Being arrested for a crime is only the first step in the prosecution’s efforts in gaining a conviction. Unlike the court proceedings portrayed in television, the process of trial and conviction do not fly by in a 60-minute flash. Not only that, many of the things that people believe about their rights and the system have also been skewed by the media and entertainment industry. If someone is arrested they should be fully aware of their rights and how the process works. Listed below are four criminal justice myths and the truth about them.
The process will be fast.
It is true that all United States citizens have been granted the right to a speedy trial. In all criminal arrests, the state has a duty to bring the accused in front of a judge within 48 hours to hear the charges against them and allow them to enter a plea. Felony cases are more complicated, but the prosecution is required to present the evidence and prove they have a case against the accused within 10 days and trials must begin within the next 60 days. However, in order to ensure they can be complete and effective, many criminal defense attorneys will encourage their clients to waive this right and then it can take many years to actually begin the trial.
Attorney-client privilege is absolute.
Many believe that whatever they say to their attorney, whether related to their current case or not, is protected by attorney-client privilege, but this is not always true. If a client makes any threats of bodily harm or injury to another, their lawyer may reveal this information to the proper officials. Also, any communication that takes place in the presence of others, in public, on a jailhouse phone, or where others may overhear, may not be considered confidential.
You have the right to trial by jury.
Popular television shows and films often mislead viewers with the assumption that everyone has the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. However, the Supreme Court holds that this right only applies in the case of serious offenses. These means that each separate count in a case must carry a minimum of six months in jail upon conviction. Jurisdictions are not barred from providing this option for less-serious charges, but they are not required to do so.
All convicted criminals go to prison.
Despite popular belief, being convicted of a crime does not always lead to a prison sentence. There are three basic types of charges that can be brought against someone and they all carry their own set of sentencing rules. Those convicted of infractions, also known as petty crimes, are rarely given any jail time and a fine may be the only punishment incurred. Likewise, misdemeanor offenses are classified as such because they do not carry a prison sentence. Usually, anyone sentenced to less than one year is generally held in the local county jail for the duration instead of being sent to a state prison.
If someone is arrested, they should know what will happen over the course of defending their case. The rights of the accused are broad, but not all encompassing. Everyone should remember that there are exceptions to every rule and that popular beliefs may not always be the truth of the matter.