Colorado residents may be interested to learn that racial disparities have narrowed in terms of incarceration across the United States. Still, blacks are more likely to be behind bars than whites, according to recent federal figures.
For people facing criminal charges in Colorado, the idea that the judge presiding over the case might be biased can be frightening. Judges are simply people, though, and they bring their biases into the courtroom more than those in the legal profession would like to admit. Indeed, research has shown that a person's belief in his or her objectivity might actually increase the likelihood of a biased outcome. A criminal defense lawyer might be able to overcome judicial or institutional bias on behalf of a client and get a fair trial.
When Colorado residents imagine community service sentencing, they may think of it as a beneficial program that helps people avoid jail time without paying costly fines that they cannot afford. However, one study indicates that community service can further entrench some of the very problems it is touted to alleviate. Most people who are sentenced to community service have low incomes, and they opt for community service because they cannot pay a fine and do not want to deal with extensive court debt that could spark later legal repercussions.
Police departments in Colorado and around the country are arresting people in record numbers despite plummeting crime rates, according to a recent RAND Corporation study. The violent crime rate in the United States has fallen by almost 50% since 1993, but Americans today are far more likely to be taken into custody by the age of 26 than members of previous generations. Almost one in four Americans born between 1979 and 1988 have at least one arrest on their records. Only 6.4% of those born before 1949 have been taken into custody.
Colorado residents want to believe that the U.S. justice system is fair and just, but that isn't always the case. In recent years, new DNA testing technology has exonerated dozens of inmates who were incarcerated based on the false testimony of jailhouse informants. As a result, a number of states are tightening the regulations prosecutors must follow to use informant testimony in court.
Lawyers in Colorado and around the country have been paying close attention to a lawsuit brought by a group of Muslim-Americans against the federal government. The plaintiffs say that they have faced difficulties when traveling and have even been placed in handcuffs because their names have been added to the government's terrorist watch list, and a federal judge ruled on Sept. 4 that they had been denied rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.
When a crime attracts a significant amount of media attention in Colorado and around the country, the detectives assigned to investigate it are often put under great pressure to make a quick arrest. Two criminologists from Texas State University say that this desire to close cases quickly can lead to investigators becoming fixated on a prime suspect to the point where they coerce confessions and ignore exculpatory evidence. They arrived at this conclusion after analyzing the case files of 50 innocent individuals who were convicted of serious crimes.
Many cities in Colorado and other states rely on court fines and fees to balance their departmental budgets. Some defendants who are unable to pay their fines are jailed or placed on probation until they pay off the debt. This sometimes occurs even if the individual hasn't been convicted of a crime. In response, an increasing number of legal organizations are fighting to raise awareness about these practices and bring them to an end.
Authorities in Colorado and throughout the country say that asset forfeiture laws are a necessary tool to help fight crime. However, those who study the issue say that it's little more than a way for local governments to raise revenue. A study released by the Institute for Justice says that for every 1% unemployment goes up in an area, asset forfeiture increases by 9%. Furthermore, other research has found that relatively minor amounts of money are seized in most cases.