Supreme Court Weighs How to Define Violent Felonies Triggering ACCA

ACCA changes for career criminals

By Christopher Zoukis Congress passed the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) in 1984, aiming to bring longer sentences to violent career criminals. Under ACCA, federal defendants facing firearms possession charges can get much longer sentences if they have previously been convicted of three or more violent felonies or serious drug…

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Virginia Expands Defendants’ Access to Prosecution Evidence

Virginia expands defendants' access to prosecution evidence

By Christopher Zoukis After considering for years whether to revise its criminal procedure rules to broaden defendants’ access to information that will be used to prosecute them, the Virginia Supreme Court has decided to expand defendants’ pre-trial access to prosecutors’ evidence. An order issued September 5 by the top state…

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Is It Curtains For The First Step Act?

Last Chance for First Step Act

By Christopher Zoukis Back in February, the House of Representatives by a 360-59 margin passed H.R. 5628, the “First Step” Act – an acronym for the “Formerly Incarcerated Re-enter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act.” With bipartisan co-sponsors, Reps. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the bill had…

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“Making a Murderer” Defendant Asks Supreme Court to Undo Conviction

Brendan Dassey appeals to U.S. Supreme Court to reverse decision

By Christopher Zoukis Brendan Dassey, the younger defendant convicted of crimes covered in the hugely popular 2015 Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse his conviction, arguing police coerced him into making false confessions. Dassey’s uncle, Steven Avery, is serving a life sentence…

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Department of Justice Finds Higher Recidivism Rates for State-Released Inmates

what-to-expect-first-day-prison

By Christopher Zoukis The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has taken a new look at recidivism rates for inmates released from state correctional institutions; the new study found recidivism rates over longer periods of time are higher than previously thought. Its new analysis, “2018 Update on Prisoner…

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Prison Reform and Redemption Act: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

An overhead view of the U.S. House of Commons, with the American flag in the centre

By Christopher Zoukis Introduction On July 24, 2017, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives titled the “Prison Reform and Redemption Act” (PRRA).1 The bill is co-sponsored by nine members of the 115th Congress, four of whom are fellow Republicans. According to the text of the…

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Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules “Backseat Driver” Is a Real Thing Under Criminal Statutes

by Christopher Zoukis The Rhode Island Supreme Court has determined that a passenger in the back seat of a vehicle who lunges forward and jerks the steering wheel qualifies as an “operator” of the vehicle. The November 14, 2017 opinion considered the criminal case against Luke Peters. On August 6,…

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Jury Nullification: A Crucial Check on Government Power

By Christopher Zoukis The power of government in everyday American life cannot be overstated. In the criminal justice setting, the government is essentially all-powerful. When accused of a crime, a citizen faces arrest at the hands of armed police, incarceration in government-owned jails (for the most part), and prosecution by…

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