A December 2016 court ruling may have far-reaching implications for people whose phones are in police hands. In a case in Florida, a man has been ordered by an appeals court to provide the pass code to his smartphone so that police can look for potential up-skirt photos, which the man was accused of taking in a store before running out. The ruling is controversial because it runs counter to other high-court interpretations of Fourth Amendment protections.
January 2017 Archives
You may find that the term “prohibited consensual sex activities” is not only a mouthful to say, but that it also sounds a little contradictory. How can a sex act be both consensual and prohibited?
If you or someone you know has been charged with a shoplifting crime in the state of New York, there are certain basic concepts that you should be familiar with as your case moves forward.
Despite scientific evidence refuting the reliability of eyewitness testimony, a countless number of convictions have rested largely on it. Recent studies have highlighted just how flawed eyewitness identification can be and the reasons behind the inconsistencies.
The 4th Amendment was created as a response to the unjust search and seizure of colonists’ homes during the Revolutionary War. The 4th Amendment generally requires a warrant to be obtained before officers enter private property. This prevents law enforcement from simply barging into a home and turning the place upside down to search for evidence.
Although incidences of prosecutorial misconduct are somewhat rare, it can happen. Prosecutors are not always infallible and can play an integral role in wrongful conviction cases. In fact, national data compiled through the California Innocence Project found anywhere between 36 to 42 percent of overturned convictions based off of DNA evidence were linked to prosecutorial misconduct.
There’s been a recent trend in the U.S. criminal justice system to decriminalize marijuana possession and to fix what many see as unduly harsh sentences for certain offenders. For example, The New York Times reported that Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont, a Democrat, has pardoned 192 people who had been convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession. These pardons had been given to people who had no previous violent crimes or felony convictions, and who had no DUI or reckless driving convictions.
A DUI in a motorized wheelchair? The notion sounds too bizarre to be true, but it happens. Many states' laws specify that you don't have to drive a car to be charged with driving under the influence. Driving a boat, a motorized wheelchair, a bicycle, or even riding a horse qualifies in this type of misdemeanor. For example, police arrested an Amish man asleep in his horse-drawn carriage in Pennsylvania for a DUI in 2009.
Late last December 2016, a young woman had been arrested on a number of charges--driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance and with defective equipment, and marijuana possession. She posted bond from jail and was released the same day. What's unusual is what she did next.
One of the most frustrating problems in criminal justice is how to reduce rates of recidivism (re-offending). Prisons could be places of rehabilitation, reform, treatment and education. But too often, they are merely holding cells. And when prisoners are released, the stigma of a criminal record often makes it difficult or impossible to find legal work. This feeds the recidivism cycle.
In a bit of positive news, recent statistics have revealed national DUI rates have dropped to their lowest point in 13 years. The 2014 data was compiled through the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and was just recently made available to the public. Although there’s not one single factor contributing to the decline, the hope is that DUI incidents remain low.
With so much news coverage focused on the election in 2016, some significant stories just didn't get as much attention as they deserved. One of those stories was the ongoing police corruption scandal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The scenario is horrifying: a software error leads to your wrongful imprisonment. Despite your claims of innocence, you’re put behind bars due to a faulty court management system. This may sound like the plot of a fictionalized book or movie, but the truth is software problems are causing legal disasters across the country.
You have a license to own a gun. You're flying into New York City, so you check the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) guidelines. You unload your gun and pack it, following these guidelines. You double-check your state license to make sure it's valid. Everything looks fine, so you fly to the city. No problem. A few days later, you come back and try to fly out.
In our last post, we began a discussion about forensic tests which have recently been debunked as "junk science." These tests have been commonly used to secure convictions in cases alleging serious crimes like rape and murder.
In early December, we wrote that a number of common forensic tests used by law enforcement are being called "junk science" by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. The group issued a report noting that several tests used to convict people of crimes have not proven to be reliable enough to be considered scientifically valid.
Justice is supposed to be blind, fair and equal. But most Americans realize that our criminal justice system does not always live up to these promises. Sometimes, "blind" justice is unfair because of sentencing laws and guidelines that impose a punishment based on technical details of a crime and give no consideration to the context.
Racial bias in policing has been a major focus of media attention over the past two years, and there is reason to believe that it will continue to be a highly discussed topic in 2017. Those who deny bias in policing point out that in the vast majority of cases, stops are made legally and police do find evidence of wrongdoing upon searching suspects.
Technology getting "smarter" and eventually becoming a liability is a Hollywood trope that borders on cliché. But what was once science fiction now seems more possible than ever. The danger doesn't necessarily lie with artificial intelligence that becomes self-aware and turns on us (as in the Terminator franchise).
There is no doubt that millennials are doing things differently than their predecessors. Some of these changes are superficial, like opting to watch content online rather than paying for cable television. Others, however, are more impactful, such as the focus on cooperative work and the belief in their abilities to effect social change.
In the United States, those who commit sex crimes, or those who find themselves on a sex offender registry, are usually persona non grata. Whether they served time or not, generally speaking, the punishment can last a lifetime.
It has been known for years that prescription and illicit opioids have been killing Americans in increasing numbers. These drugs, in the form of prescription painkillers and street drugs like heroin, are taking lives at an alarming rate. Individuals who would never fit the stereotype of "drug users" are getting addicted, often after obtaining painkillers from medical professionals.
Recently, two major convictions were overturned, one in Illinois, and one in Tennessee. And for now, the two paths to restitution look very different.
Almost everyone is familiar with the campaign that runs through elementary, middle, and high schools every year proclaiming the evils of drugs in an effort to get children to steer clear from these vices. While there is still a significant amount of social pressure on parents to talk to their children about drugs and alcohol, children are not the only vulnerable age group. The aging baby-boomer population is actually using drugs and alcohol an increasing rate.