There's a reason innocent January 6 prisoners are pleading guilty

My son asked why some of the January 6 protesters are pleading guilty to crimes they didn't commit.  That made me realize that there are probably many people out there who don't know how America's criminal justice system really works today.  If you think you're innocent until proven guilty, then you've been misinformed.  That was the old way.  Today, in the United States of America, you're guilty until you can afford to be proven innocent.  Allow me to explain what I mean by that, and what those January 6th protesters are experiencing.

They have been arrested and charged with crimes.  Some of them are very serious crimes with very serious penalties.  Ideally, a person can afford to be bailed out of jail.  If you can't afford to be bailed out, you have a long, expensive, and bumpy road ahead of you.  (Of course, many of the January 6 prisoners were denied bail.)

Unless you work for someone sympathetic to your situation, you will be fired for absenteeism.  Your employer needs to replace you, and that means that you must first be terminated.  You can't blame your employer for that.  So now, you're not only incarcerated, but you're also unemployed.

Since you can't afford to be bailed out, it's likely that you also can't afford to retain an attorney.  In that case, you're appointed a public defender, who receives a salary from the exact same government that's trying to send you to prison.  I don't need to explain how there are obviously conflicting interests there.

Also, most public defenders hold those jobs either because they're incompetent or they lack the experience and skills needed to support a private practice.  They're also overworked because most people in jail cannot afford to hire an attorney.  I'm sure there are some public defenders out there that are fine attorneys.  However, they are few and far between.

While you are incarcerated, the bills you had before being jailed continue to add up.  The bank that holds the note to your house doesn't care that you're innocent.  It wants the money you owe, with interest and late fees.  Ditto for your car or truck.  The utility company still charges a monthly fee, regardless of how much power you have used.  The service alone costs money.  You must pay that bill before you get utility services in the future.

Your arrest is public information, and there are people who pay attention to that information so they can take advantage of your misfortune.  If you're single and live alone, your house will almost certainly be robbed within a few days.  Criminals know there's nobody there to report that a crime has occurred, so when you're finally released from jail and report the crime, the chances of finding the perpetrator are slim to none.  I'm not exaggerating this.  It happens more frequently than you can imagine.

Eventually, you'll be offered a plea bargain, allowing you to avoid prison.  This plea bargain is contingent upon you standing before a judge and admitting that you're guilty of the crime charged or possibly a lesser crime.  In any case, you must admit that you're guilty of committing a crime.  The only way to avoid this is by going to trial.

It's important to the system that you admit guilt because, once you do, you have almost no chance of winning a lawsuit for wrongful arrest.  The day that they wouldn't release you from jail, and you couldn't afford bail, they became committed to proving you guilty at all costs because they had then denied you your freedom.

If you turn the plea bargain down, you will go to trial.  Please remember that you're being represented by an overworked, subpar attorney who receives a paycheck from the same government that's trying to send you to prison.  That plea bargain becomes extremely tempting, especially if it allows you to be released immediately — a nice alternative when your overworked subpar attorney informs you that if you're found guilty at trial, the prosecution will insist that the judge impose the maximum sentence against you.

You might say to yourself, "I'll never admit that I'm guilty of a crime that I didn't commit," but until you've spent the last few months in jail, you honestly have no idea what you're talking about.  Even if you insist on your right to a speedy trial, there's nothing speedy about it.  Federal courts have 70 days to give you a speedy trial, and state courts have 90.  They will use every bit of that time, especially if you're innocent, because the longer you're in jail, the more likely it is that you will accept a plea bargain and can't sue them for wrongful arrest.  Since you're now unemployed and possibly homeless, you feel a strong need to start rebuilding your life as soon as possible.

The system was perfect for an American citizen in the 1800s when you would be tried within days of the accusation.  It is not perfect for an American citizen who has a job, house, and 2.5 kids in 2021.  Only the wealthy can afford fair treatment when accused of a crime today.

That is why some of the January 6 protesters are admitting guilt for crimes they didn't commit.  This is what living in a totalitarian state looks like.  It needs to change immediately by whatever means necessary.

Image: Prisoner.  Public domain.

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