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Common Myths About the Criminal Justice System

Walker Law LLC Jan. 12, 2024

Gavel, Books and Handcuffs on a TableLegal procedures can be confusing for people who don't navigate them on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this gap in understanding often leads to the spread of false information and the perpetuation of myths about the criminal justice system. Over the years, I've come across several misconceptions that need to be addressed. So today, I'm here to debunk some common myths and shed light on the realities. 

Myth 1: Innocent Until Proven Guilty Always Applies 

Some people believe that in all cases, you're innocent until proven guilty. However, this principle isn't universally applied.  

Take pretrial detention as an example. This occurs when an individual is held in a detention center before their trial has taken place. While the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" should theoretically apply, the reality is that individuals in pretrial detention are often treated as though they are already guilty. They may be subject to harsh conditions and restrictions on their freedom, similar to those that would be imposed after a guilty verdict.

Furthermore, the psychological impact of being held in a detention facility can create a perception of guilt, both for the individual involved and for those on the outside. This is a clear deviation from the ideal that a person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law. 

It's a harsh reality, but it's part of why having a dedicated attorney on your side is so crucial. 

Myth 2: If You Tell the Truth, You Don't Need a Lawyer 

I can't stress enough how misleading this notion is. Telling the truth is important, but understanding your rights and how to navigate the complexities of the legal system is equally vital. Even if you're honest, without proper representation, you could unintentionally incriminate yourself or overlook essential aspects of your defense strategy. Having a strong defense attorney in your corner is always in your best interest. 

Myth 3: If You're Innocent, You Don't Need a Lawyer 

It's easy to assume that if you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about. However, the reality is that being innocent doesn't automatically guarantee a favorable outcome in court. In fact, without proper legal representation, it can be even more challenging to prove your innocence and protect your rights. A skilled attorney knows how to build a strong defense and present evidence in a way that is most beneficial to your case. Don't underestimate the value of having a knowledgeable lawyer by your side, regardless of your innocence. 

Myth 4: The Criminal Justice System Treats Everyone Fairly 

Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Numerous studies have shown that racial and socioeconomic disparities exist within the criminal justice system. Minorities and low-income individuals are often subject to harsher sentences and treatment compared to their counterparts. This is a systemic issue that needs to be addressed at all levels of the legal system. 

Myth 5: The Police Must Read Your Rights Upon Arrest 

Many people assume that if the police don't read your Miranda rights at the time of arrest, your case will be dismissed. This isn't always true. The police are required to read your rights before a custodial interrogation, not necessarily upon arrest. Therefore, failure to do so won't automatically lead to dismissal of your charges. 

Myth 6: A Conviction Is the End of the Road 

A conviction doesn't necessarily mean your case is closed. You have the right to appeal, and many cases have been overturned on appeal. This is another area where having a competent attorney can make a significant difference. 

Myth 7: Everyone Gets One Phone Call When Arrested 

You've seen it in the movies—someone gets arrested, and they're immediately granted one phone call. This isn't always the case in real life. While many jurisdictions do allow detainees to make a phone call, it's not a constitutionally guaranteed right. The rules can vary by location and situation. 

Myth 8: Eyewitness Testimony Is Always Reliable 

It's natural to assume that if someone saw a crime happen, their account must be accurate. However, research has shown that eyewitness testimony can be unreliable and influenced by various factors, including pressure from law enforcement or memory errors. That's why it's critical to corroborate such testimony with other evidence. 

Myth 9: Plea Bargains Mean You're Guilty 

Many people believe accepting a plea bargain means admitting guilt. But that's not always the case. Often, individuals choose plea bargains to avoid the uncertainty of trial, reduce potential penalties, or expedite the resolution of their case. It's a strategic decision, not necessarily an admission of guilt. 

Myth 10: Defendants in High-Profile Cases Have an Advantage 

Some might think that high-profile defendants have an advantage due to their resources or public support. However, the spotlight can also create biases or preconceived notions that may affect the proceedings. Every case is unique, and fame or wealth doesn't assure a favorable outcome. 

Enlist Trustworthy Defense Representation 

So, if you're facing a legal challenge, don't let misconceptions cloud your judgment. Reach out to a professional who can provide accurate information and dedicated representation. As a criminal justice attorney in Chesterfield, Missouri, I've had the privilege of serving clients throughout Cottleville, St. Louis County, and Charles County. You're not alone in this journey; I'm here to help. Contact Walker Law, LLC today to schedule a time to discuss your case.