Maine: Low Crime, Arrest Rate Higher Than TX, CA, NY, NJ, PA, MI & OH.
Posted by Edmund R. Folsom, Esq.
March 6, 2020.
A 7-year old Waterville girl was recently released from the hospital with a bullet still inside her, after somebody fired a gun into her house last week. The bullet went through the wall of the bedroom where she was hanging out having a snack with her 6-year old sister after school. Maybe this is the kind of case people have in mind when they ask how a criminal defense attorney can represent a criminal defendant.
The perpetrator remains at large. But when the police and prosecutors select someone to be the defendant, don’t you think the person should have a lawyer to ensure that due process is adhered to? What if the police have it wrong? And isn’t it especially critical to have legal representation when public sentiment runs in favor of lynching – not just for the one whose neck is threatened by the noose but for a society that likes to think of itself as civilized? Ex-President John Adams thought so, back in his pre-President lawyer days when he defended a group of British soldiers accused of murdering Bostonians during a 1770 riot. Adams’ clients were very unpopular, which made Adams’ role all the more necessary. Ah to be so needed and yet so detested, all at once…
But that’s the extreme. In more mundane ways, criminal defense lawyers assist far more of the population as clients than the population likes to let on. I have commented before on the increase in Maine’s jail population in the face of Maine’s plummeting crime rate. Some might wonder why criminal case filings don’t decline along with the crime rate. In 1990, Maine logged 45,406 crimes. In 2018, Maine logged 19,674. That’s a 57% decline in annual crimes between 1990 and 2018. Yet our jails remain full. The last time I mentioned that, someone remarked that Maine has nearly the lowest incarceration rate in the U.S. That’s true, but Maine also has the lowest violent crime rate in the U.S. and something like the fourth lowest property crime rate. Why haven’t incarceration rates dropped as much as our crime rate? A funny thing is happening, but it really isn’t all that funny.
Nationally, while the crime rate has been declining the arrest rate has been increasing, to the point where, among the U.S. population of males who were between the ages of 26 and 35 in 2018, nearly 1/3 had been arrested by age 26. Think of that. Nearly 1/3 of the males in this country are now arrested by age 26. It didn’t used to be that way. Among females, the rise in the arrest rate has been more rapid than the rate for males. Only 1 in every 100 females age 66 or older was arrested before age 26. But for younger females that rate has now risen to 1 in every 7. Crime is down, arrests are up. Who is served by this?
Back to Maine’s lowest in the nation violent crime rate and fourth lowest property crime rate, how are we doing with our arrest rate? Not as well as our low crime rate might predict. According to statistics cited here, Maine’s arrest rate for 2018 was 3,052 per 100,000 population. That puts us just about mid-pack among the 50 states – number 29 to be exact. Does it surprise you to know that Maine arrests a higher percentage of its population than Texas, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio? Keep in mind that we have the absolutely oldest population in the entire United States. Assuming that the elderly are not the ones getting arrested, and therefore are not the ones comprising the 3,052 of every 100,000 people arrested, it’s particularly tough to be young in this State. And in Maine there is no way to ever erase the stain of a criminal conviction other than by a governor’s pardon — a criminal conviction, like herpes, is for life.
For the criminal defense attorney, there is no shame in beating back the machinery.