Common Myths and Misconceptions About the Criminal Justice System: Pressing Charges & Pleading Guilty
Understanding the myths and misconceptions that surround the criminal justice system can make it seem less scary if you are charged with a criminal offense that requires a criminal lawyer to work through. That way, you’re aware of what is truth and what is not truth, and this can put your mind at ease.
Reach out to a good criminal lawyer for your defense, such as the ones at The Morales Law Firm! They know what they’re doing, and you’ll want someone on your side with an inkling of how the law actually works.
Let’s get down to it, and talk about some common myths and misconceptions!
Victims Press Charges
Hah! Did you believe the television when they showed you a victim pressing charges or filing charges? Prosecutors decide to file or dismiss charges, not the victims. A complaining witness (otherwise known as a victim) may report a crime to the police, police will execute an arrest and a court finds probable cause to support the arrest, whether the defendant is charged with a crime rests solely in the prosecutor’s hands.
Therefore, even if a complaining witness decides they do not want to charge a defendant, the state does not have to legally abide by the complainants wishes. They can continue with the prosecution, if they want too. The distinction here is in whether the case is criminal in nature or civil in nature.
Crimes are offenses that act against society as a whole—such as murder. That means these crimes against society are prosecuted by the state—the prosecutor, not the victim, presses charges and files the case with the court. In a civil case, the party that was wronged files the case, and can drop the case.
Guilty Pleas = Guilt
Did you know that guilty pleas do not equal proof of guilt? Wild, right, because it sounds so logical and simple. But it’s not, don’t worry, we’ll walk you through it.
A defendant who claims innocence but pleads guilty because they don’t want to risk what may happen in court can take an Alford plea. This is named after the Supreme Court’s decision in North Carolina v Alford in 1970, where Henry Alford was accused of murder. He insisted he was innocent, but took a plea of second-degree murder because he did not want to be convicted at trial and receive the full death penalty.
The Alford plea is similar to a “no contest” plea, as it results in conviction. Obviously, if you’re innocent, you should not be afraid to plead not guilty, but not guilty will put you before a jury of your peers and anything can be decided in front of the jury. Once it’s decided, there’s no going back.
Consult a criminal defense lawyer before pleading not guilty, no contest, or pleading the Alford plea. You want to do something that is in your best interest, not something that’ll hurt you in the long run.