California residents who watch crime television shows or films likely know every word of the Miranda warning. This is the statement made by police officers advising suspects of their rights. The rights mentioned are provided by the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment, but they are often referred to as Miranda warnings because of a landmark ruling the U.S. Supreme Court made in 1966.
Police departments in California and around the world are using a little-known assessment tool to determine if suspects are being truthful during criminal investigations. However, critics of the tool, which is known as Scientific Content Analysis, claim the process is unproven and its practitioners are poorly trained, causing innocent people to be arrested.
A major narcotics and firearms investigation in California involving more than a dozen law enforcement agencies has led to the seizure of about 39 pounds of methamphetamine, 20 pounds of marijuana and over 130 guns. Officers, deputies and agents also apprehended more than two dozen suspects according to a Nov. 15 press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Agencies taking part in the operation, which is said to have been launched after a year of planning, included the California Highway Patrol, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the San Joaquin and San Mateo County Sheriff's Offices, and the San Francisco, Redwood City, Daly City and San Mateo Police Departments.
California residents may have heard that the author of a 2015 book about organized crime and money laundering has been accused of committing the very offenses he wrote about. Federal prosecutors say the University of Miami professor laundered millions of dollars that had been stolen from Venezuelan citizens. The 73-year-old Florida resident has been charged with two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each of the counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in a federal prison.
Unconscious bias is a significant area of study for psychology and sociology researchers in California and across the country. Many lawyers are concerned about the role of unconscious bias in the courtroom, especially as it may affect outcomes for defendants in contested criminal cases. Neuroscientists have shown that, in many cases, unconscious reactions may influence people's responses to people, events and circumstances. These reactions may be at odds with the same people's publicly expressed views and convictions. Many have linked disproportionately harsh sentences and bail assessments directed at black defendants with bias in the courtroom, whether conscious or unconscious.
A study conducted in California indicates that community service as part of criminal punishment disproportionately impacts low-income people of color who are unable to pay fines. They are often forced to choose between jail time or performing work without compensation. The principle behind community service for those convicted of crimes is that it's an alternative to serving jail time and allows an offender to garner goodwill in their community. However, the study says community service work is likely to exacerbate or mimic the problems of a debt to the court.
Some in Redding mat scoff at the notion of self-defense being a justification for violent action. This line of thinking no doubt comes from the assumption that any person who comes out the victor in an altercation cannot entirely be innocent in terms of its initiation. However, even law enforcement authorities recognize that there are indeed legitimate cases where the use of force (even deadly force) is justified. Indeed, according to information shared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 782 cases of justifiable homicide reported in 2017 (353 of which involved private citizens).
If you are like most California residents, you do not take shoplifting very seriously. In fact, you may view shoplifting as a little adventure with no real victim because “everyone knows” that merchants often overinflate their prices so as to make an exorbitant profit off their customers. Therefore, you really do not harm the merchant much if you walk out of the store without paying for something you “bought.” Thinking this way, however, can land you in serious legal trouble.
Police in California may employ various strategies in order to make you incriminate yourself. The unfortunate fact is that many interactions you may have with police officers would probably begin with their suspicion that you were breaking the law in some way.
As the American Bar Association (ABA) points out, 95 percent of cases are settled first before going to trial, so chances are if you are involved in a criminal case in California, you might receive a proposal to reduce your prison sentence or eliminate it entirely in exchange for a guilty plea to lesser charges. However, even as your defense attorney provides counsel on the matter, remember that the final choice to accept or reject any deal is yours.