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Criminal Defense Archives

Justice Dept. revives some efforts to validate forensic evidence

The Department of Justice has just announced that it will revive a forensic science initiative that was begun in 2012, during the Obama Administration. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a halt to the initiative in April, in order to invite public comment.

9th Circuit conference urges more skepticism of forensic evidence

A large number of common forensic techniques including bite marks, hair analysis, ballistics, fingerprint IDs and footprint analysis were called into question last year. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a nonpartisan group established by Congress in 1976, issued a report that debunked the evidence produced by the techniques as unscientific.

AZ Dept. of Corrections caught reading private inmate-lawyer mail

In 2011, an Arizona state prison inmate was infuriated when corrections officers read his confidential correspondence with his attorney, even though it was marked "legal mail." He sued the Department of Corrections for violating his Sixth Amendment right to counsel, among others.

Does Arizona's Victims' Bill of Rights violate defendants' rights?

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant's right to "be confronted with the witnesses against him" in all prosecutions. That's one reason why the state can't bring hearsay evidence against you in a criminal case, for example. You have the right to see, hear and confront any witness (or even a document) accusing you of any crime. It's an essential part of due process of law.

If plea bargains don't protect defendants, why do we have them?

The Atlantic magazine recently looked into the history and current state of plea bargaining in America and found it's not everything we would hope it could be. In most states and the federal system, fully 97 percent of criminal cases are resolved via plea bargain, even though the right to a speedy and public trial is enshrined in our Constitution's Sixth Amendment. That means that the vast majority of criminal defendants are foregoing the protections of a trial by jury.

What to do when police start asking questions

You finished enjoying a wonderful meal with a special someone in your favorite local restaurant. During dinner, the waiter asked if you and your date would like to try the house wine. You thanked him for the suggestion and ordered the wine. You only drank one glass because you knew you'd shortly be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

Sessions plans to end group improving forensic science practices

Over the past couple of decades or so, we've seen a lot of people exonerated via DNA evidence. We've seen a litany of scandals involving overburdened, inaccurate and even criminally inadequate crime labs across the nation. We've seen forensic evidence, once considered top-shelf, decline in reputation as its collection, processing, testing and results have all been shown to be subject to error -- or worse, shown to be flawed or invalid.

Does wearing a Fitbit mean you consent to collection of evidence?

Suppose for the moment that you were the victim of a violent crime. Could you use evidence from your Fitbit (or another fitness tracker) to demonstrate that your heart rate spiked at the time of the incident? Now suppose you're the accused. Can the police use your Fitbit log or another Internet-connected app to prove what you were doing?

Here's what to know about the arrest process

Getting arrested isn't a pleasurable experience for anyone, but whether you think the arrest is justified or not there are rules and protocols that police, prosecutors, and the court need to follow to ensure that any evidence they gather during the arrest process is admissible and maximize the strength of their case against you.

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