Criminal Law Newsletter February 2016

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.

State News

Maryland

In 2015, Governor Larry Hogan signed a law which established the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council. Its final report was issued at the end of the year. The Council’s 19 recommendations, if adopted, are estimated to reduce the state’s prison population by 14 percent, realizing a $247 million savings over the next decade.

Massachusetts

A bill to repeal a state law that require driver’s license suspension for anyone convicted of violating the Controlled Substances Act, even if the crime had nothing to do with operating a motor vehicle, has passed the House on a unanimous vote. HB 3039 contains language that differs from the bill passed by the Senate in September, but supporters anticipate that a conference committee will work out the language differences.

Ohio

A bill, S.258, has been introduced that would require the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to investigate all cases which involve a police officer using deadly force to shoot an unarmed individual.

Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Wolf has signed S.B. 166 into law. If a person has served a sentence for a nonviolent second or third degree misdemeanor and has not re-offended after seven years, she or he may now petition the court to seal the criminal record.

Virginia

In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe released the Parole Commission’s final report. Led by former Attorney General Mark Earley, the commission made 23 recommendations, including raising the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500 and allowing individuals convicted of drug possession to become eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.

Federal News

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics has released the results of a nine-school pilot test that was conducted to develop a campus climate survey collecting school-level data on sexual victimization of undergraduate students

The Department of Justice issued its report and recommendations concerning the use of solitary confinement for prison inmates.

Research and Training

The Conference of Western Attorneys General announced that Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich will be hosting an International Cooperation Across the Border conference, in conjunction with the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) Alliance Partnership and the Southwest Border Anti-Money Laundering Alliance (SWBAML) from February 29 to March 1, 2016, in Scottsdale, Arizona. This conference will provide an opportunity for US and Mexican state Attorneys General and representatives from various law enforcement agencies to meet and collaborate on topics surrounding transnational organized crime. More information on the conference can be obtained from Lauren Niehaus, Director of Program Coordination for the CWAG Alliance Partnership at: Lniehaus@cwagweb.org.

An article in The Crime Reportargues that there is a link between mass killings and suicide and suggests that police be trained in the warning signs, using the “IS PATH WARM” mnemonic. Each initial stands for a specific indicator of suicidal tendencies.

A study in the Washington and Lee Law Reviewnotes that courts are increasing scrutiny on forensic evidence introduced into trials.

The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) and John Jay College of Criminal Justice announced a conference that will be convened on April 22, 2016,at the college. The conference is intended to set a research agenda and place scholars in conversation with practitioners to determine how to build public trust by generating evidence to enhance police accountability and legitimacy.

The National Criminal Justice Association (NCJA) will host regional meetings that will include representatives from states and subject matter experts on pretrial justice reform. Meetings will be held in Nashville in May, in Baltimore in early June, and in Arizona at the end of June. Registration is available on its website. NCJA has also announced that nominations for the Outstanding Criminal Justice Programs Awards should be submitted no later than Friday, April 15, 2016.

Updates from the Attorney General Community

Alaska Attorney General Craig W. Richards announced that he is proposing the establishment of a Public Integrity Unit within the Office of Special Prosecutions. The unit would focus on three specific areas—use of force by law enforcement, corruption and fraud perpetrated upon the State, and prisoner deaths in correctional facilities. Governor Bill Walker mentioned this proposal in his State of the State address.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that a state grand jury indicted a former City of Kingman employee, Diane Maxine Richards, on 23 felony counts including theft, forgery, and misuse of public monies. Special agents from the attorney general’s office and officials from Homeland Security Investigations participated in the arrest.

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris released Open Justice v1.1. It is the newest version of the Justice Dashboard that promotes her criminal justice transparency initiative. The Dashboard includes features that allow Californians across the state to better understand how the criminal justice system is working in their communities.

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine hosted Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh and Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring for a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss opportunities for collaboration and cooperation to prevent and reduce gun violence in the national capital region and throughout their three jurisdictions.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas S. Chin announced that his office’s Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center has been awarded the Best Government Mobile Application and Best Information Services Mobile Application of 2015 for its “Hawaii Sex Offender Search” mobile app. The recognition was awarded by the national Web Marketing Association.

In connection with an announcement that officials had arrested six individuals on public corruption charges, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry stated that he intends to focus his office on investigating and prosecuting public corruption.

Acting New Jersey Attorney General John Jay Hoffman’s Shooting Response Team was dispatched to investigate the fatal shooting of an individual by the Ocean City Regional Swat Team. The team is made up of deputy attorneys general, detectives of the Division of Criminal Justice, and detectives of the State Police Major Crime Unit; they are sent to handle investigations of shootings involving state troopers or officers employed by county prosecutors as detectives/investigators or members of county SWAT teams and task forces.

New York Attorney General A.G. Schneiderman announced a settlement with Big Lots and Marshall’s regarding employment applications in their Buffalo stores that violated local law prohibiting inquiring about a person’s criminal history on initial employment applications.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, noting that February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, reached out to teens to talk about setting boundaries to help them feel safer and more empowered in their relationships. Gen. Kilmartin’s office also held a cell phone recycling drive in January to benefit victims of domestic violence. Through Verizon Wireless' HopeLine program, the old cell phones are transformed into a lifeline for victims of domestic violence.

After hosting three public hearings and soliciting written comments from Vermonters on the issue of whether the state should reduce its reliance on incarceration to stem criminal conduct, Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell is asking the legislature to adopt a resolution in favor of that reduction. Gen. Sorrell noted that the vast majority of the public agreed that the negative impact of incarceration is not limited to the individual sentenced to jail and that the impacts on families, communities and the state budget are immense.

The Montana Attorney General’s Office operates the Montana Law Enforcement Academy (MLEA). Recently, the academy graduated 53 new officers who will serve 30 different agencies across the state. Thirteen of these new officers are Native American graduates, the most in the history of the academy for any basic course. Attorney General Tim Fox, addressing the class, stated: “Law enforcement is not only a noble profession – it’s a changing profession. And necessarily so, as we see additional strains placed upon officers here in America, and even more so for our colleagues dealing with cruel, calculated acts of extremist terrorism.”


Judy McKee is the Interim Editor of the Criminal Law Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6044. The Criminal Law Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of the Attorneys General. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail jmckee@naag.org.

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