Should Women’s Prisons Be Closed?

While these statistics may not come as a total surprise, it may still shock some people to learn that while women comprise only seven percent of the total prison population in the U.S., the rate at which they are incarcerated has risen by an astounding 646 percent over the last three decades.

What makes this figure more shocking still is that research has revealed that the vast majority of women behind bars are nonviolent offenders with little work experience, limited education and histories of abuse. It has also been found them to be more likely than their male counterparts to have children who rely on them for support.

Interestingly, a proposal is now being floated in Britain, which has a not dissimilar situation concerning its female inmates, to address this situation: shut down all women’s prisons.

Specifically, the idea would be to hand down community-based sentences for nonviolent offenders and keep violent offenders in smaller custodial centers closer to where their families live.

While there are no signs that this will become the norm in Britain anytime soon, it has served to spark a dialogue here in the U.S., with some arguing that the idea is perhaps not as far-fetched as it may sound.

Indeed, some have pointed to the success of a program right here in Oklahoma, which currently has the highest rate of female incarceration per capita in the nation. However, 80 percent of these inmates are locked up for nonviolent offenses like property crimes or drug crimes.

The program, Women in Recovery, serves as a sort of prison alternative for those women convicted of felonies linked to drug or alcohol addiction (with admission priority given to those with small children). It provides everything from housing assistance and family reunification services to employment services and treatment programs.

The five-year-old program has seen considerable success to date with roughly 68 percent of women who graduate from the 18-month program staying free and clear of any involvement with the criminal justice system.

While this certainly makes for an interesting debate, the chances of women’s prisons being shut down in the U.S. are incredibly slim. Nevertheless, these conversations should perhaps prompt officials to at least start discussing alternatives to prison like we have here in Oklahoma.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Source: The Washington Post, “We should stop putting women in jail. For anything.” Patricia O’Brien, Nov. 6, 2014

Can Genes Influence Violent Behavior?

A very interesting study was released recently about violent crimes and the way that an individual’s genetic makeup could play a role in these violent acts. Researchers found that there are two key genes that seem to dictate, at least in part, how violent crimes come about. The researchers said these two genes could be blamed for 5-10 percent of violent crimes in Finland.

The two genes are called MAOA and CDH13, and they are linked to dopamine regulation and impulse control, respectively. Any genetic mutations dealing with these genes could cause someone to be more prone to committing violent acts. Indeed, the study says that variants of MAOA and CDH13 were linked with “extremely violent behavior.” Given what these genes deal with, this should come as no surprise.

Researchers were quick to note, though, that violent acts and the crimes related to these acts are complex. There are many factors that go into someone exhibiting violent behavior, and their are many factors that go into the actual situation where a violent act is committed.

Still, this is an interesting bit of information that helps us better understand what causes some people to act out in a more violent manner than others.

Violent crimes often carry extensive consequences, and the obvious gruesome connotation that a violent crime has can cause the person being accused of the crime to be put in a tough situation. Anyone dealing with a charge relating to a violent offense needs legal representation to protect their rights.

Source: CBS News, “Two genes may contribute to violent crime, study says,” Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Oct. 29, 2014

Eyewitnesses are Imperfect

But just think about this for a second. A person who is under stress and frazzled by the illegal act in question is being asked to remember the act perfectly? That witness is still susceptible to all of the weaknesses and flaws that any person has. They have biases just like other people; they may not remember things or add in details that weren’t there (not in a malicious way); and, in general, they aren’t perfect.

Eyewitness testimony has an aura about it of being an ironclad piece of evidence, but it is far from this “ironclad” description. A new report pours more water on the idea that eyewitnesses are perfect.

According to the report, there are inherent limits to human vision and memory that lead to accuracy issues when eyewitnesses are relied upon to recount a crime. Even scarier still, there is a note in the report that unintentional cues from law enforcement could trigger eyewitnesses to remember or perceive things in a different or compromised way.

What we’re trying to say is that eyewitnesses aren’t everything. They don’t necessarily make or break a case, and they shouldn’t have such a perception.

Source: National Academies, “Report Urges Caution in Handling and Relying Upon Eyewitness Identifications in Criminal Cases, Recommends Best Practices for Law Enforcement and Courts,” Oct. 2, 2014

Implications of a Drug Charge

As a society, we often think that people who are accused of drug crimes are bad people who don’t deserve a second chance, let alone the possibility to see the outside of a jail cell. But the fact of the matter is that most drug crimes are non-violent in nature, and the people accused of the crimes have rights — the most important of which is that they are innocent until proven guilty.

We say all of this because the stigma of a drug charge can linger long after a conviction, even if the individual has paid his or her debt to society for what they have done. Even after jail time and other legal penalties, the individual’s criminal record can make it very difficult for them to find work or to find a suitable place to live.

In addition to all of this, prosecutors often go “all out” on people who are accused of drug crimes, trying to set an example that presumably would ward off people from ever dealing with drugs. However, this line of thinking isn’t necessarily grounded in reality. Drug cases also often see vague charges such as “drug conspiracy” charges which carry significant penalties that can ruin a person’s life, even though they may not mean much literally.

All of this is to say that if someone is accused of a drug crime, they need legal representation, and they need to get it as soon as possible. Anyone who is accused of a crime should invoke their right to remain silent and contact Jacquelyn Ford Law to help them through this difficult time in their life.

Help with Oklahoma City DUI

If you have ever consumed alcoholic beverages at a happy hour or a celebration, you have probably wondered whether or not you should drive. In some cases, a person may feel perfectly capable of driving only to be pulled over and asked to take a field sobriety test or a Breathalyzer.

This can be a very scary thing to go through, and your nerves can cause you to appear less sober than you actually are. Additionally, Breathalyzer tests can reveal misleading information about your driving abilities depending on your metabolism and other factors.

If you end up being charged with a DUI in the state of Oklahoma, you will need to act quickly if you want to fight the charges. In fact, you have just 15 days to ask for an administrative hearing or you lose this right. You also face an immediate six-month driver’s license suspension, so the stakes are high.

Speaking with an experienced criminal defense lawyer can make all of the difference when defending yourself against a DUI charge in Oklahoma. Better yet, if you want to improve the chances of a favorable outcome in your DUI case, you will choose our firm to represent you.

Even if you are willing to admit that you may have been over the legal limit to drive, our firm can help you take the steps to prove that you are taking the charges seriously and are committed to your post-DUI success. We are one of the few firms that helps clients take this approach.

For more information on our unique and effective approach to DUI cases in Oklahoma City, please visit our Oklahoma City DUI Attorney page.

Oklahoma City man charged with felony murder

An Oklahoma City man is behind bars and facing felony murder charges after a 19-year-old girl was shot and killed. However, the suspect is not the one who pulled the trigger, killing the girl. Instead, it was an Oklahoma City police officer who shot her.

No, this isn’t a riddle. The reason the suspect has been charged for the murder is because of the Oklahoma law — Title 21 O.S. Section 701.7 — declaring that if someone is killed while a felony is being committed, the accomplices to the crime can be held criminally liable for the death with felony murder charges.

According to police, what happened is that an alleged drug deal was taking place early last month, which was witnessed by several undercover officers. The alleged drug deal was taking place between two men: the felony murder suspect and another man.

When police moved in, the second man surrendered while the felony murder suspect allegedly jumped in a car with his girlfriend, who was in the driver’s seat. Police claim that the 19-year-old girlfriend then tried to get away, striking an officer who was in the car’s path.

The officer who was hit then opened fire, killing the 19-year-old girl.

As you probably have guessed, many people who have been charged with felony murder didn’t “pull the trigger” or even have the intention of committing murder. But because of the other serious crimes that were allegedly committed, they face an extremely serious punishment.

These are some of the most controversial criminal cases that exist, especially when the defendant is a young adult. That’s why felony murders cases must be handled with great care and by a seasoned criminal defense lawyer.

Source: KFOR, “OKC police officer kills teen following alleged drug deal,” Jesse Wells, Sept. 4, 2014