Crime

During The Council of State Governments’ eCademy webcast, “Human Trafficking—How States are Responding,” panelists discussed legislation, task forces and funding to combat human trafficking at the state level.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which people, often children, are forced into sex work or other labor. The Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization that works to combat human trafficking, estimates that the number of adults and children being forced into labor in the United States numbers in the...

In the wake of several high-profile incidents involving the injury or death of citizens during altercations with law enforcement, questions surrounding police misconduct and use of force have grown in recent years. Increasingly, policymakers and the American public alike are looking to and calling for the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers in an effort to increase transparency in police-civilian interactions. Who, though, should have access to footage recorded on police body cameras?

Over the past 20 years, violent crime* has decreased considerably – down 35 percent from 1995. The violent crime rate (number of violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants) fell precipitously over this period, from 684.5 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants to 365.5 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants. In 2014, there were about 1.2 million violent crimes nationwide; in 1995 there were 1.8 million, despite the fact that the U.S. population grew by approximately 21 percent over this period.  

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. 

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.

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.    

With recent events, there is much talk about guns and gun control policy. Here are a few bits to help understand the landscape.

Kratom, the popular name for leaves of the mitragyna speciosa tree, is a botanical supplement that has grown in popularity and usage across the United States in the last few years.  Originating from Southeast Asia and sold in gas stations, ‘head shops’ , and through a variety of online vendors, kratom has gained an array of users who seek it’s mood elevating and pain reducing properties.  In addition to the rise in popularity of kratom, it has increasingly caught the attention of state lawmakers concerned about possible negative consequences associated with unregulated sale of the non-FDA approved plant.

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