Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

Want to Be the Next Judge Judy?

If you are a patient person who exercises fairness and possesses good judgment, you may make a good judge. But if you think that this job is limited to what you’ve seen on TV, then you might want to take a deeper look.

When it comes to trials, judges are in charge. During a trial it is a judge’s responsibility to ensure fairness, make sure that the correct procedures are followed, and apply the law in all circumstances. They listen to the attorney’s representation of their clients, evaluate methods of presenting witness testimonies, and decide whether or not evidence is admissible in the court of law. Judges oversee lawyers, deciding what they can and cannot do and settling differences between them. They also inform juries about the law, guide them as they try to evaluate facts and evidence, and listen to their verdict. Some cases do not require a jury trial, and under these circumstances, it is a judge’s responsibility to determine guilt, enforce sentences, or award compensation. Most importantly, in the case of conviction, judges decide an individual’s punishment, such as how long they will go to prison, what conditions they must meet, or how much money they owe another person. While some judges oversee cases involving serious crimes, such as murder, other’s deal with cases involving less serious issues such as traffic laws, family disputes, and financial situations.

If you want to be the next Judge Judy, at the least you have to have a bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience. Most judges have law degrees and have practiced as lawyers, but specific requirements can depend on the type of judge one wants to be and the state one wants to practice in. Most states allow individuals who are not lawyers to have limited-jurisdiction judgeships, but all states require that all newly elected or appointed judges go through some type of orientation. This orientation can include judicial education and training provided by the American Bar Association, Federal Judicial Center, National Judicial College, and National Center for State Courts. While judges are serving on the bench, the majority of states require that they take continuing education courses which typically last from a few days to a few weeks. Those who want to become judges are going to need political support, as federal and state judges are either elected or appointed. Once judges are elected or appointed they can serve terms ranging anywhere from a few years to life.

Avoiding Online Education Scams and Diploma Mills

Attending college and earning a degree should be relatively hard work. That’s what makes it rewarding in the end. But some criminals have turned this milestone into a fraudulent moneymaker, ripping off unsuspecting students that are simply trying to advance their education. With the popularity of online colleges and classes increasing exponentially each year, so has the prevalence of online education scams. From fake universities to fake degrees, students should beware of these pitfalls and know what to look for when researching online colleges to attend.

A popular scam right now is called the "diploma mill." These are websites that promise students fast and easy degrees, but for a pretty penny. Students register online without an application process or interview, take a basic test of multiple choice questions and receive the news that they have earned a degree. After simply paying the company anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, the scammed students will receive their diploma and certificates in the mail. The Better Business Bureau has received many reports of the fake universities and even claims that there are now fake high schools offering students phony GEDs.

Other education scams include fake universities and colleges that accept students online, request tuition and then never provide those students with any classes or certificates. They simply steal the money and are never heard from again. They lie about their accreditation status and course offerings, so even the inquisitive potential students can be duped.

Also, it can be easy for these fake university and college websites to proliferate because they do not have to maintain a physical address, which is ironically one of the main reasons students attend an online university in the first place. This element of anonymity allows scammers to rip off unsuspecting students and shrewd students alike. To avoid being scammed by one of these fake education website, do your homework on them. Don’t accept their claims of accreditation at face value. The United States Secretary of Education publishes a list of nationally recognized accreditation agencies, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation also provides a comprehensive list of all accredited colleges and universities, as well as accreditation agencies. If your school is not on this list, it could be a scam. Also, contact the Better Business Bureau to see if the school you are interested in is being investigated for fraud. A little research could save you a great deal of money and headache.

Respectfully Quitting Your Job to Go On to Better Things

You have decided to take the big step in earning a criminal justice degree. This is without a doubt something to be celebrated. Yet, though you are now working on earning your education in a field which fascinates you and are therefore striving to begin a new career in something you feel passionate about, you may be feeling anxious about leaving your current job. However, do not fret too much about how to break the news to the bosses and coworkers you have known for so long. As long as you quit respectfully, there will not be any bridges to burn.

There are right ways and wrong ways to quit a job. One of the worst of the wrong ways to quit a job is to simply stop showing up. Not only is this ineffective because you will have your supervisors calling you repeatedly while you doggedly try to ignore your ringing cell phone, but this is also something that can violate a contract and therefore cost you money and future job offers. Quitting by simply not showing up also demonstrates cowardliness and unprofessionalism, which your ex-employer is likely to tell to any potential employer looking into your work history.

The best way to determine how to quit is to put yourself in your current employer’s shoes. If you were an employer and one of your employees was thinking about quitting, how would you prefer for him or her to go about it? Most likely, you would want to have ample time to make arrangements around the employee’s departure, such as potentially finding a replacement or at least redistributing the responsibilities, and you would also want the employee to be respectful, gracious, and helpful. This means that you should do all of these things yourself when you approach your boss. A two week’s notice is the standard for departure, so be sure to make your imminent exit known at least two weeks before you actually leave. This will give your boss plenty of time to prepare for your vacancy. Sometimes, your boss may even relieve you sooner so that you can have some extra time off before beginning your new career. Also, be sure to thank your boss for the opportunity you had working with him or her, even if you did not entirely enjoy your employment. This way, you are less likely to be faced with an angry response when you announce your departure.

Quitting may seem like a tricky thing, but as long as you make sure that you do so with respect and gratitude, your current employer will wish you luck on your next endeavor.

The Top 100 Criminal Justice Blogs

Criminal justice is perhaps one of the the most broad reaching fields of study in education today. It incorporates not only the topics that immediately come to mind such as law enforcement, corrections and the courts, but also political history, social issues, psychology and civil liberties among many others. This diversity of issues makes criminal justice dynamic but it also makes it dizzyingly complex for someone trying to educate themselves in justice issues. Consequently, we have compiled this list to help anyone involved in the criminal justice field — including academics, practitioners and students — find information and resources about their niche, as well as any other aspect of criminal justice.

Police and Detective Blogs

Get a feel for what it’s like to police the streets in some of the world’s toughest cities by checking out this list.

  1. The Policeman’s Blog: This British blog mixes personal stories with humorous analysis of the UK police systems and the "mad, mad mad world of the British underclass."
  2. LAPD Blog: Readers get a first hand look at crime reports, crime stats and LAPD campaigns from this straightforward blog.
  3. Chicago Police Department Weblog: This is the official blog for the Chicago police department, and readers will find press releases, department news, crime updates and more.
  4. Blues and Twos – Police Officer’s Blog: This blog is another police and law blog from a UK perspective.
  5. Police Inspector Blog: This blogger is a member of the Ruralshire Constabulary in England, and begs readers, "don’t call us, we’ll call you." Browse the blog for media reviews, politics and the daily grind.
  6. The Philosophical Cop Police Blog: This blog is written by an American cop who analyzes politics, social issues, and crime reports.
  7. Mr. Police Man: Learn about the life of a cop in this blog, which discusses what it’s like to be on duty during Cinco de Mayo, look for a police job and more.
  8. Police Brutality Blog: This blog documents police brutality cases and complaints around the country.
  9. The Johnny Law Chronicles: This blogger notes that "good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun." Recent posts include "Killed in the line" and "Dope on the table."
  10. Amherst Police Department Blog: Learn about department news and crime reports for the city of Amherst in this official blog.
  11. The Plastic Fuzz: A police community support officer blog which is noted as much for the eloquent writing style as for the interesting issue-oriented PCSO tales it discusses.
  12. BPDNews.com: Learn about all the criminal reports in Boston each day and get updates about top police news stories in the area.
  13. The Chief’s Corner: Lincoln, Nebraska, Chief of Police Tom Casady gives an insider’s look at what’s happening in the department, including "things you’re unlikely to hear about in the local media."

Law Schools

These authoritative sites analyze major cases, reveal insight into what it’s like to go to law school and keep readers updated on what they need to know in the criminal justice industry.

  1. CrimProf Blog: Recent posts on this blog cover stories about youth offenders, the Second Chance Act, racial issues in the criminal justice system, and more.
  2. The University of Chicago Law School Faculty Blog: Read posts, watch videos and listen to podcasts that comment on issues affecting The University of Chicago Law School and the greater criminal justice community.
  3. Tax Prof Law Blog: Paul L. Caron is the Associate Dean of Faculty at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, and he blogs about scholarships, tax law cases, politics and more.
  4. Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil: This Columbia law student’s blog concluded in 2006, but it’s still a popular read and offers great tips on surviving law school.
  5. What I Learned in Law School: Read about law firm office culture, looking for a job, supplementing your degree with leadership skills and more.
  6. Law School Academic Support Blog: Law school professors can turn to this blog for job postings, teaching ideas, conferences and industry news.
  7. Georgetown Law Faculty Blog: Get an academic understanding of current affairs and criminal justice cases here.
  8. Law Librarian Blog: Find great resources for studying and researching criminal law cases here.
  9. Dorf on Law: Columbia Law School professor Michael Dorf and his "lawyer/professor friends" blog about the Supreme Court and top cases around the country.

Advice, News and Resources

Turn to these blogs to learn about new policies and campaigns to improve the justice system. This list also includes sites that serve as one-stop resources for criminal justice professionals and students who need news updates and more.

  1. The Truth About False Confessions: Learn all about false confessions in this blog, from Guantanamo prisoners to the wrongfully convicted.
  2. PULSE Criminal Justice: This network has news and updates from criminal justice systems around the country.
  3. Criminal Justice Online: Turn to this blog for online resources about criminal justice. It’s designed for lawyers, law students and academics, so there’s a variety of information included.
  4. The Innocence Project: The blog for The Innocence Project urges citiznes to "know the cases; understand the causes; fix the system." Posts are all about important rulings and legislation that reveal how DNA testing can protect the wrongfully accused.
  5. The Criminal Justice Journalists’ News Center: Journalists and anyone else wanting to know more about criminal justice policies and news can turn to this resource.
  6. Criminal Profiling: Get coverage of top criminal justice news stories from around the country.
  7. Criminal Justice Degrees Guide Articles: A concise but growing collection of resources and articles relating both to criminal justice education and to the field generally.

Corrections and Sentencing

This collection features blogs about the death penalty, prison systems, sentencing law and policy, and other criminal justice news.

  1. Capital Defense Weekly: Read detailed commentary about sentencing, the death penalty and criminal justice news at Capital Defense Weekly.
  2. Sentencing Law and Policy: Recent posts from this blog discuss the death penalty, child pornography cases, and coverage of top cases.
  3. The Lonely Abolitionist: This anti-death penalty blog includes posts about cases around the country.
  4. StandDown Texas Project: This is the blog for the StandDown Texas Project, which advocates a review of the Texas criminal justice system and the death penalty.
  5. The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog: Find information about immigration, criminal sentencing, state prison plans, civil liberties and other topics in this blog.
  6. Second Circuit Sentencing Blog: Look up cases and review sentencing decisions from cases in the Second Circuit here.
  7. Juvienation: This blog is written by a journalist in Brooklyn who writes about the issues and reforms surrounding the juvenile justice system.
  8. Texas Prison Bid’ness: Recent posts from this blog discuss prisoner transfers, funding, private prisons and other topics relating to the prison system in Texas.
  9. PrisonBlogs.net: This hosting service supports blogs written by prisoners, and the most recent entries are posted on the home page.
  10. Death Penalty: Amnesty International’s Death Penalty blog covers executions, legislation and cases in states around the country.

Attorney Blogs

These blogs are written by prosecutors, public defenders and attorneys in private practice, and discuss everything from national security to celebrity cases to picking a jury.

  1. A Public Defender: Read about sex offender cases, the notion of accidents in a court room, the death penalty and more.
  2. Law of Criminal Defense: Recent posts include "California Bar investigating Brady violation" and "Hourly billing starting to disappear," making this blog a good read for criminal defense lawyers wanting all types of news.
  3. Underdog: Criminal and drunk driving defense lawyer Jon Katz writes about the first amendment, Supreme Court cases and more.
  4. Diary of a Criminal Solicitor: This Essex solicitor blog about the criminal justice system in the UK, dropped cases, and top news stories.
  5. Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer: This blog is all about the "art and science of criminal defense trial lawyering" and features well-written, regular posts about local and national cases.
  6. Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer: Categories in this blog include jury trials, the war on drug, the Texas penal code and more. Casual posts are well-written and dispense good information in an approachable way.
  7. Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog: The lawyers at Kestenbaum, Eisner and Gorin in LA maintain this blog, which discusses California criminal laws, jury trials, celebrity cases, sex crimes and a lot more.
  8. Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog: This blog comes from the criminal defense firm Altman and Altman. Read about drug offenses, federal crimes, violent crimes, cyber crimes and more.
  9. California Criminal Lawyer Blog: This blog is full or resources and commentaries that could be useful for law students and lawyers, especially in the state of California. Categories range from DUI defense and blood tests to penalties to women’s defenses to juvenile topics.
  10. SCOTUS Blog: This is the blog for the Supreme Court of the United States, and readers will find information on rulings, schedules for the Justices, petitions, politics and more.
  11. Crime and Consequences: Many of the posts in this blog cover Supreme Court rulings and cases.
  12. FourthAmendment.com: This blog tracks Supreme Court rulings and cases dealing with the fourth amendment.
  13. Campaign for the Supreme Court: This blog, from the Washington Post, features "continuing coverage of the Supreme Court" Justices and decisions.

Judges and Court

Get a better understanding of the court system and how judges make their decisions by following these blogs regularly.

  1. The Anniston Star: Learn all about criminal justice news and the court system in Alabama by reading this blog that’s full of regular updates and photos.
  2. Criminal Appeal: Criminal Appeal focuses on the Ninth Circuit and the California state courts.
  3. How Appealing: How Appealing covers appellate litigation cases, theories and trends.
  4. Long Island (Criminal) Trial Law: Learn about court proceedings, trial law, jury psychology and more in the Long Island courts by reading this blog.
  5. Grits for Breakfast: The unofficial blog for the Texas criminal justice system documents local and state cases, politics and how media and the justice system collide.
  6. Judging Crimes: This well-written, authoritative blog is written by a judge who hears violent and criminal cases and wants the American public to understand the "reality of judicial power rather than the verbal formulas used to defend it."
  7. INCourts: This Indiana lawyer often blogs about Supreme Court rulings and gives reviews of cases, state news and more.
  8. X-Judge: This former judge served on the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Posts cover topics ranging from pre-emption to prosecutor press conferences to politics.
  9. Deliberations: Discover the issues, culture, processes and psychology of jury trials and juries here.
  10. Gavel Grab: Posts from this blog discuss "impartiality, accountability and the war over the courts" and are written by Justice at Stake, a nonprofit group that advocates fair courts.

Criminal Psychology and Social Psychology

Effective lawyers, prison guards, police officers and judges need to understand the basic principles of criminal psychology and social psychology to evaluate witnesses, track down criminals, and maintain a general sense of order.

  1. Prevention Not Punishment: This blog posts about death penalty news and rulings and examines how mental illness and the death penalty often go hand in hand.
  2. Drug Law Blog: From antidepressants to marijuana to the FDA, the Drug Law Blog explores drug-related cases and legislation in California and the U.S.
  3. Forensic Psychology Blog: Learn the basics of forensic psychology, including criminal profiling, here.
  4. Psychology and Crime News: This forensic psychology blog collects scholarly research and posts about industry news.
  5. Neuroethics and Law Blog: Princeton University and University of San Diego School of Law professor Adam Kolber explores how psychology and neurology affect legal and ethical issues.
  6. Social Psychology Arena: Use this blog to connect you to research and resources that will help you better understand the field in general or a particular philosophy.
  7. The Situationist: This smart social psychology blog uncovers research projects and findings, group behavior, child psychology, law and more.

Individual Rights and Public Defenders

Learn more about the civil liberties issues affecting individual rights in the U.S. criminal justice system here.

  1. Injustice Anywhere: This public defender has worked in Texas and Washington, and she rants about seeing injustice in criminal justice systems around the country.
  2. Georgia Criminal Law Blog: Georgians who have been accused of crimes can turn to this blog for news and resources to help them understand their cases.
  3. Blonde Justice: The writer behind Blonde Justice uses Elle Woods from Legally Blonde as her online persona and blogs about being a public defender.
  4. Public Defender Dude: This blogger maintains that he is devoted to "fight[ing]the system through the system."
  5. Sex Crime Defender: Lawyer Stephen C. Smith writes about the nature of sex crime defense, and encourages readers to share their opinions on rape laws, child pornography cases and more.
  6. DUI Blog: This blogger uncovers "bad drunk driving laws, false evidence and a fading constitution" in this blog.
  7. Think Outside the Cage: The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition publishes this blog, which features posts about marijuana, parole systems, drug abuse, police brutality and more.
  8. Evidence Prof Blog: This law professor uncovers legislations and trends in evaluating evidence that could encroach upon individual rights.
  9. ACLU Blog: This is the official blog for the American Civil Liberties Union, and visitors can read about drug laws, government spying, immigration issues, prisoners’ rights, racial justice and more.
  10. Tales of a Public Defender Investigator: This award-winning blog writes about being a public defender in California. Recent posts include "Defending Ourselves" and "Umm…Another Reason We Should Have Formal County Public Defender Offices?"

Federal Criminal Justice and Issues

Use these blogs as references for studying federal cases and policies that affect the entire nation.

  1. Convictions: Slate’s law blog covers Supreme Court cases and cases that affect national issues.
  2. American Constitution Society for Law and Policy Blog: Criminal justice posts cover Guantanamo issues, the death penalty, civil rights, military cases and much more.
  3. TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime: Recent posts cover Barack Obama, Gitmo prisoners and other political stories as they relate to criminal justice.
  4. Federal Crimes Blog: Posts on this blog are written by lawyers at the McNabb Associates firm that handles drug cases and other cases around the country.
  5. Prevention Works: This is the blog from the National Crime Prevention Council. Readers will find posts about assault and violence; alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse; protecting children; and more.
  6. Pushing Back: Though this blog includes local and state cases, the overall theme is the U.S. fight against drugs. Read posts to get information on drug-related legislation, importation, prevention and drug abuse.
  7. Extradition and Foreign Evidence: Learn about the rules and issues surrounding international criminal justice here.
  8. Representing Foreign Nationals: Representing foreign nationals involves a unique process. Read about cultural issues and immigration law here.

International Criminal Justice and Immigration

These blogs discuss immigration law and international criminal justice for the benefit of lawyers and defendants.

  1. Extradition and Foreign Evidence: Learn about the rules and issues surrounding international criminal justice here.
  2. Representing Foreign Nationals: Representing foreign nationals involves a unique process. Read about cultural issues and immigration law here.

Forensic Science and Technology

Browse images and news stories and discover how technology plays a role in each aspect of the criminal justice system.

  1. Defensology: Read about cybercrime and how technology is used in a criminal courtroom here. The blog is no longer active, but it can be used as a valuable resource for studying past cases.
  2. Forensic News Blog: This well-organized blog includes images, news stories, and more about forensic science.

Miscellaneous

From paralegal blogs to sex crimes to home security to legislation summaries and updates, find everything else you need to know about the criminal justice system in this list.

  1. Overlawyered: This critique of the American criminal justice system covers topics in procedure, personal responsibility, family law, class actions, guns, crime and punishment, and more.
  2. Sex Crimes: This blog is "devoted to the criminal laws regulating and punishing sexual violence." Recent posts include "GPS Devices and Probable Cause" and "Should a 17 yr. old be charged?"
  3. Overcriminalized: Browse posts and legislative update summaries about all kinds of reforms, campaigns and acts, like the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act and the Foreclosure Prevention Act.
  4. Governing Through Crime: This insightful blog pulls from international politics, psychology and domestic issues to discuss prison reform, the criminal justice system and domestic security.
  5. court-o-rama: Learn how juries are selected, evidence is evaluated and more in this blog.
  6. A Paralegal’s Blog: This blog covers news stories affecting paralegals, the work culture of a paralegal and more.
  7. Pacific Crime Blog: This blog mainly focuses on the West coast, but readers will find news and issues relating to criminal justice and criminology around the country.
  8. Becker-Posner Blog: Perhaps two of the greatest thinkers of our time turn their economic and legal analysis to the world around them, often touching on issues affecting criminal justice.
  9. Crime Rant: Blogger M. William Phelps is "deliberating crime from coast to coast" in this blog. Posts analyze crime stories from all over the country and dissect the nature of crime and question the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

Police Officers Do More Than Give Out Tickets

Everyone knows that police officers are the ones who issue them citation and warnings. But police officers do more than sit on the side of the road and wait for you to roll through that stop sign, they also catch and arrest people who break the law and keep communities safe.

Police officers patrol jurisdictions in order to ensure the safety of the people in them, as well as keep track of suspicious activity. They are assigned specific areas to patrol and must familiarize themselves with these areas, so that they can easily notice anything that is out of the usual. While patrolling the area they may identify, pursue, and arrest suspects, try to resolve problems within their area, and enforce traffic laws. But officers don’t spend all of their time in their cars, a large amount of it is actually spent writing reports and keeping up records of the incidents they come across while they are on patrol. It is important that officers maintain thorough and accurate records as they may be needed if they are required to testify in a court of law.

A police officer’s daily activity can also vary according to their specialty, which can be in different fields such as training and firearms instruction, microscopic analysis, or handwriting and fingerprint identification. They can also work in special units like canine corps, horseback, harbor patrol, special weapons and tactics, and bicycle and motorcycle. Since the public requires protection 24/7, officers work shifts, which can occur on nights, weekends, and holidays, and typically add up to 40 hour weeks. Still, a police officer’s work is never done and in most jurisdictions, whether they are on duty or not, they are expected to exercise their authority if needed.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of police and detectives is expected to experience average growth, about 10 percent from 2008 to 2018. To be a police officer one typically must have some sort of college education or training related to law enforcement. College programs in police science, law enforcement, or administration of justice, are often available through junior colleges, colleges, or universities, and many agencies will help pay for their officers to work toward these degrees. Often recruits are required to complete a program through a police academy which typically last from 12 to 14 weeks. These programs usually include instruction in civil rights, constitutional law, accident investigation, and State laws and local ordinances, as well as training in patrol, firearm use, self-defense, first-aid, traffic control, and emergency response.

Love Wildlife? Become a Warden

If you are passionate about wildlife, then you probably want to protect it. Lucky for you, there is a job out there that requires you to do just that. Game wardens are state and local officials who enforce laws dealing with the trapping, fishing, and hunting fishing, of wild animals.

These law enforcement officers don’t patrol the streets within their jurisdiction, but patrol forests, parks, lakes, rivers, and beaches. They make sure that hunters, fishers, and trappers meet licensing requirements and assist in wildlife management duties such as conducting surveys to count game animals like deer, elk, and antelope. Since humans are not the only victims of crime, crimes committed against wildlife require wardens to conduct detailed investigations to solve them. Through the use of evidence, such as fingerprints, ballistic, and DNA, wardens can help prosecute those who commit crimes against nature or illegally kill wildlife. Along with these types of authority, game wardens typically have the authority to enforce general laws and can arrest individuals for crimes like driving or operating a boat under the influence of alcohol.

If spending your days protecting the great outdoors sounds more like a vacation than a job, being a game warden might be the job for you. While specific requirements vary from state to state, most require applicants to be U.S. citizens, at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license, and no felonies on their record. Most states require applicants to have completed a bachelor’s degree and course work related to the field of resource conservation and management, such as criminal justice, fish and wildlife management, parks and recreation, natural resource conservation, and environmental science. Since the job of a game warden requires physical activity, applicants are also usually required to meet minimum hearing, vision, and fitness requirements.

If hired you will be required to complete a training program, which typically will last anywhere from three to 12 months. These programs include courses in wildlife and resource management, fish, physical training, civil defense training, homeland security, first aid, and water rescue. These programs also educate you about important laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and law enforcement and tactics. As a game warden you will do an extensive amount of work outdoors, sometimes in hazardous weather conditions and natural disasters. Along with routine duties, you will have to be prepared to work in stressful situations with people who are injured, violent, or emotionally upset.

How DNA Is Used to Solve Crimes

Technological advancement is not limited to just the amazing shrinking size of your laptop and the amazing growing size of your cell phone screen. Technological progress has also leapt into the criminal justice field, particularly in the field of forensics. One of the most well-known areas where forensic technology has advanced is in DNA work. These days, DNA is used in the criminal justice field to not only solve crimes, but also to help free wrongly convicted individuals of past crimes when DNA technology did not exist.

To identify individuals, scientists carefully scan 13 regions of provided DNA, presumably from a crime scene or alleged murder weapon, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The 13 areas they focus on vary between individuals and are often referred to as the "fingerprint of DNA" because it is unique from person to person. Amazingly, these 13 distinctive hotspots are less than one-tenth of a single percent of DNA. In fact, most DNA between people is completely identical. Yet, scientists hone in on these 13 areas to see if the DNA on the evidence matches the DNA of the convicted individual. If the DNA matches, then the individual remains a viable suspect or is officially convicted beyond a reasonable doubt if all the other evidence stacks up. If the DNA is not a match, then there is a chance that the individual is not actually guilty of the crime he or she is accused of committing.

DNA is not only obtained from blood, but also from anything a human can leave behind. Sweat, hair, and skin cells all contain DNA, making it a good way to test whether or not the accused was present at the crime scene. This technology has also helped to exonerate many wrongly accused individuals. Criminal justice is supposed to be an error-free system where those who are accused of committing criminal acts can seek out a fair trial. There are many complex aspects to the criminal justice system that is supposed to put the guilty behind bars and set the innocent free. Yet, sometimes the criminal justice system gets it wrong. With the advance of forensic technology, old cases are getting a second look. Some criminals are reaffirmed guilty with DNA evidence, but some who may have served decades behind bars are suddenly set free after DNA evidence proved that the individual was not guilty. According to the Innocence Project, a group that strives to provide DNA testing to individuals who claim they were wrongly convicted, scores of people have been freed due to this technology, giving them a new lease on life.

Cyber Crime and the People Who Stop It

One of the more fascinating fields within criminal justice is cyber crime. A relatively modern area of law enforcement, cyber crime has to do with criminal activity that takes place using the Internet, computers or other electronic means.

So what are some examples of cyber crime? Individuals who sell counterfeit drugs using the Internet; online purveyors of child pornography; people who deliver death threats or threats of harm to others via e-mail; and people who use computer programs to embezzle money into private accounts have all committed cyber crimes, including fraud, terroristic threat, promotion of child pornography and theft. Remember the Melissa virus? Another well-known cyber crime is creating and disseminating destructive computer viruses with the intent to cause damage.

While these crimes will only become more prevalent as technology seeps into every area of life, methods of preventing and solving even the most complex cyber crimes have also become more prevalent. Institutions of higher education that offer criminal justice degrees are increasingly providing courses and even specializations in cyber crime. More and more state and local law enforcement agencies are not only creating task forces specifically to address cyber crime, but they are also training their personnel more thoroughly in how to investigate cyber crimes. The Los Angeles Police Department, for instance, has a Computer Crimes Unit within the department to combat computer fraud, among other tech crimes.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) even has a cyber crime division, the mission of which includes preventing hackers from accessing sensitive government information; preventing the spread of malicious code; finding and stopping online sexual predators from exploiting children through pornography; and breaking up organized crime enterprises that engage in online fraud.

The federal government also provides helpful information for people who are victims of theft of intellectual property or trade secrets online. The site stopfakes.gov tells individuals and businesses how to register for patents, copyrights and trademarks; protect their IP address; keep their intellectual property safe overseas; and what to do if their right to keep their intellectual property and trade secrets has been violated.

The U.S. Department of Justice also maintains a comprehensive online resource of the places people should turn if they are victims of various cyber crimes or simply want to report crimes such as hacking, Internet harassment, password trafficking or child pornography.

Crime Prevention Tips Everyone Should Know

Law-abiding citizens don’t have to feel powerless and constantly fearful of falling victim to a crime. In fact, there are many steps we can take to prevent crime. Here are some ways you can begin reducing your risk of falling victim to certain crimes today.

Preventing property theft and burglary involves some common sense principles, such as locking the doors and windows of your home and vehicle. You also want to make sure your blinds or curtains are closed in your home and that shopping bags and other items of interest are stowed in the trunk of your car so that thieves will be less tempted to break in. This may seem like common knowledge, but you would be surprised how often skipping these simple steps leads to burglary. For instance, many of us like to leave the curtains open around the holidays to show off our Christmas trees to our neighborhood, but it’s a prime opportunity for thieves to scope out the pricy gifts that lie wrapped underneath that tree.

You should never leave your car running with the key in the ignition while you go into a convenience store or run a quick errand. Did you know that a car thief only needs seconds to get in your car and make off with it? Car theft is widely known as a crime of opportunity, so don’t give thieves the chance they’re looking for. If this seems like common knowledge to you, consider how often you may have left your car running in your own driveway with the defroster on during cold winter mornings while you wait for it to warm up.

Kidnappings and rapes can often be prevented by walking in groups or even pairs at night and even in broad daylight, as well as keeping a close eye on children playing out of doors. It is also important to teach children to never speak to or follow the directions of strangers. Adults should not jog or walk alone early in the morning or late at night in areas where the streets are deserted, and should always carry a cell phone. It never hurts to take regular self-defense courses, in case prevention is not enough.

Finally, if someone threatens you and demands your purse or wallet, give it to them calmly and step away slowly. Many criminals are just desperate for quick cash, and surrendering it willingly may keep you from being assaulted or even killed. You can always cancel credit cards and replace your driver’s license, and it’s better to lose your cash than your life.

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