During the 2016 election cycle that included the presidential ballot, voting rights took center stage as November 8 drew closer. Many contenders who ran on the Republican ticket called for stricter legislation on who could and couldn’t vote as a case-in-point against undocumented immigrants enjoying rights and privileges usually reserved for US citizens only. As many may recall, immigration policy and reform was a pivotal point during debates and interviews, and calling for a closer watch on non-citizens attempting to vote galvanized voters who wanted to see tightened practices for immigrants without legal standing.
On election day, reporters and election watchers hawked polling places, chomping at the bit to break a story about a non-citizen attempting to vote or catch someone in the act of trying to vote twice. All the fervor yielded very little in terms of headlines, and ultimately, the President even disbanded his “voter fraud” commission, as it proved to be a waste of time and resources. However, a few stories made headlines. In one, a woman attempted to cast two ballots for now-President Trump and was stopped in the act. In a more calamitous story, though, a woman from Texas was sentenced to five years in prison for voting when she shouldn’t have because of a prior crime.
Voting rights for convicted felons has long been a sticking point. A state-level law, some states are more lenient with their felons and allow them some voting rights if they’ve made it through their probation cleanly and avoid a life of crime. In others, though, felons are essentially banned from voting for life. On the one hand, this functions as a deterrent to would-be criminals to keep them from breaking their social contract. On the other hand, though, many politicians don’t want felons to vote because of they way they would vote, most notably against increasing funding for police officers and in favor of more relaxed laws on crime. Florida has made recent headlines as activists there are trying to repeal some of the nation’s toughest law against felons voting and
In this specific case, Crystal Mason, a 43 year old Black resident of Texas, cast a ballot on November 8 despite the fact that she was still on probation for a tax fraud felony of which she’d been convicted. Not finding her name on the voter roll, Mason filed a provisional ballot and was subsequently arrested for illegal voting. At the trial, she reiterated time and time again that she was voting in good conscious and did not intend to make a statement or break the law. However, the prosecution produced numerous documents Mason had signed saying she could not vote again until her probation had been served in full. She has been sentenced 5 years for her crime.
Across the US, the punishment for such a crime has come nowhere close for others who were found guilty of voting when they weren’t supposed to. NPR reported that two Nebraskan men struck a deal for $10,000 after they were charged with voting multiple times in local elections. Texas has stepped up its punishment of illegal voting and has used Crystal Mason’s case to make an example for others considering voting when they shouldn’t. However, Mason is appealing the case, and voting rights activists are calling for governments to encourage voting, not scare people out of it even more. Among developed nations, the US ranks one of the lowest in voter turnout, and yet, more and more governments, both federal and state, are trying to make it harder to vote, not easier.
The legal industry is a dynamic force in which is primarily to protect citizens and uphold the law of this country. There are many areas of law a lawyer can practice. From civil law to personal injury, criminal, family, and more– lawyers have their own area/s of practice. To the public though, the lines between which area of practice a court case falls can be a bit blurry. For your knowledge, here are the key differences between a civil court case and a criminal court case.
When it comes to civil court cases and criminal court cases, there are several differences that separate the two. Civil cases involve a party filing suit against another party for a private matter. Criminal cases are those that are actions considered to be harmful to society.
Civil court cases generally involve a person or a company (sometimes even the government) filing a claim that another person or entity has not fulfilled a contract, essentially. These types of court cases are brought forth into state and federal courts.
As an example: if a person were to receive a credit card through Capital One and failed to make payments on time, defaulted on their credit card and it went to collections, Capital One could seek payment by filing a suit against the person.
Credit card companies have very strict and clear contracts that state they can sue for damages at any point in the collection process. Generally, when it comes to credit cards, the company itself will utilize a third party company that acts as the attorney or one of the “parties” in the civil suit to seek payment for what is owed.
The key difference between a civil case and a criminal case is that a person who ends up being accused of any crime would be charged in a formal manner. For felonies, these are known as “indictments.” For misdemeanors, these are known as “information.”
If the crime is at a federal level, then the United States Attorney’s Office would be where the prosecution stems from. For state crimes, that state’s attorney’s office would prosecute. There are obviously different types of criminal cases such as kidnapping, murder, wire fraud, robbery, driving while intoxicated, etc.
When it comes to financial crimes such as insider trading or wire fraud, those are crimes that would be prosecuted at the federal level. Crimes such as murder, robbery, and driving while intoxicated would be prosecuted at the state level.
The year of 2017 saw a huge swell in public protests stemming from racial unrest and displeasure with systemic injustices targeted at certain groups of people. Since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, the grassroots activist group Black Lives Matter has staged public protests, marches, and social media campaigns designed to bring awareness to the plight of people of color against law enforcement and the criminal justice system. On the other end of the spectrum, though, white nationalists and white supremacists have also taken to the streets with torches to protest the immigration policies they view as lax and the perceived vilification of white and caucasian Americans. Each group independently caught pushback from both the media and their communities, who bemoaned the damage to public property and the need for increased crowd control and first responders.
These two forces came to a head in Charlottesville, when a clash between a white nationalist group and a combination of Antifa (anti-facist) and Black Lives Matter protesters ended in fist-fights, property damage and destruction, arson, and the death of a young white woman.
Sympathizers of both Black Lives Matter and White Nationalism have accused the other side of hurling “hate speech” and inciting race-based violence against the other. Both claim the other uses inflammatory verbiage, divisive rhetoric, and skewed-if-not-wholly false information to debase the other and forward their own agenda. To that end, speakers or activists considered too political on one side or another have been barred from speaking on various college campuses. While the administrators of these institutions of higher learning tend to call on “security concerns” when prohibiting “extremists” from either side from speaking on campuses, many believe that these higher ed institutions are sheltering their students and suppressing certain viewpoints in violation of the first amendment.
Calls to “stop hate speech” on both sides have reinvigorated first amendment fanatics who are nervous about how far we’ll be able to limit free speech in the name of reducing violence. The first amendment as it’s written prohibits the US government from passing laws that infringe on the people’s right to free speech. We have made some important caveats, though, the classic example being that a person can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater to purposefully incite panic. We also prohibit organizing terrorist threats against the US.
While we can’t legally stop people from saying what they want, the administrators of some of the biggest social media websites can claim that it’s against their terms of service to post racially insensitive or discriminatory information or to actively champion such causes as ethnic cleansing or white supremacy. Unlike the government, social media platforms are private businesses who can set terms and conditions under which they will permit users to utilize their services. Twitter and various white nationalist groups have been caught up in a cat-and-mouse game over how to ensure that twitter’s crawlers catch white nationalists and only white nationalists, but their algorithm isn’t great, and their terms aren’t clear.
The future of free speech as it pertains to potentially offensive and inflammatory information is yet to be determined, but as our society proves more and more divided, we’ll have to come to a new truce sooner rather than later to avoid more deadly clashes.
Abogado Aly Civil Law:
Civil Law consists a group of laws that govern disputes between individuals in such areas as contracts, property, and family law. Civil Law is anything that is not criminal or public law. There are breach of contract cases where one makes a deal, signs a contract and does not follow the contract obligations that were laid out. There are consumer rights cases where you are protected as a consumer from businesses trying to take advantage of you. Lastly, there are construction law cases with lien matters, landlord-tenant matters and more.
At the offices of Abogado Aly, each attorney has their own specialization; however, they meet everyday to ensure that each case is handled by a group of professionals with varying specializations so that all attorneys at this office can look at each case from multiple angles. Adriana Rodriguez’s specialization is in Civil Law, and the aim of this blog is to inform readers on Civil Law in the news today.
For more information about our office, check out AbogadoAly.com