The National TOP 100 Trial Lawyers
America's Top 100 - Criminal Defense Attorneys
Avvo Reviews
Avvo Ratting 10.0 Top Attorney
Avvo Clients' Choice Award 2018
The University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Decade of Difference: How Criminal Defense Has Changed in the Past 10 Years

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Think of how life was 10 years ago.

Avatar had just come out in theaters, along with the first installment of the Harry Potter franchise’s last film. Tik Tok wasn’t a social media app—it was Kesha’s (or Ke$ha’s, at the time) hit single.

Life was different in so many ways. One of those ways is the criminal defense system. Defense lawyers today are dealing with things that have only cropped up in the past few years. Meanwhile, prosecutors are bringing new kinds of evidence to court.

Here we’ll talk about two main systems that have challenged the public’s intuitions about criminal defense in the United States: advanced technology and immigration.

1. The Digital Age

Technology advances our society, while at the same time making it more prone to unpredictable events. Here are some key developments from the past decade that have changed our understanding of criminal defense.

The First Government Cyber Attack

A major event that changed the relationship between technology and the law was the first government-authorized cyber attack on another country.

Like many cyber attacks to come, this one was quiet at first. In 2010, Iranian nuclear facilities realized that a computer worm had been targeting and destroying their centrifuges for about a year. Upon further investigation, it came to light that the worm, called the Stuxnet virus, had come from the United States government.

Until this time, cyber attacks seemed to be at odds with the legal system and the public’s general sense of justice. With this attack came a more complex understanding of what people can and should do with technological power.

Personal Attacks

Cyber attacks aren’t only for governments. As people started storing their personal files online, their personal photos and documents became accessible to anyone who could hack their accounts.

In 2014, “Celebgate” pushed this phenomenon to the forefront. This was a large leak of private files, including nude photos, from dozens of celebrities’ accounts. The people involved in orchestrating the hack were sentenced to 9 and 18 months in prison.

And from then until now, the public has seen that these leaks, even of photos that were given willingly at the time, are met with severe legal consequences.

The PRISM Leak

In the past decade, there have also been instances of leaks that turn people into heroes—for some fans, anyway. These include PRISM surveillance leaks and United States v. Aaron Swartz.

If you’ve heard of Edward Snowden, you should learn what he did that made him famous. He was the one who leaked the information in 2013 that the US National Security Agency (the NSA) was tapping social media, email communication, and more through a tool called PRISM.

Although many people in the American public were glad to have a record of this information, Snowden himself faced multiple federal charges for the leak. In the end, he fled the country.

Leaks of Academic Information

Then there’s the story of Aaron Swartz. He was one of the co-founders of Reddit and a leader of the anti-censorship effort against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.

In 2011, Swartz was arrested for entering MIT’s campus and systematically downloading academic journals from an MIT computer to post for free on the internet. He faced prison time and large fines from the U.S. government, and two years later he died by suicide while battling the charges.

Swartz is often regarded as a fighter for the people, but his efforts were punished by the legal system. Criminal defense has changed in this new era, and the line between righteous and criminal cyber activity is at times hard to draw.

Social Media Evidence

In the past, lawyers could bring phone records to court as evidence that something did or did not occur.

These days, the law can go a step further. Social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter can hold all kinds of information, and even private social media information is discoverable in the right circumstances.

As people add new items, like fitness trackers, to their technological lives, there’s more potential information that can work for or against them in court.

2. Immigration and Criminal Defense

Immigration is nothing new for the United States. But in the past decade, we’ve seen how groups like ICE and the Department of Homeland Security have grown in power and created new, complex systems.

In the past several years, immigrant detention has reached a level unlike any we’ve encountered before.

ICE’s Origins

In 2003, George W. Bush’s administration founded the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. This agency, along with the Department of Homeland Security, was a response to the aftermath of 9/11 in 2001.

At the time, ICE stated that its focus was to “prevent acts of terrorism by targeting the people, money, and materials that support terrorist and criminal activities.”

If you’ve been to a protest or seen one on the news, you may recognize ICE from the phrase “Abolish ICE” or heard reports about children in cages. What does this mean, and how did ICE gain this notoriety?

ICE Today

ICE’s focus changed over the years. Though its original focus was to prevent terrorism, now the focus is split.

Some agents work on anti-terrorism, while others work to detain undocumented immigrants. If you’re thinking of a few hundred—or maybe even a thousand—detainees, you should know that, as of 2018, the number hovers around 40,000 beds of people.

In the past decade, ICE has become a huge figure in the US criminal defense system. When the defendant is undocumented, ICE has the chance to turn legal trouble into detainment and deportation.

Genetic Data

In October 2019, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it was planning to build a database of genetic data from detained immigrants.

This led to ethical concerns over the implementation of this project. Because the plan is still in its early stages, it’s hard to say what rights these immigrants would have to refuse consent to their genetic information. For some, this may be the next big issue in criminal defense.

Stand Up Against Unjust Charges

Fighting for your rights in a tricky legal system has never been easy, but the current state of affairs can be harder to navigate than ever before.

If any of these developments from the past decade are affecting your criminal defense proceedings right now, you need a lawyer who understands the current era.

For unmatched commitment and compassion, reach out to Non Stop Justice for legal help today.

Visit Us

By Appointment Only - Contact Us

The Woodlands Office
8505 Technology Forest Pl #104

The Woodlands, TX 77381

Phone: 832-381-3430

Get in Touch

Free Consultation 832-381-3430

What Our Customers Say

"Andrea is a fantastic attorney versed in many fields. I've retained her services for criminal defense, nondisclosure orders, and family law. She has always provided a...

Steven Street Texas

"Andrea and her staff are definitely one of the greatest of all time. Their professionalism and knowledge of the law and how the system works is unparalleled. I have her...

Dwight Osteen Texas

“Andrea is the most amazing attorney I have ever had in my corner.” — Vincent, client facing 2nd DWI charge, CASE DISMISSED