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The ACLU Effect on Crime and Policing

The ACLU Effect on Crime and Policing

Chicago citizens and police officers have always had something of a tense relationship. The residents of the city have complained of mistreatment from law enforcement due to racial biases; meanwhile, police officers and first responders are desperately trying to keep bad guys off the streets to keep good guys, their stuff, and the city at large safe.

Starting in 2011 with the untimely death of Trayvon Martin, the Black Lives Matter movement renewed public interest in police brutality and the safety of inner city residents against the force of police who may be entering scenes with ill intentions and racial prejudices. Calls for mandatory body cameras and more transparency during police-civilian interactions that left people dead have taken up a permanent dwelling on social media and at every political rally.

With the tide of public opinion turning against police officers, the prison system, and law enforcement at large, many police precincts are up against steep odds for increasing their budgets during local votes and reminding citizens that they exist to keep streets safe, not to purposefully hurt or terrorize people.

Nonetheless, the ACLU and the Chicago PD struck a once-in-a-lifetime agreement that both sides hoped to benefit from, the former, fewer cases of police misconduct, and the latter, better public support. In particular, the ACLU was interested in putting an end to controversial “stop and frisk” laws that were intended to allow police to be proactive in getting guns and drugs off the streets, but were generally racially biased in execution, leading to numerous court cases. As per the truce, officers have been instructed to meticulously document each and every interaction they have so that a file is prepared if and when the ACLU has to respond to claims of police brutality. Naturally, with the pressure to catalog every traffic stop and stop-and-frisk, the number of both has dramatically decreased. 

In a landmark study recently released from the University of Utah, though, researchers Paul Cassell and Richard Fowles blamed what they call the “ACLU Effect” for Chicago’s 58% increase in homicides in 2016, a peak even for the troubled city itself. The former a professor of law and the latter an economist, the two set out to create an econometric model that accounted for all the possible variables that lead to an increase in homicides in the city, and time and time again, they continued to be struck by the “ACLU Effect,” or the fact that increased paperwork lead to an 82% decrease in traffic stops and stop-and-frisks. Naturally, the ACLU has come out staunchly opposed to the study’s findings and note that it’s more important for the police force to function constitutionally than for them to play fast-and-loose with people’s lives.

This isn’t the first time cities have had to evaluate the efficacy of stop-and-frisk policies. In the 1990s, the “Broken Windows Theory” said, in essence, that decay and neglect beget more decay and neglect. As such, if communities clamp down on smaller infractions like turnstile jumping, graffiti, prostitution, and selling loose cigarettes, then they could reduce the downstream crime. Rudy Giuliani became the mayor of New York City and the champion of broken windows theory and boasted that his officers’ ruthlessness on petty crime leads to the decrease in New York City homicides.

This “Broken Windows Policing” had some fans, and a 2001 paper noted that in areas of NYC that saw spikes in misdemeanor arrests also saw sharp reductions in violent crimes. However, upon further review, the 2001 study omitted some important information that rendered it almost wholly irredeemable. Most notably, the study failed to account for “reversion to the mean,” or the tendency for large spikes in anything — stock prices, crime rates, etc — tend to be followed by large dips back down to a mean amount. While yes, crime in New York did fall under Giuliani’s administration, that likely would have happened with or without stop and frisk policies.

As more and more media outlets pick up the story of the ACLU Effect, we’ll see who can offer additional information or potential solutions. In the end, everyone in Chicago wants to see a reduction in crime, and the ACLU and the Chicago PD may have to reevaluate how they can join forces to do so with the best interests of the citizens in mind.

Texas and the Case of Illegal Voting

Texas and the Case of Illegal Voting

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.

Do You Know the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Court Cases?

Do You Know the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Court Cases?

Abogado Aly Criminal Law Civil Law

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.

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

The attorneys at Abogado Aly, PLLC come with the greatest care and compassion for their clients. Adriana Rodriguez is no stranger to that. As a native Houstonian, she was raised in Houston’s own East End District. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and obtained her Bachelors Degree in Government. After graduating, Ms. Rodriguez attended South Texas College Law of Downtown Houston where she obtained her Law Degree. As a young child, Ms. Rodriguez grew up watching friends and family struggle with constant difficulties directly stemming from their legal issues. After witnessing these struggles as a child, she knew that she wanted to become an attorney to help people with their legal troubles. Now an Attorney at the Law Office of Abogado Aly, Ms. Rodriguez wants to help you understand your rights and keep you from being taken advantage from. She primarily deals with issues of family and immigration; however, all of the attorneys and staff at the offices of Abogado Aly assist each other on all of the cases within the office. Ms. Rodriguez understands that family cases can be tricky and difficult, but she is there to find the best possible solution for both parties in this time of need. If a couple gets married in another county but establishes Harris County as their residence in the three months prior to filing the divorce, they can still have Ms. Rodriguez represent them for their divorce cases.
Andrea Rodriguez | Attorney at Abogado Aly Law PLLC