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.