As New York City criminal justice attorneys one of the most common things we encounter is a defendant who is completely poleaxed and blindsided by their sudden encounter with the justice system. These individuals could have been engaged in activities that seemed perfectly reasonable or simply falsely accused.
All our lives, most of us go around believing if we simply avoid breaking the law we’ll never have to worry about getting arrested. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Take one of the cases outlined on Season 3 of Serial. In Season 3 of this crime and justice podcast Sarah Koenig explores the justice system by looking at the everyday cases in an Ohio court. One of the cases she comes across is the case of a young woman who was sexually assaulted by a young man slapping her rear repeatedly in a bar.
You’d think the young man would end up arrested, but nothing happened to him. Instead, a bar fight broke out that this woman didn’t even start. Multiple patrons began hitting and kicking her. She was flailing in self-defense. She happened to strike a cop in her flailing, one whose presence she was unaware of. All this was caught on tape.
The cops arrested the woman. For assaulting a police officer.
Unfair by any reasonable person’s standards. Insane. Out of all the people causing trouble in the bar that night, they picked the victim trying to defend herself. But this sort of thing happens all the time.
Then there are the innocent people who just happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. And “wrong place” can vary. See this case of a Harvard Professor who was placed under arrest in his own home because the wrong person saw him trying to deal with a door that got stuck. He was accused of breaking and entering.
1 in 25 of prisoners sentenced to death are actually innocent. Just stop and let that one sink in for a moment.
Don’t assume you’ll never need a criminal defense lawyer. And understand immediately “lawyering up” is the best thing you can possibly do if you’re arrested. Don’t be fooled by television shows that would like you to believe only guilty people call their lawyers. Don’t assume you’re immune to police methods which can extract false confessions.
If you’re in trouble with the law, don’t hesitate. Your innocence is not a shield. Neither is the reasonableness of your actions. A private lawyer experienced in the art of criminal defense is the best chance you have of avoiding jail.