Civil Rights Abuses and Immigration Enforcement

The American Civil Liberties Union reports that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, has detained and deported a record number of undocumented immigrants in recent years.

While the government does have the right to deport people who are not in the United States legally, the ACLU has concerns about the tactics agents are using to forcibly remove immigrants from the United States.

What kind of civil rights abuses is the ACLU investigating?

The ACLU calls the government’s tactics a “rubber-stamp system” that doesn’t give detainees their right to a fair court hearing, and also doesn’t take individual circumstances into consideration. These methods threaten civil rights in the following ways:

  • They potentially violate the right to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.
  • The potentially violate due process as a constitutional right.
  • They violate protection from discrimination based on race, ethnicity or country of origin.

Not only do these practices potentially violate civil rights, they rip apart families that are trying to better themselves and have a negative impact on the way the community interacts with law enforcement.

There have been several instances of abuse, according to the ACLU, including racial profiling and excessive force due to the “militarization” of ICE agents.

How have civil rights abuses in immigration enforcement affected immigrants?

A recent report from Amnesty International examined the civil rights violations at the U.S.-Mexican  border and inside the United States. Not only are there potential civil rights violations of U.S. law, there are also potential violations of international human rights laws.

The report notes the following disturbing discoveries:

  • Hundreds of people die every year trying to get into the United States because they’re using dangerous routes as a way to avoid abusive agents at the border.
  • Federal immigration agents have been working more and more with state and local law enforcement agencies to detain people suspected of being here illegally, but because there is less oversight at the state and local level, it often leads to racial profiling.
  • Immigrants have been less and less able to find essential human services, including education and health care.
  • State and local laws have been increasingly targeting immigrant populations, which leaves their communities at risk of discrimination and less likely to ask for help when they need it.
  • When immigrants are victims of serious crimes — such as armed robbery, human trafficking or domestic violence — they’re much less likely to contact law enforcement out of fear they will be detained and ultimately deported.

Immigration enforcement has become an increasingly polarizing and complicated topic. If you or someone you love is at the center of a problem involving immigration, contact Jacqui Ford’s office today.

Police Misconduct: Is it hard to bring suit and how successful are they?

Unfortunately, not every encounter with police officers is a pleasant one, particularly if you or someone you love was arrested under circumstances that you believe were unfair, unlawful, or an abuse of the officer’s power.

There are both federal and state laws that protect you from abuse by law enforcement officers, but even still, filing a lawsuit against police departments for alleged misconduct is no easy task. It is possible, though, especially if you have the help of an experienced civil rights attorney.

Officers have legal protections of their own, such as “qualified immunity” that typically protects them from lawsuits — unless it’s proven that the officer in question purposely acted unreasonably or abused his or her power.

What do you have to prove in police misconduct lawsuits?

Police misconduct is a broad term that includes discrimination, harassment, false arrest, excessive force and more. Here are the elements you need to successfully litigate your claim:

  • You have to prove a pattern of abusive, discriminatory or harassing behavior. One incident does not a pattern make.
  • If you are claiming false arrest, you have to prove that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated by unreasonable seizure, i.e., police did not have probable cause or enough evidence to arrest you. Police only have to prove that they believed at the time there was enough evidence or probable cause for a judge to throw your case out.
  • If you are claiming excessive force, you’ll have to show there was significant injury — or death if you are a loved one suing on behalf of someone who died in police custody. There is no specific definition of what constitutes excessive force, so it has to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What do you do to file a lawsuit against police?

If you or someone you love believe you were the victim of police misconduct, here’s what you need to do:

  • Meet with an experienced civil rights attorney immediately. There’s little to no chance that you can successfully take on a case like this on your own, especially if you were arrested as a result of the misconduct. An experienced civil rights attorney will conduct his or her own investigation of what took place.
  • Document everything as much as you can. Take pictures of your injuries, keep clothing and other things that might have been damaged during the interaction. Get contact information and write down reports from potential witnesses.
  • Even without a lawsuit, you can file complaints with the police department involved in the altercation, as well as the U.S. Justice Department. You still need help from your attorney to do this, because these types of complaints can impact your case.

What are the potential outcomes of a police misconduct lawsuit?

If you are successful in your lawsuit against police, you could be entitled to monetary damages and punitive damages to punish the department for the misconduct.

If you sue the police and lose, you could walk away with nothing and still be facing criminal charges depending on whether an arrest was involved.

That’s why it’s so important to meet with a civil rights attorney before pursuing a case. Contact Jacqui Ford’s office today for help.

 

Should police control access to body cam videos?

Body cameras are becoming increasingly popular for law enforcement agencies to document — on video — any actions that could be considered unlawful or unethical in policing.

It’s an accountability tool that many are viewing as valuable in light of recent shootings and excessive force complaints involving police officers, but typically, all the footage that’s captured on body cameras belongs to the law enforcement agency in question.

As NPR points out recently, it’s a practice that’s now being questioned by social justice advocates.

Should police control their own body camera videos?

Social justice advocates like Alex Vitale, director of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College, tell NPR that police should not control their own body camera videos for the following reasons:

  • There’s a perception that law enforcement is using body cameras as a tool to help serve the needs of police, not the general public.
  • If body cameras are, in fact, a tool for accountability with law enforcement agencies, then Vitale argues it would make sense for an independent agency or board to regulate and oversee the body camera footage.

He pointed out a recent case in Fort Worth, Texas, where a mother and her daughter were facing resisting arrest charges, but body camera video showed that it was the white officer who was using excessive force and violating departmental policy.

The video in question was never released to the public or the family’s lawyer, but it was later leaked to the lawyer, and he then sent it to the media.

The charges against his clients were dropped, and the officer was disciplined for his actions.

But had the body camera footage never been leaked, justice might have never been served.

Do departments purposely hide bad police videos?

Barry Friedman, who heads NYU Law’s Policing Project, says departments don’t generally strive to hide bad videos and only release good ones, but because there are no consistent rules on how videos are released, “it makes people distrustful.”

Here are some other key points from the article:

  • The videos are mostly used to aid law enforcement, as officers can review the tapes and make more arrests and provide evidence to prosecutors.
  • A third-party control system for police body camera videos has never been tried.
  • Body camera regulations are still being written in most communities. It’s an evolving issue.

If you or someone you love is in trouble, and there is body camera footage involved, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today. Call Jacqui Ford’s office for help.

Top 5 Considerations When Selecting a Defense Lawyer In a Criminal Matter

It’s safe to say that most people go through life hoping they’ll never need a criminal defense attorney. But if you’ve been accused of a crime, or you’re being questioned in connection with one, you’ll want to find an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Where do you start?

Here are five things you should keep in mind when looking for the right match with a criminal defense attorney:

  • Background and Experience – It might sound obvious, but the first thing you want to look for in a criminal defense attorney is someone who has experience representing clients who are facing criminal charges. It might be cheaper to find a more inexperienced lawyer, but do you want to be the learning curve for someone just starting out? You should probably ask what year he or she finished law school, and what year he or she passed the bar exam. How long has he or she been practicing? Is he or she licensed in both state and federal court? How many criminal cases has he or she handled?

  • Success rate – What good is a lawyer who has tried 200 cases, but has lost 160 of them? It’s important to ask how many cases he or she has won, and get specifics on the outcome of the most important cases. Ask about losses in court, too, and get details of what went wrong. A good attorney will speak freely about successes and failures in the system.

  • Money – The better the lawyer, the higher the cost. That’s obvious. You will have to consider your budget before your first consultation with any potential criminal defense lawyer. Does he or she charge a flat fee? What is that fee? Or does he or she charge by the hour? What other hidden costs should you expect besides his or her fees? Can he or she give you an estimate up front of what a case like yours will cost?

  • Personality – You might be meeting with the best, most notable criminal defense attorney in town, but you just don’t feel right when you sit down for the initial consult. It could be that his or her personality and style of communication are just not compatible with yours. If that’s the case, then you should probably look for another lawyer – someone with whom you feel comfortable. You and your attorney will be communicating a lot. It’s important that you are compatible.

  • Reputation – Maybe your lawyer is known for winning cases, and that’s a good thing. But is he or she also known for having solid working relationships with other lawyers, prosecutors and judges? Or is he or she better known for his or her temper and getting thrown out of court for contempt? These are things you should consider by talking to former clients and others within the legal system.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney is the single most important thing you can do when facing criminal charges or facing a criminal investigation. If you or someone you love is facing legal troubles, call Jacqui Ford’s office today.

 

405 Magazine Feature | Jacqui Ford Law Top Local Businesses

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

We say being featured in 405 Magazine is up there, too!

This August, Jacqui Ford Law was chosen alongside 35 other top Oklahoma City businesses to be spotlighted in 405 Magazine’s recent spread: “Faces of the 405.”

Alongside some of the best local clothing designers, chocolate makers, and retirement investors, our team is proud to represent what OKC small businesses and solo entrepreneurs have to offer.

When our firm launched back in 2011, it was a leap of faith.

The risk of starting a small business is a big one, but no reward has been greater.

We take our hats off to the other go-getters featured in the 2017 edition, and we look forward to many more years of contributions to this great city we call home.

Check out the spread here: http://www.405magazine.com/August-2017/2017-Faces-of-the-405

What are the Criminal Statute of Limitations in Oklahoma

If someone is accused of a crime, then it’s the job of criminal prosecutors to take all of the evidence from police and bring formal charges against the accused if there’s enough evidence that a crime occurred.

From there, it could go to a plea agreement or a trial, but in many cases, there is a limit on how much time prosecutors have to bring charges against someone who is accused of a crime.

It’s called a statute of limitations, and the statutes of limitation vary from state to state and depend on the severity and the type of crime involved.

What are the statutes of limitation in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, there are statutes of limitations for the following crimes:

  • Bribery – seven years
  • Embezzlement of public funds – seven years
  • Misappropriation of public assets – seven years
  • Falsifying public records – seven years
  • Conspiracy to defraud the state – seven years
  • Rape or forcible sodomy – seven years
  • Lewd or indecent proposals – seven years
  • Child sex crimes involving minors – seven years
  • Sodomy – seven years
  • Arson – seven years

**The statute of limitations can be extended for sex crimes if DNA evidence that is collected within three years of the crime identifies the culprit through DNA testing.

Here are the crimes that have a five-year window for prosecution:

  • Criminal conspiracy
  • Embezzlement of nonpublic money
  • Criminal state income tax violations

For all other crimes, the statute of limitations in Oklahoma is three years, except for one. There is no statute of limitations for murder.

Why are there statutes of limitations in place?

Statutes of limitations exist for a number of reasons, the most important of which is to ensure a fair and speedy trial, a right afforded by the U.S. Constitution. Statutes of limitations try to keep a balance between making sure the case is tried thoroughly and with solid evidence, as well as not having criminal charges loom for the accused for years on end.

Here’s another reason why statutes of limitations are in place:

  • Physical and testimonial evidence — like fingerprints, witness statements, DNA and other things — can deteriorate or disappear completely as time progresses. That’s why it’s imperative that the evidence be presented at trial as soon as possible.

There are certain situations in which a court could suspend the statute of limitations on a particular crime, thus giving prosecutors more time to build their case. Those cases are few and far between.

Like most legal issues, statutes of limitations can be complicated and are best handled by an experienced criminal defense attorney. If you or someone you love is accused of a crime, contact Jacqui Ford’s law office today for help.

What You Should Know About Filming or Recording Police Officers

In the United States, recording police officers while on duty in public places is a right that’s protected by the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, not all police officers are aware of that fact, and many people get arrested every year for simply doing something they are allowed by law to do.

Here’s what you should know about filming or recording police officers:

  • Know the law: You should record police as publicly and as out in the open as possible, and only in a way that does not interfere with the officer’s ability to do his or her job.
  • Be ready to respond to questions from police: Even though it’s lawful for you to record, police officers might still harass you and ask you questions. Stay calm, and if they try to say you are breaking the law, tell them politely that you are allowed to do what you are doing.
  • Keep a safe distance: Stand as far away as possible when you are filming or recording, and don’t shove the phone or camera in their faces. There are also police recording apps for your smartphone that will continue recording even if it’s locked or in sleep mode. If you believe you are at a reasonable distance and the officer continues to push you farther away, you might consider politely reminding him or her that you have a right to be here and you are not interfering with his or her work.
  • Make sure your phone is password protected: This will help if police officers try to delete your footage at the scene, but remember that police officers are prohibited from deleting your personal photos or video if they were taken lawfully.
  • Be respectful: Law enforcement is a unique and taxing profession, and people who are filming or recording while they work are usually doing so during tense situations. Keep that in mind as you film or record the police. They are people, too, and you should do everything you can to make them aware that you are not a threat to an already stressful situation.
  • Police officers cannot demand to look at your footage: Police officers do not have the right to look at your footage or photographs if they were taken in a lawful manner. If an officer asks to see your video or photos, politely explain that you do not have to supply them without a warrant.
  • Remember public vs. private: The above rules only apply on public property. If you are at a private business or on someone’s private property, it is up to the owner to decide whether you can film the police.

Have you or someone you know been detained or harassed for filming police? You need the help of an experienced civil rights attorney like Jacqui Ford. Contact her office today for help.

 

What are deadly force laws for Oklahoma police

There have been several controversial deaths at the hands of police officers in recent years, in several states across the country. Many of them were high-profile, such as the cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In all three cases, the officers ended up not being charged or being acquitted. The six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray while he was in police custody did face charges initially, but three of them were acquitted and charges against the other three were dropped.

In the cases of Michael Brown and Alton Sterling, the officers who fatally shot them are not facing charges.

These cases bring up many questions about police brutality and use of force.

When is it justified for police officers to use lethal force when handling a suspect or responding to a dangerous situation?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear answer to that question, as the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Connor that cases in which police officers are accused of excessive force are evaluated on an individual case-by-case basis.

The court ruled against the argument that there should be a blanket standard for excessive force cases. In the end, in each individual case, it has to be determined whether the officer’s actions were “objectively reasonable.”

There are several elements at play when investigating a case of excessive force. These include:

The extent of the crime that was taking place

  • Was the suspect an immediate and real threat to the officer in question or other people?
  • Was the suspect trying to flee from officers or resist arrest?
  • Did the officer in question have to make a quick decision about the level of force that needed to be used?

 

When can police officers fire shots at suspects who are running away from them?

That’s another complicated question. The Supreme Court took up this matter in 1985 (Tennessee v. Garner) and shot down the old precedent of police using “whatever force is necessary” to apprehend a felon who is running away from officers.

There’s now a test in place thanks to the Supreme Court, which asks:

  • Did the officer reasonably believe that the person running away was going to cause death or injury to police or the general public?

Again, this is determined on a case-by-case basis. But the standard applies to Oklahoma, just as it does to the 49 other states in America.

If you or someone you love is in need of a criminal defense lawyer, contact the office of Jacquelyn Ford today for help.

 

Post Conviction DNA Testing in Oklahoma

Have you or someone you love been convicted of a crime you didn’t commit? There’s a law in Oklahoma that could help you prove your case.

Oklahoma is the last state in the nation to implement a post-conviction DNA testing statute. It allows new and previously undiscovered DNA evidence to be used to vacate your conviction if the DNA test proves that you were innocent of the crime.

How has post conviction DNA testing helped people who were wrongfully convicted?

DNA first entered the world of forensic evidence in 1989:

  • Since then, more than 300 people have been exonerated for crimes they never committed.
  • Of those, 10 were in Oklahoma.
  • Of those 10 cases, in six of them, the DNA evidence that led to the freeing of the person who was wrongfully convicted also led to the people who actually committed the crimes.

Although Oklahoma was the last state to implement post-conviction DNA testing, the state statute is regarded as one of the “most comprehensive” in the United States. That’s because the law does the following:

  • Allows DNA testing in cases involving violent felonies
  • Allows DNA testing in cases that ended with a prison sentence of 25 or more years – but only if that DNA testing could prove his or her innocence.

In other states, DNA testing laws are more limited, but Oklahoma’s law does have provisions that are designed to avoid what some would describe as frivolous post-conviction DNA tests.

Some people who are opposed to post-conviction DNA testing laws argue that too much access to this type of testing only encourages criminals to stall their convictions and appeals processes with frivolous requests for testing.

What are the common shortfalls of post-conviction DNA laws?

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that largely works with DNA evidence to help exonerate innocent people, says that although all 50 states have some type of post-conviction DNA testing law in place, many of these laws have several shortcomings.

These flaws include:

  • Placing too much of the burden on the wrongfully convicted person and creating “insurmountable hurdles” to proving one’s innocence
  • Some of the laws don’t allow prisoners access to DNA testing if he or she pleaded guilty to the crime or confessed to the crime. That’s a problem for many, because about 30 percent of people exonerated gave a false confession or entered a guilty plea.
  • Some laws don’t allow people who are no longer in prison to request DNA testing.
  • Some laws don’t have the proper protections to preserve DNA evidence.

Have you or someone you love been convicted or accused of a crime you didn’t commit? Contact the law office of Jacqui Ford today for help.

Accused of embezzlement? Here’s what you need to know:

Embezzlement is a big and scary word for a certain type of property theft.

It’s the kind of property theft that happens when someone entrusted to manage someone else’s money or a business’ money steals from the person or business and uses it for personal gain.

The big factor in embezzlement cases is that the person accused of stealing did not have ownership of the money or property, but the person did have access to it.

Basically, embezzlement is stealing with the added factor of being trusted to oversee the very thing that was stolen.

What are some examples of embezzlement?

Embezzlement can happen in many different situations. Examples include:

  • A bank teller who has access to money in the bank steals from the vault.
  • A family member is caring for a relative and steals money or property from the relative.
  • An investor who is handling client investments takes the money for his or her own gain.
  • A computer technician who steals laptops from his or her company’s supply room

In many cases, the person accused of stealing money manipulates or alters financial records in an attempt to conceal the theft.

How is embezzlement punished?

Embezzlement is considered a serious crime, and it can end with jail time, a hefty fine, or both.

In most states, the seriousness of the crime depends on the following:

  • Property value – how much money was stolen? What was the value of the property that was stolen? Was it less than $500? More than $20,000?
  • Type of property – Was it furniture? Or was it an assault rifle that was stolen during a hurricane? These are the types of questions that will have to be answered before it can be determined just how serious of a case it is.
  • Fraudulent intent – If you’re going to be convicted of embezzlement, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant knowingly defrauded the victim. In some cases, loved ones will prove or try to prove that they had the right to that money. If that is proven, then there is no embezzlement.

How does restitution factor into an embezzlement case?

In many cases, the state will make people who are convicted of embezzling pay restitution to their victims. Restitution is simply the act of giving back something that is owed or compensating for injury or loss. In criminal cases, restitution is typically added onto the fines that are handed down, and also any prison sentence given to the defendant.

Are you or someone you love accused of embezzling? Your first step is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney like Jacqui Ford. Contact Jacqueline Ford’s office today for help.