Arrests increase as crime rates fall

The violent crime rate in New York and around the country has fallen by about 50% since 1993, but a recent study from the RAND Corporation reveals that more Americans than ever are being arrested. Researchers from the California-based think tank looked at arrest and conviction data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, and they discovered that young people today are about 3.6 times more likely to have a brush with the law than their parents or grandparents.

The PSID data also reveals that many young people are being taken into custody for behavior that would have warranted little more than a stern admonishment just a few years ago. More than a quarter of the young men and nearly a third of the women found themselves behind bars after committing minor misdemeanors, and underage drinking accounted for almost half of these arrests. This has led to a situation where 23% of the Americans born between 1979 and 1988 have a criminal record.

RAND Corporation researchers found that arrest rates are rising at a particularly high rate among women and white men. Only about one in 100 women had an arrest on their records just a few decades ago. That figure has now risen to one in seven. Arrests of white men have almost tripled in recent years, but African-Americans are still more likely to be taken into custody.

A conviction for even a minor offense can make finding a job or renting an apartment more difficult, and individuals with a record tend to earn less when they do obtain work. A criminal defense attorney may point this out during plea negotiations if their client has not been in trouble with the law before. Legal counsel could also remind prosecutors that rehabilitation and not punishment should be the goal in these situations.

Study examines asset forfeiture laws, impact on crime

People in New York who are accused of drug trafficking may have some of their property seized, but according to a study by the Institute for Justice, there is no correlation between the proceeds law enforcement receives from forfeiture and a drop in drug use or a rise in solved crimes. The study also found that when economic conditions worsened, forfeitures increased, and it suggested that economic gain and not crime reduction is behind law enforcement’s use of the law.

The study’s author said there were civil liberties concerns around forfeiture. Under forfeiture laws, law enforcement is permitted to seize property, including homes, cars and cash. The property may be forfeit even if the owner is never charged or convicted, with profits split between law enforcement and prosecution.

Civil asset forfeiture used to be a relatively rare practice. The war on drugs in the 1980s led to increased use. Local, state and federal law enforcement have argued that dropping the practice would interfere with investigating and prosecuting drug crimes. Civil liberties organizations and advocacy groups have long opposed the laws, saying innocent property owners get too little protection. Studies and investigations have found that rather than seizing property from cartels, the laws are often used to take small amounts of cash and other property from ordinary individuals.

Individuals who are facing charges for drug-related crimes or any other type of crime may want to contact an attorney about an approach to defense. People have a right to an attorney when they are taken into custody. An attorney may take a number of different approaches to a person’s defense depending on the specifics of the case. For example, the attorney might look into whether the evidence was obtained legally and if the client’s rights were protected during detention.

Ketosis and breath tests

Some New York motorists who have acid reflux or diabetes or even those who are in ketosis might cause a false positive on some types of breath tests used by law enforcement to determine blood alcohol content. These conditions can cause a person to breathe out isopropyl alcohol, and some say not all breath tests can distinguish between this and ethanol alcohol.

One of those people is a Texas attorney who got charges dropped against his client who was on a low-carb diet that put him in ketosis. He says that no peer-reviewed studies have been done to show that breath tests that use fuel cells to determine a person’s blood alcohol content can tell the difference in ethanol and isopropyl alcohol. This claim is disputed by manufacturers, who say there are no issues with their products. However, there is an article published in 2006 by a professor of forensic technology that examines the case of a man on a low-carb diet who was unable to activate his company vehicle. The vehicle had a breath test device on its ignition, and it used fuel cells.

People who are accused of driving under the influence and who know they are sober might ask to be tested on the infrared spectroscopy devices at the station. Another option may be requesting a blood test.

For a person who is facing DUI charges, an attorney might look at whether the test was administered correctly and whether any other factors might have caused a false positive or made a person appear to be drunk. An attorney might also examine whether the person’s rights were violated at any point in the process. When the evidence appears to be strong, however, it might be possible to negotiate a plea bargain, which can involve pleading guilty to lesser charges and getting a lighter sentence.

Facial recognition technology aims to get shoplifters banned

Facial recognition is widely used across the world in everything from phones to checking in on airplane flights. While it can be used for safety purposes, such as identifying stalkers at popular music concerts, people are raising concerns about its wide use in stores. Shops in New York may be using facial recognition technology to spot and mark shoplifters without any regulation.

When a store that uses facial recognition catches a shoplifter, the image is uploaded and shared with stores across the country. Other stores can then use these images to prevent people from shopping in their store. While this reduces the number of shoplifters and money lost in shoplifted products, critics say that it violates people’s rights. Criminal defense experts say a one-time mistake could lead to a lifetime of no longer being able to shop anywhere.

By the year 2025, facial recognition revenue is expected to reach $10 billion, which is double what it was in 2018. The technology is advancing at a rate faster than lawmakers can manage. Without any limits on facial recognition technology, stores can log customers’ faces without alerting the customers. These logged faces could then be used for a variety of purposes without any limits. Experts are urging lawmakers to step up now and make laws to regulate the technology before it becomes embedded into every part of society.

Shoplifting crimes can result in not only being banned from stores but also being served jail time and fines. When accused of a crime, it’s important to ensure that businesses and the police don’t violate any rights of those who are accused. A criminal defense lawyer may explain the process to those who are detained due to an alleged crime and help ensure that their rights aren’t violated. In this case, a lawyer may be able to help an individual accused of shoplifting reduce the charges if the store security did not act appropriately during the incident.

Can an eye-witness be disproved?

For those who are facing charges, an eye-witness testimony may feel like a sentence. But, these statements aren’t always accurate — even when the witness doesn’t realize it.

Here are just a few of the ways an attorney can disprove an eye-witness’ account.

Poking holes in the story

When something unexpected happens, we’re usually not totally sure of what is going on until we put the pieces together afterword. Sometimes the way a witness reconstructs the story may invent, skew or remove elements of what actually happened.

One thing an attorney can do to illustrate this is to ask clarifying questions. For example, if a witness asserts that they saw a neighbor assaulting someone, an attorney may ask how many times the witness had seen this neighbor before or to clarify which characteristics lead the witness to believe the person was their neighbor.

Suggesting another scenario

In addition to creating doubt by pointing out uncertainty, the attorney will then suggest an alternative conclusion. In the previous example, if the eye-witness had seen their neighbor only once or twice, an attorney may suggest that the witness only assumed a nearby assaulter to be their neighbor because it took place outside of the witness’ home.

In another example, a person hears a loud bang and then goes outside to see their mailbox dented. An attorney may ask the witness when the last time was that they checked their mail. This could be followed up with whether it’s possible that the mailbox was dented earlier on and simply unnoticed.

Examining the witnessbias

It is illegal to lie while under oath. However, certain biases may cause a witness to make inaccurate assumptions. For example, if a witness has made several noise complaints about their neighbor’s loud music, the witness’ negative feelings toward the neighbor may incline the witness to assume that this neighbor is the person involved in an assault happening outside of their home.

Proving a witness’ biases may also dampen the credibility of the account.

Many Americans have close relatives living in jail

In New York and other states, a new study shows that 45 percent of adults have a close relative who was arrested and sent to prison. The high percentage breaks previous records. Cornell University experts did not expect these astonishing results. As part of this study, one statistic shows that a person’s brother or sister gets sent to prison more often than other family members. The African-American community has a higher number of family members in prison, reaching approximately 60 percent. The same percentage applies to adults who have low educational backgrounds.

The study shows that people of all backgrounds have relatives in prison. One out of seven Caucasians with college degrees has close relatives who have spent time living in prison. According to author Christopher Wildeman, most researchers think white people with university educations do not commit crimes or go to jail, but this study proves that incarceration affects many American families regardless of their social, cultural or educational backgrounds.

A faculty member at the College of Arts and Sciences mentioned that individuals who have close relatives in prison often experience profound problems in their lives. Taking care of a family and earning an income is more difficult for a spouse with an incarcerated marital partner. The same informal rule applies to children who grow up in a single-parent home.

Any American facing a possible prison sentence has a legal right to work with a criminal defense attorney. Laws exist to guarantee every person a fair chance to prove a case. When a person experiences an arrest for a suspected crime, working with a criminal defense lawyer to build a defense gives the defendant an equitable chance at reducing their sentence or even getting charges dismissed completely.

Analysts say that the criminal justice system is unbalanced

The scales of justice are a well-known symbol used to represent the ideals of fairness. Everyone can have faith in a system if bias, privilege and corruption do not determine guilt or innocence. The First Step Act, signed into law in December 2018, is a federal law designed to initiate the start of removing inequities in federal sentencing guidelines. While this is a much-welcomed change for reform advocates, it applies only to federal criminals and felonies. Recent evidence has suggested there is a more widespread problem affecting many New York residents.

Statistics indicate that many state systems for misdemeanors are so overwhelmed by the sheer number of defendants that serious miscarriages of justice occur every day. An estimated 80 percent of the crimes charged in the U.S. are misdemeanors. This translates into roughly 13 million cases.

Public defenders represent a large portion of misdemeanor defendants. These lawyers often have a lack of resources and time to properly investigate each case. Further exacerbating the matter, prosecutors and courts generally push for plea bargain agreements in all but a handful of cases. Studies have shown that whites are 75 percent more likely than blacks to have all charges dropped in plea negotiations. The poor are also disproportionally impacted because fines, fees and penalties often are more burdensome to them than to middle- or upper-income individuals.

A suspect in a criminal investigation could face an uphill battle with the weight of the government’s resources bearing down. However, a criminal defense lawyer can help protect a defendant’s rights and push for a fair outcome.

Study finds that bail judges show racial bias

A study published recently in the Quarterly Journal of Economics suggests that the average bail set for black defendants in New York and around the country is more than $7,000 higher than for white defendants. The research team from Princeton University and Harvard Law School also suggests that white as well as black bail judges treat black defendants unfairly and make decisions based on racial stereotypes that exaggerate the dangers of releasing them prior to trial.

The researchers studied cases involving 93,914 defendants from Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania and 65,944 defendants from Miami-Dade County in Florida who appeared before bail judges between 2006 and 2014. They discovered that inexperienced and part-time bail judges were more likely to be influenced by racial bias than their more seasoned colleagues. Furthermore, black defendants in Florida were more likely to be denied bail than black defendants in Pennsylvania.

The findings are broadly in line with another study published by the same journal in February. In that study, researchers used an algorithm to determine whether or not defendants should be granted bail and then compared their results to the decisions made by bail judges. They concluded that bail is often denied unfairly to defendants of all races and the number of incarcerated defendants could be reduced by more than 40 percent with no corresponding increase in crime.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys may prepare for bail hearings carefully to ensure judges have the information they need to make sound and appropriate decisions. In order to encourage judges to grant their clients bail, attorneys may point out their previously unblemished records, close ties to the community, gainful full-time employment and the support they receive from their friends and family members. Attorneys could also revisit the issue of bail when evidence emerges that either exonerates their clients or implicates others.

Eyewitness errors can lead to wrongful convictions

Eyewitness testimony might not always be reliable in cases in New York. A man in California, who was identified both by the victim and witness in a rape case, was exonerated when DNA evidence indicated he did not commit the crime. He had spent eight years in prison.

A co-director of the California Innocence Project says that mistaken identifications can be reinforced over time. Often, an eyewitness identifies the photo of a person who most looks like the person who committed the crime. The same person is then picked out of the lineup. In the California case, the victim initially identified the man from photos. At the time, she said she was 70 percent sure, but by the time of the trial, she said she was 100 percent sure. A witness who made the same identification was of a different race than the man. Studies have shown that cross-racial identifications tend to be even more inaccurate.

Some jurisdictions have begun using double-blind lineups. In these, the detective does not know who the suspect is either, and this has been demonstrated to lead to greater accuracy with no drop in overall identifications.

A person who has been accused of a crime in which eyewitness identification is a part of the evidence may want to work with an attorney to determine whether this evidence could be disputed. A person might be misidentified because a witness has poor eyesight or due to weather conditions among other reasons. There could be issues with other evidence as well. For example, lab samples could be mishandled and contaminated. Evidence might also have been illegally obtained, and this could result in it being dismissed. A person may also want to discuss with an attorney whether accepting a plea bargain might be the right decision. This involves pleading guilty and usually getting a lighter sentence.