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Criminal Defense Archives

Study looks at teen dating violence and murder

Some Maryland teenagers, particularly girls, may be at a greater risk of violence from an intimate partner than they or many people realize. Some experts expressed surprise over a study that appeared in "JAMA Pediatrics" in April 2019. It reported that almost 7 percent of over 2,000 adolescents who were killed from 2003 to 2016 were killed by an intimate partner. The average age of the person killed was 17, and 90 percent were female. Most of the partners were older than 18.

Why bail matters when resolving a criminal case

In many cases, defendants can purchase their freedom while their cases are pending. However, there are times when an individual who has the opportunity to bail out of jail cannot afford to do so. This can have a significant impact on how cases in Maryland and throughout the country play out. For instance, an individual may plead guilty simply to get out of jail in a timely manner. This may occur even if a person could have won at trial.

Younger Americans more likely to be arrested than older adults

People in Maryland and elsewhere in the United States age 26 and younger are more likely to get arrested than previous generations. This is what researchers discovered when conducting a study to evaluate arrest rates and patterns. In general, arrest rates are rising fastest for white Americans and women. The study also linked increasing arrest and conviction rates to reduced marriage chances and lower wages and family income.

Ruling clarifies how judges must assess jurors

Jurors in Maryland and around the country play an important role in the American justice system. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has said that jurors are allowed to let their personal beliefs influence their thought process during a case. The case that led to the court's decision involved a black man who was convicted of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute it. A prospective juror said that she believed that the justice system was rigged against black men.

Alternative sentencing can reduce recidivism rates

The FIRST STEP Act, which President Trump signed into law in December 2018, was lauded by civil rights advocates in Maryland and around the country as a meaningful step toward a more equitable criminal justice system. The law offers relief to federal prisoners who were convicted of nonviolent offenses, but the overwhelming majority of the nation's inmates are held in state rather than federal detention facilities.

Ruling may point to greater protections for suspects' phones

Many criminal defense lawyers in Maryland and across the country have counseled their clients to use alphanumeric passcodes or passwords for their mobile devices. As people come to depend on their mobile devices for all aspects of their daily lives and communications, they may also be concerned about the potential for them to be opened by law enforcement without their consent. In the past, multiple courts have ruled that police cannot force people to disclose their mobile phone passcodes. This is considered to violate the constitutional right against forced self-incrimination.

Misdemeanor convictions could result in long-term consequences

Most criminal defendants in Maryland will face misdemeanor charges. Although convictions on misdemeanors will not result in penalties as harsh as those for felony convictions, the long-term results could limit people's chances for employment as well as access to student loans or government benefits.

Criminal reform legislation passes Senate

Legislation aimed at reforming parts of the criminal justice system passed the Senate 82-12 after revisions were made. It would allow some federal inmates from Maryland and other states to obtain a reduced sentence and other benefits. Those who work or participate in other qualifying programs can receive credit toward their sentence. The idea is that prisoners would be more productive while in custody and less likely to offend again once they are released.

The First Step Act faces many hurdles

Politicians from Maryland and throughout the country have supported the First Step Act. If passed through Congress, the legislation would work to shorten federal prison sentences and alter rules that tend to unfairly harm minorities. For instance, it would make sentencing more equitable for those convicted of crimes related to crack cocaine and powdered cocaine. However, it is important to note that the Department of Justice would still have the final say as to whether a person would qualify for an early release.

First Steps Act may change mandatory sentencing, other rules

Some people in Maryland who are serving a jail or prison sentence may have their sentences shortened or receive other benefits if a bill known as the First Step Act passes through Congress. One thing the bill will do is address the disparities in sentencing between people convicted of drug-related charges involving cocaine and those involving crack.

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