Common Myths About the Criminal Justice System
Sept. 30, 2022
In the modern world, many of the things people think they know about the criminal justice system come from movies and TV series. Unfortunately, the depiction of the criminal justice system in movies and television shows is not 100% accurate.
If you or your loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime, it is critical to understand how the criminal justice system works. With more than three decades of combined experience as former prosecutors, our criminal defense attorneys at Madson Castello Law know the ins and outs of America’s criminal justice system. From our office in Dallas, Texas, we provide trusted legal representation to clients facing criminal charges throughout North Texas, including Denton, McKinney, and Fort Worth. We’re here to help you navigate this difficult time.
Criminal Justice System Misconceptions
Below is the list of some of the most common myths and misconceptions about the criminal justice system that we tend to hear from clients and their families:
Myth #1: Everyone Has a Constitutionally Protected Right to a Phone Call
Contrary to popular belief, a phone call after an arrest is not something specifically guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Despite this, many jurisdictions allow individuals to make a phone call following their arrest. The problem with making a phone call after an arrest is that you could end up incriminating yourself because the police officer will most likely write down the name and number of your contact or may even eavesdrop on your conversation.
Myth #2: You Can Never Be Prosecuted for the Same Crime Twice (Double Jeopardy)
Under the so-called “double jeopardy” rule, the government is prohibited from prosecuting individuals twice for the same crime. However, there are some exceptions to the general rule:
The protections guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment apply only if you have been convicted or acquitted of a specific crime;
You could still be tried, convicted, and punished for an underlying offense in a state and federal court; and
Prosecutors may have a second opportunity for a conviction because they can charge you with both the underlying crime and conspiracy to commit the offense.
Myth #3: Evidence and Cases Are Processed Quickly
People assume that the criminal justice system works like clockwork. However, a quick resolution is usually the last thing you should expect from the system. A common myth is that evidence introduced in a criminal case can be processed within a few hours. However, the processing time may take weeks or even months, mainly due to a backlog of evidence.
Another widespread myth about the criminal justice system is that criminal cases are resolved relatively quickly. In reality, it is not uncommon for defendants to wait for months or years to obtain a resolution. The criminal justice process consists of many stages, including but not limited to initial hearings, plea bargaining, discovery, pre-trial motions, and others.
Myth #4: Your Case Will Be Dismissed if the Police Did Not Read Your Miranda Rights
In a general sense, there is no denying that an ever-increasing number of people have become more educated about their constitutional rights thanks to TV shows, movies, and social media. However, not everything you hear online is true. In the real world, there is no guarantee that your case will be dismissed just because the police officer did not read your Miranda rights. It’s more complicated than that. Failure to read your Miranda rights may be a violation of the U.S. Constitution, but it does not automatically end your case.
Myth #5: You Won’t Go to Prison if You Say You Are Insane
While there is an insanity defense that applies to defendants who suffer from mental illnesses and are not capable of differentiating between right and wrong, it does not mean that everyone can say they are insane to avoid a prison sentence. Even if a defendant is able to convince the judge that they suffer from a mental illness, it does not mean that the defendant can walk free. Instead, the defendant may be placed in a mental health institution for years or decades.
Myth #6: Pleading Guilty Means You Are Guilty
According to a report by the Vera Institute of Justice, approximately 97% of convictions in state courts are adjudicated through guilty pleas. Many people mistakenly believe that a guilty plea is proof of their guilt, but it is not true. That is not to say, however, that all people who plead guilty are actually innocent. Many defendants plead guilty because they were responsible for committing the crime. However, many people end up pleading guilty either because they cannot prove their innocence or because they simply want to receive a reduced sentence.
Myth #7: Police Must Always Identify Themselves
Another common myth about the criminal justice system is that law enforcement must always identify themselves. If this was true, there would be no such thing as being an undercover cop. Sting operations would not be possible if police officers always had to identify themselves.
Work With Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you or someone you care about is being investigated for a crime or facing criminal charges, contact a criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the criminal justice system. At Madson Castello Law, our skilled attorneys offer highly personalized attention to every client we work with. Reach out to our office in Dallas, Texas, to schedule a consultation and discuss your particular situation.