Child Abandonment Laws

Child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or person in charge of a child either deserts a child without any regard for the child’s physical health, safety or welfare and with the intention of wholly abandoning the child, or in some instances, fails to provide necessary care for a child living under their roof.

While abandoning a child typically involves physical abandonment — such as leaving a child at a stranger’s doorstep when no one is home — it may also include extreme cases of emotional abandonment — such as when a “work-a-holic” parent offers little or no physical contact or emotional support over long periods of time.

Unfortunately, abandoned children who do not get their needs met often grow up with low self-esteem, emotional dependency, helplessness, and other issues.

A person charged with deserting a child may face felony or misdemeanor penalties and other consequences.

The term “child abandonment” is broadly categorized and used to describe a variety of behaviors. Specific examples of abandonment vary, but common actions that may lead to charges include:

The laws vary from state to state. Many states include deserting a child within its child abuse laws and vice versa, while some states have laws specifically targeting the act of abandoning a child.

Most states classify abandonment as a felony, which may include situations where a parent or guardian physically abandons a child in any place with the intent of relinquishing all rights and responsibilities to the child.

Other states classify the desertion of a child as a misdemeanor (with lesser penalties), including situations that involve non-physical acts of abandonment.

In general, child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person has physical custody or control of a child and, when acting without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of the child:

Knowing leaves a child (typically under the age of 13) without supervision by a responsible person (typically over the age of 14); or Fails to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.

In the criminal context, child desertion is defined as physically abandoning a child, but may also include emotional abandonment such as failing to provide basic needs to a child. For example, in some states, a parent may be guilty of abandonment if they fail to provide necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical care for their child. In other states, however, parents are only punished for deserting a child with the intent to abandon the child.

Because abandoning a child is considered child abuse in some states, certain people may be required to report known or suspected cases of child abandonment to the proper authorities. Check your state’s child abuse laws to see if you qualify as a “mandatory reporter.”

Most jurisdictions have exceptions to child abandonment in the form of safe haven laws. Safe Haven Laws allow mothers to safely abandon their newborn infants in safe locations – such as churches, hospitals, and fire stations – without fear of being charged with the crime of child abandonment.

While it’s necessary in some instances to leave a child at home alone, states typically offer age guidelines to help parents avoid abandonment charges. Under some state statutes, leaving a child at home alone may constitute child abandonment, depending on a number of factors, including the age of the child, duration of time the child was left without adult supervision, and economic hardship or illness of the parent or guardian. Read tips on leaving a child home alone to better understand how to fulfill your obligations.

Depending on the state, a person charged with criminal child abandonment faces a wide range of penalties and sentencing options, depending on whether the state makes it a felony or misdemeanor. A court will take the factors listed above into consideration – but the penalties may include fines, termination of parental rights, supervised access to the child, and jail time.

In addition, a person may face reckless abandonment charges of a greater penalty if a child dies as a result of the desertion.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Hacking Laws

There are several types of computer crimes, but some of the most high-profile examples involve hacking. With data breaches increasingly becoming daily occurrences, hackers have affected everything from the economical (including numerous retail businesses) to the political by invading every aspect of our lives.

However, hacking doesn’t always rise to the level of a crime. Due to the varying degrees of hacking and it’s increasing prevalence in our society, it’s important to understand where the lines are drawn. Read on to learn more about hacking laws and punishments and what remedies may apply to victims of electronic intrusions.

Hacking is broadly defined as the act of breaking into a computer system. Hacking isn’t always a crime as “ethical hacking” occurs when a hacker is legally permitted to exploit security networks. In other words, it’s when a hacker has the appropriate consent or authorization. However, hacking crosses the criminal line when a hacker accesses someone’s computer system without such consent or authority.

For instance, if an individual acts without consent or any lawful authorization (i.e. from law enforcement agency and/or a court order) and penetrates a business’ firewall to access private servers and cloud storage systems or uses phishing to install malware to desktop and laptop computers with the intent to monitor communications and activities, they can be charged with a crime.

There are several federal laws that address hacking, including: 1) The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA); 2) The Stored Communications Act (SCA); 3)  The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA); and 4) The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA).

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is the leading federal anti-hacking legislation that prohibits unauthorized access to another’s computer system. Although the law was originally meant to protect the computer systems of U.S. government entities and financial institutions, the scope of the Act expanded with amendments to include practically any computer in the country (including devices such as servers, desktops, laptops, cellphones, and tablets).

Although the CFAA’s penalties are mostly for criminal violations, the 1994 amendment expanded the Act to include causes of action for civil suits, in addition to criminal prosecution.

The Stored Communications Act mirrors the prohibitions of the CFAA and protects stored electronic communications and data or data at rest (including email, texts, instant messages, social media accounts, cloud computing and storage, and blogs/microblogs). There is a lot of overlap with the CFAA and often hackers will be in violation of both statutes.

The EPCA, a counterpart law to the SCA forbids intentional interception of electronic communications in transit or “data in motion,” rather than “data at rest.”

Although much of the focus is on federal laws, states have enacted hacking laws as well. While every state has computer crime laws, some states address hacking more specifically with laws that prohibit unauthorized access, computer trespass, and the use of viruses and malware.

For example, approximately half of the states in the country have laws that target the use of denial of service (DoS) attacks. In this form of hacking, an intruder floods the system or servers with traffic, denying access to legitimate users. Florida penalizes this more severely, categorizing this crime as a felony in the first degree.

Ransomware occurs when malware is installed on someone’s computer, denying access to the computer unless a ransom is paid. Several states, including California, have laws that specifically criminalize ransomware.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

The Dark Web Crimes

Ross Ulbricht was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2013 for operating an online marketplace for illicit drugs called Silk Road. The site could be found on the so-called Dark Web where Ulbricht remained anonymous and thus shielded from law enforcement. Silk Road was not accessible through just any desktop browser, nor could buyers use their credit card for purchases of heroin, methamphetamine, or other substances.

As Silk Road was shut down, others filled the void. As the name would suggest, the Dark Web operates in the shadows of the internet, cloaked in encryption and reached only through certain encrypted browsers. Below, we’ll explain what the Dark Web is, how it differs from the Deep Web, the types of crimes it harbors, and how law enforcement tracks and prosecutes Dark Web crimes.

The Dark Web allows users to remain anonymous through encryption. This is attractive to anyone involved in illegal activity, such as child pornography, sex trafficking, illicit drugs, or counterfeit goods. But it also may be useful for anyone living in an authoritarian state wishing to communicate with the outside world, as well as providing a safe space for whistleblowers. So while it’s not illegal to visit the Dark Web, it provides access to illegal activities.

Web sites that exist on the Dark Web are encrypted (and thus difficult to track), most commonly through the Tor encryption tool. Therefore, most Dark Web users access those sites using the Tor browser. There are other encryption tools and corresponding browsers such as I2P (these are not universal, by design) and you have to know the exact URL in order to access the site. There’s no “Google” for the Dark Web because that kind of indexing would provide a breadcrumb trail for investigators.

Another layer of anonymity involves the way payments are processed. Silk Road, for example, only accepted payment via Bitcoin, which is an unregulated cryptocurrency. As with the Dark Web generally, there’s nothing illegal about using Bitcoin. But the anonymity of Bitcoin payments is attractive to those making illegal transactions.

The term “Deep Web” refers to web sites that can’t be found by search engines, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re part of the Dark Web. For instance, the Deep Web includes things like web forums that require registration, news sites that exist behind paywalls, and other pages that aren’t necessarily secret but also not worth (or blocked from) indexing by search engines. The content management systems used by website operators to upload and manage content also are part of the Deep Web, for example.

But the Deep Web — by far the largest segment of the internet — also includes the Dark Web, since it also can’t be tracked or indexed by search engines. The terms are often interchanged, but they refer to distinctly different things. Also, keep in mind that the term “Dark Internet” is where raw data for scientific research is stored and isn’t synonymous with the Dark Web.

Due to the anonymous nature of the Dark Web, investigators have their work cut out for them. One of the main ways to catch criminals is by going undercover online, which can sometimes lead to real-life connections when, for example, an officer posing as a seller obtains the buyer’s mailing address. Also, the target of an investigation may slip up and reveal personally identifying information. In fact, an investigator with the Internal Revenue Service found an incriminating comment by Silk Road’s Ulbricht along with his email address, which would lead to his eventual arrest.

Since many of the transactions conducted via the Dark Web are completed by the U.S. Postal Service, police sometimes are able to match online clues with surveillance footage, handwriting analysis, and other clues. They may even find fingerprints on the package, potentially revealing the sender’s identity. Following the money also can be effective, even though the anonymous nature of Bitcoin makes that much more difficult. Still, the Department of Homeland Security has a dedicated task force focused on tracking money laundering via cryptocurrencies.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

The FIRST STEP Act

Have you been Keeping Up with the Kardashians? With the help of Kim Kardashian, in late 2018, Congress enacted its most sweeping prison reform legislation in a generation. Formally known as the First Step Act, the law’s purpose is to shorten sentences somewhat for particular crimes and improve conditions of incarceration for some inmates as well.

While momentous, the prison reform law deals solely with the federal criminal justice system and has no direct impact on the states, which house the vast majority of prison inmates. Nevertheless, the legislation will meaningfully affect defendants prosecuted for federal crimes, such as drug-trafficking and firearms offenses.

The 2018 prison reform law was a triumph of bipartisan efforts taking place over several years leading up to the law’s passage. Progressives and conservatives worked together to lessen the tough punishments imposed on nonviolent drug offenders, to address racial inequities in the system, and to ease the budgetary burden of mass incarceration. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were well aware of the embarrassing fact that the United States, with less than five percent of global population, holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prison inmates.

The 2018 law was part and parcel of a broader prison reform movement. A number of states, such as California and Florida, have already adopted far-reaching amendments to their own sentencing laws.

One of the new prison reform law’s most significant changes relates to automatic sentences. In previous decades the central thrust of criminal justice reform had been to make prison sentences tougher and more uniform. Congress had forced federal judges to sentence many defendants to at least a certain minimum number of years in prison, regardless of any extenuating circumstances that otherwise might have led to leniency.

The 2018 law doesn’t repeal mandatory sentencing laws, but it shrinks the length of the minimums. For instance, a defendant who previously would have been subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years might now face one of 15 years. In addition, the new legislation allows judges greater discretion to ignore the minimums in some circumstances.

Congress didn’t make the shortened minimums retroactive, so federal inmates already serving their time gain no relief from the change.

One group of federal inmates who will benefit dramatically from the new law are individuals prosecuted for crack cocaine offenses before 2010 and still serving prison time. This unlucky group wasn’t covered by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the enormous disparity between crack and powdered cocaine punishments, because that law wasn’t retroactive as originally passed. The 2018 prison reform law finally makes it retroactive and thus allows this group of crack cocaine offenders to petition for a reduction in their prison terms.

Among its other noteworthy reforms, the 2018 law includes provisions designed to: 1) Modify the way that good-time credits are computed for federal inmates; 2) Require inmates to be placed within 500 miles of their homes or families; 3) Increase the use of home confinement and halfway houses; 4) Prohibit the use of shackles or restraints on pregnant inmates, and provide female inmates free tampons and sanitary napkins; and 5) Make it easier for elderly or terminally ill inmates to obtain compassionate release. President Trump signed the bipartisan bill into law on Dec. 21, 2018.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.