Accepting an exhaustive list of terms and conditions before signing up for an online service or downloading a useful piece of software is something that many Maryland residents have done. This fine print often allows technology companies to gather and store large amounts of personal information, which may then be shared with marketing companies, data brokers and law enforcement. Media outlets have sometimes reacted angrily when social media platforms have sold user data to advertising firms, but there has been little outrage over the sharing of this information with law enforcement.
There were roughly 80,000 federal cases prosecuted in 2018. Of those, only 2% went to trial. Data indicates that 97% of all federal convictions are obtained through plea bargains while 94% of convictions in state cases are resolved through plea bargains. There are several reasons why defendants in Maryland and throughout the country confess guilt in a vast majority of cases. For instance, prosecutors may add charges if an individual doesn't take a plea deal.
When Maryland residents face criminal charges that are later dismissed, these charges could still show up in a criminal background check. This was the case for a woman who faced a battery charge in Illinois. The court had dismissed her charge without a conviction after she served a short supervision sentence. However, a rental application the woman submitted 20 years later was rejected because of the charge. She filed a lawsuit against the background check company, alleging that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
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.