We all know that the justice system ensures that everyone is innocent until proven guilty and that those who cannot afford a lawyer will have one provided for them. However, the United States’ legal system is often misunderstood, especially when it comes to minor offenses. Here are three major misconceptions and some clear answers.
Guilty Pleas are an Admission of Guilt
In many cases, individuals plead guilty because they are guilty. They ran a stop sign. They drove while under the influence. In other cases, the individual might not be guilty. They were driving erratically but were not intoxicated. They never saw the stop sign. A person’s plea has more to do with external circumstances rather than on their guilt or innocence.
For instance, someone who ran a stop sign because they didn’t see it might decide to plead guilty because of the difficulty it would take to prove that they didn’t see the sign. Someone who was caught driving erratically might want very much to prove their innocence, but will instead plead guilty because they cannot afford to post bond. Pleading guilty ensures that the matter is resolved quickly without jail time.
The Victim is on Trial
Due process is designed to provide the accused with every opportunity to maintain his or her innocence. This means that the prosecutor must cross-examine witnesses, including the accuser, that fact-finding is conducted in a neutral manner and that the prosecutor must establish a burden of proof.
It’s been pointed out that this standard is sometimes ignored in cases where the accuser has been traumatized. In these instances, society might choose to believe the victim. however, within the courtroom, the victim has to prove their victimhood beyond a reasonable doubt.
Cross-examining the accused and questioning the details of an incident can lead to the misconception that the victim is being placed on trial. If a trial seems that way, then consider that legally it is assumed the accused is innocent. Due process ensures that the accused has every opportunity to prove his or her innocence.
Justice is Swift
Most minor offenses never go to trial. A defendant pleads guilty and takes the consequences, either community service, fines or driving restrictions. Other minor offenses that do go to trial are typically dismissed by a plea. This is swift, but it might not fall under the category of just. However, a good lawyer will defend their client and ensure that the outcome is in their favor.
Major misconceptions about the legal system can lead defendants into making choices that are not in their best interests, which is why it is important to secure a lawyer even if the offense for which you are charged is a minor one.