Tagged: criminalization

Check Out Documentary Titled 13TH

In a Netflix original documentary titled 13TH, to signify the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery, scholars, activists and politicians discuss and analyze the criminalization of African Americans in the United States. This thought-provoking film argues that the mass incarceration of African Americans across the United States is in fact an extension of slavery. See NPR Review. The filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s website features the documentary’s official trailer along with a list of reviews from variety of newspapers. Check it out!

Okay Google … Should Drivers Be Wearing Google Glass While Driving?

POST WRITTEN BY: Marina Gubenko (’16), J.D. Pace Law School

The release of Google Glass to the general public comes with an issue attached – is it safe and legal to use while driving? Google Glass is a hands-free device that has the same capabilities as a smartphone and allows the user to surf the internet, send texts, and scroll through social media. Google Glass is like having a tiny computer in front of your face all the time.

New York State prohibits a person from using any portable electronic device while the car is in motion. N.Y. Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d (McKinney 2014). Google Glass would seemingly fall under the NY statutory definition of portable device, which defines it as “any telephone, PDA, device with mobile data access, laptop, pager, messaging device, game, portable computing device, ‘or any other electronic device when used to input, write, send, receive, or read text for present or future communication.’” In examining whether Google Glass is legal to use while driving in New York, it is important to point out that the New York law prohibits use of any portable device while the vehicle is in motion. Considering a cellphone, it would be relatively easy for a police officer to observe if a driver operating a vehicle is holding a cellphone and doing something on it. However, with Google Glass functioning as glasses, a police officer would have a harder time deciphering if in use while the driver operates a vehicle.

In California, use of a telephone or electronic device is prohibited while driving unless the device is equipped to be hands-free. Cal. Vehicle Code § 23123 and § 23123.5 (West 2014). Additionally, a person is prohibited from driving a car when their vision is obstructed by “a television receiver, a video monitor, or a television or video screen….” Cal. Vehicle Code § 27602 (West 2014). Google Glass fits that definition; it is a monitor that is constantly in front of the driver. To violate this provision, the police officer needs to proffer evidence that Google Glass was on and being used while the person was driving. In 2014, a woman was pulled over and cited in San Diego, CA for wearing Google Glass while driving. The officer cited her under § 27602. According to a CNN news article, the case was dismissed because the evidence was insufficient to show that Goggle Glass was turned on at the time the woman was driving.

It has been argued that Google Glass is safer than using your phone while driving because a driver does not need to take hands off the wheel. However, a study conducted by the University of Central Florida showed that the reaction time between a Google Glass user and cell phone user in avoiding accidents was about the same.

The bottom-line is that Google Glass is a distraction when operating a motor vehicle. States are seeing the necessity of enacting new legislation to ban Google Glass while driving, and making sure that the new laws specifically include a device such as Google Glass. As of 2014, at least 7 states had proposed legislation. For example, NY Assembly Bill 02729 “prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while using a wearable computer with a head-mounted display.” This bill is aimed to address ocular technology such as Goggle Glass. Moreover, another NY Assembly Bill 04879 seeks to expand the current definition of portable electronic device to include Google Glass.

Going back to the issue of enforcement; since it appears to be difficult for police officers to determine whether Google Glass was operational and in use while driving, it seems that to ensure safety, the easiest solution is to prohibit wearing it while driving all together. Have we become a society that is unable to tear ourselves away from the virtual world? Are we willing to forego public safety so we can have a piece of technology attached to our heads and stay ‘connected’?  We shouldn’t need laws to answer that.

Supreme Court Reverses Conviction in Facebook-Threats Case

In a follow up to our previous post, the Supreme Court has now decided Elonis v. United States, reversing the conviction based on threats the defendant posted on Facebook against his ex-wife and others.  The Court held it was error for the lower court to instruct the jurors that the defendant could be convicted if the posts would be considered by a reasonable person to be threatening, characterizing that standard as one of traditional civil negligence.  The Court did not address the First Amendment issues concerning the criminalization of Facebook posts.

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The War on Drugs Reassessed – AG Holder Rethinks Sentencing

BY: Sameer Nath

It has been about 42 years since President Nixon declared a war on Drugs. Since that time, in the name of public health, public safety and national security, state and federal governments at several levels have relentlessly pursued and prosecuted  gangs, cartels, terrorist organizations, and unaffiliated street dealers, growers, suppliers and clandestine laboratories.

Drug use at its worst is a bane of civilization, leaving in its wake helpless shells of human beings who are willing to rob, cheat and even kill in order to sate their addictive impulses, and to protect their black market operations. Many of these people are a drain on our national economy, unable to work due to side effects of their addictions, languishing in prisons where they cost taxpayers up to thousands of dollars per day to treat, house, feed and clothe on the public dollar, and clogging up local court calendars as multiple offenders. The illegal drug industry, at its worst is an international series of powerful clans interwoven into sophisticated criminal enterprises that appropriate and use all the tactics, equipment and personnel at their disposal to see that the flood of revenue from their wares remains unfettered. As US government technology and tactics to fight this “war” evolves in its breadth and sophistication, so too do those used by those clans. ($35 million Russian submarine sold to a prominent cartel in the late 90s.)

However, in order to fight this endless “war” against an inanimate enemy whose very definition changes with each pharmaceutical or medical breakthrough, we have been faced with difficult choices.  We have sacrificed many of the founding principles of this country and have decimated American communities with incarcerationand criminal stigma, and wehave fueled this war with hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer funding.  It can be argued that the Fourth, Fifth and Eighth Amendments are casualties in the War on Drugs, and the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State imperil the 10th as well, as the federal government has shown no sign of intent to acquiesce to the will of these states.

The sheer number of cases that are brought into inner-city criminal courts in New York City and its immediate surroundings for marijuana and ‘harder’ drug possession are an impediment to community growth and to judicial economy.Taxpayer-funded courtrooms are clogged with what often amount to victimless offenses. Those same taxpayers have to foot the bill for the prosecution of their relatives, friends and community members, and in the end, it can be validly argued that the domestic War on Drugs does little to actually promote the public health and public safety. (Arizona SWAT Team Kills Marine In Botched Raid.)

I have yet to hear a plausible explanation as to how incarcerating a young, repeat marijuana offender in prison, among more sophisticated criminals, or sentencing them to rehabilitation among harder drug addicts will better the chances of that young marijuana offender gaining employment skills, finding a job and getting their life on track; let alone improve the quality of life in their community. Feel free to disagree, but I adamantly believe that the purpose of the criminal justice system is to improve the quality of communities and better the lives of the governed, not to just put people in cages and rack up high arrest and conviction numbers.  However, drug dealers and criminal organizations are willing and able to use gruesome violence to establish dominance in an area, and have racked up enormous body counts through atrocity after atrocity. (Seven decapitated heads found in Mexico.) One glance at the modern inner-city drug-war-battlefield readily reveals this “war” to be largely failed under that paradigm, in spite of the occasional high-profile drug bust.  We, as a nation, are not any safer, healthier or moral as a society after 42 years of drug war. Here are the available numbers from the bureau of justice statistics.   Our communities, particularly minority communities, are hardest hit by constant police intrusion and surveillance diametrically opposed to the libertarian republic which this nation was designed to be.

Attorney General Eric Holder took a major step toward rationalizing drug sentencing, following in the path of several states. He recommended that prosecutors change charging practices to avoid long sentences for non-violent drug offenders.

Sentencing in Jodi Arias Trial

BY: Luis Felix

On March 31, 2013, Jodi Arias’ attorneys were denied the opportunity to have the death penalty taken off the table in her murder trial, as the Arizona Supreme Court rejected their petition for an appeal. Arias was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander, and is currently awaiting sentencing. However, this case is far from the typical murder case seen in news outlets across the country every day. The media has followed the Arias case heavily, casting it directly in front of the public’s eye. The gruesome nature of Alexander’s murder  – 27 stab wounds, a slit throat, and a gunshot wound to the head – captured the attention of the public in recent months. There can be no doubt that Arias’ murder of her ex-boyfriend was a particularly heinous one, and justice must be served. However, is sentencing Arias to the death penalty the appropriate remedy?

Those in favor of sentencing Arias to the death penalty focus their arguments on the brutality and excessiveness of her crime. Much like Hammurabi’s “an eye for an eye,” proponents of the death penalty argue that retribution must be sought, and the only way for Arias to pay for such a heinous crime is with her life. Those opposed to Arias receiving the death penalty argue that it is unethical, and two wrongs would not make a right. However, I would take a slightly different approach in arguing against the death sentence for Jodi Arias.

Death is the ultimate price. Although murder is among the most culpable of crimes, the murder of one victim should not receive the greatest sentence that our criminal justice system has to offer. I am not attempting to downplay the culpability of a single murder; I am examining the sentencing phase of our criminal justice system in a different light. A light that does not focus on each particular crime and each particular victim, but instead focuses on our society and the criminal justice system as a whole.

There are crimes that carry a higher level of culpability than a single murder. For example, a defendant who maliciously murders two victims, is certainly more culpable than a defendant who maliciously murders one victim. If we then sentence both defendants to death, we as a society are not distinguishing between the culpability of their crimes. As a society, we have evolved passed the European medieval times where every crime was punishable by death because we decided to distinguish between the varying culpabilities accompanying different crimes. We must stay true to this distinction and reserve the death penalty for only the most culpable of defendants. While murder certainly carries a high level of culpability, a single murder cannot be deemed as culpable as a mass murder, a serial murder spree, or a terrorist attack. While the ladder three are certainly deserving of the death penalty, the former is not and must be distinguished because it carries a lower level of culpability. Thus, a more deserving sentence for a single murder, such as the murder of Travis Alexander, would be life imprisonment without parole – not the death penalty.

Ultimately, this is merely my opinion and there are certainly compelling arguments on both sides. Above all else, this article is an invitation. It is an invitation to think, an invitation to research, and an invitation to speak your mind. Consider this an open forum to any and all who agree, and especially those who disagree. You may now take the floor.