Christmas Justice: A Look at Some Not-So-Jolly Holiday Crackdowns

Holiday Crackdowns

From playing non-stop Christmas carols in prison to passing out holiday cards with arrest warrants, many law enforcement agencies get into the holiday spirit. Some say they do it the name of public safety and peace on earth, while others may just be feeling a bit, well, Scroogey. Take a look at these holiday crackdowns, roundups and rules. What do you think — naughty or nice?

1. A Miranda Christmas Card.

During a Virginia drug bust a few days before Christmas in 2014, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office gave suspects something with their arrest warrant: a Christmas card. The card, which featured the sheriff dressed as Santa, listed their Miranda warnings under a headline that read “Making Spirits Bright With Your Miranda Rights.” It was signed, “Merry Christmas, Sheriff Mike Brown and the BCSO Family.”


Miranda Christmas

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2.  No Joyous Jurors Allowed.

In the small town of Mercer, Pennsylvania, three judges postponed all jury trials in 1993 until after the holidays. Apparently, the judges were concerned that jurors would catch the Christmas spirit, hear schoolchildren caroling, and be more lenient toward defendants, according to an article in the New York Times. Since then, other legal experts have speculated about the so-called “Christmas Clemency” or the ‘‘Christmas effect,” basically the notion that jurors are more sympathetic in the days and weeks surrounding Christmas and give lighter sentences.


3. Sheriff Cranks Up the Christmas Carols.

In 2005, Phoenix’s Joe Arpaio, then the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” in America, began a holiday tradition of playing almost around-the-clock Christmas music to 8,000 inmates in his Maricopa County jails. The playlist included Rudolph and “anything by Alvin and the Chipmunks,” according to the Washington Times.  Many inmates did not enjoy this holiday cheer, and over the years, several sued, citing violations of their civil and religious rights and cruel and unusual punishment.

4. Stopping for Santa.

Over the years during the holidays, officials in Moreno Valley, Calif., have been ticketing motorists for failing to yield to Santa Claus in a crosswalk. Law enforcement set up at busy intersections and use a Santa decoy to catch inattentive drivers for “failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.”


Credit: Riverside County Sheriff’s Department


5. Operation Season Greetings.

In December 2010, more than 70 fugitives in Florida were arrested in the days before Christmas during a roundup dubbed “Operation Seasons Greetings.” The goal of the round up, which was led by United States Marshals Florida Regional Task Force, was to “round up as many fugitives as possible prior to the holidays.”


5. Dunkin’ Donuts for Suspects.

In December 2017, New York City’s Mayor drew criticism for launching a program to make defendants happier in court. In exchange for a $15 gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts, low-level defendants were asked to complete a 144-question survey to rate the courtesy of judges, prosecutors and the temperature of courtroom. “Next thing, they’ll be giving out Macy’s gift cards so these perps could do their holiday shopping,” groused one police officer who disapproved of the program, according to the New York Post.


6. All I Want for Christmas – is a Calendar of Mugshots?

Europol, Europe’s top crime agency, launched an online advent calendar that revealed Europe’s most wanted criminals every day in the run-up to Christmas. The agency hit a snag, however, when data protection rules prevented it from publishing full pictures of the alleged criminals’ faces, according to Euronews. The mugshots were published with a black sensor bar over their eyes.


6. Tis the Season to  … Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over.

What would Christmas be without holiday crackdowns on drunk drivers? From coast to coast, law enforcement agencies implement checkpoints, zero tolerance or ‘no refusal’ initiatives in an effort to prevent and combat driving while intoxicated. But it doesn’t stop there. Law enforcement also launch sweeps to net alleged thieves, prostitutes, people behind on child support and bars selling booze to underage students home for the holidays. Such enforcement efforts sometimes carry catchy names, such as Operation Safe Christmas, Operation SANTA and Operation Scrooge. And while these initiatives are sometimes controversial, they are effective. Many people spend their holidays in handcuffs.


Be careful this Christmas season. If you do find your plans interrupted by a holiday crackdown or criminal allegation, call us at (817) 203-2220 or contact us online:

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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese