Crime dramas and criminal investigation shows are some of the most popular shows on TV. However, they aren’t real, and a lot of what they show creates some common misconceptions about criminal cases and criminal law. If you find yourself charged with a crime, you should know what is fact, and what is fiction.
1. You Should Talk to the Police to Show You’re Cooperating
No, you should not. The police can use anything you say against you, particularly if you are unaware of their interpretations of what you say. The only thing advisable to ask in this situation is if you are under arrest. Secondly, ask for a lawyer if you are under arrest.
2. If You Confess, You’ll Get a Lighter Sentence
Arguments regarding sentencing are made by your lawyer after you are convicted of a crime. Actual sentencing is determined by the judge or jury depending on the case. While feasibly depending on the crime, your assistance and cooperation can get the prosecutor to charge you with a lesser sentence for said cooperation. It is best to hire an attorney to that understands the ins and outs of criminal law to better assist you.
3. There’s Always a Plea Deal
No, there isn’t. Don’t go into your hearings under the assumption that everything will work out and if it doesn’t you can ask for a plea deal. That doesn’t happen, and it’s very unrealistic to assume that it does.
4. You’ll Always Be in Front of a Jury
No, not always. Criminal cases are not always presented to a court in front of a jury. Lesser offenses may be decided without a jury. “Having your day in court” is just an expression, and not a reality.
5. A Grand Jury Will Decide If You’re Going to Trial
No, very few states have grand juries. Even the states that pay grand juries to serve don’t always use them. It’s “speedier” to do a preliminary hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence. If the judge decides there’s enough evidence against you, a court date may be set for a trial hearing.
6. It’s Obvious You’re Innocent
If it were that obvious, your innocence wouldn’t be in question. The reason why you were charged is because there is some evidence or something that points to you as the criminal. Innocent people have gone to jail before, despite the fact that they ended up being innocent and proving it later. Don’t assume that because you believe you’re innocent everyone else involved with the case will see it too.
7. Your Case Will Be Closed in a Week or Less
Court dramas and legal case TV make it look so open and shut, don’t they? Everyone has it figured out and the case is closed in an hour, a day, or a week. If a real case were to play out on TV (and sometimes celebrity cases do), they take a lot longer than the misperceived time to resolve.
What you need to understand about criminal law is that it requires booking hearings around the schedules of the judges and lawyers. Time is needed to prepare your case. Evidence and witnesses need to be gathered and depositioned. Cases go on the docket according to the order they are received, and if there’s a backlog of cases those are heard way ahead of yours. A more accurate assumption is that you will be in jail or out on bail for months, maybe even years, before your case comes up on the docket.
8. Criminal Proceedings Involve a Lot of Subjective, Not Objective Actions
A jury is selected for your case based on criteria established under the law and the criteria pertinent to your case. Anyone that is called to jury duty isn’t always selected. Many jurors are eliminated before the right number of jurors have been selected. The assumption that the jurors will all be subjective in their decision to find you guilty is not true. Every juror is selected and expected to be objective in the process necessary to determine your guilt or innocence.
Additionally, judges are required to be objective as well. They have to hear the same witnesses, observe the same evidence, and hear the same arguments as the jury. The jury provides their determination of your guilt or innocence, and the judge has the last say.
Be Realistic and Ask Your Lawyer Questions
Always be realistic about your case and ask your lawyer questions. It can be frustrating and a little terrifying having to wait for your case to be resolved. Trust your lawyer and tell him or her anything you think might be pertinent and important to your case.