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More Americans face arrest over petty crimes

In Texas and across the country, a conversation has developed about excessive prosecution and incarceration. As a result, there is wide support for criminal justice reform, including proposals to decriminalize or legalize cannabis and end criminal prosecution and incarceration for related offenses. This conversation comes as statistics show that the violent crime rate has gone down for decades, and people are safer than potentially ever before. However, arrest rates continue to rise. Dealing with high arrest rates can be a significant concern because people may find their employment, education and housing prospects hindered by criminal arrests, charges and convictions.

Most people want to have as few interactions with the police as possible and stay out of the criminal justice system. However, despite the lower crime rate, Americans are more likely to be arrested before age 26 than at any time in the past. While 6.4% of Americans born before 1949 have been arrested, that figure jumps to 23% for those born between 1979 and 1988. Because violent crime is on the decline, many of these arrests involve small-scale issues or petty charges. Around 31% of arrests for women and 28% for men involve "other misdemeanors." Drug arrests are also more common while 11% of arrested women and 16% of arrested men are accused of underage drinking.

While crime is on the decline, experts say that law enforcement spending and expectations continue to rise. Therefore, police are more likely to make an arrest during an encounter. These charges are affecting young people across racial and socioeconomic lines, researchers note.

A criminal conviction can pose ongoing problems for people throughout their lives, even when a relatively minor matter is involved. People facing charges may work with a criminal defense attorney to challenge police and prosecution allegations and aim to avoid a conviction.

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