Encounters with the criminal justice system can be particularly devastating for people living in poverty in Maryland. States, counties and cities across the country have developed an increasing reliance on court fines, fees and citations in order to balance their budgets and pay for specific services. Therefore, the use of these kinds of financial penalties can be encouraged by some administrations. Because these punishments are heavily financial in nature, they can have a deeply disproportionate effect on poor residents. Fines that people are unable to pay can escalate into significant debts and even jail time in some cases.
Maryland residents who have had their property seized by law enforcement agencies may be interested to learn that, according to a study, civil asset forfeiture has little impact on preventing criminal activity. Civil asset forfeiture is the practice that allows law enforcement agencies to seize property that may have been used to commit a crime. Common property to be seized includes money, vehicles and even homes.
Artificial intelligence may play a larger role in the criminal justice system both at the state and federal level. For instance, it may determine if a Maryland defendant is a risk to offend again in the future. However, some believe that these systems are flawed and may use metrics that are biased against certain groups of people. In one case, prosecutors sought time in juvenile detention for a defendant after an AI program deemed him to be a high risk.
According to a 2019 report out of the CSG Justice Center, nearly half of people admitted to state prisons throughout the United States are there as a result of violating their probation or parole. In Maryland specifically, only 4% of prisoners are admitted from parole or probation violations. Still, the personal and economic costs of this phenomenon remain a nationwide problem. Criminal justice advocates say that the research should spur a call to action.
Some people in Maryland may be familiar with apps that are supposed to show whether crime is happening in the neighborhood. These include Citizen, Next Door, and Neighbors, which is part of Amazon Ring. However, there is no evidence that these make people any safer. They do stoke fears about crime, which people believe to be on the rise even though over the past 25 years, it has significantly dropped.
Black Maryland residents may be more likely than whites to think that the police and the criminal justice system is unfair to minorities. However, they also tend to be more concerned about crime than whites. These findings are consistent across surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center and other organizations.
Some people might be taken into custody in Maryland and around the country even after having a warrant dismissed, and this may be the result of a clerical error. This happened to one man who was detained in New Orleans on a 25-year-old warrant that had been dismissed. The same thing happened to him multiple times in relation to a bad check conviction from 2006. He said he had lost jobs and his marriage as a result.
Police officers in Maryland and around the country often use portable breath testing devices to determine whether or not a motorist is impaired by alcohol, but blood must be drawn to establish drug use. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement must obtain search warrants before drawing blood, and the way police departments are meeting this requirement has many civil rights advocates worried. To speed up the process, 45 states allow police to obtain warrants by video, telephone, or affidavits sent electronically.
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.
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.