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What is in the Massachusetts criminal justice reform bills?

Late last month, the Massachusetts senate passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill. The House has now followed with its version. In order for criminal justice reform to become law, the two halves of the legislature will have to agree on a final version, pass it, and send it to Governor Baker for his signature.

DOJ announces voluntary limits on gag orders after email warrants

Last year, Microsoft sued the federal government over its practice of routinely issuing gag orders when it presented warrants for emails. According to an 18-month analysis by Microsoft, the Department of Justice issued indefinite gag orders under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 in 68 percent of cases where it served warrants on Microsoft for customer emails. These indefinite gag orders require Microsoft and other companies to remain silent about the warrant until further notice, or forever.

Is it fair to suspend your license for failure to pay a fine?

A new report by the nonprofit Legal Aid Justice Center asks whether state policies that suspend driver's licenses for inability to pay fines are a good idea. Are these "license-for-payment" policies fair, or are they counterproductive and costly?

Study: Blacks and Hispanics are indeed more likely to be searched

African-Americans and Hispanics have long suspected they are more likely than whites to be searched and ticketed when they're pulled over. An extensive study by Stanford University researchers has found strong evidence that this is the case.

New DOJ forensic evidence group to set standards for testimony

The evidence continues to mount that commonly accepted forensic science techniques are much less reliable than juries and the public had long been led to believe. In 2015, the FBI revealed that its own analysts had overstated the scientific certainty of microscopic hair analysis tests in at least 90 percent of cases reviewed.

Lawmaker demands release of Justice Dept. enforcement priorities

In light of a number of recent policy announcements by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a leading Senate Democrat is demanding details on the Justice Department's law enforcement priorities. Specifically, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is seeking the immediate release of recommendations of the presidential Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, which Sessions leads.

Sessions urges increase in civil forfeitures by law enforcement

Civil forfeiture is a process by which law enforcement agencies seize money and property from suspected criminals and criminal organizations. The assets can be seized whenever law enforcement personnel determine they are connected to, or are the result of, criminal activity. This can occur long before the owner of those assets goes to trial, and it can be an uphill battle trying to get them back.

Is it fair and legal for police to shame defendants on Facebook?

A Boston writer for the Associated Press recently published an article on whether police departments can legally use their Facebook pages to shame defendants they have arrested. The article cites activity from several different cities where police departments, in a quest to "inform the community," have been posting photos of criminal defendants -- in many cases, accompanied by pejorative quips.

Supreme Court asked to rule on reach of email warrants under SCA

The Stored Communications Act was passed as Title II of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, long before the possibility of cloud computing was even on the horizon. In general, it addresses the government's ability to compel the disclosure of "stored wire and electronic communications and transactional records."

Appeals court strikes down lifetime supervised release as punitive

A federal appellate court has struck down a lower court's order for lifetime supervised release in a case where the defendants' sentences were shortened by an earlier appeal. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal supervised release program is not to be used punitively against defendants.

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