Arrested In The French Quarter As A Non-Local

I was partying in the French Quarter. I was arrested for possession of marijuana. I’m not from Louisiana. What can I do?

The French Quarter is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the country. Known for its fun vibe and crazy antics, people from all over the world flock to this area in New Orleans. With all the partying that takes place, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) keep a close watch on Bourbon Street and the surrounding neighborhoods in the French Quarter.

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The 2017 NBA All Star Game comes to New Orleans during the first weekend of Mardi Gras parades. This should be an epic good time for Mardi Gras revelers as well as fans of professional basketball. There really is nothing like being at a big event in New Orleans. And there is no way to ruin a good time like being jammed up with the police. With that said here are 4 things you need to know if you are arrested in New Orleans during NBA All Star Weekend.

If YOU ARE DETAINED AND CUFFED BY THE POLICE, ASK THEM TO ISSUE YOU A SUMMONS INSTEAD OF TAKING YOU TO JAIL. NOPD policy is now to issue summons for most minor offenses such as marijuana possession, disturbing the peace and public urination. Many officers still arrest people and take them to jail in New Orleans despite this policy. If you are detained for a minor offense, ask politely for a summons. The cop may not realize the crime you are about be hauled off for is a summons-able offense. This will save you the hassle of having to be booked in and bonded out of jail, a process that in New Orleans takes forever even during a slow period.

IF YOU ARE GIVEN A SUMMONS, CALL A LAWYER- A summons is a notice to appear in court on a certain day at a certain time. You may be from out of town and think “I can’t get back to New Orleans in 10 days for a court appearance. I have to get on with my life.” That’s true and an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to represent you in court and resolve your case without your presence.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED, LET A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO JAIL. Getting booked into Orleans Parish Prison takes a long time. While that process is moving forward, you will be in state custody and unable to contact anyone. Therefore it is imperative that a friend or family who is able to begin the process of getting you out of jail. The Sheriff’s website will let your friend know when you have been booked in and what your bond amount is.

IF YOU ARE ARRESTED, YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO BOND OUT OF JAIL. If you are from out of state, bonding companies will not post bond for you as they are afraid you may flee the jurisdiction and not return. This is where hiring an experienced, connected criminal defense attorney can help. If I am retained, I can possibly get a signature bond for you and if not I have relationships with several bonding companies that may be willing to post a commercial bond for you.

5 Things You Need to Know to Survive a Traffic Stop by the Police

Has this ever happened to you? You’re driving to your friend’s place in downtown New Orleans. You’re laid back, relaxed, and ready to have a good night. Then something changes. You see flashing red and blue lights behind you and know your day is about to take a turn for the worst.  Read more

David Vitter’s Investigator Could Face Wiretapping Charges. The Case Will Go Nowhere

Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand held an afternoon press conference to elaborate more on the incident that he and his cronies created at the Royal Blend Coffee Shop on Metairie Road on October 23rd. Normand was having a “coffee klatch” at the establishment with several associates when they realized they were being filmed by Robert Frenzel an investigator employed by David Vitter. From The Advocate:

On Oct. 23, a regular coffee klatch that includes Normand convened at the Royal Blend cafe in Old Metairie. At some point, the group noticed a man seated at a nearby table filming the group.

The alleged spy was later identified as Robert J. Frenzel, a private investigator from Dallas who had been doing research for U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s campaign.

There seems to be some confusion as to whether Frenzel could legally film Normand. Mainly, this comes from Normand himself, who has head scratchingly suggested since the incident that Frenzel could be arrested for violating the state wire tapping statute, LA RS 15:1303.

You can read the wiretapping law at your leisure, but as has been pointed out by folks, Louisiana is one party consent state. Meaning that one party to a conversation has to agree or have knowledge that it is being recorded. As such, Normand and others have posited that because Frenzel was not a party to the conversation at the Royal Blend, he violated the statute and thus should be arrested. But as Lee Corso would say “Not so fast, my friend.”

The key question is what is Normand’s reasonable expectation of privacy. The only case on point in Louisiana is the case of State v. Smith. In Smith, an investigator for the New Orleans public defender was in a hallway at the New Orleans jail and overheard an ADA interviewing a potential witness. Smith, the investigator, recorded the conversation and the recording was brought to light when the witness committed perjury at trial. Smith was later indicted for violating LA R.S. 15:1303. The indictment was quashed (thrown out) and the State appealed.

In Smith, the court outlined the relevant line of inquiry.

For purposes of offense of interception and disclosure of wire, electronic, or oral communications, it must be decided whether the expectation of privacy afforded to victim, viewed objectively, was justifiable under the circumstances, as expectation must be one that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable. 

The court upheld the motion to quash based on the fact that Smith was lawfully in the hallway. The conversation was audible to the human ear and Smith used no enhancement to his recording device.

The case can easily be applied to this situation and Frenzel has a stronger case than the defendants in Smith. Normand is in a public place. He is a public figure in elected office and regularly speaks on matters of great public importance, such as the upcoming election. It is not unreasonable for people to photograph him and record him while he is in public. Frenzel was using a recording device with no enhancements and was only recording what was audible to the human ear. He was sitting a few tables away. The Royal Blend has an open floor plan and Normand does not suggest he was in a secluded or private area of the store. The location is open to the general public and it is not unusual for people to gather there. Further, Normand has many places where he could go and have a private conversation, his office, his squad car, etc.  He knows he has no expectation of privacy while in the Royal Blend and it is ridiculous for him to suggest otherwise.

Applying the Smith, standard, a court will rule that Normand did not have a reasonable objective expectation of privacy and any criminal case against Frenzell for violating the wire tapping law will go nowhere.

Cartoon Images Depicting Child Pornography: Should This Be Allowed?

A fascinating criminal case took place in Canada where a US Citizen was convicted of possession of child pornography for having images of cartoon characters engaged in sexual acts.

Peter Hasler, 25, of Murrells Inlet, S.C., was arrested at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Sept. 12 after a search of his laptop turned up animated images of characters under the age of 18 being sexually abused.

According to news reports, the man received a 90 day jail sentence and “will have a difficult time ever getting back into Canada”. A 90 day jail sentence is very light for a child pornography case. In Louisiana, defendants facing charges of possession of child pornography are facing 10 years in jail and will be required to register as sex offender for life.

Prosecutors and the judge described the images on Hasler’s computer as vile and immature. And although I haven’t seen the pornographic images, I don’t doubt that is the case. In an interesting twist, however, Hasler would not have been prosecuted for these images in the United States. In 2002, the Supreme Court of the Untied States struck down a provision of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, that criminalized “any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture or computer generated image or picture” that “is or appears to be a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” See Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 US 234 (2002).

The court struck down the provision on first amendment grounds stating that it criminalizes “the freedom to engage in a substantial amount of lawful speech.” There are several issues with criminalizing cartoon or computer generated sexual images.

First, child pornography involving a real person is a photograph or video of an underlying crime; a sexual assault. The trading of these images in a secondary market creates demand for more sexual violence against children. Therefore, even though the possessor is not directly harming a child, he is creating the conditions for more harm to children to occur. Obviously, a graphic cartoon  is not evidence of an underlying crime against a child. Without that harm, should these images create criminal liability on the part of the possessor?

Second, a cartoon or a computer generated image is not in fact a person. Bart Simpson has been 9 years old for the past 26 years. How do you assign an age to something that inherently doesn’t age? And what legal standard determines if the images are of a juvenile? It may not always be obvious.

As video technology and virtual reality advance, it may be possible for pedophiles to engage in sex acts with computer generated minors. On one hand, this would decrease the harm caused to real life victims. On the other hand, it may be permitting behavior that could lead to an epidemic of sexual assaults against children. There is no way to know at this point. Do we err on the side of protecting children and infringe on technology that may have artistic merit such as a video game? Criminalizing these images may not be the answer but should they be encouraged as well?

Debt Delinquency in Louisiana Highest in Country

When it comes to debt delinquency, Louisiana leads the nation.

A recent study by Urban Institute gave Louisiana a debt delinquency score of 8.7. This number represents a percentage of how many more Louisiana residents have past-due debt on their credit reports than people across the country. Baton Rouge and New Orleans are listed as two of the top 100 cities in the nation with past-due debts. Read more