Key changes and criminal justice reforms were seen in 2017 as a new administration took a tough stance on crime and immigration.
The arrival of the Trump administration meant the appointment of a new attorney general. Jeff Sessions outlined a tough approach to offenses like drug crimes. He directed federal prosecutors to seek the harshest charges possible in criminal cases.
Sessions said prosecutors must charge the most serious “readily provable offense.”
Other changes saw a scaling down of police department investigations and the end of the National Commission on Forensic Science, a partnership between the Justice Department and independent scientists to investigate the effectiveness of forensic methods.
Some progressive criminal justice reforms were enacted in certain states, reported The Root.
In 2017, legislation was passed in New York and California to raise the age for which a juvenile is treated as an adult in the criminal justice system. The two states will no longer automatically prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.
Instead, teenagers in these two states may be processed in the juvenile-justice system.
Opponents of treating teens as adults say the system is aimed at punishment whereas juvenile justice systems have a greater emphasis on rehabilitation.
In Texas, 17-year-olds are processed in the adult criminal justice system. However, a movement to raise the age of adult criminal responsibility has resulted in unsuccessful legislation in the state legislature.
Also in 2017, the Supreme Court ruled, twice, that the sentencing of juveniles to life without parole is unconstitutional. Many states agreed to end this practice and to resentence inmates locked up before the landmark decisions.
In the landmark Texas case of Bobby Moore, the Supreme Court challenged the Texas definition of intellectual disability as outdated. Prisoners who are intellectually disabled should not face the death penalty. However, Moore from Houston faced execution despite challenges such as not being able to tell the time or understand the days of the week and the months of the year.
The Supreme Court took aim at the Texas standard. In a 5-3 ruling, it determined that the state did not properly consider whether Moore was too intellectually disabled to face execution.
The ruling set off numerous requests from inmates wanting their death sentences overturned in exchange for life in prison. At least 10 condemned killers from across the state are pursuing lesser punishments, a course prosecutors later agreed on in Moore’s case.
Please call us today if you have been charged with a criminal offense in Tarrant County.