I saw this browsing on Reddit:
The guy who tried to shoot up the courthouse, mentioned above, was a man named Dennis Marx. I wrote briefly about him and explained his circumstances in an earlier article. Like the individual on Reddit, he was also arraigned on multiple marijuana charges. On the day Marx was set to enter a plea he arrived at the courthouse with rifles, tear gas, handcuffs and spike strips. Had it not been for the mere luck — an active SWAT unit was located just around the corner — Marx may have been able to occupy the courthouse.
Had Marx simply gone through the motions his case would look almost identical to that above. Because what you see above is very typical, the norm, for the American criminal justice system.
Most people do not have first-hand experience with the American legal system (especially if you are not American). Those that do have only experienced it on a limited basis, once or twice, as suspects. This leaves a tiny group of individuals who work within the criminal justice system. And even they are very compartmentalized. The left hand does not know what the right is doing. And what these individuals see is not what you see.
The United States has an extremely prevalent cultural mythology surrounding law enforcement and criminal justice. The most popular TV shows, next to comedies, are police and court dramas. And this is how many Americans, even Americans who have been through the ringer, think that the law works.
Yet, because more people are arrested now than ever before (approximately half of all black males and almost 40 percent of all white males are arrested before they are 23 years old) the mythology is starting to fade. The fictionalized criminal justice system — fast, fair, honest and well-intentioned — is being replaced by first-hand experience of the real American legal system. Most Americans now have a friend or relative who has been arrested.
I saved this post from Reddit as an example of the real criminal justice system. Also, to illustrate the anatomy of a felony from arrest to supervision post-conviction. It works like this:
- First, have laws that punish people for victimless crimes such as selling, possessing or using marijuana. If you don’t have laws for soft targets then you can only arrest people who must remain incarcerated. Real criminals. And that isn’t profitable. They don’t pay fees. We want soft targets that can be released to pay fees.
- Entrap (not to be confused with legal entrapment, an example of modern Orwellian Newspeak where entrapping someone is not entrapment) an individual who otherwise would not break the law. Bonus points for posing as a medical marijuana patient so the victim isn’t even sure if selling you marijuana is illegal.
- Play good cop and lie about how cooperation will be beneficial, how the charges will be minor, or how things will be easier if you open your mouth and spill the beans. Go all the way – tell them you just want the drugs and don’t even plan to file charges.
- Hit the person with every charge available after they cooperate and admit guilt. Yes, break all of those promises you made to gain compliance. Yes, this is legal. Yes, this is normal. You’re supposed to do this.
- Send the case to the District Attorney. The DA will add additional charges.
- Let the judge decide what part of the bond agreement, terms of release, parole, DA’s recommendations, sentencing and plea bargains will be upheld or rejected out of hand. Nothing you’ve been told up to this point is a promise — even though we told you it is a promise — a man who may not have even looked at your file until the moment you stand before him will decide what is going to happen to you.
- Terrify the suspect into taking a plea bargain by explaining the 20+ marijuana charges the DA added will effectively equal life in jail.
- Invent a solution — how amazingly fucking lucky you are — we’re going to offer you a plea bargain to admit to just one felony. No 20 years for you.
- Admit guilt. Pray that the judge accepts your plea bargain. You have already admitted guilt and the judge can reject your plea agreement and hit you with the full sentence. Time to get religious if you aren’t already.
- Whew. The judge accepted your plea bargain. How lucky you are to be a convicted felon with six years of supervised release, weekly mandatory drug tests, mandatory drug rehabilitation classes, an electronic tracking device, thousands of dollars in court fines and thousands more in mandatory counseling fees, urinalysis fees, probation fees, and any other arbitrary agreements made as a part of your sentence.
- Remember not to fuck up! If you ever fail a urinalysis, fail to pay your fees, miss a probation appointment, don’t complete your classes, or if you get fired from your work your probation can be revoked. Then you can be sent back for the full term of your sentence. Alternately, maybe you’ll just have your probation restarted at day one. Yes, that’s a thing. Watch your six year probation turn into eight years, then ten, then sixteen before you are finally released.
- About that not getting fired from work — good luck finding a job. You’re a felon and with the scarlet F your career opportunities are limited. But if you really have to make money, you know, to pay your court and probation fees, then crime is still an option. Maybe your only realistic one.
- If you finish your six year supervisory sentence without a hitch, congratulations! You’re free. Except for the part where you are still a convicted felon, you’ve been disenfranchised, can’t find a job, can’t rent an apartment and can’t do all of the other things felons cannot do. Buy yourself a cake and celebrate anyway. You are a minority if you made it this far.
I wish I could say this is hyperbole, pessimistic or sensationalized in any way. But it is not. That is, more or less, the average course of a felony conviction from arrest to termination of probation. If you’ve ever wondered why probation officers have the highest turnover rates, spend the least time in their professions out of any in a criminal justice career and quickly become the most jaded, disillusioned individuals, this is why. I don’t know if the system has been intentionally designed to work this way, but this is the way it works in practice. The individual becomes trapped in a cycle of unemployment, supervisory violations, incarceration and extensions of the probationary period.