Crime

CSG Midwest
As she’s worked on policies to improve how her state handles sexual assault investigations and helps victims, Nebraska Sen. Kate Bolz has talked to advocacy groups and consulted with experts. But she also has in her mind a constituent, a survivor who approached her after a town-hall meeting.
“She was so young and had been so hurt by her circumstance,” Bolz says, “and she talked about the kind of support and information she needed.”
“Over the past couple of years,” she adds, “we’ve heard a lot from survivors.”
The same likely can be said for legislators across the Midwest, as evidenced by statistics on the prevalence of sexual assault and the burst of activity in state capitols. According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States every 98 seconds. And more than 20 percent of women report having been a victim of rape (either attempted or completed) during their lifetimes, federal data show.
States have explored various ways to improve their policies around sexual assault, and the result has been several new laws that aim to help victims and improve investigations of the crime, particularly through a better handling of sexual assault kits. Here is a look at some of the strategies being proposed and implemented in the Midwest.

After turning down countless petitions challenging state and local restrictions on guns the U.S. Supreme Court has finally agreed to review the constitutionality of a gun law. In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, New York the Supreme Court will decide whether New York City’s ban on transporting a handgun to a home or shooting range outside city limits violates the Second Amendment, the Commerce Clause, or the constitutional right to travel. The Second Circuit held the law is constitutional on all accounts.

A New York City administrative rule allows residents to obtain a “carry” or “premises” handgun license. The “premises” license allows a licensee to “have and possess in his dwelling” a pistol or revolver. A licensee may only take his or her gun to a shooting range located in the city. Challengers want to bring their handgun to their second home and to target practice outside the city.

In a per curiam (unauthored) unanimous opinion in City of Escondido v. Emmons the Supreme Court granted one police officer qualified immunity and instructed the Ninth Circuit to decide again whether another officer should have been granted qualified immunity. As it has done many times before, the Supreme Court criticized the Ninth Circuit for defining the right at issue (here to be free from excessive force) at too high a level of generality.

In April 2013 police arrested Maggie Emmons’ husband at their apartment for domestic violence. A few weeks later, after Maggie’s husband had been released, police received a 911 call from Maggie’s roommate’s mother, Trina. While Trina was on the phone with her daughter she overheard Maggie and her daughter yelling at each other and Maggie’s daughter screaming for help.

When the officers knocked on the door no one answered but they were able to try to convince Maggie to open the door by talking to her through a side window. An unidentified male told Maggie to back away from the window. Officer Craig was the only officer standing outside the door when a man walked out of the apartment. Officer Craig told the man not to close the door but he did and he tried to brush past Officer Craig. Officer Craig stopped him, took him to the ground, and handcuffed him. The man was Maggie’s father, Marty Emmons. He sued Officer Craig and Sergeant Toth, another officer at the scene, for excessive force.

In an amicus brief in Gamble v. United States, the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) asks the Supreme Court not to overrule the “separate sovereigns” exception to the Double Jeopardy Clause. This exception allows states and the federal government to convict and sentence a person for the same conduct.

Gamble was prosecuted for and convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon under both Alabama and United States law. His challenge to the “separate sovereigns” exception is unsurprising given that Justice Thomas joined Justice Ginsburg’s concurring opinion in Puerto Rico v. Sanchez-Valle (2016), which suggested the Court do a “fresh examination” of the “separate sovereigns” exception. These Justices are on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum and typically don’t vote together in close cases. 

In Sanchez-Valle the Court held that the Double Jeopardy Clause bars both Puerto Rico and the United States from prosecuting a person for the same conduct under equivalent criminal laws. Puerto Rico isn’t a sovereign distinct from the United States because it derived its authority from the U.S. Congress.

CSG Midwest
Following Nebraska’s first execution of a death-row inmate in 21 years, some legislators are calling for statutory revisions that would change who witnesses the death and what they are able to see. “If the state is going to do something as serious as taking a person’s life, we need to be transparent,” Nebraska Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks says.
Carey Dean Moore was put to death on Aug. 14 for the murder of two cabdrivers nearly 40 years ago. He died by lethal injection, the first time that Nebraska used this method of execution. (In 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled electrocution to be unconstitutional.) The four-drug combination used by Nebraska had never been used by any other state: a sedative, an opioid pain killer (fentanyl) and a paralyzing drug, followed by potassium chloride, a drug that causes heart failure.
CSG Midwest
AnswerA mix of state and federal laws makes it illegal for certain individuals to own or possess a firearm. At the federal level, the U.S. Gun Control Act prevents gun access to convicted felons, individuals addicted to a controlled substance, domestic violence abusers, and certain people with mental illnesses, among others.
According to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, many states have adopted more-expansive restrictions than those spelled out in the federal law.

Six states currently do not have laws pertaining to hazing, and of the 44 states that do, the penalties are typically not harsh. After the death of freshman student, Max Gruver, at a fraternity hazing event at Louisiana State University, Louisiana legislators worked to create harsher punishments.

The criminalization of child sex trafficking victims is a pressing issue across the country. Minors who are sex trafficked are sometimes being prosecuted due to statutory inconsistencies. Children who have not reached the legal age to consent to sex are being charged with prostitution. In all other instances, these children would be viewed as victims of statutory rape or child sexual abuse.

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, sex trafficking is defined as “a commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” This federal law furthers the idea that any child who is sold for sex is a victim of sex trafficking.

CSG Midwest
As lawmakers seek to cope with a rising tide of gun violence while preventing accidental firearm-related injuries and deaths, Ohio could become the next Midwestern state to focus on keeping guns out of the hands of kids — that is if a measure currently pending in the state Senate should advance.
In a roundtable discussion during the July meeting of the Midwestern Legislative Conference’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Ohio Sen. Vernon Sykes described the proposed Child Gun Safety Act (SB 279), which he and Sen. Charleta Tavares jointly introduced earlier this year.

Fane Lozman may be the only person to fit within a “unique class of retaliatory arrest claims.” But that is all it took for him to win his (second) Supreme Court case.

In an 8-1 decision in Lozman v. Riviera Beach, the Supreme Court held that a citizen who was arrested for making comments at a city council meeting (possibly because the City had an official policy of retaliating against him) was not barred from bringing a First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim against the City even if it had probable cause to arrest him.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that an arrestee could not bring a First Amendment retaliatory arrest lawsuit if probable cause existed. The Court declined to decide whether as a general rule probable cause bars First Amendment retaliation cases against police officers.    

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