Criminal Law and Public Defenders – Is There Equal Justice?
Not long, ago, someone had contacted me who happened to get into a little trouble in a small town. It was a relatively minor incident, and yet, she felt as if the system was very unjust. She couldn’t afford an attorney, it was just too darned expensive for her. She stated to me that when she said she was going to get a lawyer and come back in 2-weeks, she had no idea it would cost so much.
When she came back to court without a lawyer, she said she was assigned a public defender. The public defender mixed up her case, probably due to being over worked; “The Judge was furious and fired him from the case, She made it law that from now on any one who cannot afford an attorney is allowed only $150 – worth of free council This don’t buy Jack #$%.”
Well, judging by her comments the judge wasn’t the only one who was furious, and her comments on the $150 towards a private attorney are laughable and an understatement. She also stated that the DA is further investigating her and her family, and causing problems with the relationship she has with her neighbors in the community. She told me that;
“The prosecuting attorney actually walks the streets asking who ever if they know anything about so and so.” In her community, there are no secrets, and she said even rumors can get someone in trouble with the law.
The moral of the story here and I suppose her main point is the challenge in America with unequal justice, it’s a real problem. We have different standards, and poor folks are not as likely to get off as easy as wealthy clients who can hire the best representation (lawyers). Everyone knows that’s true, but we still believe our Justice System in the US is the best, and we work to try to make it fair for all, even if it fails us occasionally as a society.
What I’ve found along the way is that those who can afford to pay the expensive lawyers, they get by with things, and those without can’t. We have unequal justice in the US, and I think everyone knows that, there are a different set of rules for rich and poor, all under the cloak of equal justice for all. As long as we don’t try to hide this reality or the debris under the carpet we have a fighting chance of making things right, if not, we will continue to live in hypocrisy, and that’s unfortunate.
Please consider all this – our topic of the day.