In the criminal justice world, there is something we refer to as the "trial penalty." It is a penalty, in the form of a harsher sentence, for anyone who demands a trial and is then found guilty. In almost every case, defendants convicted at trial are sentenced to far longer than people who accept plea bargains.
"These sting operations have used tremendous public resources to investigate and prosecute a large number of principally minority individuals for fictitious crimes," wrote the 7th Circuit's chief U.S. district court judge in a 73-page ruling.
Two criminal justice experts have cast serious doubt on the legality of many police activities in Milwaukee. Just as many African-Americans and Latinos have claimed for years, the evidence shows that they and their neighborhoods are being unfairly targeted for police stops and pat-down searches -- often with no legal basis.
In a highly unusual move, a nine-judge panel of district judges from around the 7th Circuit is hearing arguments on whether certain drug sting operations run since the 90s by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were racially discriminatory.
In most states, including Wisconsin, judges can suspend or revoke your driver's license if you fail to pay a fine. That can be somewhat counterproductive, as well as costly to the courts. Many people aren't able to earn a living without driving, so suspending their licenses makes it a great deal harder to pay the fine. Continued nonpayment can lead to a vicious debt cycle and thus longer term involvement with the courts than would otherwise be necessary.
We can probably all agree that this election season has been pretty light on hard facts. For example, it appears that some Americans have the misimpression that murder is currently at its highest rate in 45 years. In fact, just the opposite is true.