Many people in Texas think that sentences of community service are more humane than other types of criminal punishment, including jail time or heavy fines. However, one study released by the UCLA Labor Center and School of Law says that community service can replicate some of the same problems caused by court fines and debt, especially for people in low-income communities and communities of color. The study examined 5,000 cases of people ordered to community service between 2013 and 2015 to work off the fines they would have received otherwise.
A research brief from the RAND Corporation claims that more people are being arrested and convicted before turning 26 than in previous generations. This statistic is causing concern among some justice reform advocates as convicted criminals in Texas and throughout the country have less access to educational opportunities, jobs and earning power.
Police officers in Texas and around the country generally must obtain warrants if they wish to search the residences or automobiles of suspects, and judges only issue these warrants if they are satisfied that there is probable cause to believe evidence of criminal activity will be discovered. However, the Fourth Amendment protections that guarantee the right of individuals to be secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects do not seem to currently apply to digital information.
A study conducted by two criminologists at Texas State University has raised questions about the way high-profile crimes are investigated by the police. After reviewing the investigations of 50 crimes that resulted in a wrongful conviction, the research team discovered that detectives often became convinced that a person of interest was the perpetrator and abandoned all other avenues of inquiry. In many of these cases, investigators coerced confessions from suspects and ignored exculpatory evidence.
Jurors in Texas criminal cases tend to believe identifications made by eyewitnesses, especially if the witness is very confident about the identification. However, research indicates that there are still several questions about and potential problems with eyewitness accounts. Witnesses are often asked to identify the perpetrator of a crime by picking him or her out of a live lineup or out of a photo array. The outcome of the identification process is often introduced by the prosecution in a subsequent criminal trial.
The accumulation of fines and fees that emerge from the criminal justice system can be particularly damaging to people living in poverty in Texas. Across the country, multiple state, county and city governments have developed a growing dependence on the proceeds of court fines and citations in order to fund their activities. As a result, impoverished people are disproportionately affected as they are far less able to pay these fines. While the original citation issue can be relatively minor, an inability to pay can escalate the issue rapidly. People may find themselves facing the loss of their driver's license or even jail time as a result of being unable to pay fines.
When Texas residents are accused of a crime, the authorities may seize assets that are suspected to be connected to a crime. While many law enforcement groups have argued that seizing assets, known as civil asset forfeiture, is a crucial tool for law enforcement to stop drug trafficking, a study has found that it actually has little impact on the prevention of crimes.
The criminal justice system in Texas and around the country has been harshly criticized in recent years for its treatment of minorities, and the results of a recent Pew Research Center survey suggest that the vast majority of African-Americans feel these criticisms are justified. Almost 9 out of 10 of the African-Americans polled said that black defendants were treated unfairly by police and prosecutors, but only 61% of the white respondents shared this view.
Many police departments in Texas and around the country use portable breath-testing devices to determine whether or not motorists have consumed alcohol. However, prosecutors do not generally rely on the results of roadside breath tests to establish impairment beyond a reasonable doubt, as the fuel-cell based devices issued to police officers are known to be unreliable in many situations.
People who visit shopping centers and stores throughout Texas may be interested to learn that getting caught shoplifting in one store could result in a ban from shopping at other stores. This is due to the fact that some stores have begun using facial recognition technology to capture digital records of potential shoplifters.