The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

Criminal Law Newsletter July 2018

The following is a compendium of news reports over the past month that may be of interest to our AG offices who are involved with criminal law issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Association of Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of news accounts, nor as to the positions expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked articles. 

Items of Interest

In April, genealogical sleuthing helped identify the golden state killer. Now, similar techniques are helping to solve cold cases across the country. The use of genealogical sleuthing led to arrests in both Washington State and Pennsylvania and has even provided a new lead in a 37-year-old murder in Texas. These developments were made possible when law enforcement took DNA from the crime scenes, uploaded the DNA, and then compared it to other DNA on GEDmatch, the same ancestry site used in the Golden State killer case.

Attorneys for Michelle Carter, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in June 2017 and sentenced to 15 months, have appealed her conviction. Her conviction was based on text messages she sent to her boyfriend encouraging him to commit suicide. On appeal, the defendant’s attorneys intend to argue that the text messages are protected free speech under the First Amendment.

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb is vowing to help enact a hate crime law during the 2019 General Assembly. Sparked by anti-Semitic vandalism to a synagogue, Holcomb announced this action on Monday, July 30th. "I'll be meeting with lawmakers, legal minds, corporate leaders and citizens of all stripes who are seeking to find consensus on this issue so that, once and for all, we can move forward as a state," Holcomb said.

Six states have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop an organization from posting downloadable instructions for 3D-printed firearms. The suit was filed on July 30, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle.

Opioid News

JAMA Open Network’s “Health, Polysubstance Use, and Criminal Justice Involvement Among Adults with Varying Levels of Opioid Use” recent study found that over half of individuals who have problems with opioid or heroin had contact with the criminal justice system. The study suggests that “policy makers should carefully consider how changes to public health insurance programs and sentencing guidelines may aid or hinder a public health approach to the opioid epidemic.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield reports that 241,900 of its members suffer from an opioid use disorder. However, since 2013, patients insured by BCBS have filled 29% fewer prescriptions. The rate for opioid use disorder claims dropped to 5.9 in 1000 members in 2017. This rate had been 6.2 per 1000 members in 2016.

Over the last six year, enough opioids were shipped to the state of Missouri to give every resident 260 pills. The third report of “Fueling an Epidemic,” published by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, established that three major drug wholesalers shipped 1.6 billion doses of opioids into Missouri from 2012 through 2017.

DOJ News

The Department of Justice Regulatory Reform Taskforce, established after President Trump issued Executive Order 13777, which seeks to identify administrative regulations that are improper, recommended to Attorney General Sessions that 24 guidance documents be repealed. A full list of withdrawn guidance is available here. This Task Force is continuing to look at existing guidance documents that might need to be repealed, replaced, or modified.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Bradley Weinsheimer is to replace Associate Deputy Attorney General Scott Schools. Weinsheimer previously served as the Assistant U.S. Attorney in DC, also as the Deputy Counsel in Office of Professional Responsibility, and most recently in the National Security Division as Chief of Staff and Director of Risk Management and Senior Counsel. It was also announced that Uttam Dhillon will be the new Acting Administrator of Drug Enforcement Administration. Dhillon was previously the first Director of the Office of Counternarcotics Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security as well as Deputy Counsel and Deputy Assistant to the President.

Brian Benczkowski was confirmed on July 11 by the U.S. Senate in 51-48 vote to serve as the Assistant Attorney for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice. Benczkowski previously worked in the Department of Justice as Chief of Staff to Attorney General Mukasey and for Attorney General Jeff Sessions during his tenure in the U.S. Senate.

The Department of Justice announced the finalization of an April proposal to improve the Drug Enforcement Administration. The final rule requires that the DEA take into consideration the “extent that a drug is diverted for abuse when it sets its annual opioid production limits.” According to the DOJ press release, “[t]he final rule enhances the roles for state attorneys general. It requires DEA to share notices of proposed aggregate production quotas, and final aggregate production quota orders, to the state attorneys general.”

A report was released last month that has surveyed sexual assault within the federal, state, and county prison system. Correctional administrators reported that 24,661 inmates reported allegations of sexual victimization in 2015, nearly triple the number recorded in 2011, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics which issued a report pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.


Andy Wright is the Editor of the Criminal Law Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6257.The Criminal Law Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of 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 awright@naag.org.

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