Where Self Driving Cars Will Take Us

I came across this article that I found interesting in regards to self driving cars. Obviously, it affects DUI laws, but I overlooked how self driving cars can and will change the restaurant industry and others.


Drinking and Driving around The Holidays

The holiday season is considered to include the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. With all of the festivities and gatherings that go on throughout this time, people may be more prone to drink and drive. This means that police increase their presence on roadways to patrol and keep areas safe. Arizona officials will definitely be more present as they have announced a DUI enforcement push in the article below.

Law enforcement officials gathered at the state Capitol Tuesday to publicize the launch of their annual DUI enforcement and sober designated driver campaigns. State, local and federal officials highlighted the dangers of impaired driving and describe …

Source: http://www.bing.com/news/apiclick.aspx?ref=FexRss&aid=&tid=A6247A75F83C4FF292E7BB41D4083B55&url=http%3a%2f%2fwww.azfamily.com%2fstory%2f33817059%2farizona-officials-launch-holiday-dui-enforcement-push&c=10237356064982254687&mkt=en-us

Don’t Fall Victim to This Fraud

Fraud and identity theft are two crimes whose rates are on the rise. A lot of these crimes take place through scam operations like the one in the article below. This scam is over the phone and the callers tell you you’ve won lottery winnings in Jamaica. Read about this scam so you can be on alert for it and others that operate similarly. Don’t fall victim to fraud!

Operating since the 1990s, the Jamaican lottery phone scammers have robbed Americans of an estimated $300 million each year. These highly-trained scammers are persuasive and persistent, and they target the most vulnerable, namely seniors suffering from dementia or loneliness.

Victims of this scam are told that if they pay an upfront tax or administrative fee they will receive millions in prize money. Unfortunately, the lottery winnings are not real and the targets of this scam will never see their money again.

In some cases, the scammers abuse goes beyond a single fraudulent payment. Phony callers will follow up with additional requests for money transfers. And may become hostile – threatening legal action or violence – to get them.

To protect yourself and your loved ones, look out for these five signs of the Jamaican lottery scam.

1. The call comes from area code 876

The first red flag in a phone scam is an unknown, foreign number. Jamaican scammers have been traced to the 876 area code in particular.

However, fraudulent callers often use caller ID spoofing to deceive their victims by changing their caller ID. Regardless of the number, you should be suspicious.

2. You don’t remember entering a lottery or contest

Don’t believe any caller offering winnings from a contest you do not remember entering directly.

It’s impossible to win a contest that you haven’t entered and – despite crooks’ claims – your friends, family or place of work can’t enter you, either.

3. The caller requests upfront fees be paid

The trademark of the Jamaican lottery phone scam is the caller’s request for upfront fees to claim your prize. Do not disclose any financial information to unknown callers, who can use this information to access your accounts and withdraw funds.

Legitimate lottery operations will never ask you for any form of advanced payment.

4. You receive multiple calls

To convince callers they’re legitimate, scammers often call repeatedly and leave voicemail reminders.

They may even involve your friends or family in unwittingly following up with you about their bogus offer, accessing your personal information from the internet.

5. The caller tells you to keep your winnings secret

The caller tells you not to share the news of your alleged winnings, claiming it’s to protect you until you’ve safely secured the alleged prize money. Or so that your friends and family don’t become jealous.

With elderly victims this tactic is designed to prevent family members from intervening. This is similar to the grandparents phone scam in which the caller pretends to be a grandchild in trouble. Make sure seniors that you care about know the risk of phone scams and that they should be skeptical when someone calls and asks for money.

What to do if you suspect the Jamaican Lottery Scam?

Whenever you, a family member, or friend receives a call from an unknown number avoid answering it and first run a reverse phone lookup online, if no voice message is left.

If you feel that you or a loved one has been targeted by a Jamaican lottery scam caller, report the phone call immediately to the FTC and your state’s Attorney General.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-david-crane/jamaican-lottery-phone-sc_b_13042270.html?utm_hp_ref=crime&ir=Crime

A Different Kind of Story Involving Police Brutality

There have been so many police brutality headlines in the news in the past few years. This is forcing federal officials to look into if more violence involving police is actually happening or if we are just hearing about it more from the media because of certain events. Regardless, any type of violence is not wanted, and if federal officials can find out if it is happening more often and do something about it then this “epidemic” can end.

WASHINGTON ? Justice Department officials outlined plans this week to expand nationwide data collection on fatal police interactions and use-of-force incidents. But due to limitations on what the government is allowed to publish, there are big questions about just how useful the data will be to the general public.

The proposed initiatives include a National Use of Force Data Collection program, under which law enforcement agencies would voluntarily submit information on civilians and officers involved in use-of-force incidents ? as well as other relevant details surrounding these encounters. A pilot program led by the FBI is set to begin in early 2017.

The Justice Department also announced it had completed an initial step in its effort to compile more robust death-in-custody data from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

In August, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a branch of the Justice Department, published a notice in the Federal Register detailing reporting expectations of law enforcement under the Death in Custody Reporting Act. The DCRA ? reauthorized in 2014, months after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri ? was meant to prompt the government to gather official statistics on the number of people killed by police each year. Under the legislation, the attorney general can levy financial penalties on departments that fail to report. But those penalties can only be used against law enforcement agencies that don’t report deaths; they do not apply to agencies that fail to report data on non-deadly use-of-force incidents.

The updated DCRA guidelines ask the nation’s 19,450 state and local law enforcement agencies and nearly 700 medical examiner’s or coroner’s offices to submit an expanded set of details about in-custody deaths. This information includes the decedent’s name, demographics, behavior and mental health status, as well as the precipitating events, such as the reason for initial contact and other actions by responding officers. The blueprint also calls for departments to provide quarterly summaries with any arrest-related deaths that haven’t been reported. 

A coalition of civil rights organizations had previously criticized the Justice Department’s data collection process, questioning its reliance on news reports and failure to sufficiently pressure agencies to report deaths voluntarily. The groups expressed concerns that this would leave a gap between the number of deaths the federal government has been recording and the number of deaths that actually occur. Previous official counts that relied on voluntary reporting by police had placed the total number of “justifiable homicides” around 400 each year. Subsequent reporting from independent sources suggests the total annual death toll is closer to 1,000.

There’s also a larger problem with the data collected by federal authorities: There are limits on what they’re allowed to publish. Agencies are banned from publishing certain personally identifiable details about the deaths they count, and in the past have published only aggregate data that provide little more than a raw number of incidents nationwide or on the state level. That makes it impossible to identify which jail facilities, for example, have unusually high death rates.

In practice, that means the data published by the federal government will never be as comprehensive or accessible as the information that has been recently published by media organizations. A tracker by The Guardian that includes all fatal encounters with police estimates that at least 847 people have been killed by police this year. A separate count from The Washington Post that tracks only shootings states that at least 754 people have been fatally shot by police so far in 2016.

The government’s vague presentation of these types of data can have a sanitizing effect. Take the case of Michael Sabbie, whose July 2015 death was recently covered by The Huffington Post as part of our effort to track all jail deaths across the country in the year after Sandra Bland died in Texas. Sabbie begged guards at the Bi State Jail on the border of Texas and Arkansas for help in the hours before his death, telling them he couldn’t breathe at least 19 times. But when Sabbie’s death eventually shows up in published federal statistics, he’ll likely simply show up as an inmate who died of a heart condition, regardless of the fact that his death was almost certainly preventable.

Still, the Justice Department hopes the new guidelines will show a commitment to addressing anxiety over police violence and use of force, which disproportionately affect people of color.

“The initiatives we are announcing today are vital efforts toward increasing transparency and building trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “In the days ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work alongside our local, state, tribal and federal partners to ensure that we put in place a system to collect data that is comprehensive, useful and responsive to the needs of the communities we serve.”

Several thousand interested parties contacted the Justice Department during the open comment period for its DCRA proposal, which ended last week. It is now reviewing that input and will issue an updated proposal soon.

The federal government has been laying groundwork for an expanded tracking effort over the past year.

Speaking last October, FBI Director James Comey called the current lack of federal data on police killings “embarrassing,” while admitting that unofficial sources had access to more accurate information than the government.

Several independent trackers have compiled their own counters in lieu of federal data. Fatal Encounters is attempting to build a database of police killings going back to the beginning of 2000. Killed By Police has used news reports to track police killings since 2013.

Julia Craven contributed reporting.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/justice-department-police-data_us_58010b1fe4b0e8c198a7c425?ir=Crime&utm_hp_ref=crime

High Profile Criminal Cases Might End Differently In Florida

The death penalty exists in many states including Florida. However, recent amendments made it so a unanimous decision from jurors was not required. This forced the state’s Supreme Court to look into this law and, therefore, rule it unconstitutional. This makes us wonder what other death penalty laws in other states need amending.

Florida’s highest court ruled on Friday that the state’s recently amended death penalty law is unconstitutional because it doesn’t require jurors to be unanimous when imposing the punishment.

State legislators rushed to fix the statute earlier this year after the U.S. Supreme Court declared that the old sentencing regime violated the federal Constitution’s right to an impartial jury.

The Florida Supreme Court acknowledged Friday that most of the fixes passed the test and “can be construed constitutionally,” but that the provision allowing a less-than-unanimous jury to recommend a death sentence did not.

The new law “is unconstitutional because it requires that only ten jurors recommend death as opposed to the constitutionally required unanimous, twelve-member jury,” the court said. “Accordingly, it cannot be applied to pending prosecutions.”

The court’s majority frowned on the contested provision largely because Florida law requires unanimity from jurors during other parts of the sentencing process ? including agreement on critical facts that may justify the imposition of a death sentence.

In practice, the ruling means that there is no available law or procedure for prosecutors seeking the death penalty ? and the Florida legislature may again rush to pass a quick fix.

“We think we won,” Frank Bankowitz said in an email. Bankowitz is one of the defense lawyers for Larry Darnell Perry, a first-degree murder defendant for whom prosecutors had requested a capital trial. Relying on the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, Perry sought to challenge that decision.

All but one of the court’s members joined the ruling. Justice Charles Canady ? notably one of Donald Trump’s many pre-nominees to the nation’s high court if he is elected president ? disagreed with his colleagues’ conclusions about the offending provision.

In a separate decision issued the same day, the state court also granted a new sentencing hearing to Timothy Hurst, the man at the center of the Supreme Court case decided in January. He was convicted in 1998 for the murder of a co-worker at a Popeye’s restaurant.

One question the new ruling doesn’t answer is what happens to all the inmates sentenced under a regime that has now twice been deemed constitutionally defective. Could a death row inmate who was condemned by a non-unanimous jury now challenge that sentence and request a new sentencing hearing?

It’s an issue that is sure to lead to more litigation, as Florida has the second-largest death row population in the United States.

This story has been updated with comment from Frank Bankowitz.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/florida-death-penalty_us_5801066de4b06e04759473b3?ir=Crime&utm_hp_ref=crime

The Holidays Aren’t Immune to Criminal Acts

For most, the holidays are a time of happiness and relaxation with loved ones. For others, they are the easiest times of year to commit intrusive crimes like fraud and scams. This article describes five types of crimes that are often committed during the holiday season and how to watch your back so they don’t happen to you.

Whether you are hoping we can “Make America Great Again,” working tirelessly for those who say that we are “Stronger Together,” or simply trying to make it through another day, it is highly likely that Christmas is the furthest thing from your thoughts right now.

But with only 54 days ’till Election Day, I can already tell you what’s going to happen, and it’s not going to be pretty. I’m not talking about the continuing controversies over hacked email accounts or electronic voting systems. I’m not even talking about all the sore losers and obnoxious winners there will be no matter who wins.

You Better Not Cry

On November 9, America will wake up to a new leader of the free world. And with all the feelings (elation, dread, boredom) to which that gives rise, I still want to point out another horror show waiting on the other side of the election. There will be just 46 days until Christmas.

If you didn’t have insomnia leading up to Election Day, the night after might be your unlucky day.

Not worried? Consider for a moment that while you were thinking about politics, football and maybe Thanksgiving, the economic juggernaut that is Christmas has been rolling since January. All the people who make the holiday profitable have already spent tons of time thinking specifically about you.

That said, there are a lot of not-so-nice guys out there (also known as scam artists, criminals, swindlers and crooks), who have also spent a great deal of time thinking about you, and have been sharpening their proverbial knives in anticipation of a very merry Christmas. With all this in mind, here are some of the things you should look out for in the 100 days until Christmas.

1. Charity Scams

‘Tis the season to give until it hurts both emotionally (oh, those family get-togethers) and financially. But if you’re not careful, the emotional and financial will intersect when you are scammed by a fake charity.

I know, pretty harsh, right? Well, if only the likes of the Grinch can steal the entirety of Christmas (and as you’ll recall he actually couldn’t) there are plenty of grungy cranks out there who are perfectly happy to steal your donation of $10, $20, $100 or more (and they can). They do it with phishing scams: an email or text designed to look like it’s from a charity. Or that strategically placed dinnertime call when your impulse to be a good neighbor collides with your desire to get off the phone and back to the table.

How to avoid this: Always give directly to a charity. This goes for your cyber giving and real-time charity. Not all bell-ringing Santas are working for the Salvation Army, but if you go to the right site (that you have independently confirmed), with the right security (HTTPS and the little lock), you can be sure your money gets to the right people.

2. Fake Jobs

With the holiday rush, companies hire. This is a boon for everyone, potentially, but it also opens the door to identity-related scams. Be on the lookout for job applications that require detailed personal information just to qualify, and if you are applying online, make sure the site and the company are the real deal by making phone calls, searching online and relentlessly checking consumer reviews. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, it’s a good idea to check your credit to see if your scores have fallen. (You can view two of your free credit scores on Credit.com.)

3. Holiday E-Cards

Holiday cards are fun. You get to see how kids have grown and check out your friend’s new car (I’m amazed at how many family portraits include the family car). But be careful because there are plenty of fake cards sent using your hacked or otherwise compromised address book or one that belongs to someone you know. The result: a holiday card that doesn’t seem odd, but open the wrong one, and you’ve just been phished.

Solution: There’s no silver bullet here, but always look at the URL and make sure that it is spelled correctly, because many of these scams operate spoof sites that require sharp powers of observation to detect, such as words spe1led slightly differently. (Did you catch that?)

4. Unsafe Online Shopping

No matter how pressed for time you are, no matter how forgetful-so-you-better-get-it-done-while-you’re-thinking-about-it (like me) you might be, try to avoid using public Wi-Fi to do your holiday shopping and never, ever use public Wi-Fi and your credit card at same time. There are often hackers sitting nearby either manning fake public Wi-Fi or ready to grab your information with a man-in-the-middle attack.

Tip: Rather than familiarizing yourself with every scam out there, just avoid public Wi-Fi for anything other than browsing the Internet.

5. Unlocked Devices

Doubtless you noticed several mentions of phishing scams above. This final suggestion is wildly popular with parents: Get your child their own tablet or smartphone.

It is impossible to police a child’s every click, and if that kid is on a family-wide device that also contains cookies and bookmarks and the like associated with bank accounts and other information housed by financial institutions, putting that device in a child’s hand is courting disaster.

There, I said it.

The Takeaway

The takeaway should be not to get taken (or carried away) this holiday season. Never let your Fear of Looking Like a Grinch (FOLLAG) trump your Fear of Getting Ripped Off (FOGRO).

In addition to all those manufacturers and retailers and marketing wizards hoping for a robust Black Friday and magnificent Cyber Monday, there will lurk all stripes of holiday exploiters as we wend our way toward the holidays. While ’tis the season for commerce and acquisition ecstasy, there is an army of potential holiday wreckers out there, so be careful.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-levin/you-have-just-100-days-to_b_12020304.html?utm_hp_ref=crime&ir=Crime

Acquisition of Public Documents

State legislation revisions caused the Arizona Department of Public Safety to consider the fees required for copies of public records. This is good news because the fees “had not been reviewed in over ten years.” For those involved in criminal defense cases, public records can be a tool in building a case. Read more about the review process below:

For Immediate Release

Phoenix, Ariz. — The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) will conduct a review of the fees charged to the public for copies of records requested and provided through public records requests.

Title 39 of the Arizona Revised Statutes defines public records and allows governmental agencies to charge a fee for copies of those documents. Although agencies may charge for copies and the personnel time, equipment and materials costs, they may not charge a fee for searching for documents. As provided by law, DPS allows any member of the public to inspect public records without charge.

“DPS set its fee schedule for copies of public records over ten years ago when paper copies were the standard.” says Lt. Colonel Wayde Webb, Assistant Director of the Agency Support Division. “With advances in technology – digital formats and images have drastically reduced the demand for paper copies.” “The review will look at the workflow process for public records requests and will be used as the basis for any fees charged after completion of the study.”

“This is transparent and accountable government in action,” says Colonel Frank Milstead, Director of the Department of Public Safety. “When questions were raised regarding the fees we charge for public records, I directed staff to research the issue.” “We found that the fees being charged had not been reviewed in over ten years.” “Technology and systems have changed during that time that demand this review.”

The Arizona Department of Public Safety is a state-level law enforcement agency whose mission is to protect human life and property by enforcing state laws, deterring criminal activity and providing vital support to the State of Arizona and its citizens.

Source: http://www.azdps.gov/Media/News/View/?p=758

Current Crime Levels in the U.S.

Crime rates and public safety are hot topics in this years election because of recent events. Considering what has happened in Minnesota, Louisiana, and Texas involving citizens and police, a lot of Americans might think that crime rates are higher now than they have been in the past. However, this article points out that crime rates have actually decreased from years before.

WASHINGTON ? The majority of Americans believe ? incorrectly ? that crime is up in the United States over the past decade, and only a small fraction correctly state that crime is down. While only a small percentage say crime is a very serious problem in their own community, the majority are convinced it’s a very serious problem in the country overall. That’s great news for Donald Trump.

Most Americans, 61 percent, falsely believe that the level of crime in the United States has increased over the past decade, according to a poll conducted by The Huffington Post and YouGov. Just 15 percent of Americans said they believed ? correctly ? that crime rates in the United States had decreased over the past decade.

The statistics indicate that false beliefs about crime rates are shaped not by lived experience or by an analysis of government crime statistics, but by people’s perceptions typically influenced by news coverage and social media in an era in which people may be more aware of individual crimes than they may have been in the past. While just 13 percent of Americans believe crime is a very serious problem in their own community, 53 percent believe crime is a very serious problem in the nation overall. 

In his speech accepting the Republican Party’s nomination for president, Trump declared himself the “law and order” candidate. While he hasn’t detailed the role he believes the government should play in policing, which is largely a function of local governance, he promised that “crime and violence” would “come to an end” once he becomes president and “safety will be restored,” despite the fact that Americans are currently living in one of the safest periods in history. 

Even as the American population has continued to expand, there were fewer violent crimes committed in 2014 than there were in any year in the past several decades. (While preliminary FBI statistics show a slight increase in the violent crime rates in the first six months of 2015 compared to the first six months of 2014, the crime rates in the 30 largest cities stayed flat in 2015, according to a Brennan Center analysis. Even if the final numbers for 2015 show a slight increase from the historically low crime rates of 2014, they will not remotely approach the rates seen a decade ago, which are around 30 percent higher than they are today.)

While just 8 percent of Americans over 65 believed crime was a very serious problem in their own community, 64 percent of the same group believed that crime was a very serious problem in the nation overall. Nearly three out of four elderly Americans ? 73 percent ? falsely believe that crime has increased over the past decade.

Women were also very likely to falsely believe that crime is up over the past decade ? 72 percent of women believed it was up nationwide compared to 48 percent of men. Just 6 percent of women correctly stated that crime had decreased over the past decade, compared to 23 percent of males.

A nearly equal percentage of Democrats and Republicans ? 15 and 14 percent, respectively ? said that crime was a very serious problem in their own community. But Republicans were 14 points likelier than Democrats to see crime as a serious problem nationwide, and 19 points likelier to say that the problem was growing. Republicans were also significantly likelier to say that the issue would be of high importance to their vote this year.

While just 10 percent of whites believed crime was a very serious problem in their own communities, the majority ? 52 percent ? were convinced that crime is a very serious problem across the nation. Black Americans were much more likely to identify crime as a major issue in their own communities ? 20 percent said it was a serious problem where they lived ? and were slightly more likely than white voters to say that crime was a very serious problem in the nation overall. 

Sixty-nine percent of all Americans said that crime would be at least a somewhat important issue for them when they head to the polls this November. But even among that group, just 17 percent reported high levels of crime in their community, and more than 40 percent called local crime issues not very or not at all serious.

As Trump describes a country in chaos that is plagued by crime, and positions himself as the only person who can restore law and order, Americans’ false perception of crime may offer him a major boost. Those false beliefs about crime rates can also hurt efforts at criminal justice reform, which have received bipartisan support in recent years.

“That’s unfortunate that the consciousness of our country is not aligned with the facts and the details,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a Hillary Clinton supporter and strong advocate for criminal justice reform, told The Huffington Post when informed of the results of the survey. “If people really are believing that crime is up over the last decade and not down, that’s really problematic because it affects often policy decisions that are being made.”

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, in an interview with The Huffington Post on the floor of the Republican National Convention on the night of Trump’s acceptance speech, admitted that crime has gone down in the country over his time in law enforcement but said people might not have that view.

“I know the perception is there. When you look at statistics, however you want to figure them out, I don’t know,” Arpaio said, noting that crime was down in his own county.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said in a brief interview at the RNC that he believes crime is up. “If you want to know, you look at the FBI statistics, and the ones I’ve seen are spiking,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks.” He then acknowledged that the statistics showed crime was down over the past decade, but pointed to recent violent spikes in some cities, which he blamed on society becoming more liberal, as well as on strict gun laws.

Mark Klecka, a 62-year-old delegate from Texas who lives just outside of Houston, said in an interview at the RNC that he also believes that crime is up.

“You can make the numbers decline by just not criminalizing things,” he said. “A neighbor of mine had his garage broken into, they found a guy in there rummaging through the garage, and the sheriff pulls ups and says, ‘Well, you can write him a ticket for trespassing.'”

“There’s more crime out there, I think,” Klecka said. “We need to show that there is more crime and get police tools to enforce the law.” 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said Gohmert believed crime is rising in part due to lax gun laws. In fact, he said stricter gun laws were partly to blame.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Aug. 1-Aug. 3 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/crime-rates-donald-trump_us_57a8aa11e4b056bad2164226?ir=Crime&utm_hp_ref=crime

Lifting Welfare Restrictions

As of this year, more and more states are changing their welfare policies. Convicted drug felons are becoming able to receive things like food stamps if qualified in certain states as long as they comply with all guidelines. However, states have the jurisdiction to determine who is eligible and to establish rules. Read more below:

This piece comes to us courtesy of Stateline. Stateline is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Charitable Trusts that provides daily reporting and analysis on trends in state policy.

ATLANTA – Twenty years after a federal law blocked people with felony drug convictions from receiving welfare or food stamps, more states are loosening those restrictions – or waiving them entirely.

In April, Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, signed a criminal justice reform bill that lifted the ban on food stamps for drug felons in Georgia. Alaska followed suit in July, although applicants must prove they are complying with parole and are in treatment for substance abuse. And in Delaware, a bill to lift cash assistance restrictions for drug felons passed out of committee in June. The legislative session ended before the bill could be put to a vote.

The changes come amid broader efforts in Washington and many states to reform drug policies and criminal justice approaches. And they reflect a growing consensus that helping people when they are released from prison can increase the chances that they don’t end up going back.

People who have been incarcerated need a leg up to successfully re-enter the community, says Roberta Meyers of the Legal Action Center, a nonprofit that fights discrimination against people who have been in prison, have substance abuse issues or have AIDS. 

“Most have a hard time getting a job and initially need to rely on public assistance. And food is a basic primary way they need help,” Meyers said.

The federal ban was established in 1996, a product of the tough policies of the “war on drugs” and sweeping welfare reform that restricted recipients to no more than five years of government assistance in most states and required most recipients to work, do community service or enroll in vocational training.

It prohibits those convicted of felony drug crimes – but not other felonies – from receiving food stamps and cash assistance, but states have the option of relaxing those rules.

Today just seven states – Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia – still have full bans on drug felons receiving food stamps. A proposal to lift the food stamp ban failed to advance in the Nebraska Legislature in March.

States have been more reluctant to lift their restrictions on cash assistance, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; but at least 11 states and the District of Columbia have done so, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Despite the movement to loosen the ban, some critics object to making the change at a time when states are being forced to slash their budgets. 

“States should be looking for ways to shrink the welfare rolls and tighten eligibility requirements to families legitimately working to get back on their feet,” said Texas state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, a Republican who last year voted against lifting the state’s food stamps ban. “Expanding welfare benefits to convicted drug dealers and drug felons is a giant leap in the wrong direction.”

But Georgia state Rep. Rich Golick, a Republican who supported lifting the ban in his state, said the ban didn’t make sense on a number of levels.

“You had individuals who were coming out of the system convicted of a violent crime who had the eligibility to apply for food stamps whereas someone who went in on a drug charge, including possession, didn’t have that ability.

“You’re increasing the chances that they may reoffend because they don’t have the ability to make ends meet. Doesn’t this go against what we’re trying to achieve as they re-enter society?”

Loosening the Restrictions

About half a million people in the U.S. are incarcerated with a felony drug conviction. Most are not high-level drug dealers and have no prior criminal record for a violent offense, according to a 2015 report by the Sentencing Project, which advocates against racial disparities in sentencing and for alternatives to incarceration.

Sixteen percent of people in state prisons are being held on felony drug offenses; infederal prisons that number is close to half, according to the report.

Proponents of lifting the restrictions say the bans target poor people and minorities and drive people further into poverty, sending them in and out of federal and state prisons. A 2013 study by the Yale School of Medicine found that 91 percent of people recently released from prison didn’t have reliable access to food.

“One of the best ways that someone can move on after they’ve been released from prison is their ability to eat and take care of themselves,” said Marissa McCall Dodson of the Southern Center for Human Rights.

As states grapple with reducing their burgeoning prison populations, many are looking for ways to help former inmates as they return home.

“A lot of legislatures are starting to see it’s not beneficial to have these flat bans and indefinite restrictions imposed on people,” Meyers of the Legal Action Center said.

By 2001, eight states and the District of Columbia had completely opted out of the food stamps and cash assistance bans, while another 20 states had modified them, according to the Sentencing Project.

Last year, Texas removed its blanket food stamps ban, while Alabama eliminated its food stamps and cash assistance bans.

More rural states are less likely to lift the bans, because they aren’t as affected by large numbers of people with drug records being released into their communities, Meyers said. “The struggle is very different from urban centers if they’re moving back to rural towns where everyone knows them.”

Today, about a dozen states still ban felons from receiving welfare payments. About half of all states have modified the ban in some way.

At least four states – Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – have recently modified the cash assistance ban to require those with a drug record to undergo drug testing in order to receive cash assistance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“There are higher hurdles to clear” to lift cash assistance bans, said Nicole Porter, director of advocacy for the Sentencing Project. “And that’s more about welfare and anti-welfare sentiment in this country.”

This year, several bills that would have lifted the cash assistance ban failed in the Virginia House and Senate. In May, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have allowed childless drug offenders to receive cash assistance amounting to $140 a month. (Former offenders with children are eligible for cash assistance.) Christie said he was open to compromise if the bill was amended to exclude former drug dealers from receiving assistance.

Change in Georgia

Georgia has the country’s highest correctional control rate – that is, the share of people who are either incarcerated or on parole or probation. Each year, about 10,400 people are released from state custody with drug felonies, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Before the ban was lifted, approximately 555 Georgia residents were denied food stamps each month because of a drug felony, according to a report by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI), a nonpartisan research group, and the Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew also funds Stateline). Their children and anyone else in their household could receive benefits.

And each year, because of the ban, the state was losing as much as $10.4 million in federal food stamps, the study found. The federal government pays for food stamps through block grants to the states but splits the administrative costs with states.

“Once legislators understood that these are federal dollars that we are ignoring – that was a big selling point in modifying the food stamps ban,” said Melissa Johnson, senior policy analyst for the GBPI.

Doug Ammar, executive director of the Georgia Justice Project, a legal services nonprofit that lobbied to lift the welfare restrictions, recalls an elderly client who applied for benefits a few years back. The man, who’d served time for a drug conviction in the ’60s, moved a few miles across from the state line, from Florida to Georgia, and found that his change of address meant he could no longer receive food stamps.

“That [drug] record can haunt you and have real-life implications. It’s a lifetime of punishment,” Ammar said. “How long should your brush with the law impact you and your family?”

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/welfare-drug-felons_us_57a9edd4e4b06adc11f177e9?ir=Crime&utm_hp_ref=crime

Number of arrest from the holiday weekend

There has been no change in the number of DUI arrests for Arizona this year on the 4th of July but there has been a change in other citations that have been handed out. Because of the increase of police enforcement and “routine stops”, more police officers are looking for reasons to pull you over and will cite you for something even if you are sober.

Drunk driving arrests dropped over the Fourth of July weekend, according to state data, but other citations are on the rise.

Take a look at the charts below to see some overview DUI enforcement statistics from 2014 to 2016, according to the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Traffic stops have been on the rise since 2014, with an increase of over 4,000 from 2015.

DUI arrests barely changed since last year, down two arrests to 484.

Looking at the top of the two charts, the ratio of traffic stops to DUI arrests has notably dropped since 2014 by two percent.

It should also be noted that seat belt citations and aggressive driving citations both spiked from previous years, with seat belt citations jumping over 200 to 494 in 2016 and aggressive driving citations jumping more than 20 to 33, respectively. 

Source: http://www.abc15.com/news/region-phoenix-metro/central-phoenix/charts-dui-arrests-drop-over-fourth-of-july-weekend