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.
As human beings, many of us like to think of ourselves as rational and reasonable. We make decisions based only on facts, uninfluenced by emotion or bias. Unfortunately, a growing body of research continues to prove that this simply isn't true.
The amount of personal information we all carry around in our pockets is quite remarkable, yet too few people appreciate the liabilities associated with owning a smartphone. Thankfully, in the summer of 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, in most cases, law enforcement agencies must obtain a warrant before searching the cellphone of an arrested individual.
Life is full of frustrations, big and small. And even the most mild-mannered of us sometimes lose our cool when things don't go our way. As just one example, consider the "self-checkout" stations at most grocery and big-box stores these days. They appear to be a time-saver, but are often so picky and prone to malfunction that they can take longer than waiting in line for a human cashier.
Racial profiling has long been a problem in the United States. But it has been an especially hot-button issue in the past year or so. Many African-American men are understandably nervous about even routine interactions with police for fear that they might be harmed or killed by officers who shoot first and ask questions later.