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As New York reduces marijuana prosecutions, arrests continue

As the push to legalize recreational marijuana gains traction in New York, with help from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, several prosecutors throughout the state have announced that they'll no longer prosecute low-level marijuana possession cases. Things like smoking or burning marijuana in public are now considered violations instead of misdemeanors. That means they won't give someone a criminal record that can impact their chances of getting a job or housing.

However, these changes haven't stopped state and local police from arresting people -- some more than others -- on these charges. In Westchester County, 163 people were arrested in the first quarter of this year, even though the DA announced the changes in his office in mid-January. Most of those arrested were black or Hispanic, and most of the arrests were in Yonkers.

Boy Scout sex abuse victims have rights

The future of the 109-year-old Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization may be in jeopardy. The uptick in sexual assault lawsuits against them in recent years may be to blame for its ultimate demise.

Financial statements released by the BSA organization in recent years have revealed that the funds that would have allowed them to remain afloat are quickly dwindling. In fact, their financial resources are so limited at this point that the organization has considered filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Hospital's letter about alleged abuser prompts lawsuit

Last year, former patients of a once-esteemed endocrinologist who had practiced at Rockefeller University Hospital received a letter stating that the hospital had evidence of multiple cases of sexual molestation by the growth specialist, who worked at the New York City research hospital from the 1940s until 1982.

According to the hospital, it had learned that the doctor had engaged in "inappropriate" behavior with a number of his patients -- mostly boys. Many patients were brought to him by parents concerned that they weren't growing at a normal rate. Among his treatments were growth hormones. However, there are numerous reports that the doctor touched boys in a sexual manner and took nude photos -- some of which were close-ups of their genitals.

What penalties exist for driving while intoxicated in New York?

Drugs and alcohol can significantly affect the fine motor skills, including coordination, of those who consume them. This is why New York motorists are subject to stiff penalties if they're convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI).

Motorists who a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher can be charged with a DWI in New York. That number drops to .04 for commercial drivers.

FDNY firefighter saved by defibrillator he requested

Many people would assume that firehouses are among the safest workplaces around. However, last year, one veteran firefighter with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) noted that the building where he worked in Queens had no automated external defibrillator (AED). He believed it should, so he submitted a request to management and the AED was installed.

Several months later, in September, that AED likely saved his life. The 63-year-old firefighter went into cardiac arrest. His colleagues used the AED to resuscitate him and then got him to the hospital.

Tips for taking your prescription medications on vacation

If you're planning a vacation this spring or summer and you need to bring one or more prescription medications with you, be sure that you have the proper documentation to prove that these are your prescriptions. Many people don't realize that possessing prescription drugs without a prescription can land you in jail.

Whether you're traveling within the state, driving down the coast or flying across the country, it's best not to take any chances -- particularly if you're taking schedule 1 drugs that are often sold illegally and can be easily abused -- like oxycodone, Xanax, Adderall and Valium.

Could R. Kelly's victims gain justice under New York's Child Victims Act?

Allegations of sexual misconduct have followed R&B star R. Kelly for upwards of 20 years. Kelly, who was married to a 15-year-old girl, is accused of exercising cult-like control over women. Despite all of that, R. Kelly was never convicted of any crimes. Recently, however, Chicago prosecutors leveled 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual misconduct against him. The music icon pled not guilty before being brought into custody a second time for failure to make child support payments.

Although he was acquitted on 14 counts of child pornography back in 2008, he could face an uphill battle in the current climate. Kelly could also face a massive court fight under New York's recently passed Child Victims Act that extends the statute of limitations for survivors to seek justice through civil lawsuits.

The many reasons car accidents happen

Human error and mechanical problems are two of the most common reasons why car accidents occur. For instance, if a driver is under the influence of alcohol, that is generally seen as human error. The same could be true if a driver was in an unfamiliar part of New York state and was distracted looking at street signs. If an individual is traveling too fast for road conditions, that would also be human error.

Mechanical problems could result from a faulty car part or the fact that a person didn't maintain his or her vehicle. For instance, a person who is driving on bald tires may be at fault for an accident that occurs because it isn't safe to use tires without proper tread. The same is true if a person drove a vehicle that had squeaky brakes or other problems that a reasonable car owner would have known to remedy.

Alternatives to incarceration may decrease repeat offender rate

The United States holds the record for the most incarcerated individuals in the entire world. In 2008, the numbers peaked with 1,000 out of every 100,000 adults being in state or federal prisons. Since this time, many jurisdictions, including those in New York, have instituted a variety of changes to decrease this number. This includes reformations in police practices, decriminalization of some minor offenses and offering rehabilitation options to low-risk offenders. As a result of the changes, incarcerations have decreased to 830 per every 100,000 adults in the United States.

In 2018, the First Step Act was passed by Congress. The newly-instituted law helps reduce sentences for nonviolent federal prisoners through work training programs and good behavior. Though many criminal defense experts believe the First Step Act was a positive step, it only affects a small fraction of federal prisoners and doesn't affect those in state prisons. Experts are encouraging additional changes in order to reduce the current prison population.

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