criminal defense Archives

Popular technologies may provide easy access to police

Video doorbell technologies are becoming more popular in Georgia and across the country. When people install a Ring doorbell, they can see who is at their door by checking the video feed provided by the accompanying mobile phone app. However, people may not fully realize that they are also providing this information to law enforcement agencies. Ring was purchased in 2018 by Amazon for $1 billion, indicating the popularity of the technology. Under Ring partnership agreements, police have access to a special portal that allows them to request video material from community members. Few might object to police asking for the information.

Concerns raised about excessive plea bargains

For many people in Georgia accused of a crime, a plea bargain may seem an almost inevitable way to resolve the charges. After all, a full 97% of federal criminal convictions are garnered through the use of agreed-upon guilty pleas, rather than a conviction in court. The same is true of 94% of state criminal convictions. In 2018 alone, federal prosecutors initiated 80,000 cases, and only 2% went to trial. These numbers may come as a surprise; after all, it would seem that many people have a better chance to argue their cases before a jury of their peers where prosecutors are forced to prove allegations beyond a reasonable doubt.

Guilty pleas may remain on background checks indefinitely

Individuals who take part in diversion programs in Georgia or any other state likely need to plead guilty in their cases. This is true in spite of the fact that a charge may be dismissed if an individual successfully completes the program. Although the case may be considered dropped at the state level, a guilty plea could still be considered a conviction at the federal level.

Researchers examine ways to predict eyewitness accuracy

When a crime occurs in Georgia, in some cases, law enforcement will ask a witness to choose a suspect from a lineup. This may be from photos, or it might be a physical lineup. While a number of people have been convicted using eyewitness testimony as the strongest evidence, organizations such as the Innocence Project have cast doubt on its reliability.

Poor people trapped with escalating fees and fines

Dealing with the criminal justice system in Georgia can have a serious effect on anyone's life regardless of their financial situation. However, the damage can be particularly pronounced for impoverished people who face escalating debts and punishments as a result of court fees and citations. Across the country, a growing number of states, counties and municipalities are turning to court costs, debt collection and hefty fines to finance their overall budgets. Rather than raising local taxes, these areas are paying for services through potentially excessive fines for a range of minor infractions.

Studies examine racial bias in risk assessment tools

After a person in Georgia is taken into custody in relation to a crime, that person may then appear before a judge who decides whether the person should be released or kept in jail until the trial. There have long been concerns that racial bias plays a part in an assumption that black defendants are more likely than white ones to be repeat offenders. In response, some districts nationwide have introduced algorithms that are supposed to help judges make this decision without bias. However, some critics say that because the algorithms themselves are based on a system that is full of bias, they may still result in unfair assessments.

Supreme court upholds certain double jeopardy cases

In a major decision by the Supreme Court in June, the justices declined to protect defendants from being prosecuted for the same underlying crime in both state and federal courts. The decision, which will impact defendants in Georgia and every other state, involved a defendant who was charged with crimes related to firearms. According to the appeal, the federal charges violated double jeopardy protections described in the Fifth Amendment to the constitution. The lower appellate court denied the appeal, and the Supreme Court affirmed their decision.

Juvenile justice system differs from adult system

The juvenile criminal justice system is run differently than it is for adults who have committed crimes. Though laws vary by state, most juveniles over the age of seven and under the age of 18 who are accused of committing a crime will go through the juvenile justice system. Children under the age of seven are generally not penalized, though the parents may be held accountable for the crime. Juveniles who commit serious crimes may be tried as an adult.

Smartphone apps may promote unnecessary fear

Apps like Citizen and Nextdoor are widely promoted to Georgia residents hoping to protect themselves from crime. While violent crime statistics have dropped significantly across the country in the past 25 years, many people are more concerned about crime than ever before. Crime statistics may do little to ease the concerns of people who simply feel unsafe. There are several factors that may contribute to this perception of crime, including dramatic nationwide media reporting that often focuses on the most violent incidents. While these apps may seem to provide people with greater control over their crime knowledge, critics say that they stoke fears and don't protect people from danger.

Validity of fingerprint evidence dependent on technician skill

Juries in Georgia tend to place great value on fingerprint evidence. Although everyone appears to have unique fingerprint patterns, mistakes in the processing of fingerprint samples could place blame for crimes on the wrong people. The accurate identification of a fingerprint depends on criminal evidence technicians never making any mistakes. Criminal defense attorneys contend that no one can avoid mistakes 100% of the time, especially when technicians often work with partial or smudged prints.

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