Crime statistics collected by the FBI show a steady decline in violent crime rates. Since 1993, violent crime has decreased by approximately 50% in Virginia and nationwide. Property crimes have dropped as well, but police have been arresting more and more people despite the apparent decrease in serious criminal activity. Petty crimes account for many arrests. Research by the RAND Corporation indicates that police accused 31% of arrestees of committing misdemeanors.
Data analyzed by RAND showed that younger people are landing in jail more often than previous generations. People today in the 26-to-35 age group have almost quadruple the chance of experiencing arrest compared to the lifetime arrest records for senior citizens. This works out to arrest records for 6.4% of the population born prior to 1949 and 23% for people born between 1979 and 1988.
The RAND economist concluded that aggressive enforcement actions by police explain the rising arrest rate for petty crimes. Although African Americans continue to bear the brunt of police actions, the growing criminalization of young people has driven up arrest numbers for whites and women.
Even being arrested without a subsequent conviction has a negative impact on people’s lives. A single arrest by the age of 26 could reduce a person’s income by $5,000 a year compared to people with clean records. Convictions for crimes have more serious consequences that further limit employment and educational opportunities.
The representation of a criminal defense attorney might limit the ability of the criminal justice system to prosecute a person aggressively. An attorney may improve someone’s chance of getting out of jail on bail and keeping a job prior to a court date. The efforts of an attorney might cast doubt on evidence and result in a prosecutor dropping charges.