Threat Assessments

This session, recorded as part of a two-day virtual Witness Intimidation Convening, focuses on methods for assessing threats against victims and witnesses of crime. Rick Harris, Senior Criminal Investigator of the Denver District Attorney’s Office (Denver DA), and Steve Siegel, independent consultant and former director of Denver DA’s Special Programs Unit, discuss how to assess the credibility of threats, resources and tools that facilitate threat assessments, working with candidates for witness protection, and strategies for maximizing the success of witness protection programs.

This event is supported by Grant No. 2020-YX-BX-K001 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions discussed during this event are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

United States v. Rahimi, No 22-915, United States Supreme Court, Brief of AEquitas as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner

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.

On August 21, 2023, AEquitas submitted an amicus brief in support of the U.S. government’s appeal of the Fifth Circuit’s decision. The brief underscores the dangers posed by domestic violence offenders, particularly those who have access to firearms; discusses the importance of civil protection order processes to keep victims safe and reduce opportunities for witness intimidation while a criminal prosecution is pending; supports the government’s arguments regarding the ample historical precedent for laws like §922(g)(8); and highlights other constitutional rights that are forfeited in the context of an individual’s wrongdoing.Agriculture’s Growing Problem

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

Upstream Violence Prevention: The Role of Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Mitigating Gun Violence

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), also known as Red Flag Laws, are a promising tool of intervention but are relatively unknown to prosecutors across the nation. ERPOs are court orders that temporarily restrict access to firearms for individuals at elevated risk of harming themselves or others. As caseloads swell and rates of violence surge, prosecutors, law enforcement, and advocates can learn about and begin to deploy tools that can help mitigate and prevent future harm upstream— when warning signs first come to light.

This presentation is led by national experts from the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit of the King County, Washington Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Presenters discuss how criminal justice professionals can utilize ERPOs to restrict firearm access for individuals exhibiting a wide variety of high-risk behaviors. They also explore the efficacy of ERPOS to reduce gun violence.

As a result of this presentation, participants will be better able to:
-Understand the purpose and scope of extreme risk protective orders
-Incorporate extreme risk protective orders into existing protective order practice

Collecting and Analyzing Carjacking Data: Challenges and Solutions

As violent crime increases nationwide, reports of increases in carjackings has become a concern in many communities. However, because jurisdictions often include carjackings under a general category of robbery, it is difficult to accurately identify the number of carjackings occurring separately from those robberies. This webinar spotlights the experiences of an IPS grantee’s efforts to tackle this issue from a data collection and analysis perspective. Ryan Bokoch of the Cuyahoga County Office of the Prosecutor in Cleveland, OH discusses his Crime Strategy Unit’s effort to collect and analyze data concerning carjackings in the Cleveland area so that the Office of the Prosecutor and their partners would have an accurate understanding of the numbers, location and perpetrator/victim demographics associated with this violent and potentially deadly crime.

Upon completion of this session, participants will be better able to:

-Assess current data collection efforts regarding carjacking crime.
-Analyze data to create an accurate picture of carjacking crime within your jurisdiction.
-Utilize data to inform the response to carjacking crime.

State, Meet Federal: Prosecuting Law Enforcement Involved Sexual Violence

Those who commit crimes involving sexual violence often exploit the disparate power dynamic between victim and offender — whether the relationship is between teacher and student; producer and actor; coach and athlete; or law enforcement officer and arrestee, probationer, or inmate. By wielding weapons of authority, the perpetrator leaves the victim with little choice but to submit to sexual acts and stay quiet in the aftermath, fearing that they will be disbelieved or blamed if they try to report it. This is especially true in the law enforcement context, where victims are usually in the custody of their offender and have a history of criminal activity, which often has an impact on their credibility in the eyes of untrained professionals, juries, and the public.

This presentation addresses the reaches of federal jurisdiction to prosecute sexual violence by those acting under color of law at all levels of government. It discusses how coordination among federal and state authorities can enhance investigations into reports of sexual violence, and if the evidence permits, help determine in which jurisdiction to bring charges. It further focuses on three critical Federal Rules of Evidence that can be used to corroborate a victim’s account and build a strong case — even where there is no physical evidence or eyewitness testimony.

The Problem-Solving Prosecutor: Modern Variations on the Crime Strategies Unit

This comprehensive document provides guidance on developing or enhancing intelligence-driven prosecution through a Crime Strategies Unit (CSU), or through processes that accomplish goals similar to those of a CSU. Based in part on interviews with prosecutors, crime analysts, and other specialists in the field, the guide discusses building foundational partnerships, methods for gathering data and intelligence, and ways in which data can inform and support investigations and prosecutions.

 

The Problem-Solving Prosecutor- Modern Variations on the Crime Strategies Unit

Digital Evidence Part I: The Investigative Stage — Recognition, Collection, Search

This two-part webinar series presented by the Denver District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with AEquitas, explores the scope of data available from sources of digital evidence and strategies on how such data can effectively be developed with forensically-sound practices. Presenters discuss theories of admission, rules of evidence, and “real life” examples to demonstrate how to properly authenticate and introduce digital evidence in court proceedings. Part I of the series explores the different types and sources of electronic data that are available to investigators; how such data can be properly collected, regardless of whether it is in a physical device or electronic records; and methods to facilitate searching and seizing data.

Part III: The Principles of Witness Protection

Join AEquitas for the third of a three-part webinar series that explores the ways in which offenders and their allies intimidate victims and witnesses of crime, the effects of intimidation on the criminal justice system response, and the methods for preventing and responding to witness intimidation. Part III of the series focuses on the principles of witness protection, which include tactical considerations, addressing the trauma to the victim/witness, and supporting lifestyle changes. The presenter discusses the importance of determining whether an imminent and credible threat against the life of a victim/witness exists by utilizing a dynamic screening and threat assessment tool, understanding the impact of trauma on the path to change, and recognizing the signs of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others.