Keep Calm and Understand United States v. Rahimi

On February 2, 2023, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (covering Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) issued its decision in United States v. Rahimi, 59 F.4th 163 (5th Cir. 2023). The Court ruled that 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(8), which prohibits gun possession by people who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders, is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. On June 30, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the government’s petition for a writ of certiorari in the case. If upheld, Rahimi will have a significant impact on the assignment and enforcement of domestic violence protection orders across the country.

This Strategies Newsletter unpacks the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Rahimi, as well as the Second Amendment jurisprudence that preceded it. It provides strategies for Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi prosecutors currently facing the fallout of the Rahimi decision in the courtroom. It also provides prosecutors from other jurisdictions with ways to rebut defense attorneys’ Rahimi-based arguments. While this decision may seem to be a catastrophic development for victims of domestic violence, a careful review of the Supreme Court precedent on which the Rahimi decision was based will allow prosecutors to better anticipate defense arguments and implement strategies to ensure the continued protection of victims.United States v. Rahimi, No 22-915, United States Supreme Court, Brief of AEquitas as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner

Agriculture’s Growing Problem: Investigating and Prosecuting Labor Trafficking and Co-Occurring Crimes in the Illicit Cannabis Industry

Despite the recent legalization of cannabis cultivation, possession, and use in many states across the country, the illicit market for the drug is still booming. The illicit cannabis industry is causing profound harm to the communities in which it operates—harm that goes far beyond simply producing off-the-books marijuana. Illicit market growers often seek to sidestep agricultural and worker regulations, causing widespread environmental harms, including blackouts, water theft, damage to flora and fauna, poisoned waterbeds, and wildfires. The human cost of illicit cannabis growth is even greater. Across the country, investigators have discovered laborers who have been forced to work in inhumane conditions—often without pay—and in close proximity to dangerous chemicals at illegal cannabis cultivation sites. Workers are often threatened with physical violence or deportation if they report to authorities.


Pursuing these crimes often requires a specialized skill set among prosecutors and investigators. This Strategies Newsletter demonstrates how investigators and prosecutors, working in conjunction with local and federal stakeholders, can ensure that labor traffickers in the illicit marijuana industry are held accountable for the full range of their conduct.Agriculture’s Growing Problem

Being Trafficked: What Prosecutors Need to Know About “the Life”

This article describes the pathways into exploitation and trafficking and the realities of the Life. It seeks to give context to the choices survivors make—or are unable to make—before and during their interactions with the criminal justice system. By examining survivors’ choices through the lens of their victimization, prosecutors will be better equipped to identify survivors, however they interact with the system; make informed prosecution decisions, and work with system partners to provide exit ramps from exploitation. Being Trafficked — What Prosecutors Need to Know About the Life

“Next-Level” Compulsion of Victim Testimony in Crimes of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence: Prosecutorial Considerations Before Using Bench Warrants/Body Attachments and Material Witness Warrants

This article examines the considerations that should be weighed in deciding whether to employ next-level measures, such as material witness warrants and body attachments, to compel victim testimony in sexual and intimate partner violence cases. While prosecutors have a great deal of discretion in deciding whether to use compulsive measures beyond issuance of a subpoena, the decision to resort to such measures should be made with great care and with an awareness of the potential consequences, as well as consideration of possible alternatives.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Next-Level Compulsion of Victim Testimony

Guiding and Supporting the Victim’s Choices Regarding Participation in the Prosecution of Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence

The criminal justice process can expose survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence to unique re-traumatization. While multidisciplinary response efforts employing victim-centered and trauma-informed practices have greatly facilitated the reporting and engagement of survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, the process itself remains daunting. Some survivors ultimately decline to participate, avoiding service of process or refusing to appear under subpoena. This article explores strategies that will assist advocates and allied professionals in guiding and supporting victims throughout the criminal justice process in ways that will help to ensure that their choices about participation are fully informed and that their interests are protected and advanced at all stages in the process.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Guiding and Supporting the Victim’s Choices


Seeking Justice Through Sexual Violence Prosecutions

This article explains the problems that have arisen as a result of overreliance on conviction rates in cases of sexual violence. It identifies the core principles that should inform a model response to these crimes to further the goals of justice — i.e., offender accountability, victim well-being, and community safety. Finally, it discusses how prosecutors can broaden definitions of “success” in the prosecution of sexual violence, and how they can measure their current response as well as efforts toward improvement.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). The opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice.

Seeking Justice Through Sexual Violence Prosecutions

Confronting Racial Bias Against Black and African American Victims in the Prosecution of Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking, and Human Trafficking

The history of racial discrimination against Black Americans in the United States created structural barriers and inequalities that Black women continue to face as victims of sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and human trafficking.. The article offers examples of how racial bias has shaped the criminal justice response to these crimes and provides prosecutors with tangible tools for eradicating biases against Black victims. Confronting-Racial-Bias-Against-Black-and-African-American-Victims

Truth-Detection Devices and Victims of Sexual Violence: A Shortcut to Injustice

An overreliance on truth-detection devices and misunderstandings about the dynamics of sexual violence can correlate with a belief that their use with victims of sexual violence is the best method to conduct complete investigations even though such methods would never be entertained for victims of other types of crimes. This is alarming not only because the results of such tests are unreliable, but the very use of truth-detection devices with victims of sexual violence can do more harm to the victim and frustrate the pursuit of justice. While the utility of truth-detection tests for enticing suspects to agree to be interviewed has long been recognized, there is less appreciation that their use with victims of sexual violence is clearly irreconcilable with trauma-informed interviewing techniques designed to elicit victims’ fullest recollections of events while avoiding further harm. This article provides a brief overview on the his- tory and modern forms of truth-detection devices and discusses how the earliest concerns about their reliability and limitations continue to be valid today. It will discuss why truth-detection devices are inappropriate and how, in many jurisdictions, they are prohibited from being used when interviewing victims of sexual violence. Despite the reliability concerns, it will also be discussed how truth-detection devices remain a potentially useful tool during questioning of suspects.

Legal Jiu-Jitsu for Prosecutors in Intimate Partner Violence Cases: Forfeiture by Wrongdoing

Jiu-jitsu is a Japanese martial art that does not depend on the use of size or strength to defeat an opponent. Instead, it employs a variety of tactical moves to prevail by turning the force of an attack against the attacker. Prosecutors in domestic violence cases have a similar art at their disposal to counter confrontation challenges in the common scenario where the offender has intimidated, tricked, manipulated, paid off, killed, or otherwise arranged for the victim to be absent from the trial, leaving the prosecution with only the victim’s out-of-court statements to prove the case.

The Internet & Intimate Partner Violence: Technology Changes, Abuse Doesn’t

Although intimate partner abuse and harassment perpetrated through technology can look different than in-person abuse or harassment, the goals and motives are still the same: power and control. Technology allows an abuser to assert that power and control by keeping tabs on their partner – by knowing who the survivor talks to, what they do, and where they go. This is a key aspect of control. Because so many people live their lives on the Internet, it is a treasure trove of information, allowing abusers to stay informed and in control of their victims. This Strategies Newsletter provides an overview of online abuse and offers solutions for documenting the abuse, supporting survivors, and holding offenders accountable.