The American Bar Association's (ABA's) House of Delegates and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (NACDL) have just passed a unanimous resolution urging Congress to fully fund the federal First Step Act and to make it retroactive.
Diversion programs offer a way for people with minimal criminal histories to avoid becoming trapped in the criminal justice system.
A recent study released by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leading public interest law firm, calls into question a number of justifications for civil asset forfeiture. Contrary to claims by law enforcement, seizing property from criminal suspects does not appear to meaningfully reduce crime rates or lessen drug use. Far from being used to fight major drug traffickers, civil asset forfeiture is usually deployed against the poor and people of color.
As we discussed on this blog last December, the First Step Act was a bipartisan reform law that promised relief for federal defendants and prisoners in several areas. The Act was expected to be especially helpful to minority defendants, as minorities have traditionally been sentenced more harshly than whites for equivalent crimes. The first major overhaul of the federal criminal justice system in decades, the First Step Act was signed into law by President Trump on Dec. 21, 2018.
It's an interesting time in America. The majority of states (although not Iowa) have legalized marijuana for medical use. Most states, including Iowa, have legalized low-THC CBD, a cannabis derivative, for medical purposes. And, last year, the federal government legalized hemp, a relative of marijuana that contains almost no THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. However, states that have anti-hemp laws have generally not lifted them.
The state of Iowa could reduce its incarcerated population by 5,427 and save $360,400,064 by doing so -- all without a major impact on public safety, according to the ACLU of Iowa. The organization, along with ACLU affiliates nationwide, recently released a blueprint to reduce mass incarceration in the state.
If a drug field test comes back positive, that is generally considered enough to justify an arrest. Field tests are inadmissible in most courts, so further testing must be performed by a lab. Unfortunately, lab results can take months to come back. If a field test is inaccurate, an innocent person could be stuck in jail for a long time before the inaccuracy is discovered.
Driving while under the influence of drugs can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. In fact, if you are pulled over in Iowa and are found to have any amount of controlled or illegal substance in your bloodstream or urine, you can be charged with OWI.
It appears that the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill backed by bipartisan groups and supported by the President, may yet come up for a vote this year. The bill proposes changes in federal criminal sentencing and promises some reforms in the prison system.
If you are charged with a drug crime, drug court may offer a way for you to regain freedom and control over your life while receiving substance abuse treatment. Drug court also keeps those charged from being incarcerated.