Crime

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.

In a 7-1 opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts the Supreme Court held in Foster v. Chatman that the prosecutor’s decision to exercise preemptory strikes against all four prospective black jurors was racially motivated in violation of Batson v. Kentucky (1986). Five previous lower court rulings on this issue disagreed.    

In 1987 Timothy Tyrone Foster, who is black, was sentenced to death for murdering, sexually assaulting, and burglarizing an elderly white woman. The jury was all-white; the prosecutor peremptorily struck all four prospective black jurors. Prosecutors may strike a number of jurors for any unstated reason except because of race and sex, the Supreme Court has held.

Michigan enacted domestic violence legislation May 3 that adds companion animals to personal protection orders, making it the latest state to acknowledge the role pets play in domestic violence situations. Currently, 29 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws with provisions that allow pets to be included in personal protection orders.

CSG Midwest

In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear his state’s challenge to neighboring Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson is pledging to “determine the best next steps toward vindicating the rule of law.” Oklahoma joined Nebraska in the lawsuit. It was filed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court without going through a lower court — an action that is allowed when states have legal complaints with another, SCOTUSblog.com reports.

Does your state criminal forfeiture statute allow the freezing of substitute assets? If so, it must now be rewritten to allow criminal defendants to use such assets to pay for an attorney of their choice.

In a 6-2 decision the Supreme Court ruled that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel includes allowing a criminal defendant to use untainted substitute assets to hire an attorney, rather than freezing them for forfeiture to the government after conviction.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing for the opposite result in Luis v. United States. State and local governments—police departments in particular—receive criminal asset forfeitures. Any many state forfeiture statutes allow freezing of substitute assets.

State implied consent statutes criminalizing a person’s refusal to take a warrantless chemical blood alcohol test upon suspicion of drunk driving are constitutional, argues the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) in a Supreme Court amicus brief.

All 50 states have adopted implied consent laws requiring motorists as a condition of driving in the state to consent to a blood alcohol content (BAC) test if they are suspected of drunk driving. If motorists refuse to consent typically their driver’s license is temporarily suspended. NCSL reports that 15 states also currently criminalize refusal to consent. Criminal penalties typically include fines and jail time. 

In a per curiam (unauthored) opinion, which concurring Justices Alito and Thomas call “grudging,” the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to decide again whether Massachusetts’s stun gun ban is constitutional. Currently eight states and a handful of cities and counties ban stun guns.

The highest state court in Massachusetts held that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect stun guns because they weren’t in common use at the time the Second Amendment was enacted, they are “unusual” as “a thoroughly modern invention,” and they aren’t readily adaptable for use in the military.

In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl 50 last month, law enforcement officials found 42 potential human trafficking victims through a series of stings. At least two were under the age of 18, according to CBS San Francisco news affiliate 5KPIX. Human trafficking is a fast-growing global issue with a reach that impacts every state in the country. In 2012, the United Nation’s International Labour Organization, or ILO, estimated that there are 21 million victims of human trafficking all across the world, forced into labor or commercial sex work. Experts suggest it is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world—just behind the international drug trade—netting an estimated $150 billion each year, according to the ILO.

The arrest of an Uber driver in connection with a shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Michigan last weekend has brought renewed focus to the rigor with which rideshare companies conduct background checks of their drivers. State and local governments have been looking at the background check issue in a number of ways as part of rideshare-related legislation over the past year. Here’s a primer.

In an 8-1 decision in Kansas v. Carr, the United States Supreme Court reversed the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling overturning a jury’s death sentence for the Carr brothers and Sidney Gleason in an unrelated murder. Reginald and Jonathan Carr were convicted of killing four people in the “Wichita Massacre”; one intended victim survived because her hair clip deflected the bullet.  

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