In what may seem like a step back for the justice system, lawmakers have
proposed a bill that would effectively end the 2011 Kentucky law which
required police officers to issue citations for misdemeanors, rather than
making an arrest. The new law would change the language on the bill from
“shall” to “may”, when referring the officers’
duty to issue citations for misdemeanors.
Law enforcement officials feel the power to make an arrest needs to be
shifted back to the individual officer assessing the situation. Police
have encountered difficulty in explaining to citizens why certain crimes
no longer warrant an arrest. Cases such as disorderly conduct and minor
theft currently result in nothing more than a citation, effectively reducing
the punishment to that of a traffic ticket in some instances.
Public outcry, albeit small, seems to be enough to make lawmakers reconsider
their position. It is an interesting dilemma, however. One study shows
the rate of bookings decreased nearly 38 percent from 2011, when the original
bill was passed, to 2013. A similar figure shows that in Louisville alone,
there was a 17 percent decrease in misdemeanor arrests. The law appeared
to be reducing the number of individuals serving jail time, which many
view as a positive effect.
These statistics also play a major role when it comes to the jail system
as a whole. Not only is overcrowding in our prison systems a financial
cost the public does not want to bear, but it is also an embarrassment.
Increasingly high prison populations, not just in Kentucky, but in the
United States, have rallied cries from all over to reform sentencing laws.
High prison populations reflect poorly on our system and there are many
who argue that sending people to prison for minor crimes is just an archaic
way of ignoring deep rooted problems in American culture.
America’s notorious claim to overcrowded prisons is not one which
can be fixed with a simple or even complex house bill, but the original
reform from 2011 was a great start towards discussing what we as a society
can do to combat this problem. Additionally, rolling back the 2011 law
may cause a spike in bookings. For example, an area that had become accustomed
to the 2011 law may be ignorant on the new changes and find themselves
the victims of overzealous police attempting to make a statement once
again that minor misdemeanors warrant an arrest. Further, in many instances
the accused may not have committed any wrongdoing and instead be the victim
of false allegations. When this occurs, it is much less damaging to a
person’s reputation when he or she is not arrested for the alleged
violation, but instead cited to court. By attempting to re-wind the 2011
reform, Kentucky may create even more problems.
If you have questions about criminal law in Lexington or anywhere else
in northern Kentucky, turn to Bleile & Dawson. Our
Lexington criminal defense attorneys have been representing defendants in Kentucky since 2000. We are passionate
about advocating for the wrongly accused and we work hard to help each
client reach a favorable conclusion to their case.
Contact us today for a
completely confidential consultation at (859) 951-3112.