The Increase of Criminal Justice Work in September
In the world of criminal justice, September is referred to as “murder month.” September 25th is the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims, and it’s common knowledge in the field that many criminal justice cases are brought to court in September. But what’s the reason for this uptick in cases? Is there more murder in September, or simply more murder cases on trial? Let’s break down the logic behind “murder month” in today’s blog.
What Time of Year Do Most Murders Occur?
According to the CDC, 26,031 Americans died as a result of homicide in 2021. These numbers were spread throughout the year, and there is no breakdown by month in the CDC findings that describe how many homicides happen per month. So do most murders actually occur in September? The answer is: sometimes, but not typically.
Homicide rates vary from region to region, but one thing that is generally consistent is the heat. More violent crimes, including murder, occur in summer generally than at any other time of year. There are a few reasons for this. For one thing, summer has longer, sunnier days, and people are more likely to be out and about. Where there’s a higher concentration of people out, there is a higher concentration of conflict, sometimes violent conflict.
On the other hand, as the weather gets colder, people move indoors. They become more insular and stick to their households. This isn’t to say that murders don’t occur in the winter months, but they tend to be far fewer than in summer.
Summer heat can also be agitating for many. It adds to stress and irritation, especially when circumstance dictates a need to be outside in the heat for long periods of time. When tempers run as high as the temperature, there’s a good chance that violent crime is more likely to occur. Summer is also a time of year when many people are moving into new homes, new communities, or facing the stress of potentially losing their homes. These, too, can be contributing factors, especially as homeless or transient individuals are especially vulnerable to murder and violent crime.
Why Is September “Murder Month?”
There have been a few instances where September has been the leading month when it comes to murders in parts of the United States. For instance, in the summer of 2008, September had the highest amount of murders in New York City: a whopping 52 in the city alone. August came in second place with 51 murders. September 11, 2001, was the largest terrorist attack in the United States, and in subsequent years, it has given rise to increased anti-Muslim hate crimes.
However, again, in most cases, murders tend to peak in the heat of summer. This can sometimes extend into September during a particularly hot summer; but more often, June through August are the months to worry about. So why is September “murder month?”
It may have less to do with when the murders occur but rather with when the case is filed. Say that your client is arrested for murder in late July or August. There are state laws that dictate avoiding “unnecessary delay,” leaving the defendant in jail for a gratuitous amount of time before they ever see a judge. One example is Minnesota’s rule: “not more than 36 hours after arrest, exclusive of the day of arrest, Sundays, and legal holidays, or as soon as a judge is available.”
This appearance before a judge is usually to set bail while the filing of the criminal case is underway. If the defendant is granted bail and can afford it, they get to go home. The state’s attorney must then file a criminal complaint and receive a docket number for their trial. It could be a month or two before the trial begins. Thus crimes that happen in the summer months become criminal court proceedings in September. Criminal defense attorneys will be working throughout September to build their cases for murder trials that occurred during the summer.
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