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Wisconsin Fraud, Criminal and White-Collar Criminal Investigation Blog

Appellate court decision examines OWI laws, motor bicycles

While motorcycles, scooters and bicycles are the go-to choice for most two-wheeled enthusiasts, there a select few who prefer a more non-traditional mode of transportation.

For instance, some people own what are known as "motor bicycles," which, as the name suggests, are a sort of hybrid allowing a person to either pedal or switch over to a motor.

Interestingly, a Wisconsin appellate court was recently called upon to decide whether the state's drunk driving laws applied to these motor bicycles.

Top police official says okay to marijuana legalization

post plant.jpgThis coming November, the issue of marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in multiple states in some form, including Oregon, Florida and Alaska. While no such measures will be decided by voters here in Wisconsin, the issue of legalizing marijuana for medicinal and even recreational purposes has nonetheless been discussed to a considerable degree by lawmakers, law enforcement officials and advocacy groups throughout the state.

The latest person to offer their opinion on this hotly debated issue is Madison Police Chief Mike Koval, who has taken what some might characterize as a surprising position concerning marijuana.

Specifically, Koval recently indicated that he's on board with the idea of legalizing marijuana here in the Dairy State, saying that he believes the drug should be treated in much the same way as alcohol and tobacco.

AG Holder looks to Congress for help in combating white collar crime

handcuffs 3.jpgIn the aftermath of the recent recession, which was fueled in large part by major financial institutions being less than forthright about the quality of mortgage bonds offered for sale, the Justice Department took immediate action.

However, rather than pursue high-ranking executives, federal prosecutors instead reached major settlements with the major Wall Street firms for which they worked.

While this tactic resulted in the DOJ securing billions of dollars on behalf of the American taxpayer, the agency did face criticism for what many called its failure to go after some of the key players behind the worst fiscal crisis in recent memory.

In a recent speech, however, Attorney General Eric Holder defended the actions of the DOJ, indicating that while federal prosecutors wanted to pursue this course of action, it was often difficult to prove that these high-ranking executives had any involvement due to blurred lines of corporate authority, meaning a concerted effort to mask the identity of people behind certain business decisions.

Controversy continues to surround first-offense OWI in Wisconsin

OWI Bill.jpgOn the evening of November 4, all eyes in the state of Wisconsin will be glued to televisions and the Internet as the results of the 2014 general election come in. On this historic day, voters will be called on to decide not just who will represent them in the state legislature, but who will hold the offices of the governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general.

Interestingly, of all the contested issues to arise in the race for the AG's office, there is actually one on which the two leading candidates agree: first-offense OWI. Here, they both agree that the Dairy State should continue to maintain its position as the only state to not criminalize first-time drunk driving and instead treat it as a traffic offense.

Not surprisingly, these respective positions have upset many vehicle safety advocacy groups, who argue that more must be done to combat the epidemic of drunk driving in the state and that this can start with criminalizing first-offense OWI.

Why are police using more UW students as confidential informants?

UW System.jpgBack in February, our blog discussed how Rehabs.com, a website designed to "provide information for those suffering with substance abuse and behavioral addictions," released a study ranking colleges throughout the nation in terms of their on-campus drug arrests.

Much to the surprise of people throughout the state, several of the University of Wisconsin's 13 four-year campuses came in relatively high on the list, including UW-Eau Claire and UW-Whitewater, which ranked second and eleventh respectively.

Interestingly, sources are now indicating that law enforcement officials located in these and other college towns across the Dairy State are now utilizing a new weapon in their efforts to crack down on campus drug crimes: student informants.

What is a RICO violation?

voter fraud handcuffs.jpgCommonly referred to as RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was originally enacted by Congress in 1978. At the time, the point behind the act was to give prosecutors a better way to try to convict those involved in organized crime rings. Prior to this, it was often difficult to prosecute those overseeing these large groups of individuals and businesses. Meanwhile, a lack of a case meant illegal products were still being made readily available to the general public. 

However, since its inception, RICO has become much more far-reaching than just targeting mob bosses and those involved with drugs and weapons trafficking. Now, it is not unheard of for someone not tied to organized crime to be facing RICO violations. Some common examples where RICO is used today include cases involving accusations of Medicare overbilling and money laundering. Basically, someone does not need to be the mastermind of a criminal enterprise to end up facing RICO violations. 

How family dinners can help with both cyberbullying and juvenile crime

laptop2.jpgThanks to the Internet, smartphones, unlimited wireless access and social media platforms, our ability to communicate with one another has undergone a significant transformation over the last decade. In fact, we can now connect with others and share our thoughts instantaneously in just a few swipes of the finger.

It's important to understand, however, that these enhanced communication channels are sometimes used in a decidedly negative manner. For instance, cyberbullying -- a phenomenon in which people harass or intimidate others using the Internet, texts or social media -- has exploded among kids, sometimes resulting in real emotional harm and other associated problems for victims.

Answers needed as Milwaukee PD moves closer to body cameras

Milwaukee_Police_Department.jpgIn light of recent events on both the local and national stage, more and more people here in Milwaukee are now calling on the police department to require all of its officers to be equipped with body cameras to record their interactions with the public. Indeed, an online petition calling for the Milwaukee PD to secure the technology currently boosts well over 2,000 signatures.

For its part, the Milwaukee PD appears to be moving in this direction. After testing five different models of body camera last year, the department is now looking to secure 50 cameras to use in a pilot program to be launched sometime in 2015.

Many people, however, are viewing these efforts are falling well short, arguing that they will serve to do nothing more than delay the inevitable and delay the public the necessary protection from potential misconduct.

According to criminal justice experts and civil liberties advocacy groups, while this public frustration is certainly understandable, people must nevertheless remember that the practical considerations attending such a move must be carefully considered in order to ensure its success.

How the government can still conduct warrantless phone searches

smartphone2.jpgEarlier this summer, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a historic decision in Riley v. California, a case examining the intersection of digital privacy rights and Fourth Amendment protections.

Here, the court held that law enforcement officials must secure a warrant before undertaking any sort of search of a cellphone owned by a person placed under arrest.

While the decision reached in Riley was rightfully hailed as a major victory for privacy rights, legal experts are now indicating that it may have been only the tip of the iceberg.

In particular, these experts have already identified what could prove to be the next legal battleground over warrantless cellphone searches by law enforcement officials: the U.S. border.

Will sentencing guideline ranges for white collar crime be cut?

Gavel.jpgThe last time that the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the panel responsible for setting the federal sentencing guidelines, addressed the issue of white collar crime was over a decade ago. Here, the commission didn't actively work to reduce the penalties called for by the current guidelines, but rather to strengthen them, such that those convicted of everything from embezzlement and insider trading to fraud and money laundering faced potentially stiffer sentences.

In fact, some of the penalties called for by the revised federal sentencing guidelines were so stringent that many federal judges have chosen not abide by them over the years.

As you might imagine, this trend -- which is permissible given that the sentencing guidelines are advisory in nature -- has resulted in inconsistent sentences being handed down, which is exactly what the commission wants to avoid.

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