Tagged: law enforcement

Tonight: April 3 at 6:00 pm. The Benefits and Limits of Civilian Review Boards

The Benefits and Limits of Civilian Review Boards

Monday, April 3rd at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in White Plains, NY 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm light refreshments and networking 6:30 pm panel begins promptly in Room G-02.

An interactive panel discussion with law enforcement, members of the Albany and Syracuse Civilian Review Boards, and the President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement including:

  • Frank L. Fowler, Syracuse Chief of Police
  • Brian Corr, NACOLE President and Director of Cambridge, Mass. Police Review and Advisory Board
  • Ivy Morris, Vice Chair of Albany CPRB (Citizens’ Police Review Board)
  • Zach Garafalo, Albany CPRB
  • Mallory Livingston, Chair, Syracuse CRB
  • Yusuf Abdul Qadir, Director of the Syracuse Chapter of the NYCLU

Panel will be moderated by Law Professor David Dorfman at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.

This forum is organized and sponsored by the Westchester Coalition for Police Reform and is co-sponsored by the Pace Criminal Justice Institute. Seating capacity limited to 90 persons. Please RSVP to lgriffin@law.pace.edu.

Victim’s Role in Criminal Proceedings: Past, Present and Future

BY: Laurence Banville, Esq., trial attorney and founding partner at Banville Law, a plaintiffs’ law firm based in New York City.

At the dawn of the U.S. legal system, victims were central – indeed, the essential element – in the prosecution of crimes. Criminal investigations, criminal proceedings and restitution efforts were private, that is, they were initiated and pursued by those who had been harmed. Crime had not yet been framed as an offence against the state, or society, but was viewed as a failure of individuals and a violation of interpersonal relationships. Before the Revolution, an active role in the criminal justice process was not a privilege granted to victims; rather, it was their responsibility. This regime, drawn almost entirely from English common law, considered only one crime as an offence against the state: treason.

This is  a system of justice we would hardly recognize today, one in which the domains of criminal and civil law were nearly indistinguishable. It was not fated to last. With the American Revolution came fundamental changes in the understanding of crime, leading to the birth of what today we would call the modern U.S. criminal justice system.

Having established their sovereignty, the colonies quickly recognized that new social groups, with their own interests and vulnerabilities, had been born. Soon, public prosecutors were appointed, with burgeoning bureaucracies to follow. Crimes themselves came to be seen no longer as offenses against the individual, but as a form of harm against society. By the 19th century, private criminal prosecutions had been “entirely eliminated,” according to Mary Boland, currently one of the foremost legal advocates for victim’s rights and co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Victim’s Committee. As time passed, the victim  fell out of the criminal process’s view, until victims were little more than vehicles for the presentation of evidence assembled at the state’s pleasure.

It was not until the 1960s that the victim, as an individual with rights and interests, would again come into focus. The social revolutions of the 1960s led to a feeling of social instability that itself led to concerns with the issue of crime, and victim’s rights groups emerged. Because of a shared experience of oppression and vulnerability, champions of the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement coalesced around an understanding of criminal justice that emphasized victims’ rights. Crucially, calls for reform from progressive quarters were joined by similar ones from the conservative law and order movement, which urged renewed attention on the failings of the criminal justice system to combat rising crime rates.

A full-throated crime victims’ rights movement emerged in the 1970s, galvanized by the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Linda R.S. v Richard D., in which the Court affirmed, in dicta, that victims cannot compel criminal prosecution because “a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or non-prosecution of another.”

Meanwhile, grassroots organizing led to the creation of domestic violence and rape crisis centers across the Nation, organizations that would come to form the backbone of a vocal national coalition. Reactionary impulses were also at work. In 1975, Rule 615 of the Federal Rules of Evidence was enacted, requiring courts to exclude witnesses, including victims, from the courtroom on the request of either prosecution or defense. Understandably, this has been widely cited as the low-water-mark in the battle to reintegrate victims into criminal proceedings. At the same time, the justice system had begun to realize that treating victims as valuable participants in proceedings was not contrary to, but supportive of, its own aims.

In 1974, Donald E. Santarelli, then-Director of the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, became acquainted with the work of Frank Cannavale. In his book Witness Cooperation, Cannavale argued forcefully that the loss of cooperative witnesses, victims who had become fed up with a justice system seemingly uninterested in their own needs, was the primary cause of prosecution failure. Santarelli was instrumental in funding the first victim and witness assistance pilot projects, including one in Denver’s District Attorney’s Office, which often went far beyond notifying victims of important court dates. In collaboration with grassroots organizers, a quickly-growing roster of victims’ assistance programs began offering crisis intervention services and on-call help lines. Likewise, prosecutors started to seek out and consider victims’ opinions on bail determinations, plea bargains, sentencing and parole hearings.

After his inauguration in 1981, President Ronald Reagan soon established the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime. In its December 1982 final report, the Task Force acknowledged what many members of the public already knew: “[T]he innocent victims of crime have been overlooked, their pleas for justice have gone unheeded, and their wounds – personal, emotional, financial – have gone unattended.” As a starting point, the Task Force recommended a Constitutional Amendment that would enshrine the rights of victims.

While that has not yet happened, the crime victims’ rights movement has spurred enormous legislative successes. To date, 33 states have ratified constitutional amendments enlarging the rights of crime victims, according to the National Crime Victim Law Institute at Lewis & Clark Law School. The remaining states have all passed legislation on the subject. In 1982, Congress enacted the Victim and Witness Protection Act, granting federal courts the authority to award restitution to victims as part of a defendant’s sentence. The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 established the Office for Victims of Crime and the Crime Victim’s Fund, which compensates victims for a variety of crime-related losses.

While certainly welcomed, these initial legislative measures were often criticized for focusing disproportionately on financial remuneration at the expense of victims’ other needs. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004 went further, effectively granting victims a participatory role in criminal proceedings. The Act enumerated eight rights to which victims are entitled in federal criminal cases:

  1. The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
  2. The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.,
  3. The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
  4. The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
  5. The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
  6. The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
  7. The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
  8. The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.

Unfortunately, in the view of  many advocates, the promise of inclusion heralded by the Crime Victims’ Rights Act has remained illusory. These rights are rarely enforced, says Mary Boland. The National Crime Victim Law Institute has called them “paper promises.”

Recent years have seen a new, double movement, in which the individualization of victims and their increasing impact on criminal justice proceedings is matched by efforts to individualize offenders and promote rehabilitative strategies over punitive measures. This is different from the movement of the 1970s that posited victims’ rights in opposition to defendants’ rights. Within this emerging regime, the lives of victims and offenders are no longer isolated from one another and the rights of one do not depend on limiting the rights of the other. In many ways, both parties to crime share the same path. It is not a paradox that, under many alternative theories of justice, the state should once again fall into the background, much as it did before the Revolution. The movement for restorative justice, a concept that has come to prominence since the late 1970s, focuses on minimizing the state’s role in proceedings, focusing instead on victim-offender mediation.

Related Readings:

New Podcast on Criminal Justice Issues

Here is an alert to a new and interesting podcast addressing criminal justice issues.  As described by its creator, Professor David Harris,  Distinguished Faculty Scholar and Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of law:

“Created with production help from WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR station, the Criminal (In)justice Podcast covers the issues in criminal justice that have taken center stage over the last year and a half: everything from police body cameras to police use of force to implicit racial bias.”  Prof. Harris’s goal is to offer discussion and interviews with nationally prominent guests from law enforcement, civil rights, prosecution and government.

The first season is planned to have 8 episodes, each released on a Tuesday. The first episode was published on March 29, 2016 addressing the issue of police body cams. There are 7 more episodes to look forward to. Learn more about the creative team. Anyone interested can directly subscribe to the podcast. 

Hall of Justice: Find Criminal Justice Statistics in One Convenient Place

HallOfJusticeWe all were in the situation when we are looking for criminal justice related statistics without knowing where to look or where to even begin. No more. Hall of Justice, a project of the Sunlight Foundations, is trying to change that. Although not comprehensive, it contains nearly 10,000 datasets and research documents from all 50 jurisdictions, DC, US territories, and federal government. Its newly launched website offers searchable inventory of publicly available criminal justice statistics and documents in one convenient place, thereby improving transparency.

The project explains its methodology in how and which datasets are included. You can learn more about the Sunlight Foundation criminal justice work here and the spreadsheet of datasets is available here.

Users may search for available datasets and then narrow by state, groups, sectors (government, non-profit, private, etc.), and access type (not machine readable, open, restricted, closed, etc.). The results display in a table listing the state/location, category, dataset title, group issuing the dataset, years included, and the direct link to access it. The major categories include: Corrections, Courts, Crime, Financial, Juvenile Justice, Law Enforcement, Victims, and Miscellaneous. All categories are further divided into subcategories.

NY JJD results

For example, the result page looks as follows (look to the left) when looking for Juvenile Justice – Delinquents datasets for the state of NY, listing 5 results with live links where the listed statistics can be accessed.

 

Undercover Practices: A Comparison

POST WRITTEN BY: Lissa Griffin, Professor at Pace Law School & Rafael Wolff, Federal Judge in Brazil and SJD candidate at Pace Law School.

A recent editorial and recent articles in The New York Times address the growing use of undercover agents and their necessarily deceptive practices. The New York Times now reports that the use of undercover operations has expanded “with officers from at least 40 agencies posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing….” The justification is the efficiency and cost-savings over traditional investigation through tips, legwork, interviews, search warrants, and surveillance. No probable cause or search warrant is required.

Is such widespread deception part of our culture?

Maybe it’s just one of the choices we have to make given our Constitution. Our historic fear of centralized authority and the accompanying protection of the individual against government intrusion makes some other more overt investigatory techniques unavailable to us. Thus, for example, in the United Kingdom, recent terrorist legislation improved the Government’s ability to investigate and prevent terrorism by extending the permissible periods of pre-charge detention. Imminent terrorist events may now be averted by simply breaking up the terrorism groups, and enhanced questioning can be accomplished early on. Our bill of rights would prevent that. Thus, instead of investigating overtly, we investigate by deception.

Up until now, rules and guidelines have been inadequate. Now, apparently in response to the “Fast and Furious” undercover operation that allowed guns to travel to Mexico, the Department of Justice has  issued internal guidelines designed to “tighten oversight” of undercover operations. Before prosecutors approve of using undercover investigation, they must consider “whether an operation identifies a ‘clearly’ defined objective, whether it is truly necessary, whether it targets ‘significant criminal actors or entities,’ and other factors.” This is good.

So, does Brazil tolerate as much deception as the United States?  Our conclusion remains that Brazil’s statutory limits restrict deception and protect privacy to a much greater extent than do the US due process clause or recent agency guidelines.  Considering the efficiency of undercover operations, but considering the risks to third party privacy and even to the agent’s security, maybe Brazil needs to use more, and the United States less, of this particularly interesting investigative tool.

These articles raise questions about the scope of undercover investigations and about fair investigative tactics by government agents. An instructive comparison can be made between limits on undercover activity in the United States and in another country, for example, Brazil.

In Brazil, the use of undercover agents requires a judicial warrant authorizing the infiltration of a criminal organization. This is expressly stated by Law 11.343/06 (Article 53, I) and Law 12.850/13 (Article 10). A judge may only issue such a warrant if the government establishes: 1) evidence of organized criminal activities or narcotics offenses; and 2) it is impossible to produce the evidence by another less intrusive way (Law 12.850/13, Article 10). Those are both federal laws, as just the Federal Congress can legislate about criminal procedure. Organized criminal activity occurs when there is a criminal organization of four or more individuals that functions in a structured way and with a division of tasks, even informally, to obtain direct or indirect criminal advantage. To be considered a criminal organization, the activity should be punishable by a maximum prison sentence of more than four years. Law 12.850/12 also allows the use of undercover agents and other special investigative tools in case of transnational crime which Brazil is internationally obliged to eradicate (for sure, when the crime occurs in Brazilian soil) and transnational terrorist groups recognized by international organizations in which Brazil is a member.

The use of undercover agents is also legal in the investigation of crimes created by Law 11.343/06, that is, in investigations into narcotics crimes. This category was included by the legislature because of the considerable risk of danger in the organized narcotics business.

In addition, Law 12.850/13 requires that the conduct of the undercover agent be proportional to the goal  of the operation and provides that the agent will be criminally culpable for any excess (art. 13). The same article makes clear that the agent will not be liable if it was not reasonable to act differently in the case.  The legislation is very vague, however, leaving it to the court to fix the limits in the warrant.  For example, it will be the judge who, based on the values prescribed by the Constitution and statutes, will have to decide if it is reasonable to allow an agent to send child porn pictures during an investigation.  This is not an easy call, especially since there is no consistent case law about it.

However, interestingly, Brazil defines “undercover operations” much more narrowly than does the United States so that these strict requirements only apply to certain undercover conduct.  Brazilian statutes (Laws 11.343/06 and 12.850/13) use the term “infiltrated agent” to define the regulated investigative activity, not “undercover agent.”  Thus, the definition only applies to those operations that involve agents assuming false identities to infiltrate criminal organizations. The use of plain clothes officers to buy drugs without the use of a false identification would not be regulated by the statute. In such cases, the need for a warrant is not even discussed in the case law. (STJ, AgRg no AREsp 1.956/SP, Rel. Ministra MARIA THEREZA DE ASSIS MOURA, SEXTA TURMA, julgado em 21/06/2011, DJe 01/07/2011). Thus, the kind of conduct reported in The Times, for example —  the presence of a police officer in the middle of a political protest —  would not be considered conduct by an “infiltrated agent,” as long as a false identity is not used to allow infiltration in a criminal organization. On the other hand, an officer who pretends to be a child to uncover a criminal organization involving pedophilia in the internet, for example, would indeed be subject to the warrant requirement.

From the defense perspective, there is protection against entrapment (article 17 of the Brazilian Criminal Code). For example, a defendant will not be liable for possessing a child porn photo sent by an undercover agent if the court finds the defendant was entrapped. However, this defense will not protect the Defendant if he possesses other photos, for example.

In the United States, of course, police and prosecutorial use of undercover agents is limited only by the broad and permissive boundaries of the due process clause. SeeUnited States v. Cuervelo, 949 F.2d 559 (2d Cir. 1991). Unlike Brazil, in the United States there is no requirement of a warrant or of judicial supervision of any kind regarding undercover agents. In fact, the Supreme Court has made clear that the use of undercover agents – even when the agent wears a wire – does not constitute a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. Lopez v. United States, 373 U.S. 427 (1963); On Lee v. United States, 343 U.S. 747 (1952); Hoffa v. United States, 385 U.S. 293 (1966); and United States v. White, 401 U.S. 745 (1971). As the Court has reasoned, betrayal by ones associates is always a risk, so there is  no  expectation of privacy in those interactions if they involve an undercover agent. Given that there is no “search,” there is no warrant requirement or a requirement even of probable cause or reasonable suspicion to use undercover agents to obtain evidence. Nor are there any statutory limits to the practice. The only limitation is whether an undercover officer’s behavior “shocks the conscience” of the court. Readers will remember the stomach-pumping case that actually did shock the conscience of the Supreme Court. Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165 (1952).

The Sixth Amendment right to counsel, which attaches after arraignment, may limit the use of undercover agents – but only after charges have been brought and the defendant has been arraigned. That is because, under Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964), and its progeny, law enforcement may not contact a defendant without going through defense counsel.

In the United States, now, there is not likely to be a consensus for restricting the use of undercover agents, although the discussion of this issue in the press is interesting. New York Times reports that the use of undercover agents is widening and now extends anywhere from sending fake protesters to demonstrations in front of the Supreme Court to creating false identities for doctors and ministers to investigate welfare or other fraud. Until now, at least, we have balanced our interests in privacy, our separation-of-powers-based willingness to give our prosecutors and police tremendous discretion in law enforcement, and our desire for crime control in favor of discretion and crime control. Brazil’s restriction of undercover intrusions to cases involving organized crime, narcotics, terrorism and other transnational crimes that are the object of international treaties – to seriously dangerous organizational criminal behavior that is – should command our attention. Maybe we should tailor the intrusion to protect against serious criminal conduct while protecting the increasingly shrinking sphere of privacy for the rest of us. Certainly, Brazil’s requirement of a showing that there is no less intrusive means to secure the evidence sought should not be a seriously difficult evidential burden. Given the U.S. courts’ willingness to impose only the most nominal restrictions, the way to do this, of course, would be the way Brazil accomplished it – through legislation.