criminal defense Archives

More Americans are getting arrested for petty crimes

Arrests can ruin lives. According to a study published in the journal Crime & Delinquency, people in Georgia and around the country who have been arrested once by age 26 earn around $5,000 less each year than those with clean records. Meanwhile, people who have had multiple arrests by age 26 earn around $13,000 less per year. In addition, those with criminal records have more trouble landing jobs and getting married.

Jailhouse informants linked to almost 20% of wrongful convictions

A growing criminal justice reform movement across the country has placed greater scrutiny upon the use of jailhouse informants. According to the Innocence Project, which works to free people from prison who suffered wrongful convictions, nearly 20% of wrongful convictions arise from false testimony provided by jailhouse informants. As a result, criminal defendants in Georgia could be vulnerable to misleading statements gathered by prosecutors from their cellmates.

Not all felons are necessarily bad people

Georgia residents could be charged with a felony for calling in sick when they aren't actually ill. They could also be charged with a felony for other seemingly absurd reasons such as improperly importing primates or getting lost in the woods. However, the consequences of being a felon are nothing to laugh about. Those who are convicted of a felony could lose their right to vote in an election or carry a weapon.

Around 6% of convicts are likely innocent

Approximately 6% of state prisoners across the U.S., many of whom are presumably in Georgia, have been wrongfully convicted, according to a study by researchers at Penn State University. The findings were published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology in April 2018.

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.

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