The Law Office of Robert D. Anderson, PLLCFormer Chief Prosecutor Of Loudoun County
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Criminal Defense Archives

The criminal justice system disadvantages the poor

For any system of legal justice to work satisfactorily and endure for the long run, it must be fair and unbiased, and perhaps most importantly, it must inspire the faith and confidence of the people to whom it applies. This is especially true of the criminal justice system. Yet, as many Virginia residents who have run afoul of the law for any reason have discovered, there is an inherent imbalance that glaringly impacts one group of citizens. The poor, simply by the reality of their economic situation, are severely disadvantaged if they are accused of a crime.

Top court decides 7-2 against

The United States Supreme Court chose not to expand protections against people who are being charged for the same crime by both federal and state prosecutors. The 7-2 ruling has major implications for many people, including Paul Manafort. Those in Virginia may remember he is facing both state and federal charges as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Exculpatory evidence in criminal prosecutions

There are generally two types of evidence in criminal trials in Virginia and around the country. Inculpatory evidence is presented by prosecutors and tends to incriminate defendants and establish their guilt. Exculpatory evidence is presented by criminal defense attorneys to exonerate their clients or raise questions about the validity of inculpatory evidence. Defense attorneys will usually try to gather exculpatory evidence by using investigators or making inquiries of their own, but this kind of material may also be provided by prosecutors.

"Crime fighting" apps may promote racism and fear

A number of apps are widely touted as increasing neighborhood awareness and preventing crime in Virginia and across the country. However, critics note that the apps have shown little to no evidence that they actually have any impact on crime rates. On the other hand, they argue that these apps are more likely to promote racial stereotyping, vigilantism and unsupported fears about the surrounding world. Crime statistics have dropped precipitously in the past 25 years, and violent crimes are far less common than they were in the past. Still, many people believe that their neighborhoods are more dangerous despite statistical evidence.

Black, white Americans see law enforcement differently

Pew Research Center surveys and other studies have looked at attitudes toward crime, police and punishment and found that black respondents tend to be more concerned about crime in their communities than white respondents. White Americans in Virginia and throughout the country may be more likely to report satisfaction with the job performance of police than black Americans.

Drugged driving enforcement looks to e-warrants and blood tests

Police officers have long relied on breath tests to detect alcohol use among drivers. The increasing use of opioids and marijuana, both legal and otherwise, has complicated detection of impaired drivers. Blood testing can detect these drugs, but drawing blood requires a search warrant, unlike a breath test. According to a nonprofit organization based in Virginia, 45 states have laws or court rules that enable the issuance of electronic search warrants by telephone, video or other electronic means.

Wrongful convictions continue to haunt justice system

For many people in Virginia, a false conviction is one of their worst nightmares. The thought of spending years in prison and carrying a felony criminal record despite being innocent is chilling. However, it has also been a reality for far too many people. According to a report from the National Registry of Exonerations, wrongly convicted prisoners lost 1,600 years of life behind bars in 2018 alone. The organization tracks the exoneration of wrongfully convicted people from 1989 moving forward.

Facial recognition software and shoplifting

Virginia retailers have strong motivations to keep shoplifters out of their stores, but the increasing use of facial recognition surveillance systems raises concerns about privacy. Stores that deploy the software collect facial data about everyone coming and going from their properties without their consent. Images of shoplifters or alleged shoplifters can be shared among store locations to alert security departments about the potential criminals. As the law stands now, actual criminal convictions would not need to occur for a private business to label a person a threat permanently.

More young adults being arrested than in previous decades

The current generation of young adults living in Virginia and across the U.S. are significantly more likely to be arrested than young people from previous generations, according to a new study by the nonprofit RAND Corporation. The study was published in the journal Crime & Delinquency.

How local vernacular could play a role in Virginia court cases

As the systemic biases in the criminal justice system have come under increased scrutiny, questions have arisen regarding the importance of dialect. A recent linguistics study found that 27 stenographers made errors in two out of every five sentences when presented with Black English grammatical patterns. Moreover, the stenographers were only able to paraphrase one in three sentences.

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