We have written several times in the past year about the growing distrust between American communities and the police officers who work within them. This anger and distrust has been sparked, in large part, by the numerous fatal shootings of unarmed African-American men by white police officers. Many other examples of apparent racial profiling in traffic stops have been recorded and shared by the suspects and bystanders. Such incidents have occurred here in Wisconsin as well as other parts of the Midwest.
One of the many criminal justice issues under the media spotlight right now is the problem of police officers in schools. These "resource officers" first began appearing in schools in the 1980s. Their presence has only increased in the wake of numerous school shootings. Now, it is common to see at least one police officer posted in middle schools and high schools around the country.
We have written several posts over the last couple years about incidents in which police officers seemingly overstepped their authority and violated the civil rights of suspects. Many of these interactions involved African-American suspects and were ultimately fatal.
If you've been charged with a crime, it may seem like the only options you have are bad ones. Should you accept a plea deal? Should you try to fight the charges on your own? Should you attempt to get free legal representation from an overworked public defender? Should you hire your own criminal defense attorney, even though this could potentially be expensive?
How many times have you heard someone start a sentence with: "There should be a law"? Americans seem all too eager to pass laws, especially in the wake of disaster or tragedy. Criminal law, in particular, is full of statutes passed in response to gruesome crimes.
Over the past couple years, the news has been full of stories demonstrating the problem of racial profiling across the United States. It is difficult to find a plausible alternative explanation as to why so many unarmed African-American men are killed during encounters with white police officers.
It is a common misconception that most criminal cases are tried in court. The truth is that the vast majority of cases never go to trial. This is because prosecutors push defendants to take a plea deal as often as possible in order to save the state time and resources.
One of the most frequent and recognizable lines in any television police drama is the line that begins: "You have the right to remain silent." This is not just a Hollywood trope; it comes from real life. The entire speech, in which criminal suspects are informed of their Constitutional rights, is known as the "Miranda warning."
Many individuals with no prior criminal record get arrested and charged with a crime because of a careless mistake or a temporary lapse in judgment. Perhaps they drove a friend home after having a few glasses of wine, not realizing that they were impaired.
In our post last week, we began a discussion about a major problem with our nation's criminal justice system. It is largely predicated on fair trials and impartial jurors, but the techniques used to achieve these values are often antithetical to what we now understand about human behavior. Conscious and unconscious biases are affecting the outcomes of criminal cases, and results can be disastrous.