A growing number of people in Texas and across the country are being exposed to the criminal justice system at an earlier age, researchers found while examining national data. According to the report by the RAND Corporation, younger Americans are 3.6 times more likely to have been arrested as a youth than older Americans. The researchers noted that this large disparity was found when comparing arrest rates before the age of 26 for people 26 to 35 years of age and those over 66. They also noted that the increase in arrest rates may be linked to lower wages, less access to work and lower likelihood of marriage.
Juries convene on a daily basis throughout Texas. Prior to being selected, jurors are asked questions to determine if they have beliefs regarding the criminal justice system and whether they can reach a verdict based purely on the evidence given. Many times, a prospective juror who admits to preconceived opinions of the justice system is dismissed for cause.
Jails and prisons in Texas and across the United States are overflowing with inmates. In fact, there are currently around 830 prisoners for every 100,000 adults living in the country.
When people in Texas think about criminal cases, the first that come to mind are often felony trials. However, misdemeanors account for around 80 percent of all the criminal cases that fill American courts, according to one author. Misdemeanors are typically low-level offenses that carry sentences that do not exceed one year of incarceration. While felony cases are often the most widely reported, misdemeanors comprise the vast majority of arrests, with 13 million new cases filed every year.
Some federal inmates in Texas could find their sentences reduced if a bill that is making its way through the Senate is successful. Despite some conservative opposition, overall, the bill has broad bipartisan support that includes both the American Civil Liberties Union and police unions as well as senators and representatives from both parties.
The First Step Act is of particular interest to people dealing with criminal sentencing in Texas, especially if they are in the federal court system. The bill has been backed by an unusual coalition of supporters ranging from President Donald Trump to longtime advocates of criminal justice reform. Widely understood as a compromise bill, the legislation has been criticized both for being soft on crime and for avoiding serious reforms that could change the inequalities built into the system. However, it is important for people to understand what changes may take place if the bill becomes law.
As is the case in most states, marijuana is not legal in Texas. However, its legalization is a growing trend. Advocates for marijuana legalization are pointing to this trend in the wake of an FBI report released on Sept. 24 that indicates that more people were taken into custody for marijuana-related drug charges between 2016 and 2017.
The methods used by police departments in Texas during eyewitness lineups were changed when the state's Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2015. Texas is one of 25 states to change the way lineups are conducted in the wake of research revealing that eyewitness misidentifications were often primary pieces of evidence when criminal suspects are wrongfully convicted. In one such study, the Innocence Project discovered that eyewitness misidentifications were a key factor in 71 percent of 350 wrongful convictions overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence.
The state of Texas takes drunk driving, also known as DWI, very seriously. As such, those who are accused of driving while intoxicated could face punishments that may range from a variety of fines to major jail sentences. Those who have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more are legally considered to be intoxicated. Furthermore, those with lower BAC levels who drive while impaired can still face charges.
Unfortunately, it is possible for a Texas court to convict an innocent person. When new DNA evidence is introduced and clears a convicted offender, however, the news is rarely publicized.