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Federal officials turn animal cruelty charges into Group A felony

Starting in January 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigations will begin to track statistics on animal cruelty crimes from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. The hope is that such statistics will help identify children who commit animal cruelty crimes and provide help to prevent crimes against humans as an adult.

The FBI has given animal cruelty crimes its own category, and listed it as a Group A felony. Many animal rights groups are applauding the change, and believe that it will help prosecutors obtain higher conviction rates for the crimes.

Law enforcement will need to report the crimes in one of four areas:

-- Simple or gross neglect.

-- Intentional abuse and torture.

-- Organized abuse, such as cockfighting and dogfighting.

-- Animal sexual abuse.

It will take some time for the FBI to update manuals and databases and create the new guidelines. This is one reason why the crimes won't be tracked until 2016.

Because these charges involving animal cruelty will now be classified as more serious crimes, the penalties will also be more severe. Those in Maryland and other states will need to ensure that they present a strong defense against such charges in order to work towards a positive outcome in their cases.

The media is often quickly involved in animal cruelty cases, and that can cause a bias in a potential jury pool. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney knows how to limit the damage that the media can do. He or she also knows that everyone in the U.S. who is charged with a crime presumed innocent until the prosecution can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Source: Wisconsin Gazette, "FBI turns animal cruelty into top-tier felony" Sue Manning, The Associated Press, Oct. 07, 2014

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