Squad Car Dreams
What Jefferson Had in Mind
December 29, 2012
Dismal notes of a long-time police reporter:
Almost all accused criminals are guilty. The reasons are two. First, almost all are caught in the act. The driver wobbles across three lanes of traffic, has a half-empty bottle of Beam on the seat, and blows pickled as a gherkin on the Alkasensor. Not a whole lot of doubt here. Or he is found coming out of somebody else’s window with somebody else’s television under his arm. He is probably stealing it. Or he scores 75 on the radar gun in a thirty zone in front of a school. Or he proposes sex to an undercover cop for twenty bucks. Not a lot of mystery here. Unless you have seen female cops.
The second reason is that the DA won’t paper a case he can’t win. He is overworked as it is, and needs to look good by keeping his convictions up. He won’t take iffy cases.
Yet the criminal justice system is crooked from the gitgo. Start with the idea of trial by a jury of your peers. It doesn’t exist, unless you are rich or a celebrity case. Some ninety-five percent of cases are settled by plea bargaining. If everybody asked for a jury trial, the entire system would stop. If you do insist, the judge in all likelihood will be so angry that he will do his best to get you convicted and then give you the max. You pay heavily for exercising imaginary constitutional rights.
It gets worse. Consider plea bargaining. You are walking through a red-light-and-dance-club region and an undercover police woman in a three-inch plastic mini-skirt and fishnet stockings says, “Hi, honey. You sportin’?” You are not. Kidding, you say, “I want to do it in a swimming pool full of raspberry jello. I’ll give you a million dollars.” That’s an offer of a specific amount for a specific act. Bingo. You are arrested for soliciting prostitution. Which you were not. And cops know exactly how to phrase things to avoid an entrapment defense.
You are now screwed though not, alas, literally. Your choice is to fight the charge, with the ensuing publicity, loss of job and marriage plus huge legal bills, or plead to something like public lewdness with a small fine, no publicity, and a criminal record for a sex offense. Try getting a security clearance with that.