Profiting off Humiliating Others: Mugshot.com Owners Arrested for Pay-for-Removal Scheme

It appears we have seen the last of springfieldmugshots.com.  Last month, the owners of Mugshots.com were arrested on charges of extortion, money laundering, and identity theft. The website used data from police and sheriffs’ department websites, collected names, booking photos, and charges. Then, they published the information online without the person’s consent. To add insult to injury, they charged individuals fees to get the information removed.

The company extracted more than $64,000 in removal fees from approximately 175 individuals. In California, it is illegal to charge people to remove their mugshots. The California AG noted that the “pay-for-removal scheme attempts to profit off of someone else’s humiliation. Those who can’t afford to pay into the scheme to have their information removed pay the price when they look for a job, housing, or try to build relationships with others.”

Missouri Law Criminalizes Pay-for-Removal Schemes

In Missouri, it is a class A misdemeanor for a mugshot website to solicit or accept payment to remove criminal record information and is punishable by up to one year in jail. Each payment solicited or accepted constitutes a separate violation. Additionally, the mugshot website is liable to the subject individual for a loss or harm. The subject individual may be awarded $10,000, or actual and punitive damages. The subject individual only needs to show that he or she was humiliated or embarrassed.

It will be interesting to see if Missouri uses its Pay-for-Removal law to go after mugshot websites. Given the trends noted above, we expect to start seeing more Pay-for-Removal charges. So long springfieldmugshots.com!

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Criminalizing “Revenge Porn”: Attorney Adam Woody Discusses the New Missouri Statute

On Governor Greitens’ last day in office, he signed House Bill 1558 into law, which creates the felony offense of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images. Prior to Greitens’ approval, the Missouri legislature approved the bill banning “revenge porn” unanimously.

Missouri joins 38 states and the District of Columbia in outlawing revenge porn. Missouri Senator Gary Romine, the sponsor of the legislation in the upper chamber, says that the new law “provides prosecutors an opportunity to protect the victim, those that have had photographs taken of them while in an intimate personal relationship, and then have fallen apart and used against them at a later date.”

Under the new law, sharing private sexual images without consent constitutes a felony carrying the possibility of two to seven years in jail. Even threatening to do so is a Class E felony, carrying a range of punishment from one to four years in jail. An “intimate image” is an image that a reasonable person would understand as private.

Without this law, the only criminal protection for the victim would be that the assailant could be charged with invasion of privacy, which required the original photo to be taken without the other party’s consent. Greitens was charged with felony invasion of privacy, but the case was ultimately dismissed. Greitens can never be charged under the new “Revenge Porn” statute because it cannot be applied to conduct that occurred before the law was enacted.

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No Intent to Kill: The Recent Trend of Overdose Prosecutions

One of the best-selling music artists of all time, Prince, recently died after taking fake Vicodin laced with fentanyl. An icon of artistry and individuality, Prince’s opioid-related death sent shock waves across the world. Charges were not filed in relation to his death because law enforcement could not determine who provided Prince with the drugs. Prosecutors across the nation are adding “overdose prosecutions” into their arsenal to combat the rise of overdose deaths.

Across the Country, Overdose Deaths Are Mounting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) reported that in 2016, drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans. CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat notes that, “No area of the United States is exempt from this epidemic—we all know a friend, family member, or loved one devastated by opioids.” See here.

In Southwest Missouri, Overdose Deaths Are Skyrocketing.

Greene County, Missouri has one of the highest rates of death due to opioid overdoses in the state. The numbers are staggering: the opioid-involved mortality rate is 11.98 per 100,000. Just miles away, in Christian County, the numbers drop to half of Greene County’s rate, at 6.82 per 100,000. But this still places Christian County in one of the at-risk categories for high opioid mortality rates. See here.

Prosecutors Are Filing Charges to Hold Someone Criminally Responsible.

In West Virginia, a woman woke up after a day of drug use to find her girlfriend’s lips blue and her body limp. In Florida, a man and his girlfriend bought what they thought was heroin, but turned out to be fentanyl, which was more potent. She overdosed and died. In Minnesota, a woman who shared a fentanyl patch with her finance woke up after an overdose to find that he had not survived.

All were charged with murder. So-called “overdose prosecutions” are controversial because none of the survivors intended to cause a death. Nonetheless, such cases are becoming increasingly common.

There are two basic options for prosecuting these cases. First is the use of the existing statutory structure, which is often referred to as the “felony murder rule.” A felony murder statute allows the prosecutor to charge an offense which requires no specific mental state other than that required for the enumerated offense. Here, all that the prosecution needs to prove is that the person committed a drug transaction and a death resulted from the use of the drugs transacted. Case closed. Murder conviction sealed.

Second, state legislatures can create a specific offense of death resulting from the distribution of controlled substances. These statutes are crafted as stand-alone felonies rather than being included into existing murder or other statutes. New Hampshire and New Jersey both adopted such “drug-induced homicide” statutes and define the offense as being one of strict liability. Pennsylvania’s statute applies to any controlled substance and provides that delivery must be intentional. Delaware has imposed a minimum weight to trigger the application of the statute.

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It remains to be seen how the changes across the country are going to effect prosecutions here in Missouri.  Given the trends noted above, we expect to start seeing more murder charges for those who deal drugs in the future.  It will be interesting to see if there is any deterrent effect as a result…stay tuned!

To Testify or Not: Criminal Defense Attorney Adam Woody Weighs in on Greitens’ Fifth Amendment Right

When it comes to a client testifying in his or her own defense or in choosing to assert their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, attorneys must weigh a multitude of factors to provide experienced advice.  One primary factor is whether a client has any criminal history.  In a criminal case, a defendant’s criminal history cannot be mentioned by either party…unless the defendant testifies.  Then, his or her criminal history is fair game for cross-examination purposes.  The jury will hear all of the defendant’s criminal history.  So, putting he or she on the stand carries with it the significant risk that the jury would use the criminal history against the defendant in the case in which they are testifying.

If a defendant has a clean criminal record there is less worry about them testifying, but that doesn’t end the analysis.  For example, if your client is shy, withdrawn, poor at public speaking, easily manipulated, among many other concerns, it may not be a good idea for them to testify and subject them to cross-examination by the prosecutor.  If they don’t testify, the jury will always be instructed by the Judge to not use that fact against them in any way.

In the case of Governor Greitens, none of these concerns are present.  Adam Woody set down with the local CBS affiliate KOLR10 to discuss why Governor Greitens is the defendant every criminal defense attorney wants as a client.  His charisma, charm, and intelligence will serve him well if he chooses to testify in his own defense.  But, he must be careful and not cross the line into conceited, boastful, and arrogant.  He will be prepared and thoroughly coached by his defense team, so we fully expect him to testify whether it is to a jury in a jury trial, or only to the Judge sitting alone whose decision has the force and effect of a jury verdict, which is the case in a bench trial.  Stay tuned…next week will get interesting!

Questions To Ask When Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer

The benefit of having a criminal defense attorney by your side during criminal trial proceedings is clear. For this reason, it is not only advised that people seek representation from a lawyer when facing a crime, it is a legal right. Even defendants who have no money to afford an attorney of their own will be provided a public defender by the Missouri court system.

However, every criminal defense attorney is different. Certain ones may be more suitable to help you than others.

Important questions to ask your potential defense lawyer

You will want to ask various questions when shopping for a lawyer to determine if the one you’ve selected is the right match for you. Here are the questions you may want to ask:

  • Have you ever defended a case like mine? When lawyers handle a lot of DUI/DWI cases, they begin to have a natural instinct for what works and what doesn’t work for this particular kind of case. Make sure your lawyer has the right kind of experience.
  • How many times have you actually litigated a case in front of jury? As you know, many people have “performance anxiety” and they freeze up when it’s time to give a presentation. Others thrive in these situations. An attorney with extensive trial experience is more likely to thrive when in front of a judge and jury. This kind of lawyer will also be more likely to defend your rights in court if the prosecution refuses to be reasonable during your trial proceedings.
  • Can you provide references from past clients? If a lawyer has dealt successfully with clients in the past, he or she will probably be willing to give you references, so you can get a sense of what it is like to work with the attorney from a real client.
  • Have you ever asked a Judge to send someone to jail or prison? Many attorneys who are now criminal defense attorneys tout past experience as a prosecutor as a positive.  Sitting in the position of a potential defendant, be wary of former prosecutors.  Ensure that their loyalty will lie with you, as their client, and not the prosecutor’s office, who are their friends and former colleagues.

Things to keep in mind about trial experience

It’s very convenient for a lawyer to simply work out a plea deal with the prosecution, skip the trial and make a big compromise. These defense lawyers may do this because don’t have good enough trial instincts to evaluate the true risks and potential benefits of going in front of a jury.

If your lawyer has only been to trial several times, then he or she may not have the reputation of being an aggressive criminal defense litigator — and when negotiating a plea deal, the prosecution may not take him or her as seriously as a lawyer who has such a reputation. Taking these points into consideration, for your benefit, make sure that you select a defense lawyer with extensive trial experience.

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Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Names Adam Woody as Vice President

At it’s annual meeting on April 20, 2018 in Springfield, Mo., the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) named Springfield criminal defense attorney Adam Woody was named Vice President of the organization.  The organization consists of over 450 attorneys from across the state. MACDL is dedicated to protecting the rights of criminally accused through a strong and cohesive criminal defense bar. The goal to improve the quality of justice in Missouri by seeking to ensure fairness and equality before the law. To achieve this important purpose, MACDL participates in legislative matters, works with the judiciary to make advances in serving the people who come to court, and provides continuing legal education to practitioners to improve their skills.

Said Adam Woody of the Appointment: “I am honored to have been elected by the statewide criminal defense bar to provide leadership to this great organization.  I will continue to make it my goal to fight for what is right and to assist, as best I can, all criminal defense attorneys across the state to effectively advocate for their clients in and out of the courtroom.”

Why It Is Important To Always Fight Drug Charges

If you recently received drug charges, you may think that it is not worth it to fight them. Maybe you believe that the evidence against you is quite strong, or maybe you feel that a simple charge like drug possession is no big deal.

In reality, neither of these are very good reasons to opt out of building a strong legal defense against drug charges. Even if you believe that the evidence against you is particularly strong, a skilled attorney can find ways to fight for your freedom that you may never consider. Similarly, If you think that any drug charge is a small matter, you should seriously reconsider that position.

Drug charges carry extremely heavy penalties compared to other similar, non-violent crimes. Moreover, beyond the legal penalties brought on by a drug conviction, you stand to face many social penalties as well.

The punishment rarely fits the crime

Campaigning on a “tough on crime” platform is a classic way that political candidates can shore up votes in an election, especially in midwestern states like Missouri. However, the reality of the matter is that “tough on crime” usually translates to “stiffer minimum sentences for drug offenders,” among other things.

Drug convictions account for a far larger percentage of incarcerations than any other kind of crime, leading to overpopulated jails that can barely keep up with a system built to churn out more convicts year over year.

If you choose not to fight your drug charges, you may face very unfair jail time as well as surprisingly high fines.

The aftermath is widespread

Even after you serve your time, you’re not done paying for the conviction — not by a long shot. Individuals with drug convictions on their records often face great difficulty securing employment because many employers refuse to even consider hiring someone with a drug conviction.

Even if you manage to find work with a conviction on your record, you may have great difficulty finding a good place to live. Many property management firms do not rent apartments or houses to anyone with a drug conviction. The practical result of this is that those rental properties that do rent to individuals with drug convictions are filled up with other people who also have drug convictions. In many cases, this makes it very difficult to avoid making further foolish choices in the future.

You may also find that insurance rates rise after a drug conviction, making it very difficult to stay legal on the road.

However you choose to build a strong defense, do not waste any time. Every hour that you choose to wait to begin building your defense is an hour that the prosecution has to build against you.

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Springfield Criminal Defense Attorney Adam Woody Discusses the Importance of an Impartial Jury in Gov. Greitens Case

Springfield criminal defense attorney Adam Woody was interviewed by the local CBS affiliate KOLR10 earlier this week regarding the case involving Governor Eric Greitens.

We found out a few weeks ago that a Judge denied the request for a Greitens to waive his right to a jury trial. In this KOLR10 interview, Adam discusses the issue of finding an impartial jury for this case.

“If people have seen coverage of this, it could impact the ability of the parties to find a fair, unbiased jury in this matter,” Woody said. In regards to the actual charges Greitens is now facing, we are left looking at the invasion of privacy charge, which may be difficult for the prosecutor to prove without the infamous photograph we have all heard so much about.

To see the full interview with Adam Woody on KOLR10 and to learn more about what sort of actions the prosecution will need to take with Governor Greteins’ charges, click here.

Springfield Defense Attorney Adam Woody Discusses Consent in the Greitens Case

Springfield criminal defense attorney Adam Woody was interviewed by the local CBS affiliate KOLR10 earlier this week regarding the new details surrounding the case with Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, coming out of the bombshell report from the legislative committee investigating his case.  In this installment, KOLR10 digs a little deeper into the details in the house committee’s report.

Gov. Greitens is facing serious allegations in regards to an affair, and these allegations are hinging on witness credibility. Adam Woody spoke with KOLR10 about what can determine consent versus non-consent.  If the witness is to be believed, Greitens could potentially face additional sex charges, including the possibility of First Degree Sexual Misconduct and Second Degree Sodomy.

“Realistically the report from the legislative committee was sort of a bomb shell. It included many more details than anything the public had seen up until this point. With that really came a lot of dangers for Gov. Greitens,” Adam stated.

To see part one of this series and to learn more about the witness reports in full, click here.