Judges in Texas and other states may use their intuition when making a decision in a legal matter. In some cases, this is because they believe in their ability to make objective decisions. However, their rulings may also be based on unconscious biases. These are biases that a person may not be aware of when making a decision or forming an opinion. While judges typically don't try to be unfair to an individual, certain groups are treated better than others.
For some people in Texas, community service sentencing seems to provide an alternative to harsh jail time or hefty fines that many criminal defendants cannot afford. Community service is often touted as a humane alternative that poses fewer restrictions for people convicted of smaller offenses, often misdemeanors. However, a study by UCLA's Labor Center and School of Law indicates that community service sentencing can also exacerbate some of the existing problems of the criminal justice system, especially for people with low incomes and communities of color. The study examined 5,000 cases between 2013 and 2014 when people were sentenced to community service.
Texas residents who are detained and convicted of even minor crimes may find a reduction in their earnings over a lifetime. According to a study that appeared in Crime and Delinquency, even though overall crime is on the decline, young people today are more likely to be taken into custody and convicted than in previous generations.
Many people in Texas and across the United States are concerned about excessive criminalization and the involvement of too many people in the criminal justice system. Some have drawn attention to absurd or overreaching laws that remain on the books that can lead to a felony conviction. For example, an athlete who went for a snowmobile ride was then lost in a blizzard, racking up costs to the government to find and rescue him. However, he wasn't just hit with a large bill; instead, he was convicted of a federal criminal offense and sentenced to six months in prison.
A pair of criminologists from Texas State University believe that people who are accused of committing highly publicized crimes are often wrongly convicted because some police officers develop tunnel vision when they decide they have identified the perpetrator. The researchers came to this conclusion after studying the investigative missteps that led to 50 wrongful convictions. Several of the cases were investigated by detectives who either coerced confessions or changed their theory of the crime after being presented with exculpatory evidence.
Juries in Texas and around the country generally find eyewitness testimony extremely convincing, and witnesses who identify a criminal suspect with a great deal of confidence are especially compelling. However, questions about the way police officers conduct suspect lineups and research into the workings of the human brain have raised doubts about the validity of even confident eyewitness identifications.
Prosecutors in Texas and around the country are required to turn what is known as exculpatory evidence over to criminal defendants and the attorneys representing them. Exculpatory evidence is evidence that would exonerate defendants or help to establish their innocence. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1963 case Brady v. Maryland that prosecutors must turn over material that is pertinent to guilt or innocence before a trial begins, but Texas law goes even further.
Between May 15 and 19, over 100 people were arrested on a variety of charges at the Jeep "Go Topless" event in Crystal Beach, Texas. The charges included everything from resisting arrest to burglary.
An attorney in Texas got a man's DUI charge dismissed after he was able to demonstrate that the man was in ketosis from a low-carb diet at the time of the breath test. The man had performed normally during sobriety tests, but his blood alcohol content appeared to be above the legal limit when a breath test was done. However, ketosis can cause a person to blow out isopropyl alcohol, and some types of breath tests may not distinguish between this and ethanol alcohol.
An increasing number of business owners in Texas and other states are using facial recognition technology to deter shoplifting. Some shop owners are also creating digital records of people entering their places of business based on collected visual data. Other stores are going a step further and using such data to share captured facial images with other businesses within the same network once someone is identified as a security risk.