Jamahl Kersey May 26, 2016 No Comments

Racial Profiling: The Ugly Truth About an Advanced Nation

Though some people choose to not focus on the negative aspects of society, it is impossible to deny their existence. Racial profiling, for example, is a problem experienced each day in the United States. Efforts have been made in an attempt to abolish the morally wrong action, but unfortunately, not many consequences exist for those who racially profile. In 2014, the Obama Administration attempted to restrain the racial profiling so heavily seen in the country, but there is only so much litigation that the justice system can bring against offenders. There are two sides to every story, but an unfavorable party tends to walk away as a result of lack of evidence, witnesses, and the whole he said, she said argument. Racial profiling is a common offense experienced in a multitude of situations. The most common are as followed:

Shopping

It is widely known that retailers in America profile African-Americans, Hispanics, and those of Middle Eastern decent far more than they do Caucasian shoppers. Whether it is Wal-Mart, Target, or the upscale boutiques on Rodeo Drive, a person of color is likely to be followed, stopped, and perhaps even accused of stealing. The general hospitality a store is supposed to give to their shoppers is rarely experienced by minorities. To make matters worse, retailers often admit that they racially profile, but attempt to justify it with statistics that do not even exist.

Traffic Stops

Black drivers are twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop than white drivers. Native Americans and those of Middle Eastern descent are the most likely to be stopped during traffic hour. While the Attorney General has attempted to educate officers across the nation that this profiling is unethical, wrong, and unacceptable, it still happens each day.

Investigations

Being at the wrong place at the wrong time is an unfortunate part of life. If you are at a party, for example, and the cops have evidence allowing them to obtain a search warrant under the suspicion of illegal activity taking place at the residence, an innocent white person will be simply patted down. A person of color, however, is likely to be intensively searched and then hauled in for further questioning despite them being innocent.

A Day at the Park

Unfortunately, racial profiling extends to children. Stories have surfaced of black children being arrested and, when asked why, a simple explanation that they fit the description of a criminal is given. Ava Greenwell discusses her nightmare that resulted in the wrongful arrest of her thirteen-year-old African-American son who was riding his bike wearing the wrong outfit that day, apparently. The grounds for arrest? His cargo shorts fit a description of a burglar in the area.

Who Gets Hired?

Have you ever been curious as to why job applications ask for your race? Granted, you understand that they need a background check to discover your criminal history, but the race card seems a little redundant. A white male with a record is far more likely to be hired for a job than a black male with no criminal history. To make matter worse, employers are beginning to assume your race just by reading your name.

Yolanda Spivey is a black woman with an extensive and impressive educational background. Upon trying to find a job, Yolanda realized that she was unable to find employment despite her education and experience. As her suspicions arose, she kept the same education and work history on her application, but changed her name to Bianca White. She applied to the same jobs that rejected her, and to her surprise, she got called in for interviews. There is no denying that certain employers racially profile with these examples.

To conclude, not all retailers, police officers, or employers are racist. Very few of them actually are, in fact. However, racial profiling statistics are far too high for a nation that is supposed to be so advanced and tolerant. Failure to live up to our title of being a tolerant nation will result in the regression of our very society.

For more information on racial profiling, please contact us today.

Jamahl Kersey April 21, 2016 No Comments

If the Police Stop You on the Street, Do You Have to Talk to Them?

If the police stop you on the street, do you have to talk to them? This is a common question that many people have. There are many reasons as to why a police officer may approach you in public and begin talking to you. In most cases, he or she will be trying to gather information to solve a potential crime or identify a suspect. Rarely will a police officer approach a person to simply make “small talk,” even if it appears that way.

By understanding your rights when stopped in public by a police officer, you can make sure you’re not taken advantage of.

Exercising Your Right to Remain Silent

First and foremost, understand that under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, you always have the right to remain silent when speaking to a police officer. You’re never under any obligation to speak to an officer, let alone answer any questions.

Even if you haven’t committed a crime, it’s generally best to exercise your right to remain silent if you’re ever approached and questioned by an officer in public. You can do this by simply responding to the officer’s attempts at conversation with something along the lines of, “I wish to remain silent.” If he or she persists with trying to get you to talk, continue to express your right to remain silent.

What if You’re Asked for Identification?

While it’s true that you’re under no legal obligation to talk to a police officer, there are some cases where you may be legally required to provide identification to him or her. California is one of many states where you don’t need to require ID unless the officer:

  • has detained or arrested you
  • has pulled you over in your vehicle

Therefore, if an officer has randomly approached you in public and asks for identification, your first question should be, “am I being detained or am I free to go?” If you’re being detained (this means the officer has probable cause to believe you’ve committed a crime), then you will be required to show ID. Failure to do so could result in a criminal charge. Still, this doesn’t mean that you’re required to speak with the officer. Let him or her know where your ID is located or ask for permission to reach for it.

Asking for a Lawyer When Being Detained

If it turns out that you are being detained for any reason, again, this still doesn’t legally obligate you to answer any questions or speak with officers. In fact, now would be a good time to ask for a lawyer, since you’re going to be criminally charged and officers/detectives will likely attempt to further question you once they take you to jail for booking.

Even if an officer claims he or she can “cut you a break” if you answer some questions, elect to remain silent and let them know that you won’t speak without an attorney present. In reality, a police officer can’t cut you any breaks, as the charges you face are ultimately in the hands of the prosecutor working on your case–not the arresting officer.

By refusing to speak until an attorney is present, you can be sure that you’ll be well advised and protected when handling your case.

The Bottom Line

The most important thing to remember here is that you are never required to speak to a police officer–even if you’re being detained. Depending on the circumstances, you may need to show ID, but you don’t need to answer any questions. If you’re arrested, always ask for an attorney and don’t answer any questions until one is present.

For further assistance with protecting your rights during police encounters, contact us today.

Jamahl Kersey April 14, 2016 No Comments

Pending Criminal Charges and a Criminal Record: Understanding Effects on Employment

If you have pending criminal charges or a previous criminal record and are in the process of looking for a job, then you might be in for an unpleasant reality check. Simply put, pending criminal charges and a criminal record have an effect on employment, often making it difficult or seemingly impossible to secure a job with pending charges or a criminal record. By understanding the challenges of searching for a job with a criminal record and knowing your options, you can ultimately make the right decisions for your future.

What Shows Up on a Criminal Background Check?

Understand that many employers these days require job applicants to undergo a criminal background check; this is something that you will likely have to submit to as a condition of your employment. In some cases, a criminal background check may even be conducted during the application process as a means of screening employees.

So, what will show up on a criminal background check? This can vary depending on the agency conducting the background investigation. In most cases, however, you can expect the following to show up on a criminal background report:

  • felony or misdemeanor convictions
  • current charges pending against you
  • past arrests (even if charges were dropped)
  • history of tax liens and bankruptcies
  • other basic identifying information

Can You Be Denied Employment Based on Your Criminal Record?

You might be wondering if it’s even legal for you to be denied employment based on your criminal past alone. Unfortunately, in most cases, it’s perfectly legal for a private employer to refuse employment to those with criminal records. In fact, many employers prefer not to hire those with criminal history because they believe keeping these kinds of employees out of their work environment will keep things more peaceful and calm.

Of course, anybody with a prior conviction or pending criminal charges knows that this isn’t necessarily true.

Other Employment Obstacles With a Criminal Record

In addition to private employers being able to refuse you employment based on your criminal record alone, it’s also worth noting that there are some other restrictions a criminal past can put on your career. For example, you may be unable to obtain certain state or national certifications with a criminal record. And if you have a felony, you typically cannot secure a position as a police officer (or any other position that would require you to carry a firearm) due to the fact that convicted felons are not legally able to own a firearm.

Exploring Your Options

With all this in mind, then, it makes sense that finding a job when you have any kind of a criminal record can be very challenging. So, what are your options? Fortunately, you have several.

If you have current charges pending against you, now is a good time to begin working with a reputable and experienced criminal defense lawyer, who will be able to assist you in fighting your charges or possibly getting them reduced.

On the other hand, if you already have convictions on your record that are keeping you from landing a job, you may want to see if you’re eligible or expungement or sealing/destroying of your criminal record. This way, you can enjoy a “clean slate” and will no longer have your criminal past impeding your ability to secure a steady job.

Whether you’re in the process of fighting a criminal charge or are interested in expungement to increase your employment opportunities, the fact remains that you need a lawyer to help you through the process. Feel free to contact us today for the legal assistance and representation you need.

Jamahl Kersey April 12, 2016 No Comments

The Cost of Wrongful Convictions in California

The California Innocence Project reported that wrongful convictions had cost the taxpayers of the state approximately 129 million dollars from 1989 to 2013. It is further estimated that there had been at least 200 wrongful convictions in that time span. The obvious high cost was staggering and the economic impact to the state and its residents was undeniable, especially to the state’s fiscal budget crisis.

The data compiled took into consideration state and federal criminal convictions in California that were dismissed or overturned and resulted in acquittal. The data also reflected the results of official misconduct in civil damages.

Research conducted by the California Wrongful Convictions Project, launched by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Berkeley Law) and Hollway Advisory Services, found that the reasons for the wrongful convictions consisted of 39 percent official misconduct, 48 percent perjury or false accusations, 26 percent mistaken eyewitness identification, and 19 percent due to inadequate or ineffective defense counsel. Interestingly, only about 6 percent of the wrongful convictions ended up being overturned or reversed because of DNA evidence. Of all of the crimes where individuals were wrongly convicted, the highest numbers consisted of 42 percent for murder or manslaughter and 17 percent for child sex abuse.

The data compiled also counted individuals who were framed in the Los Angeles Rampart police scandal of the late 1990s. The 53 individuals convicted accounted for 25 percent of the data’s wrongful convictions.

It was further found that approximately 40 percent of the individuals who were wrongly convicted of crimes were initially sentenced to 20, or more, years in prison. Some of those wrongly convicted during that time period received life, life without parole, or death sentences before their convictions were eventually overturned.

The 129 million dollar cost to taxpayers consisted primarily of the high cost of incarceration in state or federal prisons. The cost of publicly disclosed civil settlement and compensation was also accounted for in the final financial data estimates. The often substantial price of legal representation or the fees incurred for holding individuals under incarceration in the county jails was not taken into consideration when compiling the 129 million dollars worth of fees. If those fees were taken into consideration and added into the final data compilation, then cost to the taxpayer rises significantly to an expense of 144 million dollars or more.

Obviously, the only way to combat the rising price of wrongful convictions to the state of California’s taxpayers is to change legislation and implement changes to the state’s legal reform system. The system needs to flow more smoothly and there needs to be a reduction in the amount of time that an individual spends incarcerated as they await trail.

Researchers and legal experts suggest that the system needs to undergo systematic scrutiny to discover the loopholes and flaws that have enabled such a large number of individuals to be wrongly convicted in the state of California. Once the areas of concern are studied and better understood, then the other problems in the justice system, such as prison overcrowding and the high cost of individual incarceration, must also be examined and overhauled.

Ideally, the justice system needs to function fairly and with fewer flaws. No system is perfect, but the high numbers of wrongful convictions and substantial expense indicates a severe problem with the system that needs to be corrected.

There is also the morality of incarcerating wrongly accused individuals. It is estimated that wrongly convicted people have spent about 1,313 years in prison. Lawmakers and legislators need to also think about the fact that if an individual is wrongly convicted and incarcerated then the true criminal remains at large to perpetrate other crimes.

If you are seeking criminal defense or have legal questions, please contact us. 

Jamahl Kersey March 24, 2016 No Comments

When Can the Police Search My Car? Understanding Your Rights During a Traffic Stop

Most people have been pulled over by the police at least once in their lives. In many cases, a traffic stop simply ends with a warning or a citation–but in some situations, a traffic stop could very well lead to an arrest. Regardless of whether you believe you’ve done anything wrong or not, there are some basic things you’ll want to keep in mind when you’ll pulled over by the police. For example, many people wonder, “when can the police search my car?

A Note About Traffic Stops

First of all, understand that traffic stops are the single most dangerous aspect of any police officer’s job. More police officers are injured and killed during traffic stops than in any other call, so it’s important that you take steps to show the officer that you’re not a threat.

Upon realizing you’re being pulled over, turn on your hazard lights and pull off to the side of the road immediately. If it’s dark out, turn on your vehicle dome light so the officer can see who’s in the car. Then, wait for the officer to approach before reaching for your driver’s license, registration, or anything else. Making sudden movements could lead the officer to believe you’re a threat.

Warrants Versus Probable Cause

It’s also helpful here to understand the difference between a search warrant and having probable cause. Contrary to what many misinformed citizens believe, a police officer doesn’t need a search warrant to search your car; this only applies to stationary property (such as your house).

Instead, an officer only needs probable cause to search your car. In other words, if the officer has even a small amount of evidence (not just a hunch) that you’ve committed a crime, he or she is legally allowed to conduct the search.

What Constitutes Probable Cause in a Traffic Stop?

During a traffic stop, there are numerous things that could constitute probable cause. If the officer smells alcohol coming from your vehicle, he or she may have probable cause to suspect that you’re drinking while driving, just the same as the smell of marijuana coming from the car may give an officer probable cause to believe you’ve been using illegal substances.

Verbally Refusing Your Consent to Search

If an officer has probable cause to search your vehicle, you’ll likely still be asked for your consent. You have every right to refuse consent for any reason, but keep in mind that this won’t stop the officer from searching the car if he or she has probable cause.

Unfortunately, even in situations where an officer doesn’t have probable cause, many unsuspecting drivers are led to believe they have no choice but to consent to the search. Instead of asking for consent to search, the officers might say something along the lines of, “if you haven’t done anything wrong, then you won’t mind if we search your vehicle, right?”

Exercising Your Right to Remain Silent

If an officer searches your vehicle, regardless of whether you have something to hide or not, remember that you can exercise your right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. In fact, it’s recommended that you elect not to answer any questions (especially if you’re being detained) and that you request a lawyer before speaking to police officers. After all, anything you say can and will be used against you.

Getting pulled over and asked for consent to search your car can be an intimidating and unsettling experience for anybody. If you’re in need of legal guidance following a traffic stop, feel free to contact us today. Our team would be happy to assist you.