Many people in West Virginia have raised concerns about serious racial disparities in incarceration and sentencing that have significantly affected black communities across the country. According to one study by the Council on Criminal Justice, some types of racial gaps are decreasing in the criminal justice system while others remain significant, and still more seem to be increasing. The council releasing the report is a nonpartisan association that includes government officials from both major parties as well as justice reform advocates and police agency representatives.
Some judges in West Virginia may be guided in their decisions by unconscious bias, and this could hurt defendants. Unconscious bias occurs when one is prejudiced against a group even when this goes against their conscious feelings about the group. Since research suggests that many judges use their intuition more than logic to make judgments, unconscious bias could have a far-reaching effect.
Breathalyzer test results used in West Virginia may not be accurate. A report from the New York Times found that roughly 30,000 cases were thrown out in New Jersey and Massachusetts over a period of 12 months. Human error is one reason why Breathalyzer results may be incorrect, but the machine itself could simply be defective at the time a test is administered. One police department tried to correct for low results by drilling a hole in their device.
State attorneys who prosecute individuals for violent crimes that occur in West Virginia often rely on testimony from expert witnesses experienced in blood pattern analysis. Blood spatter has been used since the late 19th-century and has played an important role in many trials, including the one of O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of killing his ex-wife and her boyfriend in 1995.
For many people in West Virginia, community service is seen as a better, lighter sentence that can help people avoid jail time after a conviction. However, one study published by UCLA's Labor Center and School of Law noted that community service sentences can actually pose significant problems for some defendants, especially low-income people of color who cannot afford to pay fines. Therefore, they are forced to choose between jail time or weeks of full-time, unpaid labor that can worsen poverty and affect other members of their family.
When news of someone being arrested in Ohio County breaks, many may often be surprised at how many criminal charges the accused is facing given the circumstances of their arrest. Often, something that may seem as simple as an alleged minor infraction can often result in a person facing a veritable mountain of interwoven charges. It is typically the unique circumstances of an arrest that dictate how many criminal complaints a person may be faced with. In some cases, they may all be justified. In others, however, people might start to question when the prosecution of one becomes too much.
The common assumption held by most in Ohio County may be that in order to be charged with a crime, one’s words must be supported by actions. One can talk about engaging in allegedly criminal activity, but unless they actually progress into doing it, they have done nothing. In some cases, that is not necessarily true. The details on what words and scenarios the state defines as meeting the standard of making terroristic threats have been detailed on this blog in the past. As has been mentioned, intent plays a key role in charging someone with this offense.
A criminal conviction in Wheeling may often result in the loss of many of your rights (particularly if an incarceration accompanies said conviction). Yet how long does that restriction of rights last? You may think that once you have completed your imposed sentence, all of the rights that were taken from you will restored. Yet is that truly the case?
For those that contest the criminal charges against them, a trial may be the most important element of their cases. During these proceedings, they are allowed to both dispute any evidence that prosecutors present against them and offer up their explanation of events. The ultimate aim of their efforts is to convince those jurors hearing their cases of their innocence. A typical criminal trial will have 12 jurors, which implies that a defendant needs to convince 12 separate people of the validity of their claims. Yet that is often not the case.
When news of an arrest in Ohio County breaks, people may be quick to assign guilt to whomever it is reported that law enforcement officers have detained. They might assume that an arrest would never have been made if officials were not convinced that the target of their action was indeed guilty. Yet it should be remembered that even in cases where evidence may seem to support police action, judgment should be reserved until all of the facts (offered by both sides) can be heard. After all, elements viewed as evidence may still not speak to a person's intent.