CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Walking in cops' shoes -- in the line of fire

I'M WALKING the beat with Officer Casey when the 911 call comes in.

Disturbance. Downtown. Hurry.

We rush to the scene and enter a crowded restaurant, our hearts racing. At a far table by the window a man, 40ish, is arguing with a woman sitting across from him.

An object in his hand catches the light.

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December 5, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

FBI power in terror cases grows

Beginning Monday, the FBI will get increased power to investigate suspected terrorists under revised administrative guidelines that some Muslim Americans and civil rights advocates in metro Detroit are concerned may target innocent people.

The new Justice Department guidelines will allow FBI agents, for the first time in terrorism-related cases, to use undercover sources to gather information in preliminary probes, interview people without identifying who they are and spy on suspects without first getting clear evidence of wrongdoing.

They're the most significant changes the Bush administration has made since 2003 to rules that govern security investigations in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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December 3, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Criminal justice affected by budget cut

Due to a projected $90 million shortfall for 2009 in the King County General Fund, criminal justice agencies in the county are experiencing a blanket 11.4 percent budget cut.

The budget cut has caused a change in filing and disposition standards and the way the King County prosecutor's office prosecutes crimes.

According to a letter from King County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Satterberg to county police chiefs and commanders, the cut is equivalent to 41 of the 190 deputy prosecutors paid for by the general fund.

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November 25, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Georgia Supreme Court Promotes Marriage to Fight Crime

A dozen billboards around the state that urge Georgians to "Get Married, Stay Married" are sponsored not by a church or family-values group but by the Supreme Court of Georgia through its Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law.

Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears said that the 48-foot-wide, 14-foot-tall billboards are one of the few things a jurist can do to battle high crime rates, high divorce rates and low numbers of fathers raising their kids.

Along with the "Get Married, Stay Married" slogan, each sign shows a happy-looking mother, father and child and one of two messages: "Children do better with parents together" or "For Children's Sake."

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November 24, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ninth Circuit Holds CA Child Abuse Index Violates Due Process

California's Child Abuse Central Index, a database of known or suspected child abusers, violates procedural due process in failing to give listed persons a fair opportunity to challenge the allegations against them and obtain delisting, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held Nov. 5 (Humphries v. Los Angeles County, 9th Cir., No. 05-56467, 11/5/08).

Being listed on the CACI is stigmatizing in itself, and it also makes access to certain licenses, jobs, and benefits less likely, Judge Jay S. Bybee said. But the state spells out no procedure for getting delisted. Bybee thus concluded that the innocent plaintiffs' being listed on CACI resulted in the “stigma-plus” needed under Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976), for their reputational injury to be actionable under the 14th Amendment's due process clause.

The court followed Valmonte v. Bane, 18 F.3d 992 (2d Cir. 1994), interpreting a similar New York statute, but rejected Smith v. Siegelman, 322 F.3d 1290 (11th Cir. 2003), involving a variant Alabama law, “[t]o the extent that the Eleventh Circuit refuses to recognize a liberty interest [under the due process clause] where the state functionally requires agencies to consult a stigmatizing list prior to conferring a government benefit.”

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November 18, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Due Process | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tenth Circuit's Construction Narrows Federal Sex Offender Registry Law

The provision of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act that makes it a crime to travel interstate and fail to register as a sex offender does not apply to someone whose travel was complete before the law went into effect, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held Nov. 5 (United States v. Husted, 10th Cir., No. 08-6010, 11/5/08).

Congress's use of the present tense “travels” in 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a)(2)(B) plainly indicates that it meant to reach only those who moved between states following the statute's enactment, the court decided.

The statute provides that a person who is a convicted sex offender and “travels in interstate or foreign commerce … and knowingly fails to register” at his destination as required by the act is subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years.

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November 18, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Sex | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Craigslist Increasingly Used to Sell Drugs

Drug dealing on craigslist has become so rampant that the city's special narcotics prosecutor has asked the online trading post to curb the ads, the Daily News has learned.

Bridget Brennan's undercover investigators have bought drugs offered on craigslist personals from dealers ranging from a Citigroup banker to an Ivy Leaguer to a violent felon using a halfway house computer. In the past four years, her office has prosecuted dozens of dealers.

"Ski lift tickets are here for sale ... Tina Turner tickets ... best seats around!" Offers like these appear virtually every day on craigslist, and they are thinly veiled ads posted by people hawking cocaine (ski) or crystal meth (cristina or tina).

"Despite devoting considerable resources to prosecuting these cases, drug dealing is still thriving on craigslist," Brennan wrote craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster. Brennan said she was inspired to act by a recent agreement between craigslist and attorneys general from 40 states to curb prostitution ads.

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November 17, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Drugs, Law Enforcement | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NYPD Starts Collecting DNA from ... the Police

Dna_rgbThe NYPD has started taking DNA samples from CSI detectives to look for cross-contamination at crime scenes, sources said last night.

Police brass have been pushing for the samples for at least three years. The need was highlighted when a cop's blood turned up, unexplained, on a sink of the blood-soaked apartment of "Realtor to the Stars" Linda Stein.

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November 11, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, DNA , Search and Seizure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ninth Circuit Finds CA Child Abuse Database Unconstitutional

California's database of child abusers and suspected child abusers violates due process because it does not allow those named on it to challenge the allegations, the 9th Circuit ruled.

Craig and Wendy Humphries' child alleged that they were abusers, so the county took their other children away. The state dropped the charges after they were disproved by a doctor.

Despite their acquittal, the Humphries were listed on the state Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) with no chance to clear their names.

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November 10, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Take the Handcuffs Off the Economic Recovery

A month ago, who would have thought that the Bush Administration would order the partial nationalization of the nation's banks to fix credit markets and support the economy? Maybe other innovative, even "radical," ideas are in order. Unless we come up with new ideas to sell cars and durable goods to fire up the economy, collapsing domestic auto sales threaten tens of thousands of jobs.

In addition, the recession will cause shrinking government revenue at every level. Even last spring 18 states were predicting reduced budgets in FY 2009. Unless new revenues are found, we will soon see the furloughs and wholesale firing of teachers, nurses, and emergency first responders; closed schools, libraries and hospitals; crumbling roads unfixed; and broken bridges closed to traffic.

Cliches about the auto industry's problems blame workers' and retirees' health care costs and management for making the wrong kinds of cars. But to sell cars we need to abandon cliches, old myths, and the blame game.

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November 7, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

State hopes new prisons, early release cut crowding

A steady rise in the number of inmates and the political risks of paroling prisoners early are complicating the state's efforts to ease crowded conditions in its prisons.

The 27 existing lockups now hold nearly 47,000 inmates, which is up from a population of just over 36,000 in 1998. The number of inmates is now 8 percent over the current capacity of 43,300.

And the tide keeps on rising. State Corrections Secretary Jeffrey Beard estimates that the overall prison population could top 57,000 by the end of 2012. Legislators' desire to be "tough on crime" and the public's fear of rising drug-related crimes have led to longer and more mandatory sentences.

Correctional costs, at $1.6 billion for 2008-09, are the third biggest item in the $28 billion state budget, after education and welfare costs.

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October 28, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Residency restrictions for sex offenders popular, but ineffective

Despite research that shows sex offender residency requirements actually hamper the rehabilitation of offenders, jurisdictions across the country continue to pass them, including Allegheny County last year.

Experts say the laws, which prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within a certain distance of schools, day care centers and parks, also don't work to help cut down on recidivism.

These types of residency restrictions have been passed in at least 30 states and thousands of municipalities nationwide. Even as prosecutors, criminal justice researchers and child advocates say they don't work, parents and legislators continue to push for the tough laws.

County Councilman Vince Gastgeb, R-Bethel Park, who was the primary author of the local bill passed in October 2007, said he wrote the law that parents wanted.

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October 27, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chicago torture victims face uphill legal battle

Melvin Jones says he screamed and begged for mercy as Chicago police touched metal clips to his feet and thighs, churned a hand-cranked device and sent shock waves of electricity through his body more than 25 years ago.

He says he was told the torture would stop when he confessed to murder.

Jones is among the dozens of alleged torture victims who have little hope of winning compensation, despite the arrest this week of a former police commander who officials say lied about the abuse.

Some have already completed prison terms for crimes they claim they confessed to only after police beat or electrocuted them. More than 20 remain in prison.

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October 24, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

San Francisco to Vote on Decriminalization of Prostitution

In this live-and-let-live town, where medical marijuana clubs do business next to grocery stores and an annual fair celebrates sadomasochism, prostitutes could soon walk the streets without fear of arrest.

San Francisco would become the first major U.S. city to decriminalize prostitution if voters next month approve Proposition K — a measure that forbids local authorities from investigating, arresting or prosecuting anyone for selling sex.

The ballot question technically would not legalize prostitution since state law still prohibits it, but the measure would eliminate the power of local law enforcement officials to go after prostitutes.

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October 23, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Law Enforcement, Sex | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Police chief wants to ease rules on vehicle chases in Charlotte

Tired of what he calls “brazen disrespect” for police, Chief Rodney Monroe wants to loosen rules on Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chases.

Too many suspects get away, he says, because current policy allows officers to chase suspects only when a life-threatening felony is involved.

“At some point we have to send a message back to the criminal element that we are going to come after you,” he said.

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October 21, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Experts: Fla. conviction possible without toddler's body

Anthonyx  Prosecutors have DNA tests and hair samples. They have testimony about "the smell of death" in the trunk of the suspect's car.

What they do not have is a body.

Prosecutors building a case against a single 22-year-old Florida mother accused of killing her young daughter will have to rely on forensic evidence and convince a jury that Casey Anthony lacks credibility and had a motive, legal experts say.

To help build the case, the prosecutor will be using what he described as cutting-edge forensic tests, including air testing for compounds released when a body decomposes.

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October 20, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 17, 2008

ACLU: Federal death row inmates denied health care

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — Death row inmates at the federal prison in Terre Haute are routinely denied access to medical, dental and mental health care, the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday in a letter to a governmental official.

One diabetic prisoner showing symptoms of high blood sugar had to wait two hours to be treated with insulin, the ACLU said after a yearlong investigation. And some prisoners with dental problems chose simply to have all their teeth removed rather than suffer pain while waiting for complicated procedures, it said.

The probe by the ACLU's National Prison Project uncovered "grossly inadequate" conditions that "fail to meet constitutional standards and jeopardize the health and safety" of the more than 50 inmates awaiting execution at the prison, the organization said in the letter to Harley Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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October 17, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

In many US airports, guns are OK outside security

ATLANTA — Flying in the U.S. has been transformed since Sept. 11, with passengers forced to remove their shoes, take out their laptop computers and put liquids and gels in clear plastic bags. Yet it's perfectly legal to take a loaded gun right up to the security checkpoint at some of the nation's biggest airports.

An Associated Press survey of the 20 busiest U.S. airports found that seven of them -- Philadelphia, Detroit, Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles and San Francisco -- let people with gun permits carry firearms in the general public areas of the terminal.

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October 17, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Drug Courts Offer Many Another Chance

15drug_600It was not your usual courtroom scene. For one thing, the judge choked up as he described one woman’s struggle with opiate addiction after her arrest for forging prescriptions.

Over the last three years, she had repeatedly missed court-ordered therapy and hearings, and the judge, J. Wesley Saint Clair of the Drug Diversion Court, at first meted out mild punishments, like community service. But last winter, pushed past his forgiving limit, he jailed her briefly twice. The threat of more jail did the trick.

Now she was graduating — along with 23 other addicts who entered drug court instead of prison. Prosecutors and public defenders applauded when she was handed her certificate; a policewoman hugged her, and a child shouted triumphantly, “Yeah, Mamma!”

In Seattle, as in drug courts across the country, the stern face of criminal justice is being redrawn, and emotions are often on the surface. Experts say drug courts have been the country’s fastest-spreading innovation in criminal justice, giving arrested addicts a chance to avoid prison by agreeing to stringent oversight and addiction treatment. Recent studies show drug courts are one of the few initiatives that reduce recidivism — on average by 8 percent to 10 percent nationally and as high as 26 percent in New York State — and save taxpayer money.

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October 15, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy, Criminal Law, Drugs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

20 Top Crime Stories

We’ve seen some amazing crime stories on News Gems lately. These Top Twenty from the past six months range from the jungles of Africa to a small town in Tennessee. Some are groundbreaking exposés while others tell stories from the perspectives of frightened witnesses, grizzles detectives, innocent victims, crafty smugglers, and terrified killers.

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October 14, 2008 in Criminal Justice Policy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)