Criminal Law Newsletter August 2015
The following is a compendium of news reports over the past month that may be of interest to our AG offices who are involved in criminal law issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of news accounts, nor as to the position expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked articles.
Updates from the Attorney General Community
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt hosted a delegation of attorneys general from various Mexican states, in order to discuss ongoing initiatives to combat transnational crime.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced that her office will be holding the 13th annual Arkansas Law Enforcement Summit on October 6-7 in North Little Rock. Free training and educational opportunities will be available for Arkansas's law enforcement community. The Summit will also highlight General Rutledge's Special Investigations Division and the office's law enforcement initiatives.
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has announced that two programs affiliated with the California Department of Justice's efforts to reduce recidivism have been awarded approximately $1.7 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Judicial Council of California. These programs include "Court to College," which is an alternative sentencing program which works to reduce recidivism through education, employment, and addressing substance abuse issues and "Back on Track LA," a public-private recidivism program.
Delaware Attorney General Matthew Denn has announced that 35 individuals have been arrested in connection with Operation "In the House," a joint investigation conducted by the Delaware Department of Justice and the Delaware State Police. The investigation was designed to proactively impact violent crime in two counties within the state and targeted subjects participating in an organized criminal enterprise. Members of the enterprise were active participants in racketeering, murder, home invasions, illegal weapons possession, and the distribution of narcotics. The investigation was organized and conducted with the assistance of a number of local, state, and federal partners.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has called on Backpage.com to remove the "adult'" section of its website. General Healey has stated that most of the human trafficking cases that her office prosecutes specifically involve advertisements on Backpage.
The Office of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force has partnered with federal, state, and local law enforcement to train more than 180 officers on techniques to address the increased usage of cell phones in crimes against children.
New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster is preparing to release a model policy for how police should conduct eyewitness identification procedures.
New Jersey Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced that within the next year, nearly 1,000 New Jersey State Troopers will wear body cameras. Local police departments will be encouraged to implement a body camera policy as well. Four million dollars of funding will be provided by the state to implement the State Troopers program and as grant funding for local police departments. General Hoffman's office is also allocating $2.5 million in criminal forfeiture funds to assist local police departments to buy body cameras and has issued a statewide policy to promote best practices. This policy was developed after meeting with stakeholder groups.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office has reached agreements with five major retailers in connection with violations of a New York State law that prohibits the sale of "imitation weapons," or toy guns that look like real guns. The retailers, including Amazon, Kmart, Sears, Walmart, and California-based ACTA, sold more than 6,400 of these prohibited toy guns in New York. The agreement requires the dealers to apply New York City's strict appearance standards to all statewide sales. These standards require any toy gun sold within the City to be entirely brightly colored. General Schneiderman also sent cease and desist letters to third-party sellers who sold toys into New York through Amazon and Sears.com. The five aforementioned retailers are also required to pay penalties and/or fines and to develop procedures to ensure that third-party sellers comply with the law when selling toy guns in the state.
General Schneiderman also announced that more than 1,000 firearms have been turned into law enforcement through his statewide gun buyback program, which offers free gun locks and money from criminal forfeiture funds for working and non-working firearms.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has released a status update on the progress of DNA testing conducted as part of his Sexual Assault Kit Testing Initiative. As of July 1, 2015, over 10,134 kits have been submitted by law enforcement for testing and testing has been completed on 7,814 of the kits, resulting in 2,887 CODIS hits. In Cuyahoga County alone, more than 330 defendants have been indicted as a result of DNA testing.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced that defendant Michael Patino has been sentenced to life in prison. General Kilmartin's office secured a second degree murder conviction against Patino after Patino beat six-year-old Marco Nieves to death.
General Kilmartin has also announced that his office will be offering criminal background check services at several locations across the state throughout August in order to assist individuals in obtaining background checks mandated by law.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel is working to dismantle violent gun crime in Milwaukee. As part of this effort, General Schimel met with Milwaukee's mayor, police chief, and district attorney to finalize an action plan among their offices and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. General Schimel issued a statement in connection with this initiative.
Dr. Nneck Jones Tapia, who runs the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, is one of the first clinical psychologists to run a jail. According to the National Sheriffs' Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center, there are now ten times as many mentally ill people in the country's 5,000 jails and prisons as there are in state mental institutions. Cook County's jail, which is operating under federal oversight, has "become a model of sorts for other troubled institutions in how to deal with the mentally ill." The article cited details the steps taken by Dr. Jones Tapia to address the needs of the mentally ill in her jail. This article also examines the Cook County jail as well as issues relating to mental health and the criminal justice system.
In New York City, the New York City Police Department and the City's Department of Health will soon open a Diversion Center for low-level offenders with mental health or substance abuse problems. Participation in the Center will be offered in some cases as an alternative to hospitalization or arrest in three different precincts in Manhattan. New York City officials have also announced a plan which will change bail requirements for certain low-level offenders. The plan will affect approximately 3,000 defendants who will be placed under court supervision. Both projects are part of a $130 million package of changes to the City's criminal justice system.
This article details steps taken by police officers to address the mental health and drug abuse crises. Local officers are now trained to be effective members of intervention teams in order to avoid violence.
On July 8, U.S. Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates and FBI Director James B. Comey delivered a statement before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the "eroding. . . ability" of law enforcement to obtain electronic information and evidence, also known as "Going Dark." The substance of their statement can be viewed at this link.
The U.S. State Department announced new proposed changes to the International Traffic in Arms rules which relate to the electronic submission of technical data. These new rules "would effectively make it illegal to post blueprints for 3D-printed guns online." The deadline for public comment on the proposed rules was August 3.
U.S. Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner and Bobby Scott recently introduced the bipartisan Safe, Accountable, Fair and Effective Justice Act (SAFE Justice Act). Please see the text of the SAFE Justice Act Bill as well as a section by section summary of the bill.
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics released data relating to tribal crime. The statistics show that crime on Indian reservations decreased in 2013. Alcohol and drug-related offenses decreased as well.
Research and Training
This article, written by former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, details the work that she is doing at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to develop an evidence-based risk assessment tool for deciding whether to release or detain a defendant before his or her trial.
On August 14, 2015, AEquitas will host a webinar entitled, "Keep Calm and Understand Elonis v. US." The "webinar will explain, through analysis of the Court's opinion, what the opinion means for victims and for the allied professionals who support them and why the Elonis decision is not cause for alarm." The webinar is open to, but not limited to, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, community-based service providers, medical and mental health practitioners, probation and parole officers, and judges. For more information or to register, click on this link.
On August 17, 2015, the National Immigrant Women's Advocacy Project will host a webinar entitled "Best Practices: Immigrant Crime Victims, Language Access and the U Visa." The training is for law enforcement and prosecutors only. For more information or to register, click on this link.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the PLOS ONE journal found that the rehabilitation of abandoned buildings may be associated with reductions in certain crime categories, including serious and nuisance crimes, and, in particular, gun assaults.
This note, written by Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and published in the Georgetown Law Journal, examines the integrity of the criminal justice system.
Other News of Interest
On October 1-2, 2015, NAAG Midwestern Region Chair and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and NAAG Midwestern Region Vice-Chair and Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel invite you to attend the NAAG Midwestern Region Meeting, which is entitled, "Gender Violence: Addressing the Challenges and Building Effective Responses." The Meeting will be held in Chicago, Illinois, at The Aloft Chicago City Center. Attendees will discuss and explore methods that state attorneys general can use to combat gender-based violence and discrimination. For more information and to register, please click on the following link.
Francesca Liquori is the Editor of the Criminal Law Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6041.
The Criminal Law Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General.
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