The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which a defendant's SUV was seized by the state after he was convicted of a drug crime. Many states and the federal government engage in asset seizures after drug and other arrests, often before a conviction has been obtained. All the government has to prove is that the assets in question can be tied to illegal activity -- either having been purchased with proceeds of a crime or used in the commission of it. So, what was the problem here?
Alexandria S. is not what you think of as a drug dealer. A suburban mother of three, she became addicted to her prescription Percocet while being treated for back pain. When she couldn't get off Percocet, she turned to heroin, which is chemically similar. Across the street, her neighbor was also suffering from an opioid addiction.
Across the United States, around 13.2 million misdemeanor cases are filed every year. Unfortunately, there are no statistics on how many of those cases result in conviction -- much less on how many wrongful convictions occur.
In a unanimous ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "excessive fines" applies to states and local governments as well as to the federal government. The high court had never actually ruled that the clause applied to states and local governments, although many people assumed that it did.
With marijuana legal in Colorado, but illegal under federal law, you would think the temptation to grow the plant on public land would be relatively low. Unfortunately for Colorado's forests and mountains, illegal cannabis growers continue to cut costs by cultivating in state and national parks and forests. And, it may be getting worse, according to representatives of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a coalition of law enforcement agencies.
There are serious legal consequences to getting caught with drugs. In addition, a drug-related criminal conviction could limit your eligibility for federal financial aid. Depending on your financial situation, this could mean that you might end up having to take out expensive student loans or take time off from school until you meet the requirements to reapply for financial aid in the future.
There is a lot riding on getting good grades in college. Add to this the sheer workload of having multiple classes -- with mandatory papers, projects and tests -- and it's no wonder so many college students are completely stressed out. Walk around a campus and you can feel the stress, as students rush from class to class to class, just trying to get it all done, just trying to stay on top of everything at once.
Despite recent moves to make it easier for federal prosecutors to crack down on marijuana crimes, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced that they probably won't be doing so. That's because federal law enforcement simply doesn't have the resources to spend time on "routine cases." Instead, it will continue to prioritize drug conspiracies and gang activity.
Thanks to new partnerships with social workers and mental health professionals, a number of Colorado law enforcement agencies have been changing their strategy to focus more on treatment. In some cases, mental health professionals are riding along with officers. In others, case managers stationed in higher crime areas help officers divert low-level offenders away from the criminal justice system and toward recovery.
Although President Trump is better known for his "tough on crime" rhetoric, he recently advocated for better services for prisoners once they're released. On a Jan. 11 roundtable with lawmakers and policy wonks, Trump said he wants to "break this vicious cycle" of recidivism that, for many, involves trouble reentering society once their sentences are served.