Should Felons Have the Right to Vote?

I love writing about these controversial topics. They push me to think, research, and search the brains of others. I have never really thought about this particular issue. Now that I have, I cannot stop thinking about it.

I feel pretty passionate about this topic, because I already feel like the prison system is flawed in so many ways. I was reading some comments that people wrote about this topic, and two stuck out at me. They were contrary opinions, but they each made me think. One comment was against felons and prisoners having the right to vote. The comment stated that when prisoners committed their crimes, they have (depending on the crime) taken or affected the rights of others, so their own rights should be taken or affected. I felt that that was a good point. When felons steal, kill, cheat on taxes, etc., they are affecting the rights of others to some degree. However, they are not affecting everything single right that that person has. I personally do not see the correlation between someone stealing and someone voting. I understand that this is a punishment, but I also thought that the prison sentence and being ostracized by society was the punishment. I don’t know if taking away someone’s voting rights is an effective or necessary punishment.

That brings me to the next comment that I read. This comment supported the idea of prisoners (which I am assuming included felons), having the right to vote. The comment stated that prison dehumanizes people enough, which makes it harder from them to be successful when they are finally a part of society again. Taking away the right to vote isolates them even more. I could not agree more with that comment. I wrote an article before that somewhat discussed the dehumanizing issue within prisons. Taking away a felon’s right to vote seems to only serve the purpose of making them feel like they are nothing, I don’t know if that is going to make them feel like they should improve themselves. I don’t.

voting rights for felons

There are also other factors to think about. Perhaps voting should depend on the crime that a person commits. I don’t think that all prisoner’s and felons can be lumped into one category. Some felons made one horrible mistake, others had a bad upbringing, maybe the felon shouldn’t even be a felon at all and the real felon is out there living his life and voting. There may be some felons who should have their voting rights taken away, but I do not believe that that should be a generalized solution.

I am curious to know what you guys think about this. Please share whether you think felons should be allowed to vote or not in the comment section below.

The Basic Elements of Hearsay

Most people are familiar with the concept of hearsay, and many intuitively understand that it can’t be fully trusted. When sharing a juicy bit of gossip, a person might qualify his statements by saying that it’s hearsay, meaning he only heard the information from someone else. As such, he can’t verify that the information is true. Courts also recognize the unreliability of hearsay, which is why they generally preclude it from evidence. Of course, in court, hearsay is a highly technical concept, as evidenced by the fact that the Federal Rules of Evidence devote seven rules to just this one topic, or that there are entire books discussing those rules. For present purposes, we’ll have to content ourselves with a brief consideration of hearsay’s basic elements.

1. A statement

The first element of hearsay is a statement. A statement is any assertion. The assertion can be made orally, in writing, or even through conduct. For example, if you ask your friend a question, and he nods his head in response, that would count as an assertion. This means that your friend nodding his head in answer to your question is a statement under the Federal Rules of Evidence, and might even be hearsay if the other elements are satisfied!

2. Not made while testifying at the current judicial proceeding

The second element is often summarized by saying that hearsay requires an out-of-court statement. This means that the person who made the statement did so not as a witness at trial or in a hearing, but just as part of his or her everyday life. So, to take the example above, where you and your friend were when he nodded his head makes a difference. If you were at the mall when you asked your question and he responded, then his statement would satisfy this element of hearsay. On the other hand, if you were questioning your friend as a witness at trial, then his response would not satisfy this element, unless it happened in a previous trial.

3. Offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted

This element can be tricky, but it’s key to many disputes about out-of-court statements. Such statements are only hearsay if they are offered “to prove the truth of the matter asserted,” as Federal Rule of Evidence 801 puts it. For example, suppose your friend got in a wreck with a green car. After the wreck, he said, “That green car swerved into my lane!” The “matter asserted” by that statement is that the green car swerved into your friend’s lane. If you tried to offer that statement as evidence that the green car swerved into his lane, you would be offering your friend’s out-of-court statement to prove the truth of the matter asserted, meaning it would be hearsay.

picture describing what hearsay is

But suppose that your friend died from injuries sustained in the car accident. In a lawsuit against the other driver, his family might offer the statement to recover damages for your friend’s pain and suffering by showing that your friend was conscious following the wreck. In that case, the statement isn’t being offered to prove that the green car swerved into your friend’s lane, but to show that he was conscious. Because the statement didn’t assert that your friend was conscious, it wouldn’t be hearsay under those circumstances.

The rules relating to hearsay are many and complex. This brief discussion of the legal concept barely scratches the surface of how the Federal Rules of Evidence deal with it. But at least now you have some idea of how the concept that makes you ignore gossip applies in court. If you’re interested in reading more of the rules on hearsay, you can find them in the Federal Rules of Evidence sections 801 through 807.

How to Become a Judge

Judges perform some of the most important roles in the legal process. They preside over trials and court hearings, uphold the rights of individuals in legal proceedings, and supervise the legal process. A judge ensures that a trial is conducted according to established procedures, including which evidence is permissible in court and how testimony is given. For criminal trials that are not held in front of a jury, a judge decides whether a defendant is innocent or guilty; similarly, for civil cases, judges determine which party is liable and the amount of fair compensation. In this article, we’ll cover how you can become a judge.

Steps to Becoming a Judge

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Step 2: Earn a Juris Doctorate Degree
Step 3: Pass a Bar Exam
Step 4: Gain Experience as an Attorney
Step 5: Obtaining a Judgeship
Step 6: Complete (and Continue) Training

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a judge starts in college. An aspiring judge doesn’t necessarily need to pick a specific major for attaining their bachelor’s degree. However, many of those looking ahead for a career in the legal field will focus on degrees that are more applicable to being accepted to law school. These majors commonly include business, criminal justice, history, political science, philosophy, and so forth.

Step 2: Earn a Juris Doctorate Degree

After attaining a bachelor’s degree, aspiring judges must follow the career path of an attorney. Therefore, they will attend an American Bar Association-accredited law school, where there’ll be awarded a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree. This process generally takes 3 years.

Step 3: Pass a Bar Exam

Once an individual has earned a JD degree, prospective attorneys must apply for admission to the bar in their state/ jurisdiction where they wish to practice law. This requires passing the bar exam, which is a series of tasks that ensures an attorney can perform the most basic of tasks required by an attorney.

Step 4: Gain Experience as an Attorney

Because judges typically “police” the behavior of the trial and attorneys, most judges work as lawyers before acquiring their judgeship. This gives them first-hand and relevant experience to resolve common disputes in court, as well as conducting legal research, drafting court documents, and so forth.

Step 5: Obtain a Judgeship

To become a judge, a lawyer must be appointed or elected by a judicial nominating commission or high-ranking politicians (i.e. senators, governors). An attorney applies for a judgeship by submitting their name for consideration. If the person has a strong history of legal practice and support from politicians/judges, they may be appointed. As a career, many judges have fixed and renewable terms of office; however, some—especially on the federal level—can be appointed to life-long terms.

Step 6: Complete (and Continue) Training

Once a judge has been elected/appointed, they may be required to complete training programs to ensure that they are educated on the newest developments of the law. As a trainee, judges participate in court trials, complete online exercises, and review legal publications to ensure that they are up to the demands of the job. Judges are required to continually complete education courses throughout their careers to stay abreast of the legal changes.

These programs may be state-administered by legal organizations like the American Bar Association, National Center for State Courts, and the National Judicial College; for federal judges, the Federal Judicial Center provides training for federal judges (and other federal court personnel).

If you want some more tips on how you can get started on becoming a judge, here is a great video I found for you to view.

Proving Negligence

picture of negligence

Negligence is the failure to take the proper care that a reasonable person would take. The law of negligence is important because it provides a civil remedy for behavior that doesn’t rise to the level of criminal. It creates an incentive to behave carefully and ensures that those who fail to take reasonable care suffer repercussions. Additionally, negligence claims can provide damages for those who are the victim’s of negligence. Many times these damages are necessary to pay off bills that a victim incurred as a result of another’s negligence.

A common example of negligence would be a driver that fails to reduce his speed in icy conditions. While the speed limit may be 45 mph on a regular day, a reasonable person would slow down because they recognize that driving 45 mph may endanger other drivers on the road. The driver that fails to slow down risks colliding with other vehicles on the road.

Elements of Negligence

There are four elements that must be proven in order to prevail on a claim of negligence. First, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed them a duty of care. There are many different ways that a duty may arise, but the broad rule is that an actor has a duty to exercise reasonable care whenever their conduct creates a risk of physical harm to another. In the traffic example above, the driver owes a duty of care to other drivers on the road.

Once a plaintiff establishes that the defendant owed them a duty of care, they must prove that the defendant breached that duty of care. This is simply providing evidence that defendant failed to use reasonable care on a particular occasion. For example, the driver breached his duty of care to other drivers by failing to reduce his speed in icy conditions.

Next, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions were the cause of his injuries. This step includes proving that the injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s breach and that a reasonable person would have anticipated it was a potential consequence. Continuing with the example from before, if the driver was driving slower than the collision would not have occurred. Furthermore, it is foreseeable to a reasonable driver that a car accident was a potential consequence.

Finally, a plaintiff must request specific damages that are logically connected to the harm that they suffered. Damages are calculated in varying ways depending on the jurisdiction. That being said, damages from negligence claims can range from hundreds to millions of dollars.

Common Crimes People Are Arrested For

Being arrested is not a common occurrence for most people. Being arrested means that you have been caught doing something illegal or that you are suspected of having committed a criminal offence. There are however common crimes or offences that people are often arrested for more often than other crimes.

Below are the common crimes that people are arrested for:

Assault

People arrested for assault have threatened to commit harm to another person showing that they have the ability to do so. Not to be confused with battery, people charged with assault have not actually carried out the physical harm but only threaten to.

DUI

Being arrested for a DUI means that you were caught driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is a common crime that people are arrested for especially during routine traffic stops carried out by police officers.

Disorderly Conduct

graph of crimesPeople arrested for disorderly conduct are deemed to be disturbing the peace. This can apply to people intoxicated in public, loitering or behaving in a disorderly conduct to themselves or others in a public place. Disorderly conduct is not classed as a serious criminal offence but a misdemeanor. Disorderly conduct can include people arrested for fighting in public.

Possession Of Drugs

Possession of illegal narcotics and drugs is an arrest able offence. Each state differs as to the penalties and charges for drug possession. There is a difference between people in possession of small amounts of drugs and those found to be carrying large amounts where there is an intent to sell.

Public Intoxication

If a person is visibly intoxicated in public they can be arrested. Arrests for public intoxication are common, especially around big sporting events or holidays when people consume large amounts of alcohol. People arrested for public intoxication can also be arrested and charged for disorderly conduct if they are disturbing the peace.

Resisting Arrest

A person can be arrested and charged with resisting arrest. This is quite a common crime that people commit when police officers are attempting to apprehend an individual. If a person gives chase or does not cooperate whilst being arrested then they will be charged with resisting arrest.

Vehicle Theft

Motor vehicle theft, or grand theft auto, is a criminal offence that people are commonly arrested for. The be arrested and charged with stealing a motor vehicle the person either needs to have stolen the car or have attempted to steal it.

Billable Hours

Most people understand that a client will be expected to pay a hefty fee for an attorney’s advice. However, most people don’t understand exactly how that fee is calculated. Since legal advice is becoming increasingly expensive, it is important for clients to understand how they are being billed. This helps to protect the client from overpaying as well as the attorney from committing an ethical violation.

What is a Billable Hour?

Attorneys bill clients depending on the number of hours that they work on a client’s case. On average, attorneys bill approximately 1800 hours per year. However, many firms encourage attorneys to bill more by providing financial incentives for exceeding the 1800-hour bench march. This is commonly referred to as the “golden handcuffs.” This means that an attorney who bills feels pressure to work more hours in order to make more money.

image of billable hours

Most attorneys divide their time into increments of 6 minutes and then round up as necessary. For example, A calls a witness for C’s case but no one answers the telephone. A then leaves a voicemail for the witness. In total, this task only took A 5 minutes. However, A will still bill C for 6 minutes. While this is common, there are many different billing practices that vary depending on the law firm and attorney.

Controversy

Billable hours are controversial for several reasons. First, billable hours must be tracked methodically. This means that attorneys frequently spend as much time calculating and logging billable hours as they spend working on a client’s case. Second, billable hours encourage law firms to overwork their attorneys, even though the attorney will not receive the total amount that they bill. Generally, firms divide up the billable returns among the partners and associates. Third, the billable system encourages fraud among attorneys. Many attorneys over bill clients and put themselves in risk of criminal and civil sanctions as a result of the system.

Contractual Billable Hours

Whenever someone hires a private attorney, there is generally a contract that governs the payment. This contract will specifically spell out the increments that the attorney bills, how the attorney keeps track of billables, what work a client can expect to have billed and the payment schedule. Contracts like this are important so that both the client and the attorney understand the procedure in advance of any payments. Furthermore either party can refer to the legally binding contract to resolve future disputes.

The Difference Between Prosecution Lawyers and Defence Lawyers

During a trial you often hear of ‘the prosecution’ and ‘the defense’. There is a big difference between the two and the role that each play during a court case. Both the prosecution and defense lawyer are university educated and hold degrees from law school. They have both also passed the state bar exam in the state that they are practicing law. Both are in court with the aim to win the case. However, the prosecution is arguing that the accused is guilty of a crime on behalf of the state and must receive a penalty usually jail time. The defense on the other hand is defending their client against the charges by the state. Before you read this article, this post on Carrington College’s site will provide some more background info.

Here are the key things to know about both:

Prosecution Lawyer

The prosecution lawyer is employed by the government to represent the state in criminal law cases. They can decide to drop charges against the accused in a criminal case, or to press charges and go ahead with a criminal trial. During a criminal trial in court, they aim to prove that the accused is guilty of the charged crime. They call witnesses to the stand to testify against the accused and presents evidence to the judge and jury. The lawyer must by law present all evidence found during the pre-trial investigation, even if it is not favorable to the case. He or she can offer a plea bargain or deal to the defendant pre-trial. This means that the accused agrees to plead guilty to lesser charges, in exchange for less prison time or something of that nature in return from the prosecution.

Defense Lawyer

A defense lawyer will be hired once the accused is arrested or charged with a crime. A criminal attorney can either by hired by the defendant himself or herself, or can be appointed by the state. The role of a this person during a criminal trial is to defend the accused as best as they can. They aim to prove their clients innocence. They also want to ensure the best outcome for their client. This can sometimes mean that a lesser sentence is the goal, over a large or life sentence in large criminal trials. He or she will assist their client pre-trial, during trial and post trial. Unlike the prosecution a defense lawyer does not by law have to present all evidence uncovered during the pre-trial investigation.