A year ago, a man stood outside of an Alabama church begging police to kill him. His wife said he had been suicidal and had held a gun to his head earlier so she had hidden the gun in the church. The police arrested the unarmed man and retrieved the gun.
Our criminal justice system is meant to protect defendants' rights. Many of our constitutional amendments were specifically written to guarantee certain rights for criminal defendants, including the right to due process of law, to have competent counsel, to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, to confront the evidence and witnesses against you and more.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees freedom from "unreasonable" searches and seizures by government agents like police officers. That has generally meant that the police are required to obtain warrants before they arrest someone or search their property -- unless the police can point to a recognized exception to the warrant requirement. These exceptions include emergencies, situations where the person consents, and situations where evidence could quickly and easily be carried away or destroyed.
"I want my truck back. I've always wanted it back."
"When the government tracks the location of a cell phone," writes Chief Justice John Roberts, "it achieves near perfect surveillance, as if it had attached an ankle monitor to the phone's user."
Did you know that Colorado is imprisoning more people than ever before even though the crime rate is at an historic low?
According to the Innocence Project, the misapplication of forensic science is a contributing factor in 45 percent of wrongful convictions that were resolved through DNA exonerations. The problem, which the Innocence Project defines as unreliable or invalid forensic discipline, insufficient validation of a method, misleading testimony, mistakes or misconduct, is the second most common contributing factor to wrongful convictions.
The prosecutor may be the most powerful figure in the criminal justice system. They have power over everything from what charges will be filed to what the sentence will be after a conviction. They have influence over whether defendants get bail or have to remain locked up until they can be tried -- or until they agree to a plea bargain. They negotiate those plea bargains, too.
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.
The National Employment Law Project estimates that more than 65 million Americans hold a criminal record of some sort, including convictions for misdemeanors and felonies. Most people know that a conviction, no matter what it is for or when the offense occurred, can follow you around for the rest of your life. However, did you know that even an acquittal or a dismissal of your case can mean a record that will show up on every background check, too?