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How To Crash the US Justice System: Demand a Trial 897

Hugh Pickens writes "The U.S. Bill of Rights guarantees the accused basic safeguards, including a fair and speedy jury trial, but in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation's prison population has quintupled in a few decades — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury, in part because the Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that threatening someone with life imprisonment for a minor crime in an effort to induce him to forfeit a jury trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial. 'The truth is that government officials have deliberately engineered the system to assure that the jury trial system established by the Constitution is seldom used,' says Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the libertarian Cato Institute. Now Susan Burton, head of 'A New Way of Life' (PDF), is helping to start a movement to demand restoration of Americans' basic civil and human rights by asking people who have been charged with crimes to reject plea bargains, and press for trial. 'Can we crash the system just by exercising our rights?' Burton says if everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation."
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How To Crash the US Justice System: Demand a Trial

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  • by iter8 ( 742854 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:39PM (#39332717)
    Let me just point this out The Bill of Rights for Busy People [wfmu.org]. Don't worry kids, you don't need those pesky "rights" things anyway.
  • by CuriousGeorge113 ( 47122 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:41PM (#39332733) Homepage

    So, essentially he argues for a real life denial of service attack. Bombard the system with traffic until it breaks under the load.

    I only wonder how the government would push back in such a situation. We've already seen the US government trample over Constitutional in the name of security, terrorism, child pornography, etc. All they need is one case where a child pedo is released due to the systems inability to provide a speedy trial, and we will see another one of our rights taken from us.

    In the name of the children ... won't you please think of the children?

  • Yet another reason (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tukang ( 1209392 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:58PM (#39332949)

    to end the war on drugs. because this would significantly reduce the work-load of the courts and allow them to have more jury trials.

    Among the prisoners, drug offenders made up the same percentage of State prisoners in both 1997 and 2004 (21%). The percentage of Federal prisoners serving time for drug offenses declined from 63% in 1997 to 55% in 2004.[8] In the twenty-five years since the passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, the United States penal population rose from around 300,000 to more than two million.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate [wikipedia.org]

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @06:59PM (#39332965)

    More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury, in part because the Supreme Court ruled in 1978 that threatening someone with life imprisonment for a minor crime in an effort to induce him to forfeit a jury trial did not violate his Sixth Amendment right to trial.

    That's a bit misleading no. A prosecutor can threaten to charge you with a crime that carries a life sentence but it takes a judge and a jury to impose it. The only reason that to take his threat seriously is because you predict that it's likely that he will prevail at trial. If you think you'll prevail, the threat is totally meaningless -- it's not like the prosecutor can put you in jail of his own accord.

    Look, I'm all for better trials (especially in the sense of getting better representation for defendants at the trial level where public defenders are really atrocious) but the idea that plea-bargaining is part of the problem is absurd. Plea bargains are often the most socially effective way of dealing with the most obvious cases. Gee, an officer replied to a DV call of a man beating his wife, comes in and sees a woman with a black eye and a dude that smells of whiskey* -- do we really need a jury to decide that one? Or grand theft auto where the perp is caught in the stolen car.

    Those cases abound because the criminals in the justice system are, by selection, the stupider ones: the ones that got caught. It stands to reason that, on average, more of them would be open-and-shut cases that your average crime. Just watch COPS** once to see how blindingly guilty some of these idiots are. The smart criminals are the ones that you don't see and never find and aren't taking plea bargains because of the overwhelming amount of evidence stacked against them.

    * This is not a made up anecdote, one of my neighbors served in a rather ho-him middle class suburb and he said that he responded to at least one such case per week, often more and very often with repeat offenders. It depressed him to no end that there was not a "get drunk and hit your wife 20 times in a lifetime and we get to take you out behind the woodshed and knock some sense into you" rule, but that's a different matter.

    ** Or, as my crim pro prof called it "A 30 minute class on the actual procedure of criminal law that you can watch for free every Saturday".

  • Re:Injustice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by F1re ( 249002 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:03PM (#39332999) Homepage Journal

    Well, that's why you get a lawyer -- they should know that stuff. Of course, a public defendant probably doesn't have time or resources to properly research it ...

    That only helps after you have done something that might be a crime. I asked my lawyer about ignorance of the law and she admitted there are large areas of the law that she is unfamiliar with and she herself has broken some laws unknowingly only to find out later that what she did was in fact illegal.

  • by earls ( 1367951 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:09PM (#39333083)

    You can represent yourself.

    "Self-represented defendants are not bound by lawyers' ethical codes. This means that a defendant who represents himself can delay proceedings and sometimes wreak havoc on an already overloaded system by repeatedly filing motions."

    lol, how applicable.

  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:11PM (#39333109) Journal

    I feel like calling the united states' bluff on how many citizens it's willing to imprison, despite overcrowding, is a bad idea.

    Last year, the Supreme Court ordered California to reduce their prison population by ~20% because the conditions violated the 8th amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment

    Further, the prolonged recession is and has been causing States to release prisoners from jail early.
    Without the funding, there just isn't enough money in the budget to pay for mass incarceration.
    And without even more funding, the court system doesn't have the bandwidth to put more than ~10% of criminal cases in front of a jury.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:11PM (#39333111) Journal

    Mass incarceration isn't a libertarian issue. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, an embarassment to the "land of the free". You should take a look of the reality you live in before you lecture others on naivete.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:14PM (#39333141) Homepage Journal

    I haven't had mod points in a week or two. Wish I had some here.

    Small businesses employ more than half of all American workers. Here's the first link I found that supports my claim, that doesn't require any special literary skills to understand: http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/nov2009/sb20091112_157141.htm [businessweek.com]

    So - who in the hell ARE these small business people? Well, I was one. I went into a partnership, which was later dissolved for personal/family reasons. Poor people, who scrounge for the cash to purchase tools, equipment, and supplies, and to rent building space. Poor people who hire other poor people. And, if they keep up the struggle for long enough, and if they are smart and lucky, then they move further up the food chain, so that they are no longer poor.

    I've seldom had a rich man give me a break. Poor folks are always willing to give another poor man a break! Even hardened criminals are more likely to lend a hand when you need it, than some rich sumbitch with a yacht.

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:22PM (#39333221)
    While in college, I made enemies with the local college police. They had a pretty good reputation for harassment and lack of faith in the constitution, so local lawyers had made themselves available for advice, free of charge, to students in my particular situation. The police would pull me over, ask to search me... my car... they'd roll up on me while I was walking down the street. They'd meet me outside of class to ask me "Questions" regarding topics I had no knowledge of.

    The lawyer was very wise and told me a few things:

    Rights are like muscles, they become weak if you do not exercise them.

    The police are not here to serve and protect. They are here to arrest people. Period. They have special police, called detectives, that gather evidence, but the vast majority of police do one thing and one thing only... arrest people. When talking to a police officer, remember their goal. They are not your friend. They are not there to help. They are there to either arrest you, or someone you know. Why are you helping them arrest you by continuing to talk?

    The police do not decide if you are guilty. Often they try to coerce you into giving them more evidence against you, by convincing you that if you admit to something, or let them search you, they will find you more believable. You have NO REASON to care what the police believe. Their opinion is not important. If they have cause to arrest you, you are going to jail. PERIOD. When the police officer walks up to you, they already know if they are going to arrest you or not. Anything you say CAN and WILL be used against you in a court of law. By talking or letting them search you, you are simply giving them more evidence... or even giving them a reason to arrest you where one did not exist before.

    After speaking with the lawyer, I took his advice. Every time a police officer tried to talk to me, I simply refused. "I'm sorry sir, I have nothing to say to you" if they continued, then I used the lawyers line "Rights are like muscles, they become weak if you do not exercise them." I've used this line dozens of times in my life and I have never had a cop continue to bug me after using it... although several commented that it was clever.

    The campus police quickly realized I wasn't going to fall for their games anymore. So they charged me with something I had nothing to do with. I demanded a trial, much to their dismay. They tried numerous times to plead me out. I took it to court and acted as my own lawyer. They actually called several witnesses, none of whom had ever seen me before. The judge threw it out. I gave the prosecutor and police officer the devil horns and winked on the way out. I was never pulled over or questioned again in that town.
  • None of it works (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:24PM (#39333255) Journal

    The dutch labour party (ex-socialists, now more commonly thought of as bleeding hearts) lost its leader who was the Mayor of Amsterdam during massive budget overruns, a political murder by a Muslim on a critic of Islam, increasing racial tension, race related riots, failure of expensive projects to get the races to live to gether (IJburg) and increased attacks on Homo sexuals by Muslims. Name: Job Cohen... the guy then became leader of labour and was not nearly as successful as a politician in the opositions as you might have thought.

    So, they currently have a leadership election and one of the leaders prides himself on having been a street coach for troubled youths... He claims though sentencing is not the answer. What then is the answer is not answered but he claims though sentencing does not stop re-offending. It tells you a lot a because anyone with a working brain cell will realize that the toughest sentence if that of death and dead people seldom re-offend.

    Mind you, he has a point. There are a lot of countries in the world and over history an almost infinite variety of methods have been used to deter crime. And not a single one of them really works, no not even the bullet to the head. The Chinese are current masters in it and their crime rate is on in increase. They show weekly interviews with the condemned and in China if you are from a bad area, you don't have a longer life expectenancy on deathrow then you got in your own home, 1 week and you are dead. And as said, the crime rate is on the rise. The US has though sentences and a high crime rate.

    Holland has a liberal system AND a high crime rate. Oh, the statistics vary but if you then put them into context such as that the dutch legal system is extremely bad at getting convictions, you have to wonder what the real crime rate.

    As for re-offending, almost any system claims something between 70-80% FAILURE RATE and that is ONLY counting those criminals who are successfully tracked at going through the entire legal procedure again leading to a served jailed sentence AGAIN. Oh, if a criminal re-offends but gets killed by the police in full view of a million witnesses who swear he was committing the crime, IT STILL DOES NOT COUNT AS RE-OFFENDING.

    Plea bargains, parole, suspended sentences, time served etc etc they are all just patches to make a system that barely works not collapse completely. And we need the system to work because there are areas of the world where the system HAS collapsed and they are not nice places to be. Prove me wrong and move to Somalia or even just Mexico.

    And you want to overload this barely functioning machine? If you are in America, you are just living thanks to the believe by Mexicans and blacks that the system will prevent them from just taking what they want. If that ever crumbles, every rich spoiled white /. nerd is going to get it is so bad that they will pray for a jock to pants them one last time before they die. It is lucky the blacks of LA are so dumb they rioted by attacking each other instead of descending enmass on Hollywood and taking out every rich white person thinking that black and hispanic cops are going to risk their lives for their rich asses and you better hope the system keeps that believe in tact.

    The system ain't perfect but so far it works. If you want to improve it think real hard whether you are going to survive its destruction. It might be nice to watch an old crappy building being blown up to make space for something new, BUT NOT WHEN YOU ARE STANDING ON TOP OF IT.

    Fight the man! It is not a battle cry the man should be using. And unless you suck as a nerd, you are the 1%.

  • by History's Coming To ( 1059484 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:29PM (#39333313) Journal
    I suspect you forfeit your right to an attorney by refusing to pay if you are able, and that your right to representation is still supported by your right to conduct your own defense.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:34PM (#39333371)

    I've gotten out of 2 red-light camera tickets by doing just that.

    Go to court, plead not guilty. No one will be present to represent the prosecution. Case closed, not guilty.

    They actually had one cop sitting in the lobby of the court house last time I went in. He was talking to all the traffic violation peoples... basically saying "you should just take the plea deal. It's really the best solution. There's no hope of fighting it... etc" Honestly, it was probably a worthwhile investment for the city. Rather than have a dozen cops to sit in each case, just have 1 guy spread FUD to the masses, and they'll plea out.

    And if a cop DOES show up to represent the city in your case, just ask to question the technician in charge of calibration and maintenance of the red light camera. Here in California at least, the techs for our cameras work out in Arizona. Definitely not worth the judge's/the city's time or effort to fly him/her over.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:34PM (#39333377) Journal

    You can get all romantic about the thought of saving some young guy from jail for drugs possession but would you find it so noble if a Klan member got away with murdering an innocent African American youth by his all white jury?

    There are a lot more drug persecutions than lynchings these days, so on the balance we're still ahead.

    Laws are put into place by people elected by millions of voters

    By an extremely flawed process that ensures good policy cannot prevail. From the mathematics of winner takes all voting, to the extraordinary American propaganda machine it's nearly impossible for good policy to prevail against electioneering. Just government is based on the consent of the people, and you can't actually assess the consent of the people with such broken apparatus. It's thus impossible to consider the American government legitimate.

    goes against the whole principle of justice being blind.

    When you nullify, you're passing judgement on the law, not the defendant.

  • Re:Injustice (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zugmeister ( 1050414 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:42PM (#39333469)
    There's more going on than that. This [npr.org] was a very illuminating article for me. Basically, not only do PD's not get enough resources to properly do their job, they get those resources weather or not they do a proper job at all. This leads to a situation where taking many cases and doing no work on them at all is most adventageous to from the PD's point of view.
  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:49PM (#39333529)

    The unspoken assumption there is that you were going to lose the criminal case, so they money and time you'd spend on the jury trial would be wasted.

    That's not always the case. In some unknown but probably large fraction of cases, the DA not only wants to bypass the trial because it saves him money and effort, but he also doesn't have enough evidence to assure a conviction. He's pretty sure you did it -- enough to put your ass in jail --- but not so sure he can meet the standards of proof that a jury trial would require. So he tries to frighten and bully you into going to prison.

    To assess whether this is a good idea, you need a good lawyer and you need to tell him or her all about the evidence that the state has -- and might have -- against you. Then the attorney can make something of an informed assessment of:

    1. What it is the state will likely charge you with -- you can't believe the DA -- he's trying to bully you.
    2. How likely it is, given what you know about the evidence, that the state can prove its case in court. You can always reassess after discovery.
    3. The range of likely sentences you would get if convicted on each count.
    4. How much of your money and time this is likely to eat up assuming a vigorous defense.

    And there's a tactic you can sometimes use in your favor. Some cases are complicated and could take a long time to prepare. Or they could be in busy offices and get lower priority than higher-profile or more serious cases. In that case, you may have an advantage by demanding a *speedy* trial. It's your right. That means either the state has to put aside other cases to prepare yours for trial sooner or it has to go ahead with a case that's less fully prepared and your chance of acquittal may be improved.

    Now I feel guilty. I may have helped douchebags get off.

  • Rocket Dockets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:49PM (#39333531)
    When I was in Chicago, a lawyer friend advised going to court for minor traffic offenses id you had the time - dockets were so overloaded that judges would usually simply dismiss things like an illegal turn simply because they had more important cases to push through, or the cop would often not show up leading to a dismissal. if everyone that got a traffic summons went to court the system would crash almost instantly; which is why fines need to be low enough to get people to say its easier to pay or offer traffic school to keep it off your record.
  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:57PM (#39333615)

    They booed Ron Paul when he said we should follow the Golden Rule in foreign policy. (Treat others the way you would want to be treated - do not bomb and kill them.) So called Christians often don't follow their own principles. I was surprised to discover the rate of premarital pregnancy and divorce was actually HIGHER among church-going Christians then the general population.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @07:57PM (#39333617)

    So say I. On the other hand, the conservatard/Republican party and their Tea Party yokels seem to like to say so every day. So I was pointing out how un-christian those assholes really are.

    "Conservative" has no fixed meaning anymore, unfortunately. But it's funny you mention the Tea Party.

    I know it's fun to hate on anything that becomes well known (maybe they don't believe as you do - those BASTARDS!) but do you actually know anything about them? They are all about reducing the size, power, and involvement in daily life of government. If they got what they wanted you wouldn't "quintuple the prison population" in a few decades which would avoid this problem.

    Really you ever notice any movement that gets off the ground that (however politely) wants gov't to fuck off and leave us alone always gets treated with contempt and ridicule in the media? You think the media profits more, or less with a small government that doesn't screw with citizens without a good reason? You think the media is composed mostly of people who love small government and more freedom, or leftists who think government isn't big enough and doesn't do enough? Just think about it.

    Framing: it's a way to lie gruesomely without ever saying something false. You just very selectively report certain things and not others, and you carefully tell the story but not the whole story. If you don't like a group or a person, and they do something good that most people would think is good, you strangely don't get around to reporting that - busy day, sure. If they do something stupid or malicious, you make damned sure it's front page material. You think they're impartial? Hah.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:07PM (#39333725)

    My mother once tried to represent herself in court, over some business thing. She was berated by the judge, told that she couldn't do that and he was considering throwing her in jail for contempt of court. That's bullshit, obviously, but it goes to show how the system really works. Your "rights" are only what the cops and judges decide they will humor you with at the time.

  • My own story (Score:4, Interesting)

    by microcars ( 708223 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:09PM (#39333743) Homepage

    limited scope, but from my own person experience none-the-less:

    Many years ago I was in the hospital for several days, for -what turned out to be- salmonella.
    Six months after I am out, I get a "final notice" from the hospital for $7500. wtf is this? I never got the first bills. (not an excuse for non-payment but the truth)
    Not only that, I had less than a week to pay or they would sue me!

    Having no lawyer and no clue how to counter (I didn't have $7500 at the time), I contacted my landlord who had just finished telling me how wonderful this lawyer was that she had found after going through a bunch of shysters.
    Contacted the lawyer, laid everything out for him, asked him how much it would cost, he said he would file a response and request a jury trial.
    He seemed pretty sure that they would throw up their hands and walk away from it rather than agree to a jury trial.

    Sure enough, I never heard a word from them again. Still use the same doctor.
    They never sent me another bill, never tried to set up a payment plan, never dinged my credit report
    Lawyer's estimate was $350, he ended up charging me $750 before I told him to stop "monitoring" the case and billing me for each time he "checked up on it."

    //I can see how this would work (or not work) depending on who it was that was suing you. This would not work in all cases.

  • Re:None of it works (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:14PM (#39333807)

    The system does not work and has slowly gotten worse for so long that many people do not realize that it has been getting worse (see frog boiling.)

    "Justice" has little meaning to people anymore; not that it likely had much to begin with. Today it is all about punishment and "correction" is just a euphemism - we don't abuse the prisoners like we used to do but the attitude has not changed, it just became more "humane" (except solitary which can be worse than torture.) We promote the idea of sexual abuse in prison and in some places it might be encouraged so unofficially crewel punishment is desired.

    A punishment based system will always fail. Biggest reason is that a complex intricate problem does not have single simplistic solutions; Americans are culturally biased towards overly simplified answers beyond the human nature to also gravitate toward them.

    Nutcases. They do not belong in prison but most go there. Thank Reagan for making that go further backwards. Pedophiles are another kind of crazy. They will always repeat, because they are crazy!

    Drug use crimes warp the entire system and the other drug related crimes do not help either. A big problem is the idiotic war on drugs; I find it interesting that in less than 100 years we repeat the same mistakes, including bank deregulation... how not to get out of a depression...

  • Re:Injustice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stanlyb ( 1839382 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:18PM (#39333843)
    Most of the time the choice is not between being in jail and not being in jail, but being found guilty (which means criminal record, and sometimes child custody), and maybe eventually being found guilty, but after long and expensive process. Oh, never mind, only the ignorant people could say there is any choice to be made.
  • by guibaby ( 192136 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:22PM (#39333877)

    Maybe a better plan is for the state to allot the same amount for a defense as they allot for a prosecution. You can still hire your own attorney if you want, but the poor and middle class are far less likely to get overcharged in order to settle. Seems very fair to me, and it keeps prosecutors from bringing BS cases. Might solve all of the problems. Every case is proceeded by a cost, benefit analysis.

  • Re:Injustice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:50PM (#39334135)

    Having been in such a position in the past , you are absolutely spot on. My times were lower, but:

    1) plead guilty to 3 domestic violence charges that were absolutely ridiculous and get out on time served , 43 days, 2 years 'probation'.

    2) face jury trial, looking at 3-4 years.

    Simply the hardest decision of my life: I've always done the RIGHT thing, in my life. This time, I was forced to do what was BEST for me -- And what was best for me, was to get the hell out of there, and accept guilt where there wasn't any.

    I do not wish anyone to be in such positions. It's sad that people are, on a daily basis.

  • by brokeninside ( 34168 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @08:54PM (#39334169)

    Ten years or so ago, I had a laptop stolen out of my home. A couple of kids came in while we were watching a movie in the other room and snagged my briefcase with my laptop in it. We reported this to the police. Several months later, the police arrested the kids while they breaking into another home. They found my laptop under one of the kid's bed.

    So I went down to the county courthouse to talk with the prosecutor. In that meeting, they brought my laptop out, I identified it. The prosecutor asked me how much the laptop was worth. I was honest, a hundred bucks if that. (It was an old Toshiba 486 with 8MB of RAM that I'd bought used off of ebay with no OS and installed Linux.) I can recall the way her face fell to this day. It was as if the words "felony conviction" were floating through her head and just floated away never to be seen again.

    So she bluffed the kid. She implied that she might be bringing serious felony charges, ones that could certainly be avoided if he plead out to lesser felony charges. He took the bait and plead guilty. By doing do, he avoided being charged with something that the prosecutor could not have proven had the case gone to court.

  • by sdw ( 6809 ) <sdw@li[ ]et ['g.n' in gap]> on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:07PM (#39334277) Homepage

    I let many companies and people abuse me because I couldn't afford time or attorneys to take them to court. Then I turned my attention to learning enough to be competent enough to put a stop to that. Way overdue.

    People should be comfortable representing themselves more. Perhaps not for a crucial criminal trial, but for everything else it should be considered. Basics of the legal system and navigating it should be taught in high school. The fact is that you can combat many opponents well if it costs you next to nothing and they feel they have to pay a lot for attorneys. True to some extent even for well-funded opponents in some circumstances. A major problem is that a lot of information, like process / procedures / formats, is hidden, but you can get it eventually.

    I've successfully run a couple civil actions and successfully contested a couple low-level parking / traffic tickets. I just appealed one in California Appellate court, raising some interesting (to me) constitutional issues. (Waiting for my loss letter...) Good to do A) to work out the details of the process, B) to learn the law better, and C) protest annoying and not-helping-safety/society abuse of laws to meet a quota. I even recently figured out the details of filing citizen's arrest requests to maximally complain about a very dangerous, and illegal, maneuver of a CHP to give someone a speeding ticket. The officer was the only unsafe driver I saw between SF and SJ. (Next time, I'll get positive ID.)

    In California, additional "fees" were added to traffic tickets that make a typical speeding ticket >$500 and really minor infractions start at $240. That's enough to be worth contesting at every point. In fact, it may be enough to change the rules of evidence in some cases.

    I need to populate my pro-se site soon with some of these as examples, if people are interested.
    http://pro-se.org/ [pro-se.org]
    And yes, I want to attack the overbroad "unlicensed practice of law" statutes that exist in 49 states. Of course you can't fraudulently hold yourself out as a bar-certified lawyer, and you shouldn't (can't, according to those laws) give people advice about what they should do. (The latter makes sense in a narrow sense: Besides what the law means, and what past cases have found, to actually advise people, you should know what the local custom, practices, probabilities, leanings, etc. the local judges and prosecutors have. That is separate from talking about the law or your own experience or analysis / opinions. First amendment rules there. That's the best I can understand the real legal line for conduct.) People aren't confused about who is a doctor just because they suggest that you eat better, get exercise, and take Ritalin or whatever. It is a ridiculous abuse of the public to enact laws so clearly designed to prevent sharing of information to protect blessed professionals.

  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:25PM (#39334403)

    I am equally astonished that you can be summarily convicted with no due process. Standing in front of a judge explaining your story and that the cop has it wrong is not due process. Judges can be in bad moods and need to move along a huge case load.

    You can choose to have a judge hear your case to move things along quicker, but I have never thought for one second it was forced.

    My experience has been in two states I have lived in and fought tickets. Texas and Nevada. I can tell you that in both states you have a right to jury trial, period. If the state is saying you are guilty of an offense, you can have your day in court. Every time.

    With no fees either. If the state is pursuing you, and you plead not guilty, there are no fees. To say otherwise, is equally astonishing to me.

  • Prosecutor's POV (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mrbrown1602 ( 536940 ) <mrbrownNO@SPAMmrbrown.net> on Monday March 12, 2012 @09:32PM (#39334459) Journal

    I'm an Assistant Prosecutor in one of the busiest (and understaffed) circuits in Missouri. We have two associate judges (who generally hear misdemeanor cases, one more than the other) and one circuit judge (who generally hears felony cases and most civil cases). We share our circuit judge with the other county in the circuit.

    We get about one jury a month. Yes, ONE JURY A MONTH. In the third or forth busiest circuit in Missouri. How many jury trials do we have set in any given month? 40-60. We can only try one of those a month because the legislature won't give us another circuit judge. As a consequence, some of these cases are several years old -- some people remain in custody that entire time. And if a civil case is ready to try, forget it - unless you're accused of murder, you're gonna have to wait.

    And you know what? The vast majority of them don't need to be jury trials. For instance, our ONE jury trial this month was an Assault 1st, Burglary 1st, and Armed Criminal Action. The defendant confessed on video tape to detectives - the confession was good and was not coerced in any way. We offered him a deal two years ago that would've resulted in probation along with drug treatment. The defendant demanded his trial (along with jury sentencing), was found guilty within an hour, and sentenced to 6 years in prison within another hour. While he got his trial, somebody in custody had to sit downstairs another month while this guy had his trial that wasn't needed (or could have been handled in a bench trial).

    What's the solution? It ain't bogging the court system down, I can tell you that, because it's already bogged down enough!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 12, 2012 @10:25PM (#39334809)

    These laws were passed by Conservatives, not liberals. Conservatives, aka deranged lunatics like this [publicpolicypolling.com].

    Yeah; Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos.

    The fact is that both "conservatives" (who are anything but conservative) and "liberals" (who are almost universally authoritarians, since real liberals haven't existed for almost a century) are both to blame, and they get away with it because the supporters on both sides give their own "team" a blank check. Bush creates a "department of homeland security" and a permanent stain of fascism on the dying Republic, and the Republicans praise his desire to "keep us safe". Obama then gives himself the power to literally assassinate US citizens without any form of trial, and most of the Democrats say nothing. You voted for Bush twice, and you'll vote for Obama twice.

    I swear most of you people would vote for a pile of dog shit if it had your party label.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @10:41PM (#39334935)

    My favorite lawyer got hit with some trumped up charges and plea bargained himself into jail for a year rather than risk a jury trial - he should know better than most which decision was in his best interests.

    If all defendants banded together and chose to fall on the knife simultaneously, yes it would crash the system. Good luck getting even 1% of defendants (who weren't already crazy enough to go to jury trial) to try that.

    As it stands, trial by jury is the option for people with nothing left to lose - if your plea bargain leaves you with some semblance of a liveable life, you're better off taking it than rolling the dice against what is usually a 10x worse option. I wonder what the founding fathers would have wanted instead of the plea bargain system, because this surely isn't what they had in mind.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:08PM (#39335123) Journal

    That's why nowadays you cannot assume that a large majority of those in jail are guilty. Given the way the system works, many innocent people can be convinced that it is in their best interests to plead guilty.

    Heck in one case an innocent (but mentally ill) person was told that he was helping to find the real culprit by pleading guilty!
    http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Eddie_Joe_Lloyd.php [innocenceproject.org]
    At least there's a bunch going around trying to such people out.

  • Another Perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bambam1648 ( 738292 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:09PM (#39335131)
    IAAL in fact I'm a DA. So let me give you some perspective from the other side. If a prosecutor is doing his/her job then if they don't believe someone committed a crime or even if they don't believe there is a likelihood of conviction then they must dismiss the case. I am most proud of the times I have dismissed cases where through further investigatory work or an honest evaluation of the case I found I could not in good conscience proceed. I would hold out my dismissals as some of my greatest achievements even over my convictions of extremely dangerous and evil murderers and rapists. Why is this? Because as a prosecutor you have the ultimate discretion on whether to proceed and your decision is paramount in its effect on peoples lives. My greatest fear would be to prosecute an innocent man but as a prosecutor with morals and who never just settles for taking someone's word for it (unless there word is corroborated by extrinsic evidence) I dig and use my own investigators and review the forensic evidence until I'm satisfied I have the guilty party. Therefore, it is very unlikely for me to convict an innocent person (short of a perfectly executed set up that is near impossible despite what the media would have you believe) especially since I have dismissed cases where I didn't believe the defendant committed the crime or when I didn't believe I could secure a conviction. I sometimes joked with a defense attorney colleague of mine, "if your guy is truly innocent I'm your favorite DA but conversely if your guy did it look out because I'm coming for him/her come hell or high water!" She agreed with my assessment. Now the problem is not every DA is like this, some are in the job just to make their trial bones and then get to the defense side some are lazy and just looking for the paycheck and will use the stiff sentence or habitual counts as a hammer just because they don't want to do the work. But there are a cadre of career prosecutors who like me do it for the right reasons and live up to the higher standards reserved for those who protect the People. I have never minded someone demanding a trial as I enjoyed the process but there is something to be said where the defendant delights in re-victimizing the victim. I once had to sit a watch as a defendant's attorney at his direction cross-examined a sexual assault victim not once not twice but three times due to mistrials and misconduct by the defense and he throughly enjoyed the hell he put her through on each occasion. (on a side note he tied her up cut her clothes off with a knife, held a gun to her head broke her jaw and nose, and then tortured her sexually). We had the evidence from the start and even though there always is the possibility of an acquittal there should be a punitive penalty for exercising your rights when in doing so this type of harm occurs. (second side note the judge witnessed how much the defendant delighted in the pain he both initially caused and the subsequently caused to the victim during the trial and he was sentenced to 48-life in Dept of Corrections. By in large most of my cases are not even close when it comes to guilt or innocence, its just a matter of considering all the factors and coming up with an appropriate plea based on criminal history, age, impact of crime and community safety. I often wonder what would happen if the defense could convince a large majority to demand trials (this would have to be public defenders as most who retain private attys couldn't afford to go to trial) what would happen? The result would be many lower level criminals would get more substantial sentences while taking away prosecutors ability to adequately attend to serious criminals so as a byproduct inevitability some cases where further work and investigation would be necessary to secure a conviction guilty defendants would go free and continue to hurt those we seek to protect causing more victimization and pain to those who are least able to protect themselves. Sorry for the verbosity of my post but I obviously feel strongly about this issue.
  • Re:Uh, no (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wandering Voice ( 2267950 ) on Monday March 12, 2012 @11:20PM (#39335201)

    In Wisconsin the monthly income cutoff was at $248 in 2003. I was even told by the public defenders office that even owning a car is enough to disqualify you. The state will still appoint a lawyer to you but they'll then garnish your wages at something like 30% before taxes.

  • by DaleSwanson ( 910098 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @12:14AM (#39335535)

    Yes you want to drive your car safely but you're a fool if you don't use a seat belt. Just like seat belts don't make you drive like an idiot, availability of birth control doesn't make you go out and have sex and lack of birth control doesn't make you not have sex.

    I always wear my seat belt, and think condoms should be given away in schools. However this statement reminded me of something interesting, the fact that seat belts may well cause you to drive more dangerously.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk_compensation [wikipedia.org]

    This raises an interesting devil's advocate argument against birth control in schools. Wikipedia tells me that "women whose partners use male condoms experience a 2% per-year pregnancy rate with perfect use and a 15% per-year pregnancy rate with typical use" (the pill has an 8% failure rate with typical usage). Also, consider that incorrect usage is probably much higher among highschool students. With that in mind, what might be the effect of a false sense of security given by condom usage? The risk of pregnancy is pretty obvious without a condom (or another birth control method), but if people think that condoms are going to completely eliminate that risk, while only reducing it to 15% or so, might that actually lead to overall increased pregnancies? Consider that if we take the probability of not getting pregnant in a year with typical condom usage at .85, and figure four years of condom usage it gives a total probability of 0.85^4 = 0.52. This means that about half (48%) of couples will end up with a pregnancy at some point during those four years.

    One might argue that this just means we must couple distribution with thorough education about proper usage. However, this might not be very realistic, particularly in areas where there would be resistance to giving out birth control in the first place.

  • by Ensign Nemo ( 19284 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @12:49AM (#39335727)

    The tea party may have originally been about reducing government size, power and daily involvment of the federal government but I'm not sure that's been the case for a long time. My ex-boss was a tea party guy; hard core. After listening to him many, many times I can very definitively tell you he is more anti-liberal than anti-big government. He worships Glen Beck, thinks Obama is a socialist anti-Christ in cohoots with Soros, out to destroy America, and that all of our problems started when the US took prayer out of school. I was at the airport with him one time and some random guy came up, shook his hand and they started talking. (He was wearing one of those pro-tea party shirts.) They weren't talking about how to solve big government; they were just circle jerking about how liberals are the cause of all of our problems and how we should go back to daily religion (Christian only because "the US is a Christian nation") in every aspect of our lives. He's not an idiot mind you, I like the guy, but guys like Beck and other conservatives have zeroed in on the natural fears that most people have and convinced them to not even talk or listen to any other opinions. It's not about making America great, it's only about beating the liberals no matter the cost.

        I have yet to see anything that actually shows tea party people are about smaller government more than drinking the "liberals are what's wrong with America" cool-aid than anything else.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @02:36AM (#39336159) Journal

    And that isn't even figuring in what happens when someone in the system just decides to get your ass, be it a vendetta or because they are too lazy to catch the real criminal or just because its Tuesday. true story..

    We had a prosecutor in our county the cops called "that God damned bitch" for about 4 years, the reason she had that name? Simple if you had a penis you were guilty, period. women were innocent, men were guilty and God fucking help you you got investigated for ANY things sexual as she would tear into you like a pitbull tearing into a t-bone, all because she was raped in college and it seriously warped her. A friend lost a home that had been in his family 3 generations, built by his grandfather before WWI, all because of the GDB. it was a nasty divorce, he found she was banging two different docs at the hospital she worked at and he made it damned clear he was gonna fight for his kid so she got the 16 year old stepdaughter to say he grabbed her tits. Now it didn't matter that the cops actually went into court on his side, that they had written and testified the case was bogus, the girl had changed her story no less than 5 different times and never came close to telling the same story twice and that at least on one occasion they caught grandma coaching her (which GDB refused to prosecute). Nope none of that mattered as she came up with every charge she could think of and drug it out for over 2 years. By the time it was over the jury took less than 20 minutes to find him not guilty but in the meantime he had lost his job, his home went for lawyer bills and after she cleaned his account she hired a lawyer (which he couldn't afford one after this) and got full custody of his son and promptly took him out of the country, never shall he see his son again.

    so don't think because you have a decent job now that will help you if someone decides to crush you like a bug. it amazed me how no matter how insane the charges were or the fact even the cops said it was completely fabricated this one GDB could completely and utterly destroy a person's life like that. And of course now he doesn't have 2 cents to rub together so good luck getting her for malicious prosecution, which wouldn't give him back his son anyway which he hasn't seen in 14 years now and probably wouldn't even recognize if he ran into him on the street sadly.

  • by Omestes ( 471991 ) <omestes@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @03:15AM (#39336267) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps you should come to Arizona, and listen to the Tea Party folks talk about our nice southern neighbors here.

    Oh, and try disagreeing with them on any of their fundamental stock issues... See where it gets you. Did you realize, for example, that all liberals, and Democrats ("SOCIALISTS!") want to take away everyone's guns? "I'm a liberal, and a Democrat, and I don't, and most of my friends are liberals and Democrats who own several guns, and have yet to meet a single person who is against private gun ownership even when I lived in a hippy college town"... Response: "Well, you're not a REAL socialist then!". Me: "I'd be a registered Socialist if I could vote in the primaries...". Silence.

    Actually, the whole act of using "socialist" to kill conversations is a bit stupid, and more proof. So what if your a socialist (90% of what is called it today, isn't)? Its called disagreement, all good things come from it. Compromise is what makes America great. Discussion is... oh never mind, I'm a socialist who wants to take your guns, and kill all Christian babies. Fine. Oh yeah, and... Death Panels.

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @03:32AM (#39336317)

    I was surprised to discover the rate of . . . divorce was actually HIGHER among church-going Christians then the general population.

    Not exactly . . .

    Christians question divorce rates of faithful [usatoday.com]

    Wright combed through the General Social Survey, a vast demographic study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and found that Christians, like adherents of other religions, have a divorce rate of about 42%. The rate among religiously unaffiliated Americans is 50%.

    When Wright examined the statistics on evangelicals, he found worship attendance has a big influence on the numbers. Six in 10 evangelicals who never attend had been divorced or separated, compared to just 38% of weekly attendees. . . . .

    "You do hear, both in Christian and non-Christian circles, that Christians are no different from anyone else when it comes to divorce and that is not true if you are focusing on Christians who are regular church attendees," he said.

    Wilcox's analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households has found that Americans who attend religious services several times a month were about 35% less likely to divorce than those with no religious affiliation.

    Nominal conservative Protestants, on the other hand, were 20% more likely to divorce than the religiously unaffiliated.

    "There's something about being a nominal 'Christian' that is linked to a lot of negative outcomes when it comes to family life," Wilcox said


    They booed Ron Paul when he said we should follow the Golden Rule in foreign policy. (Treat others the way you would want to be treated - do not bomb and kill them.) So called Christians often don't follow their own principles.

    I think you need to understand the principles.

    The Golden Rule's primary use is as a guide to individual conduct, not statecraft. It's not clear that Ron Paul would expect to receive reciprocal treatment from everybody, including the Iranians, for good treatment towards them, or what he would do in the face of bad behavior other than continue to act nicely. Among nations the expectation should be reciprocal. I don't think most Americans do, or should, have much confidence in Ron Paul's foreign policy in situations where the Golden Rule fails to elicit the desired response. Nor is it clear that a President Ron Paul would protect Americans and America's interests around the world as he seems to have made it clear that he would largely pull back. That's fine until the Iranians cut of 20% of the world's oil supply by blocking the Straits of Hormuz. It seems to me that he is also implicitly blaming America for the self-directed and self-interested bad behavior of other nations, like Iran.

    America already had too many interests around the world in 1812 for a Ron Paul presidency and foreign policy to be successful.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @04:21AM (#39336497)

    You fucking sicken me. The reason the dockets are filled is because of bullshit non-crimes and non-criminals being prosecuted for every little bit of bullshit out there. The US imprisons more people than any other country on earth, both by percentage and by raw number, yes, even China, with over 1 billion people, has fewer people in prisons than the US. That is not because our people are worse, hell no, it is because we put fucking everyone in jail for anything we can possibly think of.

    The system needs to have a damn wrench shoved between the gears, so that this disgusting problem comes to light and we do something about it. Not to mention your condescending attitude and the whole "just deal with it as is, don't even think about bucking the disgusting system" What the fuck is wrong with you.

    Only reason I'm AC is because I forgot my account password, as I hadn't signed in in months when the FBI took my computers because I was involved in protesting Koch Industries. I worked on a damn boycott, argued against illegal activity, was a damn good citizen, and they busted in my door, stomped on my back, threatened my life, and took everything I had. The United States is the most oppressive country in the "civilized" world, if you can call us even remotely civilized, when our police behave more like those of Syria than that of a real civilized nation.

    Damn you're just such a bitch.

  • Re:Uh, no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by discogravy ( 455376 ) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:39AM (#39338653) Homepage

    And it's only two because nobody ever bothered with rock'n roll.

    Rules and Regulations for Public Dance Halls [thesocietypages.org] ("no beating of drum to produce jazz effect") and also, Nazi hatred for jazz [theatlantic.com] (I think this one is my favorite: "so-called jazz compositions may contain at most 10% syncopation; the remainder must consist of a natural legato movement devoid of the hysterical rhythmic reverses characteristic of the barbarian races and conductive to dark instincts alien to the German people (so-called riffs)"...)

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