The Criminal Justice System
The Broken Machine
With criminal law, your Sixth Amendment right to counsel is at its uppermost apex under the protection of the U.S. Constitution:
The right to be heard would be, in many cases, of little avail if it did not comprehend the right to be heard by counsel. Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. If charged with crime, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence. Left without the aid of counsel, he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence, or evidence irrelevant to the issue or otherwise inadmissible. He lacks both the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defense, even though he have a perfect one. He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence. Powell v. Alabama, 287 U.S. 45, 68-69 (1932).
In 2004, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 95% of criminal convictions were obtained by the defendants entering into a plea bargain with the State in state courts. And, only 5% of the criminal convictions obtained by the State were from a bench trial (i.e., no jury) or a jury trial. Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, MATTHEW R. DUROSE & PATRICK A. LANGAN, PH.D., BUREAU OF JUSTICE STATISTICS, U.S. DEP’T OF JUSTICE, NCJ 215646, FELONY SENTENCES IN STATE COURTS, 2004, 1 (2007), available at https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fssc04.pdf.
In the federal courts, approximately 98% of criminal convictions were obtained by the defendants entering into a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Hans Sherrer, 99.8% Conviction Rate In U.S. Federal Courts Can Make Japanese Prosecutors Jealous, JUSTICE DENIED (May 17, 2016), http://justicedenied.org/wordpress/archives/3190 (last visited on Jun. 22, 2017).
That. Is. Awful.
The whole point of a trial is to test the State's case beyond a reasonable doubt before the State can take away your freedom. Clearly, Justice Scalia's vision of trials—the Gold Standard of justice—is not happening. The presumption of innocence that you are innocent until proven guilty means little when the criminal justice system is relegated to bargaining chips measured by time. Your time. Ultimately, your freedom.