Federal "Automobile Exception," According to Some Courts, Allows Warrantless Searches of Cars Without Exigent Circumstances

July 29, 2014

1965_Rambler_Classic_660_4-d_blue-white_VA-t.jpgIn most circumstances, a warrantless search by police violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Courts have identified exceptions to this rule, however, when police have probable cause to believe that a search will yield evidence of a crime, and "exigent circumstances" make it likely that delaying the search to obtain a warrant would result in the loss or destruction of the evidence. Many states, including Texas, have also adopted an exception to the "exigent circumstances" requirement, known as the "automobile exception." Pennsylvania became the most recent state to adopt the automobile exception, in Pennsylvania v. Gary, No. 26 EAP 2012, slip op. (Pa., Apr. 29, 2014).

The defendant in Gary was convicted of drug possession after police found about two pounds of marijuana during a search of his vehicle. Police claimed that they stopped the defendant because they believed that his tinted windows violated the state Motor Vehicle Code. Upon approaching the vehicle, the officers claimed to smell marijuana. They asked "if there was anything in his vehicle that the officers need to know about," Gary, slip op. at 2 (quotations omitted), and he reportedly admitted that he had some "weed." They removed the defendant from the vehicle and found the marijuana under the front hood.

The defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained from the search. The trial court denied the motion, holding that the police had both probable cause and exigent circumstances, in part because the defendant was not technically under arrest and could have left with the contraband. The appellate court reversed the court's order, finding that because the defendant was in police custody, there was no "imperative need for prompt police action." Id. at 4, quoting Pa. v. Gary, 29 A.3d 804, 808 (Pa. Super. 2011). Prosecutors appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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Police Need a Warrant to Search Cell Phones During an Arrest, Supreme Court Rules

July 28, 2014

Two_Cell_Phones_2.pngPolice must obtain a warrant in order to search digital information stored on a suspect's cell phone, according to a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Riley v. California, Nos. 13-132, 13-212, slip op. (Sup. Ct., Jun. 25, 2014). The court combined two cases in its decision, both of which involved similar facts but contradictory lower court rulings. The Supreme Court proceedings received media attention because of statements by the justices indicating a wide range of perceptions of mobile phone technology, and how it is commonly used in our society.

Both underlying cases involve warrantless searches of cell phones. The first case, Riley v. California, involved a traffic stop for allegedly expired registration tags. The officer impounded the defendant's car upon learning that his driver's license was suspended, and an inventory search of the vehicle led to the defendant's arrest for firearm possession. An officer claimed to have found gang-related items on the defendant's person. The officer and a detective searched his phone and found text messages and media files allegedly related to gang activity, including a photo of the defendant standing next to a car believed to have been involved in an earlier shooting. The defendant was charged with and convicted of several offenses related to the shooting, based in part on the evidence found on the cell phone. The trial court denied a motion to suppress, and the convictions were upheld on appeal.

The second case, United States v. Wurie, began with an arrest after police surveillance observed the defendant allegedly making a drug sale. At the police station, officers noticed that the defendant's phone was receiving multiple calls. They looked at the phone's call log and traced the incoming phone number using an online directory. They went to the address, where they observed a woman who resembled the woman in the cell phone's background photo. They obtained a search warrant for the apartment and seized drugs, drug paraphernalia, and weapons from the residence. The trial court denied the defendant's motion to suppress, but the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling and vacated the conviction, holding that the warrantless search of the cell phone violated the Fourth Amendment.

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Clemency, Sentencing Reforms Offer Hope to Thousands of Nonviolent Drug Offenders Currently in Prison

July 23, 2014

wire-mesh-58333_640.jpgTwo recent administrative actions could lead to early release for thousands of people currently serving prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. Drug laws in the U.S. have grown--some might say mutated--to the point that people can receive lengthy sentences for seemingly minor offenses. Recent actions by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) are aimed at remedying some of the injustices that occur as a result of "mandatory minimum" laws, "three strikes" laws, and others. The DOJ announced in April that it has expanded its criteria for clemency requests, by which inmates may ask the White House to commute their sentences or issue a pardon. The USSC voted in July to approve retroactive sentence reductions for certain drug offenders.

The USSC, in its press release (PDF file) announcing its rule changes, estimates that the current federal prison population exceeds the capacity of the Federal Bureau of Prisons by about thirty-two percent. The DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics determined that, as of the end of 2012, about 6.94 million people were under the supervision of a state or federal adult correctional system, either as inmates, parolees, or probationers. The total prison population at that time was about 2.3 million, with the majority of inmates incarcerated in state prisons and 217,800 in federal prisons. In August 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the DOJ's "Smart on Crime" program, which acknowledges that levels of incarceration in the U.S. are "ineffective and unsustainable." The DOJ's clemency reforms are part of this program, and the USSC's rule changes also support the program's goals.

By a unanimous vote on July 18, 2014, the USSC approved retroactive sentencing reductions for federal drug offenses. It had previously voted in April 2014 to reduce base offense levels in the the Drug Sentencing Table, which is found in § 2D1.1(c) of the USSC Guidelines Manual, for all future drug cases. The vote in July allows these reductions to apply retroactively, meaning that people who are currently incarcerated for federal drug crimes may petition to have their sentence reduced to fit the revised guidelines. Any reduced sentence approved by a judge cannot take effect until November 1, 2015.

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State of Texas Seizes Mormon Sect's West Texas Ranch in Forfeiture Case

July 14, 2014

FLDS_Eldorado_hi.jpgTexas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers took possession of a 1,700-acre property in west Texas, known as the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch, in April 2014, about three months after a state judge ruled in the state's favor in a forfeiture action that it brought in 2012. The ranch was owned by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a sect that broke off from the Mormon Church. Law enforcement raided the property in 2008 amid allegations of child abuse, leading to several criminal prosecutions and hundreds of child welfare cases. The state's forfeiture action claimed that the use of the ranch in the commission of various criminal offenses rendered it "contraband" under state law.

In March 2008, a person claiming to be a 16-year-old girl called a child protective services hotline. She said that she lived at the YFZ ranch, that she was married, and that her husband had beaten and raped her. Authorities obtained a warrant and searched the ranch on April 3, 2008. The following day, Child Protective Services (CPS) workers removed 167 children from the property. By Tuesday, April 8, 534 women and children had either left YFZ Ranch voluntarily or been removed by CPS.

Law enforcement and child protection authorities alleged that members of the FLDS church were grooming girls to marry older men at a young age. Eventually several men would either be convicted of or plead no contest to sexual assault-related charges. FLDS leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault of children in 2011 and sentenced to life imprisonment plus 20 years. In May 2008, a Texas appellate court ruled that the seizure of almost 500 children by CPS violated state law. In re Steed, No. 03-08-00235-CV, slip op. (Tex. App.--Austin 2008). The Texas Supreme Court denied the state's petition for review. In re Tex. Dept. of Family Protec. Serv., 255 S.W.3d 613 (Tex. 2008).

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How a Man Got Life in Prison for Letting a Friend Borrow His Car

July 3, 2014

Jakub_Schikaneder_-_Murder_in_the_House (1).JPGA man in Florida is serving the seventh year of a life sentence for a murder that was committed while he was asleep in his bed a mile and a half away. He was charged with murder because he loaned his car to someone who, prosecutors alleged, he knew intended to use it to commit a burglary with the likelihood of violence. The "felony murder" rule allows a murder charge against someone involved in another felony that resulted in someone's death. It is part of a broader legal concept of criminal liability for other people's actions, known as the "law of parties" in Texas. According to The Nation, every country with a legal system based on English common law has abolished the felony murder rule except for the U.S. In Texas, the law of parties remains an important feature of the criminal justice system.

Ryan Holle was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of an 18-year-old woman in Pensacola, Florida in March 2003. Prosecutors alleged that he loaned his car to his roommate and then went to bed. While he was asleep, the roommate and several other people drove to a house, where they intended to break in and steal marijuana from a safe. During the burglary, a woman in the house was killed.

The people directly involved in the burglary were charged with first-degree murder, burglary, and robbery. Prosecutors also charged Holle, who had reportedly made statements to police that he had heard his roommate and others talking about stealing the safe from the house and the possibility of violence. At trial, the prosecutor argued that Holle's car was essential to the crime, that Holle knew what they intended to do, and that he loaned them his car for that purpose. Holle argued that he did not know why his roommate wanted the car, and that he had loaned the car to him many times before without incident. The jury convicted Holle of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

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Use of Facial Recognition Software and Other Biometric Technologies by Police Raise Fourth Amendment, Privacy Concerns

June 26, 2014

biometrics-154660_640.pngSeattle, Washington recently became yet another American city to obtain facial recognition software (FRS) for its police force. This type of software, along with other types of biometric technology, analyzes video footage and still images of people and compares them to databases of individuals known to law enforcement. The impact on privacy and Fourth Amendment rights is far from clear. Some recent court cases illustrate some potential concerns, and privacy advocates have expressed concerns regarding misuse and abuse of the technology.

FRS is just one type of technology in the broader category of biometrics, which can identify individuals based on a wide range of unique characteristics like DNA, fingerprints, retinas, or voice patterns. FRS measures certain distances on people's faces, such as from the tip of the nose to the chin. It then compares these measurements to databases of photographs. A spokesperson for the Seattle Police Department says that their FRS will use a database of mugshots.

Government agencies and private corporations are amassing ever-larger databases of biometric data. The U.S. State Department has what may be the largest such database in the world, with over 75 million photographs of people. The massive amount of information made available to law enforcement makes abuse, such as "fishing expeditions" that randomly select unknowing individuals for scrutiny, seem almost inevitable. Seattle has already been the site of a large-scale program intended to analyze surveillance footage outside of the context of any specific criminal investigation.

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Police Department Accused of Entrapment in Drug Sting Involving Autistic Teenager

June 20, 2014

300px-Arrest.svg.pngA school district and police department have been the subject of widespread criticism because of a drug sting at a high school that resulted in multiple arrests. One of the arrested students, Jesse Snodgrass, is autistic, and states that an undercover officer posing as a student entrapped him into obtaining drugs. The case may seem like something out of a movie, but it is a familiar reality in schools around the country. Entrapment, in which a law enforcement officer induces someone to engage in illegal activity, is not uncommon as a tactic in undercover drug investigations.

Extensive reporting in the Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone detail how a student named Dan at Chaparral High School in Temecula, California befriended Snodgrass in 2012. The 17-year-old Snodgrass had recently transferred to the school and had difficulty making friends because of his condition. Dan began asking Snodgrass to get him some marijuana, sending him dozens of text messages with increasing pressure. Snodgrass finally agreed to buy less than a gram of marijuana with money Dan had given him. On the morning of December 11, 2012, deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department arrested Snodgrass in class. "Dan" was actually an undercover police officer who was part of a sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 22 students at two Temecula high schools.

Snodgrass was expelled from Chaparral High School, but a state administrative law judge overturned that decision, holding that his actions were a "manifestation of his disability." Matter of Parent o/b/o Student, No. 2013010255, exp. dec. at 18 (Cal. OAH, Mar. 8, 2013). A judge dismissed the criminal case against Snodgrass six months after his arrest with no charges filed.

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Cyber Crime Investigations Often Assisted by Incorrect Use of Anonymizing Technology

June 11, 2014

Tor-logo-2011-flat.svg.pngTools that enable internet users to "anonymize," or conceal their online identities, have benefitted many people, such as activists fearing government persecution. It has also enabled people engaging in illegal online activity. People may wish to keep their online identities private out of genuine concern for their own safety, or out of a belief that what they do online is simply no one else's business. Efforts to investigate and track allegedly illegal online activities, however, often threaten to infringe on everyone's privacy rights. Law enforcement has had little success in cracking anonymizing technology, but ordinary human errors have assisted them in many cases by allowing them to connect anonymous activity to specific suspects. As The Daily Dot put it, the users themselves might be anonymizing technology's only "glaring weakness."

A software package known as Tor is one of the most well-known and widely-used anonymizing technologies available today. Its name is short for "The Onion Router," which refers to the use of multiple network nodes and encryption levels, sort of like the layers of an onion, to conceal the source of online communications. While a normal web browser sends and receives data along a relatively direct route, Tor uses a global network of computers and routers to transmit data along a winding, encrypted path. The Tor Project, a nonprofit organization that makes the software available for free, was originally funded by the U.S. military and still receives funding from the federal government.

The National Security Agency (NSA) has reportedly tried to "de-anonymize" Tor, but has not had any success. While it can reveal the identities of small numbers of users through "manual analysis," it has not come close to being able to de-anonymize all of Tor's users at once. Perhaps most importantly from a privacy standpoint, it cannot de-anonymize any one specific user, such as in response to a criminal investigation. Statutes regarding cybercrime require the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant engaged in certain acts. Investigators might try to establish these elements by showing that specific communications originated from a defendant's computer's IP address, or that a defendant was logged into their user account at the time certain acts occurred.

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Laboratory Allegedly Mishandles DWI Blood Samples, Calling Multiple Cases Into Question

May 30, 2014

3571573765_ab13f8d0ef_z.jpgA private laboratory testing company contracted by Texas prosecutors reportedly mishandled paperwork related to blood samples intended for use in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases. The extent of the company's alleged error remains unknown, but it has prompted the district attorney's office to state that the samples may have to be re-tested. Blood samples are used in DWI cases to establish the concentration of alcohol in a defendant's bloodstream, known as blood alcohol content (BAC). The statute defining the offense of DWI does not require BAC evidence; however, it is generally the simplest way for the state to prove intoxication. Compromised blood samples could seriously hinder the state's prosecution of many of the affected DWI cases.

The Bexar County District Attorney's Office, which handles criminal cases in San Antonio and surrounding areas, contracts with a company in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to test blood samples taken in DWI cases. In approximately mid-May 2014, the office reportedly received a letter from the lab stating that "some paperwork was mishandled." The office has not publicly stated exactly how many cases were affected, or exactly how, but news media have reported that the lab fired an analyst for multiple paperwork errors, including one incident involving about 350 incorrectly-labeled blood samples. The lab is reportedly conducting an internal investigation.

The DA's office was reportedly receiving test results containing caveats from the lab that they could not say for certain which sample produced the results. Other documents reportedly referenced contaminated lab equipment, although the DA's office has stated that they do not believe any blood samples were contaminated. Defendants currently involved in DWI cases in San Antonio, along with their advocates, are not very reassured by the DA's statements.

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Texas Man Faces Possible Life Sentence for Marijuana Brownies Under Odd Feature of State Law

May 27, 2014

Chocolate_brownies.jpgA teenager in Round Rock, Texas faces a possible life sentence for an alleged marijuana offense because of a technicality in the statute defining the offense. The man is accused of making and selling pot brownies using hash oil under the Texas Health and Safety Code. Prosecutors claim that they can use the weight of the brownies themselves, not just the hash oil, in determining the severity of the charged offense. They charged the man with a first-degree felony, punishable by up to life in prison, even though the alleged controlled substance would likely constitute a tiny percentage of the total weight of the brownies.

During a search of the defendant's apartment in April 2014, police reportedly found 1.5 pounds of brownies laced with hash oil, one pound of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, cash, and baggies containing additional marijuana and hash oil. The defendant was arrested and later released on a $30,000 bond. Prosecutors charged the defendant with manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance with an aggregate weight of at least four grams but less than 400 grams, a first-degree felony. Four hundred grams is equivalent to about 0.88 pounds.

The hash oil is the main concern in the case. While marijuana has its own category of punishments under Texas law, substances derived from it are included with other, more serious controlled substances. "Resinous extractives of Cannabis," including hash oil, are included in Penalty Group 2, along with various hallucinogens like mescaline and psilocybin. Tex. Health & Safety Code § 481.103(a)(1).

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Court Rulings Affirm Fourth Amendment Rights Against Warrantless Cell Phone Searches

May 14, 2014

Man_on_cellular_tower_(2585020521).jpgCommunications technologies seem to be changing at an ever-faster rate, and the laws against unreasonable searches by police always struggle to keep pace. Recent rulings from several state courts, however, have affirmed Fourth Amendment protections against warrantless searches of text messages stored on mobile telephones and location data obtained from cell phone service providers. While technology may change the means by which people can communicate, the expectation of privacy and the limits on warrantless searches should not change.

Text Message Privacy

Two recent cases from Washington state involved a police search of a cell phone. Police arrested an individual for alleged heroin possession. His iPhone continued to receive incoming calls and text messages at the police station. A detective spent five to ten minutes reading text messages on the phone, and reportedly identified drug terminology in messages from one contact. Posing as the phone's owner, the detective responded to the person to set up a drug transaction. He arrested the two individuals who showed up at the meeting location. Washington v. Hinton, 319 P.3d 9 (2014); Washington v. Roden, __ P.3d __, No. 87669-0, slip op. (Wash., Feb. 27, 2014).

Both defendants were convicted of attempted possession of heroin after unsuccessfully moving to suppress the evidence for violations of the Fourth Amendment, the state constitution, and state law. The Washington Supreme Court reversed both convictions. In Hinton, it based its ruling on the Fourth Amendment and the state constitution, while basing its decision in Roden on the state's privacy statute. The court ruled in Hinton that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy when making telephone calls that also extends to text messages. These protections exist, it held, "regardless of technological advancements." Hinton, 319 P.3d at 17.

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Government Not Obligated to Disclose GPS Tracking Policy Memos, Court Rules, Despite Fourth Amendment Concerns

May 9, 2014

GPS_Satellite_NASA_art-iif.jpgAfter the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012), that the use of GPS devices to track vehicle movements is a "search" governed by the Fourth Amendment, the Department of Justice (DOJ) drafted two memoranda addressing how the ruling affects ongoing and future criminal cases. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued to compel public disclosure of the memos under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. § 552. A court ruled that the DOJ does not need to disclose the memos at this time, because it expects that the policies contained in the memos "will be borne out in the courts." ACLU v. U.S. DOJ, No. 1:12-cv-07412, mem. and order at 12 (S.D.N.Y., Mar. 11, 2014).

In Jones, the Supreme Court considered whether police may use data obtained from a GPS tracking device attached to a suspect's car without a warrant. The court has held that the Fourth Amendment, which generally prohibits searches and seizures by police without probable cause and a warrant, protects the person, not the person's property, and that physical intrusion is not an essential part of a "search." See Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 351 (1967). It held in Jones that the installation and use of this device constituted a search under the Fourth Amendment.

The court left numerous questions unanswered in Jones, however, such as the extent of a person's reasonable expectation of privacy in the digital age, the extent to which their voluntary provision of information online waives their right to privacy, and the possibility that short-term GPS monitoring might not violate privacy rights. Jones, 132 S. Ct. at 955-56. After the ruling was issued, officials with the DOJ disclosed the existence of two memoranda it had prepared regarding the application of Jones to ongoing investigations and prosecutions, including the use of GPS and other monitoring or surveillance techniques.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules that, in Some Circumstances, One Resident May Consent to a Search by Police Even When Another Resident Refuses

May 1, 2014

521845812_de0ff22b4a_z.jpgUnder recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent, police may not search a residence without a warrant if any other resident objects, even if another resident gives consent. A new ruling, however, holds that the objecting resident must be physically present to prevent the search. Fernandez v. California, No. 12-7822, slip op. (Sup. Ct., Feb. 25, 2014). Justice Alito, writing for a 6-3 majority, stated that allowing any resident to object to a warrantless search while not present would create "practical problems" for police officers. A dissenting opinion written by Justice Ginsberg notes that most of the majority's practical concerns could be eliminated with a search warrant obtained in accordance with the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164 (1974), and Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177 (1990), the Supreme Court held that police may conduct a warrantless search of a resident with the consent of a resident other than the defendant. The court created an exception to this rule, however, in Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006). Police responding to a domestic disturbance with allegations of drug use were denied consent to search the premises by the defendant, but obtained consent from his wife. The Supreme Court ruled that "a physically present co-occupant's stated refusal to permit entry" prevented the police from conducting a warrantless search. Id. at 106.

In the present case, the defendant was accused of committing robbery and other offenses. A witness reportedly told police officers that the defendant was in a nearby apartment. The officers found the defendant at the apartment with his domestic partner and their four year-old son. The defendant expressly denied consent to enter the apartment. The officers removed him from the apartment and placed him under arrest for suspicion of domestic violence. About an hour later, police returned to the apartment, and the woman consented to a search that turned up evidence of the robbery, weapons and ammunition, and gang paraphernalia.

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Officer Testimony Trumps Video Evidence, Court Holds, in Establishing Probable Cause for Traffic Stop

April 25, 2014

2004-02-25_Night_traffic_stop_in_Durham_1.jpgThe Indiana Supreme Court affirmed a trial court's denial of a defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained in a traffic stop based on video evidence that seemed to contradict the arresting officer's testimony. An appellate court had reversed the defendant's DUI conviction, finding that the traffic stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion. Robinson v. Indiana (Robinson I), 985 N.E.2d 1141, 1143 (Ind. App. 2013). The state supreme court, however, ruled that the standard of review did not permit "invad[ing] the fact-finder's province." Robinson v. Indiana (Robinson II), No. 20S04-1307-CR-471, slip op. at 2 (Ind., Mar. 25, 2014).

At about 1:00 a.m. on October 15, 2011, a sheriff's deputy pulled the defendant over after allegedly observing her vehicle veer off the right side of the road twice. His vehicle camera recorded the stop. The defendant reportedly admitted to drinking one beer. She failed three field sobriety tests, and a chemical test conducted at the jail indicated blood alcohol content of 0.09 percent, just above the legal limit.

Prosecutors charged the defendant with driving under the influence and other offenses. The defendant moved to suppress all of the state's evidence, arguing that the deputy lacked reasonable suspicion to pull her over. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968); Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690 (1996). The trial court denied the motion after considering the deputy's testimony, the vehicle camera footage, and the blood and breath test evidence. Even though the court stated that it could not say for certain, based on the video, whether the defendant's car ever left the road, it held that the deputy's visual observations were enough to establish reasonable suspicion for a stop. It cited a case in which Indiana's appellate court found that an officer had reasonable suspicion when a defendant drove off the road twice. Indiana v. McCaa, 963 N.E.2d 24 (Ind. App. 2012).

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"Octomom" Faces Multiple Welfare Fraud Charges for Allegedly Failing to Disclose Income

April 17, 2014

3517649776_717ec12697_z.jpgThe woman who gained the nickname "Octomom" after giving birth to eight children, thanks to in-vitro fertilization, is now facing four charges related to alleged welfare fraud. Prosecutors in Los Angeles are accusing Nadya Suleman, who has fourteen children in total, of failing to disclose certain sources of income when she applied for public assistance and filed periodic reports in 2013. They filed three charges against her in Los Angeles Superior Court in January 2014, and added a fourth charge in February. The charges could result in a prison sentence of more than six years. Prosecutors are seeking restitution of more than $26,000.

Suleman became famous in 2009 when she gave birth to octuplets with the help of fertility specialists. She already had six children, and she struggled as a single parent to care for all fourteen of them. She made many media appearances after the octuplets were born, but still had financial problems. A planned reality television program never came to pass. She filed for personal bankruptcy in April 2012, but the court dismissed the case. She released a single in 2012 and was hired to participate in a debate on parenting for a newly-launched website. Also in 2012, she posed semi-nude for a UK magazine, appeared in an adult video in several scenes by herself, and began working as an exotic dancer in men's clubs.

In their initial complaint, prosecutors alleged that Suleman did not disclose nearly $30,000 that she received from "video and personal appearances" while receiving public assistance. She allegedly began receiving assistance in January 2013 from CalFresh, California's equivalent of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and CalWORKS. They accused Suleman of receiving $9,814 in aid from CalFresh and $6,667 from CalWORKS. The felony complaint, filed on January 6, 2014, charged her with one count of aid by misrepresentation, CA Welf. & Inst. Code § 10980(c)(2), and two counts of perjury by false application for aid, CA Pen. Code § 118(a). She pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

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