Did you know???



Missing persons

Some may argue that police used to require a waiting period of 48 hours before reporting an adult as a missing person. That simply is not true. Federal law asserts that regardless of age, police departments must accept a missing persons report as soon as a reporting party contacts law officials. The theory is that individuals suffering from mental illness or have been a victim of a crime may not be capable of communicating with family or friends and therefore, may require assistance. It is important to note, though, that just because an adult chooses to walk away from his or her “life” without informing anyone, it is not considered a crime. However, police must attempt to identify if a crime has been committed against that individual (i.e. kidnapping or murder) or if some other influence or abnormal behavior has caused the lack of communication (depression or suicidal). Although it may seem as though the police doubt the legitimacy of an adult missing persons report, they must determine the potential seriousness of the issue and react accordingly.


Truth in Sentencing Laws

DID YOU KNOW…..Texas requires inmates to serve only 50% of their sentences? Keep reading…

Reminder: I am not an attorney; the information I am presenting is based on academic work, the product of extensive student loans, and my goal to help people understand the processes of criminal justice. The rest…is up to you.

Many people do not understand what determinate and indeterminate sentencing means in a court of law. Although judges rely on case history and guidelines established by sentencing commissions for standardization, aggravated or mitigating circumstances enable judges to pass down sentences they believe are appropriate to specific conditions. For crimes requiring an individual to serve time in prison, judges will set definite time frames for incarceration as well a set amount of time in which the parole board can review an individual’s records and approve or deny parole accordingly.

For example, such sentencing typically reads: determinate 10 years, indeterminate 10 years or determinate 20 years, indeterminate 0 years. Additional sentencing factors may include restitution, mental health evaluations and/or other requirements; however, for the purposes of this article, I will focus only on determinate and indeterminate sentencing. It is fairly simple actually. Determinate sentencing refers to the length of time a person is sentenced to prison before s/he is eligible for review by the parole board. Therefore, based on the example I gave, an individual must serve 10 years in prison before s/he is even eligible to be reviewed by the parole board.

Indeterminate sentencing refers to a period of time in which the parole board can analyze one’s behaviors while in prison, to determine if the individual has been adequately rehabilitated. Some sentences do not have a determinate amount but may simply state indeterminate 5-10 years, which outlines the minimum time the parole board can review the case. Of course, individuals who receive minimal disciplinary actions in prison are more likely to be paroled sooner than those who cause conflict.

Truth in Sentencing Laws

Although elements related to Truth in Sentencing laws can be an extensive article on its own, I believe it warrants a mention in this post. Truth in Sentencing laws play a significant role in the amount of prison time served. Historically, inmates tended to spend a lot less time in prison than their original sentence outlined. As a result, the demand for more strict prison sentences led to sentence reform, creating truth in sentencing laws. States that have enacted truth in sentencing laws require inmates to serve a minimum amount of their sentence, regardless of behavior.

In order to receive financial support, federal legislation outlined the requirements for states to enact TIS laws in an attempt to control violent offenders. As part of the requirements, states required an individual to serve a minimum of 85% of their sentence. However, several states chose not to change statutes and maintained previous requirement. Some states require individuals to serve only 50% while some require 100% of the sentence. Ironically, or so in my opinion, considering Texas has the highest rate of maximum security inmates and individuals sentenced to death, truth in sentencing laws in Texas require inmates to only serve 50% of their sentence (Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, n.d.). In contrast, for example, Idaho requires inmates to serve 100% of their sentence.

Ok, here’s my problem…the criminal justice system is a very complicated web of interrelating issues, and rarely is there a simple answer to the way things work. In other words, that’s a very deep rabbit hole sometimes. The CJ system cannot function as a cookie cutter structure; society simply does not work that way. Reading and comprehending law can be very difficult; therefore, it is my goal to help people understand criminal and social law by explaining historical influence, causes for reform, and results of those changes in the easiest possible terms.


What is a hate crime?

Recently, a local Islamic center was vandalized with spray paint, the words “hunt camp?” written on the side of a newly constructed building. The police department is investigating the incident as a hate crime but what exactly is a hate crime and how is legislation applied to the event?

According to the FBI, the legal definition of hate crime is “A traditional offense such as murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.” However, legislation, specifically referencing Idaho statute, refers to the offense as malicious harassment, “maliciously and with the specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.” In other words, committing an offense against another person and/or organizational based on race or otherwise is punishable by formal sanction….yes, prison (up to 5 years)…and it is a felony in Idaho. In addition, victims may sue for damages, making malicious harassment a civil action as well as criminal.