(Raleigh News & Observer) Graffiti vandals could land in prison under a bill that would make repeatedly marking up buildings a felony. The state Senate gave preliminary approval in a 42-7 vote to a proposed law that expands and toughens graffiti penalties. A final vote is expected Wednesday in the Senate. Current law covers statues, monuments and public buildings. Tagging public property is a Class 2 misdemeanor, with the stiffest penalty for five or more convictions two months in jail. House Bill 552 would extend the protection to any property. The severity of the offense is stepped up to a Class 1 misdemeanor, with a minimum $500 mandatory fine.
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(Asheville Citizen-Times) Property owners renting out homes on a short-term basis, a practice made popular and lucrative through websites such as airbnb.com but which is illegal in most of the city, may find themselves facing bigger fines and other stepped-up enforcement. A majority of City Council members Tuesday said they want to toughen enforcement of illegal short-term rentals because they believe the practice degrades neighborhoods and reduces affordable housing. As defined by the city, short-term rentals are houses let out for less than 30 days where the owner is not staying in the home. Of the elected officials, Councilman Gordon Smith was the biggest critic of the rentals, saying the city might want to disallow them in all areas, including downtown which could be “hollowed out” by the practice. “We don’t want it to become just a place for tourists,” Smith said. Other council members said they weren’t sure about kicking out short-term rentals from all parts of the city. But Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice Mayor Marc Hunt and council members Jan Davis and Gwen Wisler, like Smith, told staff they want stricter enforcement.
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(Huffington Post) A Florida couple convicted of having sex on a crowded beach face up to 15 years behind bars and must register as sex offenders and for illicit public sexcapades. A Manatee County jury on Monday deliberated for about 15 minutes, before finding 20-year-old Elissa Alvarez and 40-year-old Jose “Benny” Caballero guilty of lewd and lascivious exhibition. The conviction came following a 2-day trial, during which the prosecution showed the jury a video filmed by a grandmother during a July visit to Cortez Beach in Bradenton. The video, according to The Associated Press, shows Alvarez moving on top of Caballero in a sexual manner. The defense failed in their attempts to convince the jury Alvarez had been dancing on Caballero, something Assistant State Attorney Anthony Dafonseca mocked in his closing argument. “She wasn’t dancing,” Dafonseca said. “It’s insulting your intelligence to say that she was dancing.”
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