Internet Lawyers: Weigh In!

This is a discussion on Internet Lawyers: Weigh In! within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; preface I know CO has a felony murder statute, by which a perpetrator is charged with murder if, during his commission of a crime, anyone ...

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Thread: Internet Lawyers: Weigh In!

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    Distinguished Member Array Anubis's Avatar
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    Internet Lawyers: Weigh In!

    preface
    I know CO has a felony murder statute, by which a perpetrator is charged with murder if, during his commission of a crime, anyone dies, including his own partner. Probably lots of states have a similar law; the writers of TV's "Law & Order" frequently allude to a felony murder statute in NY.

    the point
    I was watching a crime drama (set in NV) recently where some wild teenage kids had been playing mail box baseball and destroyed Jack's rural mailbox 4 times. Jack got into the game, filling a mailbox with cement and mounting it on his post at night. The passenger-punk whacked the 100-pound mailbox, broke his arm, the driver-punk lost control of the car and crashed into a tree killing both of them.

    This looks to me like it would have been a case of felony murder if either punk survived, but Jack was charged with 2 counts of manslaughter. This makes no sense to me; the punks were the criminals and killed themselves committing a crime. What do you think?

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    jfl
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    Distinguished Member Array jfl's Avatar
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    I didn't stay at the Holiday Inn Express last night ...

    However I don't see whacking a mailbox as a felony...
    It was "excessive force" ???

    BTW Florida has the same law.
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    Senior Member Array mi2az's Avatar
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    Criminals rule the land and we need to make accommodation's for their welfare while committing crimes or vandalizing property.
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    VIP Member Array Eagleks's Avatar
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    No restrictions against putting cement in a mail box, and no reasonable expectation it would either cause harm, injury or death.... so, he's innocent of anything in my mind. It was not a booby trap.

    The other 2, if one had survived and there was a death in the commission of a crime (here), then they could be charged with it.

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    Member Array raytracer's Avatar
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    I believe (too lazy to look it up, and as an Internet Lawyer rather than a real one I can't bill $400 an hour for time browsing wikipedia) that whacking a mailbox is a federal beef because it's "interfering with the US mail" or somesuch. If it was a newspaper box or trash bin it would be petty vandalism, but since they're effectively trying to "stay the mailman from his appointed rounds" it's a big deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anubis View Post
    preface
    I know CO has a felony murder statute, by which a perpetrator is charged with murder if, during his commission of a crime, anyone dies, including his own partner. Probably lots of states have a similar law; the writers of TV's "Law & Order" frequently allude to a felony murder statute in NY.

    the point
    I was watching a crime drama (set in NV) recently where some wild teenage kids had been playing mail box baseball and destroyed Jack's rural mailbox 4 times. Jack got into the game, filling a mailbox with cement and mounting it on his post at night. The passenger-punk whacked the 100-pound mailbox, broke his arm, the driver-punk lost control of the car and crashed into a tree killing both of them.

    This looks to me like it would have been a case of felony murder if either punk survived, but Jack was charged with 2 counts of manslaughter. This makes no sense to me; the punks were the criminals and killed themselves committing a crime. What do you think?
    The issue here is that the felony murder doctrine applies during the commission of a felony, not just any crime.

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    It wasnt the fact that the cement was put in the mailbox, but the fact that a trap was set designed to harm the mailbox smashers. That trap, caused a death. The mailbox owner didnt intend on causing the death, but his actions did cause the death of another, hence the manslaughter charge.
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    VIP Member Array Yoda's Avatar
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    I am not so certain about criminal liability but civil liability would be substantial.

    Jack set a trap that resulted in the death of 2 young people. That is similar to a thief falling through a skylight and suing the property owner. The property owner committed no crime but civil liability has been declared.
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    Senior Member Array fernset's Avatar
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    Could that honestly hold up in court? I mean in my eyes he did nothing wrong.

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    Maybe

    Quote Originally Posted by SIXTO View Post
    It wasnt the fact that the cement was put in the mailbox, but the fact that a trap was set designed to harm the mailbox smashers. That trap, caused a death. The mailbox owner didnt intend on causing the death, but his actions did cause the death of another, hence the manslaughter charge.
    Though I understand where you are coming from, there is a big question of whether or not what was done was indeed a trap designed to harm or even whether or not harm could be reasonably anticipated.

    There are other ways to view it. There may have been no intention to cause harm other than perhaps to the bat itself, and certainly not to the kids. And then too, there is the culpability of the kids in their own downfall.

    Your argument carried to an extreme could apply even to a cc holder who drew on an armed attacker. "He hid his gun as part of a trap." Man, I wouldn't have mugged him if I knew he was armed.

    Can't you just hear that argument for OC. If the bad guy Shop and Rob fella had known the owner was armed he wouldn't have robbed that store.

    Well, if the kid had known there was cement in the box he wouldn't have done it either.

    Let's take a real "common sense" approach here. The deaths were unintended, could not be foreseen, and it is a crime to whack mailboxes.

    This isn't the same scenario as putting a shotgun trap in an empty building.

    BTW, 40 years back I lived in Iowa. There was a real case of a farmer fed up with his tool shed being vandalized who did set up a shotgun trap and kill a teen. I think a new law was quickly passed to prohibit that conduct, but I know the public sentiment was on the farmer's side. Basically, bad kid got what he deserved, sort of.

    Putting cement in your mailbox doesn't rise to that level of crime, BUT might violate some obscure postal code.

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    Was proper postage affixed to the cement? If not, it's a federal felony to put it in the mailbox. Yes, that does make it felony murder, because the criminal intent required is the intent to commit a felony. However, there's also "prosecutorial discretion" that allows the prosecutorial function (incl. LEO's) to use their judgment in deciding how and when to prosecute - that's for the protection of the citizens, most of whom are guilty of crimes of some sort. Our prosecutors have the right to be reasonable.
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    First thing we have to remember. We're not talking common sense here, we're talking the law. I would suspect the DA is using the theory that the homeowner set a trap that caused the death of the 2 kids. I have a feeling that when it goes to trial a jury will find him not guilty.

    However, when their parents sue for wrongful death, they will probably get everything the guy owns, or ever will own.

    Quote Originally Posted by user View Post
    Was proper postage affixed to the cement? If not, it's a federal felony to put it in the mailbox. Yes, that does make it felony murder, because the criminal intent required is the intent to commit a felony. However, there's also "prosecutorial discretion" that allows the prosecutorial function (incl. LEO's) to use their judgment in deciding how and when to prosecute - that's for the protection of the citizens, most of whom are guilty of crimes of some sort. Our prosecutors have the right to be reasonable.
    With that being the case, wouldn't the feds have to be the ones filing the charges?
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    VIP Member Array JonInNY's Avatar
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    OK, here we go:

    "The USPS Domestic Mail Manual states that “no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items of matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle.” In other words, the mailbox may not be used for anything other than for pieces of mail with postage attached. The USPS Domestic Mail Manual goes on to states that it is a federal offense and there is a significant penalty for violating this law. "

    Therefore, filling with cement appears to violate this law, hence the felony.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonInNY View Post
    OK, here we go:

    "The USPS Domestic Mail Manual states that “no part of a mail receptacle may be used to deliver any matter not bearing postage, including items of matter placed upon, supported by, attached to, hung from, or inserted into a mail receptacle.” In other words, the mailbox may not be used for anything other than for pieces of mail with postage attached. The USPS Domestic Mail Manual goes on to states that it is a federal offense and there is a significant penalty for violating this law. "

    Therefore, filling with cement appears to violate this law, hence the felony.
    While I understand it is a felony offense. The fed's would be the ones with jurisdiction, not the state.
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    Distinguished Member Array kazzaerexys's Avatar
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    Booby traps are illegal, period.

    Many jurisdictions have laws against heavy anchoring of mailboxes, because they can kill motorists who hit them unintentionally. If the concrete was put there specifically to do harm to somebody, it becomes a booby trap. Legally, it's no different from putting punji sticks in your leaf pile.

    As soon as the owner filled up the mailbox, he became a vigilante, because he was doing it to hurt somebody. Intent counts.

    I think archer51 has the right guess on how things play out. And don't forget that there will be federal charges for tampering with a mailbox, too...

    ETA: The only felony the kids in the car were committing is federal---tampering with the mailbox. Local charges are going to be misdemeanor vandalism and destruction of property, so no felony murder can attach at the local level. I am not aware of whether or not there is a federal felony murder charge that a fed prosecutor could apply to any surviving vandals. So, the only person who can be charged for the death at the local/state level is, indeed, the homeowner.
    Last edited by kazzaerexys; December 3rd, 2008 at 11:49 AM. Reason: Additional thoughts.
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