I get really sick of people making assumptions about how the criminal justice system works, essentially based on their knowledge of Law & Order.
“If I were really innocent, I would make my attorney go to trial.” Really? Well, how are you getting that attorney?
In most states, you only get a public defender if you’re below the poverty line. Own a house or car? Sorry, friend. A judge doesn’t care what’s in your bank account or how little you earn. Sell that house or car or borrow it from your family.
Even if you happened to get a public defender, caseloads in some areas are as high as 700+ per lawyer. It’s not possible for them to drop everything for your case, even though they want to for every client.
Now you want a private attorney, you say? The average criminal defense lawyer charges $150/hour and $1,000 per day of trial in a felony case. This all varies by geography and more, but expect $$$.
Does it sound expensive to get the justice you deserve? You bet. Maybe that’s why only 3% of cases actually go to trial. 97% plead guilty just to get out of jail or avoid facing a worse sentence at trial.
Tonight, I saw the documentary “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” about a small, family-owned bank serving the immigrant community in New York’s Chinatown. Despite having less than a 1% default rate on their mortgage loans, it was the only bank prosecuted after the financial crisis. This family fought back and WON—at the price of TEN MILLION DOLLARS.
I had the honor of hearing some of the Sung family and the film producer speak after the screening and was blown away by everyone’s humility and kindness. They reminded me of why I do what I do.