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.

Expunging and Sealing Criminal History Records: An Overview for Prosecutors

This article is based on a review of expungement and sealing statutes in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as interviews with prosecutors in California, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. It seeks to assist prosecutors with evaluating current and proposed legislation. It also highlights examples of how prosecutors have taken the lead in assisting with expungement or sealing, either through collaborative events or developing automatic sealing. Expungement and Sealing- An Overview for Prosecutors

Commonwealth v. Rogers, 8 EAP 2020, Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Brief of Amici Curiae in Support of the Commonwealth

In this amicus brief, AEquitas, the Women’s Law Project, and 26 additional amici share their expertise in support of a determination that Pennsylvania’s Rape Shield Law does not permit the introduction of evidence of a complainant’s criminal record for prostitution-related offenses. Introducing this evidence would reinforce prejudicial gender and racial biases that would inhibit justice from prevailing and increase the burden of a criminal record on victims of sexual violence and exploitation.Amicus-Curiae-Brief-with-Time-Stamp

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

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

Stalking Charges: An Opportunity, Not an Afterthought [ESPAÑOL]

Stalking is pervasive. Every day, victims suffer immeasurable fear and distress over repeated, unwanted, and threatening conduct directed at them by their stalkers. Despite the frequency of stalking and its profound impact on victims, offenders are rarely held accountable by the criminal justice system. Many reports from victims — to family, friends, and law enforcement — are only taken seriously once stalkers escalate their behaviors and cause significant property damage, physical harm, or death. Sometimes, even victims themselves are unable to identify stalking behaviors, largely due to narrow societal and media depictions of what constitutes stalking.

In this webinar, participants are challenged to adopt a new paradigm of offender behavior. By viewing an offender’s conduct against a victim through a holistic—rather than episodic—lens, participants learn how stalking charges can provide the critical link between seemingly isolated instances. After discussing common stalking behaviors, which go far beyond pop culture stereotypes, presenters discuss how criminal justice system actors and allied professionals can enhance their response, including methods for investigating and prosecuting stalking offenses. Instead of considering stalking crimes to be too complex or as an afterthought to other offenses, participants will view these charges as key to holding offenders accountable for the full scope of their criminality.

At the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:
-Identify stalking offenses and dynamics
-Enhance the investigation and prosecution of stalking, both as a stand-alone offense and as a co-occurring offense
-Increase the safety of stalking victims

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU and Grant No. Grant No. 2017-TA-AX-K074, both awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

Stalking Charges: An Opportunity, Not an Afterthought

Stalking is pervasive. Every day, victims suffer immeasurable fear and distress over repeated, unwanted, and threatening conduct directed at them by their stalkers. Despite the frequency of stalking and its profound impact on victims, offenders are rarely held accountable by the criminal justice system. Many reports from victims — to family, friends, and law enforcement — are only taken seriously once stalkers escalate their behaviors and cause significant property damage, physical harm, or death. Sometimes, even victims themselves are unable to identify stalking behaviors, largely due to narrow societal and media depictions of what constitutes stalking.

In this webinar, participants are challenged to adopt a new paradigm of offender behavior. By viewing an offender’s conduct against a victim through a holistic—rather than episodic—lens, participants learn how stalking charges can provide the critical link between seemingly isolated instances. After discussing common stalking behaviors, which go far beyond pop culture stereotypes, presenters discuss how criminal justice system actors and allied professionals can enhance their response, including methods for investigating and prosecuting stalking offenses. Instead of considering stalking crimes to be too complex or as an afterthought to other offenses, participants will view these charges as key to holding offenders accountable for the full scope of their criminality.

At the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:
-Identify stalking offenses and dynamics
-Enhance the investigation and prosecution of stalking, both as a stand-alone offense and as a co-occurring offense
-Increase the safety of stalking victims

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-21-GK-02220-MUMU and Grant No. Grant No. 2017-TA-AX-K074, both awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.

From Jail, to Bail, to Sale: Trafficking and the Criminal Justice System

Traffickers target individuals whom they believe they can exploit with impunity – individuals who are accessible, vulnerable, and less likely to report their exploitation to law enforcement. As a result, individuals who have a criminal record, are under court supervision, or are otherwise subject to the authority of the criminal justice system are at higher risk for exploitation. Individuals who also struggle with addiction and substance use disorders are especially vulnerable to coercion. The Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report has identified “participants in court-ordered substance use diversion programs” as individuals especially vulnerable to sex and labor trafficking, and recent news reports have validated this assertion. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2022 National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking includes action items aimed at countering common trafficker tactics of manipulating and exploiting individuals with substance use disorders.

This presentation identifies trafficking schemes that involve recruitment from local jails and prisons, as well as from court-sanctioned treatment programs as an alternative to incarceration. The presenters focus on strategies to address victim safety concerns and investigate and prosecute trafficking that intersects with the criminal justice system. Throughout the discussion, the presenters underscore the importance of trauma-informed practices and a multidisciplinary response that includes meaningful access to survivor-led programing and low-barrier services, including appropriate healthcare.

Learning Objectives:
-Identify how traffickers identify, recruit, and coerce victims from jails, prisons, and court-ordered programs.
-Investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases in which victims have intersected with the criminal justice system.
-Collaborate with allied professionals to overcome barriers and provide meaningful access to justice for systems-involved victims.

This presentation was produced by AEquitas under 15POVC-21-GK-03263-HT, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.