Under the Guise of Reform: How Marijuana Possession Is Exposing the Flaws in the Criminal Justice System's Guarantee of a Right to a Jury Trial
Taylor E. Whitten
University of Iowa - College of Law
April 26, 2013
Iowa Law Review, Forthcoming
Recent Supreme Court decisions have restricted a criminal defendant’s right to a jury trial. By setting the threshold to trigger a jury trial right at six months imprisonment, the Supreme Court once feared that the legislature might classify serious crimes as petty, and take away a defendant’s right to a jury trial. But what if the opposite happened? What if the legislature classified an offense that Americans no longer believed was a crime out of the reach of their input – the jury. This is what has occurred in some states with minor marijuana possession. Even though a majority of Americans believe that marijuana possession should be legalized, some states are continuing to prosecute it as a crime without a jury trial. While waiting for marijuana reform, thousands of defendants will be prosecuted for a crime without the judicial check of a jury trial. Perhaps the electorate will respond through their votes, but democracy takes time, and at a cost to all the offenders who await judgment. This Note will examine how this offense managed to fall through the cracks of the judicial and legislative system at both the federal and state level. In highlighting these issues, this Note argues that the justice system should correct its flaws, and prevent future offenses from the same fate.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 89
Keywords: jury, jury trial, marijuana, decriminalization, sixth amendment, marijuana reform, criminal procedure, misdemeanor, drugs, war on drugs, possession
JEL Classification: K1, K14, H70
Date posted: April 27, 2013
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