Like many others, Azra Ozdemir’s parents send her to do well on her first day of school with the usual sage advice so that she can get into a good college.
It was her first day of kindergarten.
“I knew three words in English: yes. no,” and the letter P to indicate the need to use features. But by the end of that first year, “the teacher was already telling my parents that I was talking too much in class.”
Now a law student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Ozdemir speaks for others who may face language, cultural or financial barriers. She is working at the Las Vegas Rape Clinic at UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law.
A misdemeanor charge usually indicates a lesser violation, such as a driving violation, and carries a fine of less than one year in prison. Misdemeanors can include endangering the welfare of the child and sexual offenses such as prostitution.
Based on arrest data from the FBI and other statistical reports, Harvard University legal scholar Alexandra Natapoff estimates that 80% of all arrests are misdemeanors, according to her website. “Punishment without crime: How our rampant misdemeanor system traps the innocent and makes America more unequal,” is the title of her 2018 book on the subject.
According to the Data Collective for Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, misdemeanors have decreased over the past decade, while blacks and Hispanics are arrested at much higher rates than whites. John Jay College is part of the City University of New York.
Ozdemir says that growing up, he also saw other immigrants at a disadvantage in where to seek legal aid, especially for lesser charges such as misdemeanors.
“I just saw so much hardship in my community and how hard it was to get a good immigration lawyer, even in my own family,” she said. “There was no one we could talk to, you know. Nobody knows.”
Now that he is part of the legal community in Las Vegas, Ozdemir said he knows there are many resources available.
“I really just wanted to choose a career where I could be part of this community that helps people in need, and the best way for me to do that was to become a lawyer,” Ozdemir said. and spent hours watching Court TV while waiting after school at her father’s car repair shop.
Although misdemeanors will be reduced in Nevada from criminal charges in 2023, a motorist could be offered community service or jailed for rolling through a stop sign by the time the law eases their legal effect. is, he said, if the person misses the court date or fails to pay the fine.
“If you have to spend a night or two in jail just to pay the ticket, then what about your work? What about your employment? In that situation many people are already facing difficult times. So, what are we expecting them to take time off from work?” He asked.
Prisons are crowded. Not everyone kept in captivity may be in the best of physical or mental health. There may be needs at home that family members – child or elder care – are present without the person incarcerated.
Ozdemir and UNLV classmate Mia Bakker work with the courts to find solutions that work for both sides.
“We’re like, ‘Hey, that’s really the issue,’ and often, we really hope that the judges or the courts are understanding and accepting. Sometimes they aren’t and then we have to come up with a solution. It needs to be creative together. So, it’s an interesting position.”
Azra and her parents immigrated to the US from Turkey on a family sponsorship in 1996, when she was five years old. Her aunt was married to an American, and other family members followed suit. Education was always paramount, he was told. He said that UNLV provides experiential education which gives the students practical experience in their field beyond the classroom.
Ozdemir said, “It’s an incredible opportunity for everyone involved that we work really closely with our clients, and we really get to know and interview them and really see what their specific needs are. What are.” “It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my education.”