Some Minnesota residents have raised serious concerns about the impact of racial bias on criminal convictions and sentencing. Studies have shown that black defendants face disproportionately longer sentences and may be more likely to remain in pretrial detention. Some researchers have attributed this ongoing issue to implicit racial bias, when jurors or judges do not act consciously to perpetrate racial discrimination but rely on stereotypes about danger and criminality when evaluating a case. Other issues about race may also arise in the course of a case, including the unreliability of cross-racial witness identifications.
Minnesota residents may or may not be aware that analogs of fentanyl were classified as Schedule 1 drugs in an emergency order that was issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration. That emergency order, which made it easier for the DEA to seize fentanyl analogs and investigate people trafficking in these drugs, is scheduled to expire on Feb. 6.
Criminal justice reform advocates in Minnesota have drawn attention to the racial disparities that persist across the country in imprisonment rates and sentencing. According to a study conducted by the Council on Criminal Justice, these racial gaps have decreased over the past 16 years. The council is a non-partisan organization that includes experts from different perspectives on criminal justice, including reform advocates, government officials and police representatives. At the same time that the study highlights positive outcomes, it also raises concerns about the persistence of serious racial gaps.
People assume that judges strive to act in an objective and deliberative manner when presiding over courts in Minnesota. However, neuroscience and trends in judicial decisions suggest otherwise. Unconscious biases held by judges could make them issue unfair rulings even when they believe that they are acting fairly.
In Minnesota and throughout the country, there is an ongoing debate about accepting testimony from police officers with histories of misconduct. It was recently revealed that officers in Lake County, Florida, were making racist comments on a Facebook page. A letter from a variety of progressive groups was sent to the Florida state attorney asking that officers that make such comments not be called to testify at trial.
Those who are currently serving time in Minnesota prisons may be eligible for an early release because of the First Step Act. Beginning on July 19, 3,100 inmates will be released in an effort to comply with the law. Of those who are going to be released soon, about 900 will need to resolve immigration or other local charges. The Department of Homeland Security and other state agencies have discretion as to what happens to them.
Americans' cellphones and other digital devices contain a treasure trove of personal information, including private messages, phone call logs and browsing histories. Most of this data is mundane, but some of it could be incriminating if a person is being investigated for a crime. As a result, law enforcement agencies in Minnesota and across the U.S. are pushing to gain access to certain people's cellphones, making privacy advocates nervous.
According to statistics provided by the IRS, about 17% of taxpayers fail to comply with the tax code every year. It's individuals, not corporations, who account for three quarters of all tax fraud every year. Not all tax violations in Minnesota and other states, however, are considered tax fraud. In some cases, the agency recognizes that people make mistakes due to the complexity of the tax code. This is sometimes known as tax negligence.
Minnesota residents may be surprised to learn that a recent study showed that at least one immediate family member of 45 percent of adults in the United States have been incarcerated either in jail or in prison. This figure is a lot higher than what was previously estimated. The survey classified immediate family member as either a parent, sibling, spouse, grandparent or child.
Throughout history, many people in Minnesota and elsewhere have gotten away with various crimes. However, most of them didn't make the mistake of drawing unwanted attention to themselves by taunting that they would "never be caught" on social media.