Public Safety

During a special session called by Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah lawmakers passed a bill to address the issue of unmanned aircrafts interfering with wildfire management efforts, along with several other measures. In June, drones were spotted three times during a fire in Southwestern Utah, which led to the evacuation of 500 homes. Governor Herbert tweeted in response that “Evacuations could have been avoided if drones hadn’t interrupted air attack on the fire.”

Human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery, is a multibillion dollar, worldwide industry and one of the fastest growing criminal enterprises. The Polaris Project estimates that the number of adults and children being held and forced into labor in the United States numbers in the hundreds of thousands. States have taken action, however, setting up task forces to assess the extent of human trafficking and experimenting with policies to encourage reporting, train law enforcement personnel and increase the criminal penalties for perpetrators.

 A new study published in the journal Health Affairs shows a significant reduction in prescription painkiller use as well as other prescribed drugs in states where medical marijuana has been legalized. 

During a recent webcast presented by The Council of State Governments in collaboration with The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation, experts discussed vehicle telematics technology and its impact on the insurance industry.

Over the last 40 years, local jails have increasingly become de facto psychiatric treatment facilities for the millions of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders who become involved with the local criminal justice system. Counties and states are at the breaking point, many without the resources or capacity to address this population’s mental health needs while ensuring an appropriate criminal justice response and protecting public safety. The national Stepping Up movement offers state and local governments a roadmap for navigating the complicated process of addressing this urgent issue.

Several situations in 2015 and 2016 challenged the attorney general’s role as representative of the state in litigation and his or her ability to determine when to seek judicial review, particularly in connection with policy issues that are being hotly debated. Additionally, attorneys general have the vital task of cooperatively enforcing state laws and promoting sound law enforcement policies. To that end, the second half of this article covers police body-worn cameras as part of a national AG initiative on 21st century policing.

Just like the head and tail of a coin, there are two sides to every disaster—providing help to those who need it and paying for that assistance. It’s a tug-of-war that’s becoming more contentious every year. Federal law requires assistance in times of disasters, but as threats grow in complexity—possible infrastructure failures, vulnerabilities from electromagnetic pulses and unforeseen consequences from hydraulic fracturing to name a few—the burden of marshalling the necessary resources and funding is an ongoing struggle.

CSG Midwest

Iowa has joined the growing number of U.S. states that ban life-without-parole sentences for individuals 17 and under. The state Supreme Court issued its ruling in May, arguing that such sentences violate the Iowa Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The decision does not entitle juvenile offenders to parole, but does eliminate “up-front determinations” (namely life-without-parole sentences by a judge). 

On July 1, 2016, a new Virginia law will take effect that will protect the identities of nearly all parties involved in state-performed lethal injections. HB 815 provides exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act to make confidential all identifying information of producers, suppliers, compounding pharmacies, executioners, and all other individuals involved in the procurement and use of lethal injection drugs. Virginia will become at least the 13th state with such a law.

In Birchfield v. North Dakota the Supreme Court held 5-3 that states may criminalize an arrestee’s refusal to take a warrantless breath test. If states criminalize the refusal to take a blood test police must obtain a warrant. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that states should be able to criminalize warrantless refusal to consent when a person is arrested upon suspicion of drunken driving.   

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 15 states currently criminalize refusal to consent. Criminal penalties typically include fines and jail time.    

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