Would you let a stranger in a lab coat search through your phone? What about a police officer? How about if you had a good reason to refuse, such as evidence of a crime?
Sometimes, the non-court consequences of criminal activity are as serious as the consequences of a conviction. These "collateral consequences," however, have traditionally come as the result of criminal prosecution. Most of the time, society doesn't inflict serious consequences on people who have never been convicted.
"Driving while black" isn't a real crime, but it might as well be. African-Americans and people of color persistently report being stopped, searched, cited and even arrested for traffic offenses in situations where white people probably wouldn't be. Yet people of color don't break the law at a higher rate than whites. If anything, a recent study found, whites are more likely to do so.
Did you know that your property can be seized simply because you have been accused of a certain crime? You don't even have to be convicted. When police decide your money or property is connected to criminal activity, they can seize it in what is called a civil forfeiture proceeding.
In the United States, far more people go to prison for state crimes than federal offenses, but federal charges are just as serious, if not more so. If you suspect you may be charged with a federal crime, here are a few things you need to know.
The use of civil forfeitures has been called "policing for profit." The civil forfeiture process usually begins when someone is charged with a crime, either at the state or federal level. At that point, police and prosecutors may find that some of the defendant's money or property is connected to criminal activity. In essence, the prosecutor charges these valuables with being connected to or the proceeds of crime. The defendant bears the burden of proving that they were not. If the defendant fails to prove that, the police and prosecutor's office get to seize the money and property permanently -- even if the defendant has not yet been convicted of any crime.
Always be respectful when interacting with law enforcement. At the same time, to be aware that when the police are questioning you about a potential crime, they are not on your side. Explaining your side of the story will not clear things up. In fact, it's best to avoid saying more to the police than you absolutely have to.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed in Reed v. Town of Gilbert that content-based regulations on free speech are unconstitutional. This has been widely applied to panhandling ordinances. Indeed, according to the ACLU of Iowa, every case since brought against a panhandling ordinance -- over 25 cases -- have resulted in a ruling that the ordinance was unconstitutional.
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of criminal defendants to fully confront the witnesses and evidence against them. That includes DNA evidence, but it can be difficult to apply that right to the forensic software used to match genetic material from crime scenes to that of a defendant. Why? The software's underlying algorithms, source code, user manuals, internal validation studies and other crucial technical details are trade secrets, often owned by private companies.