The Federal Sentencing Guidelines were originally imposed by Congress in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (SRA). This statute was an attempt to create a determinate sentencing system, which included large-scale elimination of parole and severe restriction of good time credit in order to create a system in which criminals would serve most or all of the time to which they were sentenced.

For nearly 100 years prior to the enactment of the SRA, the U.S. federal criminal system was an indeterminate sentencing system, under which “[s]tatutes specified the penalties for crimes but nearly always gave the sentencing judge wide discretion” in whether an individual should be incarcerated and for how long, and as to whether the use of parole was appropriate. 

Although cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are often likened to the Old Wild West, that does not mean there are not any laws governing them. While many issues surrounding the decade-old digital asset remain unclear or unregulated, there are some practices that can get the average retail investor in trouble. For example, federal policies adopted in 2017 impact taxes on cryptocurrency and participation in initial coin offerings. More regulations are likely — and that could be a good or bad thing, depending on whom you ask. This plain-language primer provides an overview of the most common legal issues that investors need to be aware of and what the future may hold.

In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court held that all criminal defendants facing serious criminal charges are entitled to the assistance of counsel, regardless of whether they can afford an attorney. In the years since Gideon, however, the provision of public defense to those who cannot afford counsel has fallen far short of the ideal expressed in Gideon that “every defendant stands equal before the law.” The failure of public defense systems to provide adequate representation to indigent defendants is often caused by severe underfunding and has resulted in the chronic appointment of “incompetent or inexperienced” counsel; delays in the appointment of counsel and discontinuity of attorney representation; a lack of training and oversight for counsel representing indigent defendants; excessive public defender caseloads and understaffing of public defender offices; inadequate or nonexistent expert and investigative resources for defense counsel; and a lack of meaningful attorney-client contact.

One response to these failings—as is often the case when constitutional violations are afoot—has been to challenge them in court. The focus of this short Article is on how the courts can address and have addressed the failings of underfunded and structurally flawed indigent defense systems. More specifically, it explores lawsuits that identify systemic failures—such as underfunding, excessive caseloads, and inadequate training and oversight—and seeks system-wide remedies capable of transforming the provision of defense services.

JUSTICE STEVEN H. DAVID |  JUDGE CALE J. BRADFORD  

Crime doesn’t pay; it costs. In addition to serving a sentence or probation, a convicted criminal may be ordered to pay for his or her crime(s), literally.

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Our goal is to have this Article serve as a one-stop guide to trial court judges and practitioners about the types of criminal debt that defendants may be ordered to pay and the requirements and guidelines for imposing each.

 

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