The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute

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

Criminal Law Newsletter May 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. 


On May 22, 2018, the House passed the “FIRST STEP Act.” The bill includes provisions to reduce recidivism and improve prison conditions, including a ban on shackling pregnant inmates while giving birth and postpartum. It would also require Bureau of Prison (BOP) facilities to provide female hygiene products free of charge and offer more phone and in-person visitations for new mothers. The bill requires the BOP to place inmates in facilities within 500 driving miles of their families, expands compassionate release programs for terminally ill inmates, and imposes reporting requirements about the number of applications for compassionate release that are approved or denied.

On May 17, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill amending the state’s “disturbing school” law. The bill, Senate Bill 131, passed the Senate in a 33-8 vote in April 2017 and a 102-2 vote in the House on May 9. The bill criminalizes threats on others within an academic setting. However, the bill urges school administrators to exhaust all avenues of behavioral discipline in accordance with the school's code of conduct prior to requesting the involvement of law enforcement officials

On May 21, 2018, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed House Bill 25, created in response to an alleged plot by a former student to commit a mass shooting at a Fair Haven school. The law makes it a crime to cause, or take substantial steps toward causing, death or serious injury to multiple people or threatening people with violence or kidnapping.

Criminal Justice Quiz

How well do you know your criminal justice statistics? Take the Quiz. (Answers are at the end of this newsletter.)

  1. According, to a recently released Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, Capital Punishment, 2016, did the number of persons on death row increase or decrease in 2016?
    1. Increase
    2. Decrease
  1. One out of every how many adults in the United States was under some form of correctional supervision at year-end 2016?
    1. 1 in 1026
    2. 1 in 241
    3. 1 in 38
    4. 1 in 12
  1. Of the nearly 184,000 federal prisoners, almost 80,000 are serving sentences for drug offenses. According to the BOP, what offense (category) has the second most number of individuals serving sentences?
    1. Burglary, Larceny, Property Offenses
    2. Immigration
    3. Weapons, Explosives, Arson
    4. Extortion, Fraud, Bribery
  1. Who is the current director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons?
    1. Mark Inch
    2. Jesse Panuccio
    3. Michael Carvajal
    4. Hugh Hurwitz

Items of Interest

The use of DNA to find perpetrators of crime was once again in the spotlight after genetic material from a genealogy website helped investigators find the man suspected of being the Golden State Killer. Police were able to match DNA from the Golden State Killer’s crime scenes to genetic material from a relative registered on a genealogy site. This novel use of data from a genealogy website has sparked a national conversation about law enforcement’s use of DNA data from genealogy websites and the associated privacy implications. More information can be found here.

In McCoy v. Louisiana, decided May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to choose the objective of his defense and to insist that his counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experienced-based view is that confessing guilt offers the defendant the best chance to avoid the death penalty. Read the full decision here.

In Collins v. Virginia, the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment’s automobile exception does not “permit[] a police officer, uninvited and without a warrant, to enter the curtilage of a home in order to search a vehicle parked therein.” In an opinion written by Justice Sotomayor and joined by the Chief Justice and six Justices, the Court explained that “the rationales underlying the automobile exception are specific to the nature of a vehicle and the ways in which it is distinct from a house.” Consequently, the automobile exception “does not justify an intrusion on a person’s separate and substantial Fourth Amendment interest in his home and curtilage.”

This Month in Criminal Law History: May

On May 23, 1934, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were shot to death by Texas and Louisiana state police officers as they attempted to flee arrest. It is estimated that they killed 13 people and committed several robberies before they were killed. Read more here.

Photo from Shutterstock.


U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in the process of adding more than 300 new prosecutors around the nation to fight the opioid epidemic, violent crimes, and immigration violations. As of May 2, 2018, 35 new Assistant United States Attorney positions were allocated to U.S. Attorney’s Offices along the Southwest border. Ultimately, 190 new positions will be focused on violent crimes and another 86 positions on civil enforcement.

Answers to CJ Quiz:

  1. B) Decrease. In 2016, the number of persons under sentence of death decreased for the 16th consecutive year. You can view the entire report by clicking here.
  1. C) 1 in 38. At the end of 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, 6,613,500 persons (or 2.6% of persons age 18 or older in the United States) were supervised by U.S. adult correctional systems, according to BJS.
  1. C) Weapons, Explosives, Arson. Just over 30,000 people are serving federal sentences for crimes involving weapons, explosives or arson. Follow this link for more BOP statistics.
  1. D) Hugh Hurwitz was announced as Acting Director of Federal Bureau of Prisons on May 18 after Mark Inch resigned. Jesse Panuccio is the acting Associate Attorney General of the United States and Michael Carvajal is the regional director of the Northeast Region of BOP. You can view the announcement by clicking here.

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

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