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New California Criminal Laws: Part One

Let’s get to it. We’ve already covered the big new bail law, which won’t go into effect until October 1. Here are three new laws effective January 1, 2019. Drunk driving will catch you an ignition-interlock device on your car. This is Senate Bill 1046. It amends the Vehicle Code to require most anyone who’s convicted of Read More

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Police Need a Warrant for Your Cell-Phone Location Records

You can thank the Supreme Court for that. Last week, the nation’s high court ruled that police need a warrant to get your phone’s location records and map out your every move over time. The case reflects a growing consensus to protect these records, and it builds on a prior decision that said police can’t rummage through your phone just because Read More

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Judge Regrets Sentencing Teen to Life Without Parole

Speaking of harsh penalties, how’s 241 years in prison for a 16-year-old boy? Well, it happened to this boy twenty years ago. The judge who sentenced him told him he’d die in prison. She told him he wouldn’t even be eligible for parole until 2091, when no one he knew would be alive, anyway. One can Read More

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Our Federal Prisons Are Fueled By Drugs

That’s the takeaway from this report by the federal courts and U.S. Sentencing Commission. To summarize, there are almost 200,000 people in federal prison today, and almost half of them (or 48%) are there for drugs. Almost all of them (93%) are men, and the vast majority are young, minority men. The breakdown is 35% Hispanic, 35% black, and 27% Read More

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Grotesquely Severe Sentences

“It requires one with more expertise in the area than I possess to offer a complete analysis, but it does seem justified to say this: Our resources are misspent, our punishments too severe, our sentences too long.” These words and others were uttered in 2003 by Justice Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court. They were Read More

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These Walls Are Thin

A federal court of appeals recently issued an interesting opinion that touched on law enforcement’s use of new radar technology that can peer through the walls of your home. Reportedly, at least fifty agencies have quietly equipped their agents with such devices, and other, similar devices boast even greater capabilities. Here’s the backstory. The defendant was on the lam. He’d been convicted of Read More

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USDOJ Ends Certain, Controversial Property Seizures. Sort of.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ordered an end to a controversial, civil-asset-forfeiture practice known as federally-adopted forfeiture, or “federal adoption” for short. It’s called that because it applies to cases in which state or local agencies seize money or property under state law but then offer the property to the federal government to be forfeited under federal law because they can’t or don’t want to proceed Read More

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Are We Militarizing Our Police Departments, And If So, Why?

It’s a fair question to ask because the trend appears to be real and the stories about it (and its excesses) abundant. They include things like battledress uniforms; military-grade weapons; armored vehicles; battering rams; paramilitary jargon and training; SWAT teams to serve every search warrant; and heavy-handed raids that terrorize people suspected of petty crimes or even regulatory offenses. And they Read More

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