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Alexandra Natapoff joins us today to discuss how misdemeanors turn innocent people in to criminals.

Aaron Ross Powell
Director and Editor
Trevor Burrus
Research Fellow, Constitutional Studies

Professor Natapoff’s scholarship has won numerous awards, including a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2013 Law and Society Association Article Prize, and two Outstanding Scholarship Awards from the AALS Criminal Justice Section. Her new book, Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal (Basic Books, 2018), describes the powerful influence that misdemeanors exert over the entire U.S. criminal system. It was selected by Publishers Weekly as a Best Book of 2018.

Professor Natapoff is also author of Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice (NYU Press) which won the ABA Silver Gavel Award Honorable Mention for Books; her original work on criminal informants has made her a nationally‐​recognized expert. Professor Natapoff is a member of the American Law Institute; in 2015 she was appointed as an Adviser to the ALI Policing Project. She has helped draft legislation at both the state and federal levels and is quoted frequently by major media outlets.

Prior to joining the academy, Professor Natapoff served as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Baltimore, Maryland, and was the recipient of an Open Society Institute Community Fellowship. She clerked for the Honorable David S. Tatel, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, and for the Honorable Paul L. Friedman, U.S. District Court, Washington, D.C.

This week we welcome Alexandra Natapoff to discuss the various problems with how misdemeanors are handled. Eighty percent of criminal cases filed in our countries are misdemeanors. There are so many places in the misdemeanor system where wrongful convictions are definitely taking place. The system lacks rigor and continues to be sloppy because of it.

How powerful is the misdemeanor phenomenon? In the state system, do people think they get a fair trial for a misdemeanor? Is it a big deal to get a misdemeanor? Are misdemeanor fines a source of revenue? Who is profiting off of the state misdemeanor systems? What are the main ways to get a misdemeanor? What is probable cause?

Further Reading: