Through legislation, local ordinances, ballot initiatives, executive orders, and constitutional amendments, states across the country continued to modify their criminal justice rules and procedures in 2020. Changes ranged from new rules for searches and seizures to pardons and voting rights for convicted felons.
Support for and opposition to criminal laws and punishments did not tend to break along traditional partisan lines. Changes were pursued by governors of both parties. Many of the new laws received support from members of both parties in statehouses. Some were approved unanimously. Ballot initiatives and state constitutional amendments that passed in November often did so by wide margins. Although not an exhaustive list of every new criminal justice rule or legislation, the following overview accounts for the most common and significant state and local criminal laws enacted in 2020. This report summarizes these significant new laws without evaluating the merits of the underlying policies, including the effects of these new laws on crime rates.
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