Law Enforcement News

Vol. XXIX, Nos. 611, 612 A publication of John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY December 15/31, 2003

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In this issue:
DNA sometimes makes for bad-fitting genes.

Alarming developments.

Wheel-y big news.

Drunk as a skunk.

Another fine meth.

Stirring the pot.

Violence is all in the family.

Sex meets violence.

When good cops go bad.

Looking for warm bodies.

Wolves in cops’ clothing.

Crime’s ups & downs.

A few good anti-crime ideas.

Research looks for answers.

Facing up to profiling.

Order in the court.

Banking on ill-gotten gains.

Taking advantage of high-tech advances.

Changes at the top.

That’s just too weird.

Justice by the numbers.

2003, the year in review:
Drunk as a skunk, and quick as a wink

     ¶ Lawmakers nationwide focus on measures aimed at the most intoxicated drinkers — those with blood-alcohol levels twice the legal limit — as part of a plan to bring down the number of traffic deaths. Highway fatalities rose in 2002 to their highest level since 1990. There was a 3-percent increase in those caused by drunken driving over the same period in 2001. The initiatives include the creation of a new charge of aggravated drunken driving for hardcore offenders, and the elimination of plea bargains when they could result in charges that do not include alcohol.

     ¶ Drivers who receive a speeding ticket are 35 percent less likely to be killed in a crash within the following three to four months. The study, by researchers in Canada and the United States, found that drivers are more cautious after receiving a citation, regardless of their age, gender or economic class. Getting a ticket even works as a deterrent to young male drivers, a high-risk group, the study said.

     ¶ Traffic investigators from around the country are invited to attend a one-day course on blow-outs offered by the tire-manufacturer Michelin North America Inc. At Tires 101, participants are taught that the proper response to a blow-out is counterintuitive — increase speed and steer straight ahead. When control is regained, pull over.

     ¶ The Osceola County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department comes under fire for a sting operation that used deputies disguised as vagrants to catch speeders. Officials defended the initiative against homeless advocates, citing 107 deaths in 2001 due to motorists who disregarded traffic signals.

     ¶ Legislation signed by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will give state and tribal criminal justice authorities the ability to share data on repeat drunk-driving offenders. Each of the state’s 22 tribal governments may enter into an agreement with the government to file-share. New Mexico, which ranks fifth in the nation in per-capita drunk driving, is believed to be the only state to pass such legislation.

     ¶ A 25-question Internet exam, plus $20 and a hefty fine for speeding, has drivers passing through Summersville, W.Va., hopping mad. While the strategy does offer motorists a way to avoid notifying insurers, it also points to the town’s militancy in collecting fees, they say. But police note that in 2002, there was only one traffic-related death.

     ¶ The Rhode Island State Police throw their support behind legislation that would allow tests them to extract blood and urine samples from drunken-driving suspects.… California is found to lead the nation in accidents involving hit-and-run drivers…. Critics challenge the findings of a Florida Department of Motor Vehicles study which found cell phones responsible for only one in 170 accidents.

2003, the year in review:
Drug enforcement confronts another fine meth

     ¶ A California study of small-time methamphetamine labs contradicts some conventional wisdom by finding that cookers prefer to make the drug during the early morning hours of a Tuesday or Wednesday, and enjoy the company of family, friends and neighbors while turning household chemicals into meth. In 1999, one of every 11 meth lab seizures in the nation occurred in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, where the study was focused.

     ¶ With its prisons packed, Michigan eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, ending more than two decades of having some of the nation’s harshest drug-sentencing guidelines. The old law had mandated life terms without parole in some cases…. In New York, lawmakers failed for the third year in a row to reach agreement on a measure to ease the Rockefeller drug laws, which set mandatory minimums for even some minor drug crimes. One sticking point is whether judges or prosecutors should have the larger role in the sentencing process…. The Canadian government introduces legislation to decriminalize possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use, as recommended by a House of Commons report last year.

     ¶ Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen signs a law increasing jail time for those who manufacture meth on public lands, and requiring them to pay for lab-cleanup costs…. Illinois legislators consider measures to increase meth sentences, require offenders to pay for the cost of lab cleanup, and make it a crime to transport or possess meth ingredients…. A new West Virginia law imposes 2- to 10-year sentences for assembling or operating the chemical ingredients of a meth lab….Police ask Montana legislators to back a bill increasing to 50 years the prison sentence for those caught running a meth lab…. Tampa police proceed cautiously in enforcing a new ordinance that authorizes officers to arrest people who seem as if they are dealing drugs — whether or not they are….

     ¶ Meth lab interdictions increase more than tenfold in Nebraska over a four-year period…. Hawaii police make more arrests for meth possession or sale in five months than they did in all of 2002…. The Chattanooga P.D. adds information to its Web site to help residents spot meth labs in their neighborhoods…. North Dakota police close down several meth labs with help from store clerks who reported people buying everyday items used as precursor ingredients….Heroin use rises, but cocaine remains the drug of choice in the Wilmington, N.C., area…. PCP use is resurgent in Washington, D.C., according to police…. Marijuana is the most available and abused drug in Wisconsin, according to the DEA…. The fastest rising killer drug in Florida is methadone, officials say, and methadone deaths also climb in Maine and North Carolina….

     ¶ South Dakota troopers seize thousands of pounds of drugs on Interstate 90, a popular route for drug traffickers…. Federal agents in New York City bust a drug gang that dealt $10 million in Ecstasy pills…. Police and sheriffs in Maine criticize the federal DEA for three unannounced drug raids that they say put police and the community at risk…. The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rules that the smell of possible methamphetamine justifies a warrantless search of a building by police.

2003, the year in review:
Developments that stir the pot

     ¶ Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich becomes the first Republican governor in the nation to sign a bill protecting medical marijuana patients from jail. The new law reduces the penalty for possession or use of marijuana from a year in jail to just a $100 fine.

     ¶ The city and county of Santa Cruz, Calif., file suit against the federal government — the first by a public entity — on behalf of medical marijuana patients. Naming Attorney General John Ashcroft and the DEA as defendants, the jurisdictions demand that federal agents stay away from a cooperative farm that grows the plant…. The California Senate approves legislation that would require the state Department of Health Services to develop an identity-card program for users of medical marijuana.

     ¶ A state appeals court in Alaska reaffirms a landmark 1975 decision that made it legal to possess up to four ounces of marijuana for personal use in the home. Attorney General Gregg Renkes tries to reconcile a split between state and local law enforcement as to whether cases involving small amounts of the drug will be pursued, directing police to confiscate pot for evidence in possible federal prosecutions.

     ¶ In a rebuff to the Bush administration, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds without comment a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which stated that doctors cannot be punished, threatened or investigated for recommending marijuana to their ill patients.

     ¶ Oakland, Calif., marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal is convicted on charges of cultivating marijuana and selling it to the city under its medical marijuana ordinance, whereupon U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer sentences him to one day in jail. Federal prosecutors indicate that they would ask an appeals court to increase Rosenthal’s sentence.