Jeffrey E. Johnston

Evans Legal Issues Blog

Arrest rates increasing sharply among all demographic groups

A report published in the academic peer-reviewed journal Crime & Delinquency suggests that a sharp rise in the number of young people taken into custody in Georgia and around the country is the result of more rigorous law enforcement. Researchers from the RAND Corporation reached this conclusion after studying data on thousands of American households that was collected over several decades by the Panel Study of Income Dynamics.

The California-based nonprofit think tank observed a sharp rise in arrests in every demographic group they looked at with the most noticeable increases among women and white men. An American under the age of 36 is now about 2.6 times more likely to have been arrested at least once than an individual of retirement age. The study also reveals that white men are now being arrested at almost three times the rate they were just a few decades ago and the chances of a woman being taken into custody before reaching her 26th birthday have risen from around 1 percent to almost 15 percent.

Man charged with murder in woman's death

A Georgia man has been taken into custody in connection with the murder of a 55-year-old woman. On Jan. 25, someone phoned the Douglas County Sheriff's Office at around 7 a.m. with a report that a body was in the grass by a road.

After investigators sent the woman's body to the Georgia Bureau of Investigations forensic laboratory, the state medical examiner determined that the death had been a homicide. Investigators say that she appeared to have been strangled and that her murder occurred at a different location from where she was found.

Study ties prescription opioids to deadly accidents

While the nationwide opiate crisis has drawn attention in Georgia due to growing issues with addiction as well as fatal overdoses linked to potent substances, some research may indicate that prescription opioids may also be related to some deadly car crashes. According to a study, the drivers who were found to have caused fatal accidents were almost twice as likely as the ones who weren't responsible to have been under the influence of prescription opioids at the time of the accidents.

Researchers investigated 18,321 motor vehicle accidents from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which is a federal database that records crashes in which people lost their lives. They examined only the accidents that involved two cars. In all cases, they discovered that the most common cause of these crashes was one driver's failure to remain in the proper lane of traffic. Substance use was a significant issue that turned up repeatedly, especially alcohol. Over 5,000 of the at-fault drivers had alcohol in their systems at the time of the crash, and even 1,815 of the drivers who were not responsible for the accident tested positive for alcohol consumption.

Carrying drugs in Georgia can result in serious penalties

Georgia residents who are charged with being in possession of a controlled substance could face significant penalties. Those penalties may include a driver's license suspension in addition to jail time and a fine. State law has separate sentencing guidelines for those who are found to be in possession of marijuana. The exact sentence depends on the quantity a person is found with. Those who possess 1 ounce or less of the substance could spend up to a year in prison.

A fine of up to $1,000 may also be included if a person is convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession. Those who are charged with a felony for possession of more than 1 ounce will receive at least a year in prison and a fine of $5,000. Individuals who are found with any other Schedule I or II narcotic drug will face anywhere from 2 to 15 years in prison for a first offense.

When should I change my tires?

Does it seem like your car isn’t handling very well in the rain? Can you remember the last time you changed your tires?

Just the same as a car needs an oil change and a wash every now and then, changing the tires on your car is essential to keep your car running smoothly.

7 people arrested for running meth ring in Georgia

On Feb. 9, federal agents took seven people into custody for allegedly running a drug ring in Georgia. The arrests were made in the Atlanta metropolitan area.

Media reports indicate that Drug Enforcement Administration agents executed multiple search warrants at properties in Milton and Ellenwood. During the ensuing searches, they reportedly uncovered two methamphetamine manufacturing labs and several hundred pounds of meth in liquid and crystal forms. The seized drugs have an estimated street value exceeding $1.5 million.

Why speeding deaths still occur

Excessive speed is to blame in roughly one out of every three traffic deaths in Georgia and throughout the country. This was one of the key takeaways from a recent report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). The GHSA report says that speeding deaths occur because there is no stigma attached to driving too fast. However, it does say that there are ways to help drivers reduce their speeds.

For example, roundabouts and other features could be installed that require drivers to slow down. In addition, increased law enforcement could work in getting drivers to travel at slower speeds. Enforcing the law can be achieved through both human intervention and automated tools. Educating the public about the dangers of speeding is another way to reduce the number of injuries and deaths that occur on roadways. According to safety advocates, drivers should be aware that speeding could increase both the likelihood and severity of a car accident.

IIHS finds rise in riskier ways of phone use among drivers

Talking on the phone is a serious form of distraction, one seen in many drivers across Georgia. However, using a phone to send texts or surf the web is more dangerous as it takes a driver's eyes completely off the road. Unfortunately, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more and more drivers are using their phones for these activities that exclude talking.

The IIHS compared two observational surveys from 2014 and 2018, finding that the latter drivers were 57 percent more likely to use their phones for other things than talking. The surveys focused on drivers in four communities in Northern Virginia as they approached red lights.

Ruling could point to greater protection for mobile phones

For many in Georgia, tips on technological security can be important to protect personal privacy. National news stories about the breaches of data linked to large tech companies or the expansive reach of law enforcement databases may make many concerned about the amount of information they carry on their cell phones or other mobile devices. This is one reason why many experts advise people to rely on passcodes or phrases to unlock their mobile phones rather than many of the newer biometric options like fingerprint recognition, iris unlocking or facial identification software.

Courts have ruled on several occasions that the police cannot compel suspects to turn over their telephone passcodes or passwords, citing constitutional protections against forced self-incrimination. On the other hand, police have been allowed to use fingerprints, facial recognition and other biometric options to unlock a suspect's cell phone without his or her consent. However, one federal judge in the Northern District of California put forth a ruling that could change the law moving forward. In the ruling, the judge noted that the law must keep up with technology and that it makes little sense to protect passcodes but not biometric data.

Book examines inequality in misdemeanor system

Some people in Georgia assume that facing misdemeanor instead of felony charges means that the consequences of conviction will be relatively light. However, in a book called "Punishment Without Crime," former federal public defender Alexandra Natapoff looks at the high cost of misdemeanor convictions.

According to Natapoff, around 80 percent of all arrests and state dockets are misdemeanors. The sheer volume of cases leaves public defenders less able to pursue investigations or constitutional issues. Natapoff also points to a significant disparity in the results of plea bargains for white and black defendants. White defendants are more likely to have charges reduced, dismissed or dropped. The vast majority of misdemeanor cases are resolved with plea deals.

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Jeffrey E. Johnston

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