The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

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

Criminal Law Newsletter January 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. 


Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced that the Department of Justice has created a new senior level position – Director of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts. The director will be responsible for assisting in formulating and implementing DOJ initiatives, policies, grants, and programs relating to opioids, and coordinating those efforts with law enforcement.

Attorney General Session has also announced the rescission of 25 guidance documents that he believes were unnecessary, inconsistent with existing law, or otherwise improper. The documents were identified by a Regulatory Reform Task Force chaired by Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. The guidance documents that DOJ has withdrawn are:

  1. ATF Procedure 75-4.
  2. Industry Circular 75-10.
  3. ATF Ruling 85-3.
  4. Industry Circular 85-3.
  5. ATF Ruling 2001-1.
  6. ATF Ruling 2004-1.
  7. Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative Guidelines (2013).
  8. Northern Border Prosecution Initiative Guidelines (2013).
  9. Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants Program Guidance Manual (2007).
  10. Advisory for Recipients of Financial Assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice on Levying Fines and Fees on Juveniles (January 2017).
  11. Dear Colleague Letter on Enforcement of Fines and Fees (March 2016).
  12. ADA Myths and Facts (1995).
  13. Common ADA Problems at Newly Constructed Lodging Facilities (November 1999).
  14. Title II Highlights (last updated 2008).
  15. Title III Highlights (last updated 2008).
  16. Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business (July 1996).
  17. ADA Business Brief: Service Animals (April 2002).
  18. Prior Joint Statement of the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Group Homes, Local Land Use, and the Fair Housing Act (August 18, 1999).
  19. Letter to Alain Baudry, Esq., with standards for conducting internal audit in a non-discriminatory fashion (December 4, 2009).
  20. Letter to Esmeralda Zendejas on how to determine whether lawful permanent residents are protected against citizenship status discrimination (May 30, 2012).
  21. Common ADA Errors and Omissions in New Construction and Alterations (June 1997).
  22. Common Questions: Readily Achievable Barrier Removal and Design Details: Van Accessible Parking Spaces (August 1996).
  23. Website guidance on bailing-out procedures under section 4(b) and section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (2004).
  24. Americans with Disabilities Act Questions and Answers (May 2002).
  25. Statement of the Department of Justice on Application of the Integration Mandate of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead v. L.C. to State and Local Governments' Employment Service Systems for Individuals with Disabilities (October 31, 2016).

The Justice Department has issued a new memo on federal marijuana enforcement policy. The new memo announces a return to the rule of law and rescission of previous guidance documents. It directs U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime.


For most misdemeanor or violation cases in Manhattan, bail will no longer be required. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said that “a systematic reliance on bail for low-level offenses is out of set with a reformed, 21st-century justice system.” Prosecutors will still seek bail for domestic violence and sex crime cases. Brooklyn introduced a similar policy last year.


The Rapid DNA Act of 2017 was signed into law on January 19, 2018. The law amends the DNA Identification Act of 1994 to require the FBI to issue standards and procedures for using Rapid DNA instruments to analyze DNA samples of criminal offenders. Rapid DNA is a fully automated process to create a DNA analysis from a DNA sample. Samples prepared using Rapid DNA in compliance with the new standards may be included in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Court Opinions

The Supreme Court has held that police officers had probable cause under the Fourth Amendment to arrest for trespassing a group of individuals who were partying in a vacant house. The house’s lawful owner had told the officers he had not authorized entry by anyone. The key issue was whether the officers had sufficient basis to conclude (as required by D.C. trespass law) that the partygoers knew their presence was unwanted. The Court concluded in District of Columbia v. Wesby, No. 15-1485, decided January 22, 2018, that the totality of the circumstances — including the “near-barren” condition of the house, the partiers’ turning the living room “into a make-shift strip club,” the presence of drugs, and the partiers’ reaction to the officers — permitted the officers to “infer that the partygoers knew their party was not authorized.” The Court also held, unanimously, that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity from the partygoers’ §1983 action against them.

Other Items of Interest

The 2017 U.S. crime rates may show a drop-off. A report released by the Brennan Center for Justice indicates that there may be a reversal of the recent rise in crime levels. The Center, at New York University’s School of Law, analyzed preliminary data collected from city police departments in the country’s 30 largest cities. The study indicates the overall crime rate in those cities is estimated to fall in 2017 by 2.7 percent compared to 2016. The largest drop is projected to be in the murder rate, a decline of 5.6 percent. Chicago’s murder rate is projected to fall 11.9 percent.

A new study suggest that legalized marijuana may reduce violence in states that border Mexico. The study, published in The Economic Journal, looked at crime rates of states along the Mexico border in relation to the legalization of medical marijuana in those states. The report states that violent crime in those states dropped by an average of 13 percent since legalization.

Mark Neil is the Editor of Criminal Law Newsletter and may be reached at 202-326-6019. The Criminal Law Newsletter is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or in 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

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