. Typically, several checkpoints are set up in various parts of the city to assure that drunk drivers are taken off the roads. However, it is crucial to fully understand your rights if you are pulled over for a DWI during a No Refusal period.

As a driver, if you arrive at a checkpoint and are suspected of being intoxicated, an officer might ask that you submit a blood or Breathalyzer test. You then have three options as a response.

  • Agree to a blood test
  • Agree to a Breathalyzer test
  • Reject any type of test

If you reject a test and are suspected of a DWI, it is legal for an officer to detain you until a warrant is obtained, allowing them to force you to provide a blood test.

It’s important to know that if you’re pulled over for a DWI, you should immediately call a criminal defense attorney to lead you through the entire process. At Corso Law Group, we always remind Texans that this contact should be the first step you take if you are ever in this situation.

Upcoming holidays, including New Year’s Eve, are expected to be accompanied by No Refusal initiatives, similar to last year where law enforcement agents administered 14 blood tests and arrested 26 people. With police officers stating that these initiatives are successful, No Refusal weekends are most likely here to stay.

If you are pulled over for a DWI or traffic citation, please contact Corso Law Group immediately at (713) 231-0499.

Arizona Cyclists, Drivers Encouraged to Share the Road

As the weather in Arizona starts to cool down and more residents choose to walk and bike around the Valley, the Scottsdale traffic attorneys at Corso Law Group remind drivers and cyclists to share the road this season.

The Phoenix Street Transportation Department recently installed a series of new signs near bike lanes and busy biking areas warning of wrong way cycling in an effort to reduce crashes.

Approximately 450 bike and automobile accidents occur every year in Phoenix, and 34 percent of this type of collision involves a biker riding against traffic.

Arizona law states that while bicycles are not considered vehicles, a person riding a bike has the same rights and responsibilities as a person driving a car, which means they are legally expected to ride with traffic in the farthest right lane and follow traffic rules including:

  • Stopping for traffic lights and stop signs
  • Yielding to pedestrians on crosswalks and sidewalks
  • Signaling lane changes and turns
  • Using a white headlight and red rear reflector at night

There are also laws enforced by the state in place specifically for cyclists such as:

  • Every person riding a bike must have a seat
  • Every bike must have at least one brake
  • No more than two people may bike side by side on the road
  • One had must be on the handlebars at all times
  • Do not attach a bike to another bike or vehicle on the road

When an accident does occur between a person on a bike and a driver, who is at fault? The answer depends on negligence. If either the biker or the driver fails to exercise a reasonable standard of care at the time of the incident, like stopping at a red light or going the speed limit, he or she may be considered negligent and face charges.

Whether you’re a cyclist or a driver, if you’re ever involved in this type of accident in Arizona, contact the traffic attorneys at the Scottsdale office of Corso Law Group for help.

3 Reasons Criminal Defense Law Firm Reviews Matter

Our Houston defense attorneys work to provide a fair and aggressive defense for each client. We understand that every case is different and each client requires our undivided attention and skills in order to attain a favorable outcome. We’ve found that our client reviews have positively reflected this, showing potential clients that these reviews do indeed matter.

They reveal who the criminal defense attorneys are behind the firm

Brent A.  – Corso Law Group review: “I had a great experience with this law firm. I recommend them to everyone. My legal team was experienced and worked hard for me. If you need a lawyer, consider this firm. I liked the fact that they were dependable and always had the answers. I was living out of state at the time and it was important for me that I knew my lawyer and team had everything under control.”

We understand that it can be difficult to fully understand who your criminal defense attorney is solely from the firm’s website. Client reviews present personal attributes of the attorneys, revealing that they are dependable and trustworthy, or possess other desirable traits you seek when hiring a criminal defense attorney. 

They help you understand the firm’s process for their clients

Juan P. – Corso Law Group review: “The lawyers were able to assist me with questions I had regarding getting my old charges cleared. I got to go in for a personal consultation with the owner, and within a couple weeks they had taken care of my record for me. Every step of the way I was notified and if I had any questions, I could call at any time. Wonderful staff. I would recommend.”

One of the most important aspects about the criminal defense firm you decide to hire is understanding their process for assisting their clients. Are they quick to respond to you? Do they lead you through each and every step of your case? Their process should revolve around you and the situation you’re in, not them. Client reviews reveal how consistent, effective and motivated a firm is through the way they assess and then act on your case.

They provide proof of success

Paul B. – Corso Law Group review: “Because of their experience and professionalism, my charges were reduced to one from three and the one was reduced to a reasonable outcome. The circumstances of my mistake could have been much worse. I salute this firm. Thank you.”

No one wants to hire a law firm that isn’t good at what they do. Take the time to read each review and see if the outcomes are in line with what that client expected and received. Your criminal defense attorney should be experienced in the field your case is in and present proven successes to you up front.

Top 4 Most Common Holiday Crimes

The holiday season is a time for celebration, but it is also peak season for certain crimes. Corso Law Group has identified the four most common holiday crimes and offers advice on how to protect yourself from falling victim this year.

Drunk Driving

Holiday travel means significantly more people on the roads. This year, AAA predicts 46.9 million Americans will travel over the Thanksgiving holiday alone, which is up from the high of 46.6 million in 2014. This increase, along with holiday drinking and partying over Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, leads to a rise in DUIs and DUI accidents.

Prevent a holiday DUI by being aware of popular drinking holidays, like Thanksgiving Eve and New Year’s Eve weekend, and making the proper arrangements to keep yourself and loved ones from getting behind the wheel.

Shoplifting

This time of year, there are countless opportunities for shoplifting with crowded malls and busy store employees. National shoplifting arrests increased by 15 percent in November and December compared to the rest of the year in 2014, and one in 11 Americans has admitted to shoplifting, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.

To protect your business from shoplifters, keep a vigilant eye on your surroundings, especially during busy shopping periods, consider hiring additional, seasonal staff and be sure to install an alarm system.

Identity Theft

With the holiday season being one of the busiest retail periods all year, there are countless opportunities for identity theft both online and in stores. Personal information, including credit card information, social security numbers, names and addresses, can all be at risk during the holidays.

Keep sensitive information safe by regularly checking credit card and bank statements and only shop online using a secure wifi network on websites that include a lock symbol by the url.

Robbery

Leaving a store or mall with an armful of shopping bags is a regular occurrence during the holidays, but it also reads as an opportunity for robbers.

While shopping, keep track of your purchases and don’t leave bags unattended or in plain sight. For example, instead of keeping items in the backseat of your car, where they are easily visible, store purchases in the trunk. It’s a simple way to avoid making yourself a target.

Truck Drivers Salaries Increase During Shortage

Time and time again, we have worked with truck drivers to secure their livelihoods after legal difficulties, learning that their salaries either proved unfair or challenging to live on. Now, after a change in economic conditions and an increase in the shortage of truck drivers, companies are beginning to seek their services at a higher paid and more frequent rate.

This year, the truck driving industry has experienced a continued shortage of drivers throughout the United States, causing salaries of current drivers to increase by approximately 12 percent.

According to the National Transportation Institute, average salaries for long-haul truck drivers have increased approximately 17 percent since 2013, rising to $57,000 in 2015. Due to low employment costs and an increase in demand for imported goods that must be transported by long-haul trucks, the trucking industry has seen great benefits. According to Bob Costello, American Trucking Association’s Chief Economist, the expected increase in driver’s salaries will continue to rise as long as the shortage continues.

An increase in salaries is long overdue, but long-haul truck driving still proves an impossible task for some due to the commitment of time spent out on the road.

Jarrod Ritter, a 35-year-old truck driver, tried long-haul truck driving a few times but was never able to commit to the long hours and multiple days away from home. In a Wall Street Journal article which discussed the raise in truck driver’s salaries he stated, “It’s a hard life…You’re living 24 hours a day, seven days a week inside a rolling closet.”

Offering more time at home is one of the changes the American Trucking Association is considering in order to attract more drivers to fix the shortage. Although a steep increase in salaries is intriguing for drivers, this factor, as well as a change in how the supply chain treats the drivers and improving the reputation of the industry, are said to be in the works.

Additional changes in the industry also include lowering the age requirement for interstate truck drivers and working to hire veterans.

Another challenge for truck drivers includes specific legal difficulties. Texas CDL tickets can result in serious penalties for truck drivers and are difficult to fight without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

That’s why our firm is here to help. We work with these individuals every day to help them succeed and grow in their positions by fighting for their rights.

We understand that truck drivers must maintain a clean driving record to continue making a living. To learn how to protect yourself, please contact us today.

Your Protesting Rights: How to Protest Safely and Legally

With so many protests resulting in violence, mass arrests and illegal use of force, what exactly are your protesting rights? The Scottsdale attorneys at Corso Law Group explain your rights and how to stay safe while participating in demonstrations and protests.

Threats and Violence

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, which includes the right to protest. While this does mean that there are no restrictions on the content of your speech, it does not protect all types of speech.

While you are certainly within your rights to express your opinion, no matter how extreme or unpopular, threatening or violent remarks could be considered criminal threats, which could result in jail time.

Private Property

You’re legally allowed to protest government actions and participate in demonstrations individually or in a group setting, but there are specific rules and restrictions to follow.

Typically, if a protest is large and involves loud speakers or any special equipment, a permit is required, even if the demonstration takes place on public property, while smaller, unobstructive protests do not.

These rules apply only to public property such as streets and sidewalks. The moment a protest moves onto private property, the owners of that property have the right to ban or restrict protesting altogether. If protesters do not comply with the owner’s rules, they can face trespassing charges.

Police Restrictions  

Even if a protest takes place on public property, police can limit protesters to protesting zones to keep other citizens safe.

For example, blocking roads, obstructing traffic and closing off entrances to businesses could create a dangerous situation, and doing so during a protest could get you arrested.

Media

Although media coverage can help bring attention to whatever cause a group may be representing, some protesters are reluctant to interact with or even allow media coverage to take place during a demonstration.

Recently, during protests against racial injustice at the University of Missouri, mass media professor Melissa Click was recorded confronting photographer Mark Schierbecker, telling him to leave the demonstration.

Click was recorded threatening force to get Schierbecker to leave, saying “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”

Even if a protester doesn’t want to be filmed, members of the media have every right to cover public protests. The First Amendment, the same right that protects the right to protest, also protects freedom of the press and allows reporters the right to cover public events.

Making a Difference as a Criminal Lawyer

Going into business has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As a criminal lawyer, I get an opportunity to help people everyday. It’s a great feeling knowing that you’ve made a positive impact in the lives of other people.

I was recently asked for my advice on my biggest milestone in business. For me, it’s been the ability to expand our business into the Houston market, doubling the impact we can have as criminal defense lawyers:

“This year was a defining year for Corso Law Group as we completed our firm’s first expansion, into Houston, Texas. We put in years of hard work to establish Corso Law Group in Scottsdale, Arizona focusing on key cases that made a difference in our state and to our clients. Our team then carried this work ethic and focus into the Houston market, and we proudly opened Corso Law Group in Texas this past summer. What’s even more exciting is that the new firm is thriving in a new environment and we’ve continued to have success in our home base of Scottsdale.”