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.
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.
New data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the federal government has been prosecuting fewer white-collar crimes under this administration than it had done previously. Researchers from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found a 35.7-percent dip in the number of cases filed in January over the same period five years ago.
The case involved South Carolina bank robbery. Witnesses were unable to ID the robber and the bank's surveillance video turned out to be too grainy to help. When the FBI finally arrived at a suspect, the man countered that the robber had been his brother. With only low-quality video to go by, how could investigators tell which brother had committed the crime?
The question of how much discretion federal judges should have when sentencing criminal defendants is an important one, and opinions have changed over time. In the 1980s and 1990s, Congress passed a large number of strict, mandatory minimum sentencing requirements.
For the purposes of the federal Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), burglary is considered a violent felony. When someone has two or more violent felony convictions, whether state or federal crimes, they may encounter the ACCA if they are then convicted federally of unlawful firearms possession. Such a conviction carries a mandatory 15-year prison sentence.
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.
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.
The question of what standard should be used when placing someone on terrorism watch list is currently before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. While Iowa is in the Eighth Circuit, the ruling could be significant nationwide because much of the evidence against watch-listed people is submitted by state and local law enforcement.
Recently, the Des Moines police became the first Iowa police department to install an in-house machine that can analyze shell casings and access a federal ballistic imaging network to identify potential matches with firearms. Now, that system has been used to match a particular handgun to shell casings found at a robbery scene. As a result, an 18-year-old Ankeny man is facing criminal charges.