If a person in California has been taken into custody in the past seven years, it may show up in a background check. If the person was convicted of a crime, it may show up in a background check regardless of how long ago it happened. According to a decision made by the Seventh Circuit, a conviction occurs at the federal level whenever a person pleads guilty to a crime.
Police officers are often the most compelling witnesses in criminal prosecutions because juries tend to find their testimony extremely convincing. This is why civil rights groups in several states recently sent letters that urged prosecutors to compile lists of law enforcement personnel who have behaved in ways that call their impartiality and professionalism into question. One of these letters was sent by groups including ACLU California to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
Those who witness crimes in California or other states may be asked to pick the perpetrator out of a lineup. However, it is relatively common for an individual to pick the wrong person or get other details of a case wrong. Therefore, it is important that authorities have a way to determine how accurately a witness picks a potential defendant out of a lineup. There are many possible signs that an identification is correct.
Criminal courts and judges in California are increasingly making use of risk assessment technologies to determine how likely a person is to commit a crime in the future or how likely a person is to skip out on the next hearing. These risk assessment tools are billed as more objective and scientific than the human judgments they're replacing, but evidence indicates that there may be racial bias built right in.
California residents often grapple with the idea of allowing a police search. That struggle becomes even more profound when it involves a cell phone or other electronic device. According to NBC News, police are placing increasing pressure on private citizens to give up their passwords or risk going to jail.
Smartphone apps touted as aids in fighting crime have become popular among many California users despite the fact that they face less criminal activity than in the past. Apps like Nextdoor, Citizen or Ring doorbells promote themselves as methods to become more aware of the neighborhood and potentially suspicious activities. However, critics say that the apps only serve to stoke unnecessary fears about crime without making the streets safer. They also warn that the programs tend to encourage racial stereotyping and neighborhood exclusion.
When the government wants to conduct an investigation against an individual, it is limited by the Fourth Amendment. This is true whether an investigation takes place in California or any other state. An individual also has a right against unreasonable searches or seizures when a private person or entity is working with a government entity. The amendment applies in both state and federal cases as per a Supreme Court ruling in the case of Wolf v. Colorado.
In California and across the country, black and white Americans have distinctly different views of and experiences with the police and the criminal justice system. These differences were made clear in a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. Notably, both black and white respondents agreed that black people are treated unfairly in the American justice system. While 87% of black participants said that blacks were treated less fairly overall, 61% of whites said the same. Roughly similar numbers said the same thing about unfair treatment by the police.
Some people in California who have had warrants dismissed or who have already served a sentence may find that warrant reappearing years later. These so-called "ghost warrants" are often for minor issues, such as traffic violations or unpaid fees, and disproportionately affect poor people. While sometimes this happens because prosecutors will not let minor cases go, it is often a case of clerical error.
California has a large prison population, and a number of those inmates are likely victims of wrongful convictions. The National Registry of Exonerations has been tracking people released for wrongful convictions since 1989. In 2018, the registry recorded the exoneration and release of 151 people nationwide. They had collectively served 1,639 years for crimes that they did not commit.