Thursday, January 02, 2014

Fifteen truths about the American criminal justice system

By a former public defender.

Truth #15:
If middle- and upper-class American communities were policed in the same manner working-class and working-poor communities are—that is, if standard operating procedures, applicable criminal codes, and the U.S. Constitution were applied equally, at both the arrest and prosecution stages, against citizens of all socioeconomic classes—a substantial percentage of our nation’s criminal statutes would soon be appealed, repealed, or dramatically amended.
Also, part of Truth #4:
Given how overbroad most criminal statutes are, most Americans probably have, at some point, technically committed a misdemeanor-level crime, such as simple assault, theft, a driving offense, a trespass, an act of vandalism, or a more esoteric malfeasance such as unsworn falsification, hindering prosecution, or misconduct after a car accident. But most of us live in lightly policed neighborhoods and are therefore never caught or punished for our misdeeds. That doesn’t change the fact that nearly every American is, at least by the language of the statutes their own elected representatives enacted, most likely a criminal.