Friday, November 30, 2012

Leon County Proposes Adult Civil Citations for Minor Nonviolent Crimes

Minor non-violent offenses include but are not limited to:  simple possession of alcohol, gambling, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, petty theft and trespassing.  Any of these indiscretions has the potential of landing someone in jail.  In Florida where an estimated $2.4 billion in the fiscal year of 2010-2011 in prisons,  “non-violent offenders account for as much as seven out of 10 prison admissions.”[1] Florida’s prison population has more than doubled since 1990.   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Judge Sentences Teen to Church: Creative Sentencing or First Amendment Violation?

Oklahoma district judge Mike Norman sentenced 17 year old Tyler Alred to ten years of church for DUI manslaughter.  The teen had alcohol in his system when he hit a tree and his 16 year old passenger was killed.  Alred was not opposed to the sentence, in fact, he already attends church regularly and agreed to the church attendance mandate.  The victim’s family also agreed to the mandate.  However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is strongly opposed to the sentence believing that the sentence violates the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise of the First Amendment.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Conduct Unbecoming Of An Officer And A Gentlemen

Just days after President Obama was re-elected, the President accepted CIA Director and retired Four-Star General David Petraeus’s resignation.  An FBI investigation had uncovered that Petraeus was having an extramarital affair with his biographer and Army reserve officer Paula Broadwell.  This extramarital affair has not only been an embarrassment to the intelligence community (Broadwell was found with classified documents and General John Allen has also been dragged into the issue), but is a criminal offense for both participants.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Criminal jurisdiction over the U.S. service members who sexually assaulted an Okinawan woman in Japan

On November 2, 2012, a U.S. Air Force member stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, broke into a family residence and assaulted a teenage boy.  This occurred less than three weeks after the alleged rape of an Okinawa woman by two U.S. sailors.  After the alleged rape by the U.S. sailors on October 16, 2012, the U.S. Armed Forces imposed an 11 PM to 5 AM curfew on all U.S. service members stationed in Japan.  The November 2 incident, however, proved that the curfew was not an effective means to prevent crimes committed by U.S. service members stationed at military bases in Japan.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Counterfeit Drugs: What’s in Your Medication?

Real or fake? Most consumers wouldn’t know the difference just by looking at the pills.  From September 25, 2012 to October 2, 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ordered the shutdown of over 4,000 websites selling counterfeit drugs to unsuspecting consumers in the United States.  The operation was a part of an internationally coordinated effort designed to stem the sale of counterfeit medication worldwide.  The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about forty percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication.  It is no secret that many Americans cannot afford their prescription medications. Being cost conscious, some American consumers look to obtain medications from sources abroad that offer lower prices than what are available domestically.  However, this seemingly economical decision does not come without great risk.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Does Officer Safety Justify the Detention of a Person Who Has Left the Premises?

On November 1st, 2012, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Bailey v. United States, a case challenging whether Michigan v. Summers allows police to detain someone they observed leaving a premise that is about to be searched, who have driven seven-tenths of a mile away.[1]  This challenge comes from the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which held that pursuant to Michigan v. Summers, Bailey’s detention during the search of his residence was justified.[2]  In Michigan v. Summers, the Supreme Court held that it was lawful to require a person leaving the front door of their home to re-enter and be detained in their home until evidence establishing probable cause to arrest them was found.[3]  The question in Bailey is whether Summers is limited to suspicionless detentions of a person in the immediate vicinity of the premises, or whether Summers can be used to detain a person who has left the immediate vicinity.  Summers is an exception to the usual requirement that police have to have a reasonable suspicion that a person was involved in criminal activity, or that they are armed and dangerous, in order to detain them.

Will Statements Made By Man Who Killed Girlfriend With Curling Iron Be Admissible At Trial?

On Saturday, September 29, 2012, at 2:45 a.m., University police found Alexandra Kogut dead in her dorm room.  Kogut was eighteen years old and a communications major at The College at Brockport located in Brockport, New York.  A medical examiner determined that she died as a result of blunt force trauma.  Clayton Whittemore, a twenty-one year old New York college student was accused of killing Kogut.  Whittemore told a sheriff’s deputy he “just snapped” and beat his girlfriend with his fists and a curling iron while visiting her at college. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

International Criminal Maritime Law

International criminal law is a very sexy sounding legal practice.  Most people imagine prosecuting war criminals or overthrown dictators, but a lot of international criminal issues arise at sea.  No, it’s not piracy either.  Many of the most complex international criminal issues come up in the prosecution of those who violate shipping laws.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Are Political Contributions Statutes a Violation of the First Amendment?

The upcoming presidential elections have brought about many controversies. A major recurring issue is that of political contributions.  What are the political contribution laws in various states? How do they apply to individuals?  To corporations?  One state may have various provisions that differ from another.  For example, Mr. Tom DeLay explains the stricter Texas laws prevent political contributions from private corporations to state campaigns.  Although the statute did not mention what forms of contributions are barred, the statute has been interpreted to bar almost all campaign donations, including checks.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Felony Disenfranchisement

Election Day! It’s the day when citizens who want to be engaged in the political process, get the opportunity to have their say.  Unfortunately, for the nearly six million individuals who are disenfranchised due to felony disenfranchisement laws, Election Day is just a reminder of this basic civil right they are denied.[1]  Felony disenfranchisement occurs when an individual’s right to vote is taken away (either temporarily or permanently) because they have been convicted of a felony.  Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia currently have felony disenfranchisement laws in effect.  Only Maine and Vermont do not.   

Criminal Enforcement of Intellectual Property Law

In a second presidential debate on October 16th, 2012, Romney pledged to declare China as a currency manipulator on his first day in office and also accused China of producing counterfeit American products and stealing American intellectual property.[1]  The counterfeiting of intellectual property in China is now the most serious counterfeiting problem in the history of the world

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Can Defendants Confront Their Accusers When They’re Anonymous?

This year, one of the most interesting cases the Supreme Court had considered whether to hear is Elashi v. United States.  This case has ties to terrorism, inevitably bringing into play a certain level of deference to the government’s national security interest; however the central issue is whether the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution allows the government to present evidence from anonymous witnesses.  While Court denied the defendants’ petition for certiorari on October 29, the case involves interesting questions that could be repeated in the future.

DOJ Seeks to Stop the “school-to-prison pipeline” in Meridian, Mississippi

In the past, groups like ACLU and NYCLU have filed suits where policies and practices have led to the exacerbation of the “school-to-prison pipeline” problem. [1] In December of 2011, the U.S Department of Justice began investigating these practices in Lauderdale County in Meridian, Mississippi.  The Department of Justice revealed its findings on August 10, 2012, and gave the city 60 days to address the violations listed in their report.[2]  During the 60 days the city did not fully cooperate with the Department of Justice to resolve the inadequacies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Giving Birth in Shackles

On October 17, 2012, it was announced that the Virginia Board of Corrections approved tentative regulations to restrict the use of shackles on pregnant inmates.  Virginia’s regulations to restrict the shackling of pregnant inmates come just weeks after California passed Assembly Bill 2530 (AB 2530).[1]  The Virginia regulations will permit handcuffing pregnant inmates during transportation outside the jail but it will prohibit all restraints during labor and delivery.[2]  AB 2530 completely bans the use of shackles on pregnant inmates while they are in labor, delivery, recovery, and even after delivery.  California’s bill prohibits restraint by the wrists, ankles, or both, unless it is deemed necessary for the security of the inmate or the safety of the staff or public.  A federal court has concluded shackling pregnant inmates during labor and delivery is unconstitutional.  Yet, many states continue to use this unconstitutional practice. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Is the Use of Checks Covered by Texas Money Laundering Law?

Tom Delay, the former U.S. House Majority Leader convicted for money laundering, made his appearance in court on October 10, 2012 to make his case for innocence. [1]  Mr. Delay has been free on bond since his sentencing in 2011 and since then spent his time making appearances on the reality television show "Dancing with the Stars." [2]  If Mr. Delay loses his current appeal, he can potentially appeal to the state's Court of Criminal Appeals.  However, if the conviction is upheld, Mr. Delay may face up to three years in prison and five years of probation. [1]

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

California Puts the Death Penalty Issue to Referendum

This November, voters in California will be doing more than checking a box for a presidential candidate.  Proposition 34 on the ballot asks voters to abolish the death penalty in favor of lifetime prison sentences without the possibility of parole.  The proposed statute would apply retroactively, automatically commuting current death row prisoners’ sentences to life imprisonment.  If California decides to abolish the death penalty, it will be the 38th state to do so.  Just last year, both Illinois and Connecticut outlawed capital punishment by passing laws in the state legislature.  California will leave the decision up to its state citizens by putting the question to a referendum.  According to California state election law, Proposition 34 will only be repealed if it receives more “No” votes than “Yes” votes

Friday, October 12, 2012

Art Theft: The Unseen Masterpiece

Sometime between September 12 and September 14, 2012, burglars broke into the Santa Monica home of wealthy bond expert, Jeffrey Gundlach.  While the exact target of the burglars remains unknown, they surely recognized the monetary value of Mr. Gundlach’s vast collection of expensive artwork from famous artists such as Joseph Cornell, Piet Mondrian, Guy Rose, and Philip Guston.  Sparing little, the burglars fled with roughly $10 million of Mr. Gundlach’s possessions including thirteen paintings, a multitude of expensive watches, and bottles of fine wine.  In an ending seemingly scripted for Hollywood, the burglars piled into Mr. Gundlach’s red Porsche Carrera 4S and drove away into the night, but only after remembering to close the garage door on the way out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Doing Time “Gangham Style”

Many people are familiar with the dancing inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and (DRC) thanks to their rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” that went viral on Youtube.[1]  Well these dancing inmates are at it again, this time with a performance of Psy’s “Gangham Style”, the music video that now holds the Guinness World Record for most likes on Youtube.  Cebu’s rendition of this music video has been uploaded for a little more than a week and already has over three million views.[2]  While these videos are entertaining they also bring another question to mind.  Is this choreographed exercise program at CPDRC a good form of rehabilitation?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Supreme Court Watch: Florida v. Jardines––October 31, 2012

On October 31st, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Florida v. Jardines, (October Term 2012, 11-564) (for the Florida Supreme Court’s opinion click here).  This case presents a Fourth Amendment issue:  Is a dog sniff at the front door of a suspected grow house by a trained drug-detection dog a search requiring probable cause?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Legalizing Prostitution

“Baby, cash money.”  With these words a Colombian prostitute initiated a deal with a U.S. Secret Service Agent that would eventually create a scandal and embarrass the entire agency.  Widely considered the “world’s oldest profession”­­––prostitution is the act of performing sexual acts in exchange for money.  It’s interesting though, that the world’s oldest profession is a crime in many places.  Just last week, on September 25, 2012, Anne Gristina plead guilty to running a prostitution ring in New York.  She’s not the first person to be convicted of assisting with prostitution.  Heidi Fleiss is one of the more famous people who got convicted for participating in the prostitution.  Around the world, in a survey of one hundred countries, at least 61% have some form of legal prostitution.  Today in the United States, prostitution is illegal everywhere except for 11 counties in Nevada.  Should prostitution be a crime in the U.S.?   

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Will the Supreme Court Address Whether the Government May Abolish the Insanity Defense?

The Supreme Court’s new term started October 1st, but the Court met on September 24th to consider whether to grant new cases.  One case that the Court is still considering hearing is Delling v. Idaho.[1]  The main issue in Delling is whether Idaho violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution by abolishing the insanity defense in criminal cases.  The Court has never addressed what the answer to this question might be; if the Court hears it, Delling will be the first time states have any guidance as to the constitutionality of outlawing the insanity defense in criminal cases.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

States Respond to the U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Juvenile Life Sentences

On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Miller v. Alabama.  The Court held mandatory life sentences for juveniles without the possibility of parole are unconstitutional.  The Court reasoned that “[w]hile a mandatory life sentence for adults does not violate the Eighth Amendment, such a sentence would be an unconstitutionally disproportionate punishment for children.”  Furthermore, the Court added  the punishment should be proportioned to the offense and the offender.  Miller is a victory for juvenile justice advocates, but the fight continues.  Miller abolishes mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences, but it still permits a judge to sentence a juvenile to life without parole.  It is time for the United States to completely abolish juvenile life without parole sentences.  The court’s focus for juvenile offenders should be rehabilitation.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Legislation and the Beat Cop: Is Stop-and-Frisk Coming to San Francisco?

Amid continuing national controversy and judicial disapproval, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is standing firmly behind a stop-and-frisk policy similar to one already implemented by New York City.  The policy would allow law enforcement officers to stop and search anyone they considered suspicious.  Proponents of the policy cite crime prevention as the driving force during a period of increased homicides in the city. Opponents, on the other hand, are more concerned about a potential increase in racial profiling and lack of proof that such policies would indeed prevent crimes.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

DNA Recording: The Court Allows Maryland to Continue Collecting and Testing DNA Samples from People Who Are Arrested.

On Monday, July 30, Chief Justice Roberts issued a stay to allow Maryland to continue sampling and testing DNA from people who have been arrested, but not yet convicted, of a crime.  This practice came under fire in 2009 when Alonzo Jay King, Jr., was arrested for assault.  During the booking process, personnel at the Wicomico County Central Booking facility took a sample of King’s DNA.  Maryland State Police Forensic Sciences Division processed the sample and entered it into the Maryland DNA database.  The database matched the sample to a rape that was committed in 2003.  Following this match, King was charged and convicted of that rape. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Supreme Court Set to Rule on Whether the Use of Drug-Sniffing Dogs Around the Exterior of the Home are a Violation of the Fourth Amendment’s Right to Privacy.

The Supreme Court is currently on summer recess; however, there are some interesting criminal procedure cases that the Court will hear when the new term begins in October.  One of these cases, Florida v. Jardines, has to do with how police may use canines trained to detect narcotics without violating an individual’s Fourth Amendment right to privacy.  In this case the Florida Supreme Court held that the factual situation surrounding the law enforcement’s use of drug-sniffing dogs violated an individual’s right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Aurora, Colorado Theater Shooting – What Can the Public Expect in the Coming Months?

The horrendous and tragic details of what occurred in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater on July 20 have been well documented over the past week (for a review, please see the following link:  Unfortunately, the aftermath of this atrocity will lead to a surplus of social and legal questions that the public and pundits alike will debate.  What are some of the political issues that have already emerged? And, what can we expect from the criminal proceedings in the coming months?

Monday, July 23, 2012

How Will New Jersey’s New Eyewitness Identification Rules Impact Criminal Justice?

On July 19, 2012, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued new rules confirming a growing concern that eyewitness testimony and memory are not inherently reliable.  The New Jersey Supreme Court set essentially two new standards for the manner in which the justice system should handle eyewitness testimony.   Police investigators administering an identification lineup or photo-array are now required to make a record of the entire procedure either through taking notes or electronically. If the investigators fail to do so, the witness’s identification can be thrown out.  Such recording procedures are important to ensure that the witness is not improperly influenced by an investigator’s comments. Equally important, the recording will ensure the manner in which the witness identified the suspect.  .  The manner in which an eyewitness identification is made is an important fact for any defense attorney who is attempting to challenge an eyewitness’s identification.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Stolen Valor Act Held Unconstitutional, Supreme Court Says Not Valid Under First Amendment

On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision in United States v. Alvarez and held the Stolen Valor Act (18 U.S.C. § 704) invalid under the First Amendment.  President George W. Bush signed the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 into law on December 20, 2006, which broadens previous provisions addressing the unauthorized wear, manufacture, or sale of any military decorations and medals.  The Act makes it a misdemeanor to falsely represent oneself as having received any U.S. military decoration or medal.  If convicted, defendants may be imprisoned for up to six months, unless the decoration at issue is the Medal of Honor, in which case imprisonment could be up to one year.   The law was passed to prevent imposters from “stealing the valor” of soldiers returning from engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In 2009 alone, the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated 200 alleged violations of the Act.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lubanga Sentenced to Fourteen Years: What Should the ICC Learn From His Case?

On Tuesday, July 10, 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese warlord, to fourteen years in prison for the war crime of enlisting child soldiers under the age of fifteen.  The verdict comes after a controversial six-year proceeding delayed by the failure to disclose potentially exculpatory information by the former ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, as well as accusations of testimony fabrication at the hands of prosecutorial intermediaries.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Despite Governor’s Disapproval, North Carolina’s Legislature Favors Racial Injustice

On Monday, June 28th 2012, the Republican-led North Carolina legislature voted to repeal Governor Perdue’s veto of the newly amended 2012 Racial Justice Act.  The legislature attempted to amend the 2009 Act during the previous legislative session, but failed to obtain enough votes to override the Democratic Governor’s veto.  This time, five Democrats veered away from party lines to enable the veto to be overridden.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is the Court Ready to Revisit Crawford? Williams v. Illinois and the Confrontation Clause

On Monday June 18, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Williams v. Illinois that further clarified how to treat forensic evidence under the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause.  Under the Confrontation Clause, a defendant has the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”  In 2004, the Court issued Crawford v. Washington and held that the Confrontation Clause forbids the prosecution from introducing hearsay statements that are “testimonial” unless the person who made those statements is called to the stand.  Hearsay statements are statements made out of court that are introduced to prove the matter asserted.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Supreme Court Allows Lower Courts to Apply Fair Sentencing Act “Retroactively” in Crack Cocaine Cases

On Thursday, June 21, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that those who committed a crack cocaine offense prior to August 3, 2010, but were not sentenced until after, are eligible for the more lenient sentences outlined in the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220).  In a 5-4 decision in the consolidated cases of Dorsey v. United States and Hill v. United States, the Court ruled that judges now have the option of levying lower sentences against those convicted of crack cocaine offenses.  The question going forward is, how will the Fair Sentencing Act and the Court’s ruling affect the landscape of sentences?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Policing the Digital Border?

Social-media has expanded rapidly over the past decade and now a truly world-wide network of correspondences and commercial transactions occur over the internet. Regular communications now occur between everyday people on opposite sides of international borders. Along with legitimate business transactions and innocent correspondences, the internet has become a chosen method of criminal and terrorist organizations. What is the most far reaching technique that law enforcement could use to combat international crime in the internet age? By looking at the law of border searches an easy line can be drawn to law enforcement legal authority to intercept, without suspicion, emails sent from overseas into the United States.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Lock Them Up and Throw Away the Key, Is That Really the Solution?

On March 20, 2012, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the cases of Jackson v. Hobbs and Miller v. Alabama.  Both cases involve juveniles that were convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes that were committed when they were fourteen years old.  These cases address whether the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for a fourteen year old violates the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. While we wait for the Court to hand down its ruling, I wonder whether anyone else finds it disheartening that we put so much time and energy into the debate on how to punish a child after they have committed such a heinous act rather than focusing on how to save these children before they become entangled in our criminal justice system. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sandusky Case Judge Rejects Motions To Dismiss Charges, Trial Begins

On Friday, June 8, 2012, the judge overseeing former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky's sexual abuse trial denied defense motions to dismiss the charges in the case.  This allowed for opening statements in the trial on Monday, June 11, 2012.  Sandusky is accused of fifty-two counts of sexual misconduct involving young boys. His lawyers had sought to have the charges dismissed arguing some were too vague and a lack of sufficient evidence on others.  Judge John Cleland's ruling came as Penn State put the finishing touches on a policy requiring all university employees to get training on reporting child abuse.  The failure to report was the source of controversy and had a direct impact on the accusations toward Sandusky. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Governor Kasich Grants Temporary Stay of Execution for Abdul Awkal

On Wednesday, June 6, 2012, Republican Governor John Kasich granted a temporary stay of execution for Abdul Awkal.  Throughout the post-conviction proceedings, there have been questions surrounding Awkal’s mental competency.  The stay of execution will allow a court to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine Awkal’s mental competency.  Because of one of the key witness’s availability, the trial was scheduled for after Awkal’s original execution date, on Wednesday morning.  Awkal was previously given a death sentence for the 1992 murders of his ex-wife and brother-in-law.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Maryland High Court Denies Reconsideration of King v. Maryland: Will SCOTUS Grant Cert to Resolve the Constitutionality of DNA Testing Upon Arrest?

On Friday, May 18,2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, denied a request to reconsider its decision in King v. Maryland.  On April 24, 2012, in a 5-2 opinion written by Judge Harrell, the Court found that collecting a DNA sample from an individual who had been arrested, but not convicted, of a violent crime was a violation of the individuals Fourth Amendment right.  In arguing for the reconsideration, or in the alternative a stay on the decision until the case could be considered by the United States Supreme Court, the Maryland attorney general stated that the decision could affect prosecutors’ use of evidence that could help solve 190 unsolved cases, as well as exonerate an unknown number of innocent individuals.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Georgia Incarcerates Death Row Inmate Wilburn Wiley Dobbs for Fifteen Years Without a Sentence

A few months ago, in late September of 2011, the Georgia criminal justice system shocked the world when it executed a self-proclaimed innocent man by the name of Troy Davis.  Troy was able to capture the attention of civil rights groups, human rights activists, and innocence projects around the world with his story, but in the end all the media support would not budge the Governor of Georgia or the U.S. Supreme Court to stay his execution.  Despite Troy’s passing, his strength of character has been an example to many, including a fellow inmate at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Wiley Dobbs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Relax, Stay Home: Election Fraud Goes Unenforced

Take a moment and imagine the following.  It is Election Day 2010 in your state of Maryland, and on your way home you plan to stop by your assigned polling place to exercise your right to vote.  Two hours before the polls close, though, you receive a robocall telling you to “relax” and that there was no need to vote because Governor Martin O’Malley has won re-election.  If you think this sounds like an underhanded method to discourage you from voting, then you would be right and it is precisely what happened last year in Prince George’s and Baltimore County, Maryland.