Criminal Law

Recent Case: State v. Gokal

February 14, 2021

At the start of 2021, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Houston, Texas was met with such high demand that the City’s vaccination call center phone lines crashed. And by the end of January, vaccine supplies remained so low that the Houston Health Department’s first dose appointments were nearly impossible to obtain. Against this backdrop, in…

Recent Case: Cantu v. Dothan

October 14, 2020

It is, perhaps, a severe understatement to claim that qualified immunity—the legal doctrine shielding police officers and other government officials from liability for constitutional violations in all but the most egregious cases—is a doctrine in need of reform. A recent Eleventh Circuit ruling in Cantu v. Dothan, however, exemplified how deeply this need for reform…

Evaluating New York’s “Revenge Porn” Law: A Missed Opportunity to Protect Sexual Privacy

March 19, 2019

Six years after lawmakers first considered the issue of nonconsensual pornography, New York has criminalized the practice. We wholeheartedly support the effort in our role as legal scholars and as advocates for the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI). One of us (Franks) drafted the first model statute criminalizing “revenge porn” and worked on New York’s…


Vague Criminality and Mass Incarceration: Will Dimaya End the Insanity?

April 17, 2018

Today, the Supreme Court decided Sessions v. Dimaya and struck down the federal definition of “crime of violence” as unconstitutionally vague. The statute, section 16(b) (along with its very analogous cousin, section 924(c)), has meaningfully contributed to mass incarceration, racial disparities in sentencing, and excessive sentencing at the federal level. Dimaya recognized that section 16(b)…

The ‘Crime’ of Paying College Basketball Stars: Form over Substance?

March 20, 2018

Last September, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that federal charges had been brought against major figures in college basketball. A group of 10 assistant coaches, agents and sneaker executives were indicted with conspiracy to commit bribery, solicitation of bribes, mail fraud and wire fraud. The defendants are accused of paying—“bribing”—some of the nation’s most…

Replacing Judges with Computers Is Risky

February 20, 2018

Adopting technology for the sake of having it is an unwise move. Last year, the California Judicial Council proposed that California’s criminal courts jump on a failing bandwagon to inhibit and effectively replace judicial discretion with computer-based algorithms. The present judicial system already assesses each defendant, their previous criminal history, and ties to the community….

Criminal Justice Reform Starts and Ends with the States

January 11, 2018

Criminal justice reform has the attention of the country, but it is at the state and local level where reform will be implemented. Much of the conversation about criminal justice reform has revolved around high-profile incidents in major U.S. cities like Cleveland and New York City — and on what the federal Department of Justice…

Costs of Money Bail to Justice

More than 200,000 bail bonds are posted in California each year, generating $308 million in non-refundable premium fees from accused persons, their families, and friends who post bail for them. Being detained in custody pretrial, even for a short period of time, can threaten an individual’s employment, housing, financial stability, and family. With roughly 90%…