criminal law

NYC Makes Jail Phone Calls Free


You may have heard you get one free phone call when you're arrested. You may not have heard how much phone calls from prison can cost after that, or how much cities, counties, and telecommunications companies are making off those calls.

One fewer city, however, will be profiting from jail phone calls. New York City is making phone calls from its jails free. On Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill into law eliminate the charges, and eliminating about $5 million per year in city revenue from such calls.

Ring Ring, From Sing Sing

The New York Times broke down some of the figures associated with the current calling regime:

Currently, calls from Rikers Island cost 50 cents for the first minute and 5 cents for each additional minute to local numbers. There are 26,000 calls from the city's jails every day that generate more than $20,000 in daily revenue, according to an analysis by the Corrections Accountability Project, which advocated for the bill. The Department of Correction already provides free phone calls in certain circumstances: Indigent people could make three free phone calls per week, and sentenced inmates could make two per week.

The cost of phone calls from jail, especially for those who are in pre-trial detention and have yet to be convicted of a crime, has come under scrutiny recently, and an attempt by then-President Barack Obama's FCC to cap those fees stalled in 2016.

"It cost us a lot of money to call home," said Lawrence Bartley, who was released from prison three months ago, "for Christmas, for my kids' birthdays, helping them out, for moral support, being a father, to help them make decisions." Bartley claims his family spent thousands on phone calls during his 27-year sentence. Bianca Tylek, the director of the Corrections Accountability Project, told the Times the new law was a "game-changer." "People who are incarcerated, and especially people who are incarcerated pretrial without conviction, should be able to contact lifelines without cost," she said.

Can You Hear Me Now?

But not everyone is a fan of the change. Specifically, the correction officers' union, whose president Elias Husamudeen warned:

"Now the gangs will definitely be able to continue to run their operations from inside the jails. They will definitely be able to continue to communicate free of charge with the other members of their gangs who may not be in jail ... This is just one more nail in the coffin of creating safer jails, to be honest with you."

Whether that threat will materialize remains to be seen -- the law doesn't go into effect for another 270 days.

By Christopher Coble, Esq.

Florida 'Stand Your Ground' Shooter Charged With Manslaughter

Last month, Pinellas County sheriffs declined to press charges after Michael Drejka gunned down Markeis McGlockton in a convenience store parking lot, claiming the shooting was "within the bookends of 'stand your ground' and within the bookends of force being justified." Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at the time, "I'm not saying I agree with it, but I don't make that call."

Pinellas County prosecutors, however, did make that call this week, charging Drejka with manslaughter. Why the change of course?

Threatening Past

According to Pinellas County State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Pinellas sheriff's Detective George Moffett, Drejka had quite a history confronting people on the road he didn't like, often threatening them with a gun. The Orlando Sentinel reports that two different drivers reported that Drejka waved a gun at them during road rage confrontations in 2012. Officers stopped Drejka both times and found a gun in his car, but he denied threatening other drivers with it.

Then, three months before Drejka (who is white) shot McGlockton (who was black), a black man who drives a septic truck told investigators he parked in the same handicapped-accessible spot at the convenience store as McGlockton's girlfriend, Britany Jacobs. The man claimed Drejka began yelling at him, said he would shoot him, and shouted racial slurs as he drove away. Drejka later called the man's boss, telling him "that he was lucky he didn't blow his employee's head off."

Drejka was not arrested or charged in any of the previous incidents, but they may provide insight into whether his belief that using deadly force against McGlockton was reasonable under Florida's "stand your ground" statute.

Reasonable, Justifiable?

Florida's manslaughter laws, on the other hand, define the crime as: "The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification." Drejka will likely argue that he was justified under the "stand your ground" law, and the confrontation that preceded the shooting will be essential evidence.

Jacobs claims Drejka confronted her for being parked in the handicapped space while McGlockton had gone into the store with his 5-year-old son, also named Markeis. McGlockton apparently got wind of the altercation, and surveillance footage shows him leaving the store and shoving Drejka to the ground, away from the car window. Drejka pulls a handgun and McGlockton backs about 10-12 feet away from him. Drejka fires anyway, hitting McGlockton in the chest. McGlockton then retreated back into the store, where he died in front of his son.

Drejka was being held at the county jail on $100,000 bail, and could be facing 9-15 years in prison if convicted.

by Christopher Coble, Esq.

Drones: The Latest in Criminal Accessories

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on July 18, 2018 5:59 AM


Where there's a will, there's a way. Criminals are quickly finding ways to use drones to carry out crazy, sophisticated, and often successful, crimes. With few statutes regulating drones, criminals are currently one step ahead of the law, limited only by their creativity and nerve, for now.

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Drones

Drug smuggling is no longer limited to people using planes, trains, and automobiles to transport packages across the country, or the border. Commercially available drones can carry up to 22 kilos, equivalent to 44 pounds. Let's do a little Criminal Math. Each kilo of cocaine, also known as a "brick", has a street value in the U.S. of about $30,000. Given that a brick can be purchased in Colombia for $1,800, the profit in "flipping bricks" is definitely worth buying a few high-end drones.

Criminals have been actively smuggling all sorts of drugs, such as cannabis, methamphetamine, and heroin, using drones. Easy to fly and hard to spot, these are quickly becoming the transportation vehicle of choice. Gone are the days where drones are used solely to drop a dime bag of bud to a customer here or there, like a pizza delivery service. Smuggling drugs into into a country or into a jail is quickly becoming a sophisticated, and hard to catch, crime.

The Spy Who Droned Me, or Is It the Drone Who Spied Me?

Drug Smuggling isn't the only crime being committed with drones. Gone are the days where Peeping Toms were the only drone-wielding voyeurs. Today's criminals are using drones to spy on just about everything, including:

  • PIN numbers at ATM's
  • Police surveillance, and even trying to flush police out of their surveillance locations
  • Security gaps in furtherance of committing a robbery
  • The comings and goings of informants with police

Regulating Drones

Drones are currently regulated by federal and state laws, but evidently these are insufficient. Congress and local law enforcement officials are working on ways to regulate drones to limit their use in criminal activity, primarily by positively linking them to their owners or operators through remote ID.

Another means is by criminalizing the "use of drones as a weapon." If all else fails, the government could choose to use drone-jamming equipment, which when used correctly, can easily capture the drone from a mile away, and thereby be able to use the drone as evidence against the owner/operator. But until such regulations are put into effect, it appears the criminals are winning the Drone Wars.