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.
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.
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.
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.
Those who are charged with a crime in California or any other state are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, this doesn't mean that an individual will avoid going to jail prior to the resolution of his or her case. In some cases, this is because a defendant is not allowed to post bail. In others, it is because a defendant does not have the financial resources to post bail after it is set.
Some California residents might be aware of a case in Mississippi in which a man has been on trial six times for the same alleged murder. The case has reached the U.S. Supreme Court because the prosecutor has been accused of deliberately keeping African-Americans off the jury.
Being arrested can have a major impact on the rest of a person's life. According to a study released by the RAND Corporation, people arrested in California and across the country see ongoing effects to their wages, relationships and other future outcomes after an initial arrest. For example, when people are arrested one time, they are around 3.5 percent less likely to marry later. While this may seem relatively small, the drop continues to grow with each subsequent arrest.
Mass incarceration in California and nationwide has placed millions of people behind bars. Criminal justice activists, however, have started to reverse the trend of locking people up. In 2008, mass incarceration reached its height with 1,000 people held in corrections per 100,000 adults. Now the rate has fallen to 830 inmates per 100,000. The decriminalization of minor offenses and expansion of alternatives to jail for people convicted of low-level offenses have contributed to this drop in incarceration rates.
A California district court judge has ruled that U.S. cops can't force people to unlock their cellphones using their fingers or faces. The case in question involved an individual who was trying to extort another by threatening to play an embarrassing video on Facebook. Authorities were planning to raid a property and wanted permission to unlock any devices that used facial recognition or similar technology.