Hot weather and criminal defense

Have you ever wondered whether there is a link between hot weather and criminal activity and therefore criminal defense? The string of uncomfortable days over the last week has put the work of two researchers who looked at a violent crime and temperature on point. The researchers reviewed violent crime in the Minneapolis, Minnesota over a two-year period.

According to the researcher’s work, last week with its record heat and humidity was not a week where increased levels of crime would have occurred. The researchers, two psychologists from Florida State University, concluded that violent crime rises with temperature but only to a point.

According to the researchers, levels of violent crime increase up to around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Near 80 degrees Fahrenheit the rate of violent crime begins to fall. The researchers came to the hypothetical conclusion that at high temperature levels people make the choice to escape from the heat rather than act out in aggression because of it. In other words, as higher temperatures increase past the 80 degree range, people become sluggish because of the heat.

One psychologist at Iowa State critiques the researchers’ study for not tracking violent crime rates with the time of day and has independently tracked heat and violence where assault rates peak with the highest temperatures. The psychologist offers his own explanation and argues that the human body’s physical attributes like heart rate, blood circulation, metabolism and ability to sweat all change in hot weather. More testosterone is also produced in hot weather. The physical changes are linked to a person’s capacity for confrontation.

Finally, a third study using data from Columbus, Ohio confirmed the findings of the first study. The study found the same relationship between heat and crime. Temperature seems to have a larger influence over violence in outdoor or commercial settings and as temperatures creep beyond the 80s and into the 90s, violence starts to decline.

Taking the studies into consideration, last week’s high temperatures may have cooled violent crime.

Source: The Atlantic, “How severe is the link between hot weather and violence?” Ujala Sehgal, 7/23/11

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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