November 30

Looking Criminal and the Presumption of Dangerousness

The Hon. Mark W. Bennet, U.S. District Court judge for the Northern District of Iowa, and Dr. Victoria C. Plaut, a social psychologist and Professor of Law and Social Science
and Director of the Culture, Diversity, and Intergroup Relations Lab, UC Berkeley
School of Law, have recently published an article addressing the historic presumption of dangerousness that Whites routinely apply to Blacks in America.


This is one more reason why selecting a fair and impartial jury for a Black defendant charged with a serious crime in Vermont, the state with the second highest percentage of white people (95.2%), is so incredibly difficult and frustrating. Potential jurors are reluctant to admit to any explicit bias, much less an implicit bias against a Black defendant.

If you think you do not have any implicit bias, I suggest you take the Project Implicit test at the Harvard University website: here.


October 2

Clean State Clearinghouse

The Clean State Clearing House (available here) is an online resource providing expungement and sealing information in all 50 states. The site will help individuals with criminal records connect with pro bono legal service providers.

September 20

NHTSA Issues Report to Congress on Marijuana Impaired Driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report to Congress in July 2017 about marijuana impaired driving. The report noted that studies have consistently found that the level of THC in the blood and the degree of impairment do not appear to be closely related. “While high levels of THC are detected in the blood (and oral fluid) during and right after smoking, they are not typically observed an hour or two later. In cases of traffic crashes or arrests for impaired driving, it is most likely that only relatively low levels of THC will be found by the time an oral fluid or blood sample is obtained. Low THC levels of a few nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) in blood can result from relatively recent use (e.g., smoking within 1 – 3 hours) when some slight or even moderate impairment is likely to be present, or it can result from chronic use where no recent ingestion has occurred and no impairment is present.” Thus, there is a lack of clear correspondence between THC level in plasma and impairment. The peak THC level is reached soon after smoking ends, but peak performance deficits are observed long after the peak THC level occurs. The subjectively reported “high” also does not correspond well with blood plasma THC concentration. THC level in blood (or oral fluid) does not appear to be an accurate and reliable predictor of impairment from THC. Also, when low levels of THC are found in the blood, the presence of THC is not a reliable indicator of recent marijuana use.

The full report is available here.

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