- Most defendants (people accused of a crime) are tried by a jury, who, based on the evidence, decide on their guilt or innocence.
- The percentage of the population in prison has remained fairly consistent over the last 30 years.
- The “War on Drugs” is aimed at ridding our communities of drug “kingpins” and big-time dealers.
- Four out of five drug arrests are for sales.
- If a police officer asks to search your bag, or your car, you must cooperate and grant permission.
- The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is at the forefront in training local police departments to enhance their ability to target drug criminals.
- If you are arrested, you are entitled to legal representation paid for by the state, if you cannot afford an attorney.
- Children are most likely to be represented by an attorney during juvenile proceedings.
- Judges are the most powerful law enforcement officers in the criminal justice system.Black youth have 3 times the number of drug-related emergency room visits as white youth.
Perhaps the biggest myth is that you are entitled to legal representation "if you can't afford it." While it varies by state, in Virginia, for example, you get around $425 if you are charged with a crime facing 20 years or less (good luck finding competent counsel for that), and in Wisconsin, to qualify for state assistance you have to earn less than $3,000 a year. Sadly, in very few cases will a juvenile proceeding include a defense attorney.
It is easy to assume that the judge is the most powerful person in our justice system, but the reality is that judicial hands have been tied with legislation in many cases (mandatory minimum sentences, 3 strikes laws, etc.). Even if that were not the case, the fact that the majority of cases never get to a judge leaves the power in the hands of prosecutors. They decide the charges, and negotiate the plea agreements, and are usually the most critical power relationship in a criminal case.
Lastly, while we are conditioned to think of African American community as the primary drug users, the fact is that white youth are admitted to hospitals 3 times as often for drug related emergency visits.
So, how did you do?