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Debunking 5 Common Myths About the Criminal Justice System

January 12, 2024

In the complex and often misunderstood world of criminal justice, myths and misconceptions can significantly impact a person’s understanding of their rights and the legal process. As one of Tucson’s most experienced criminal defense attorneys, Janet Altschuler is here to help you understand the difference between fact and fiction. Let’s explore 5 common myths about the criminal justice system and how they can affect your criminal case. 

1. You Get One Phone Call

It’s a classic scene in movies: A person gets arrested and is granted one phone call. However, reality doesn’t always follow this pattern. First, the ‘right to a phone call’ isn’t in the U.S. Constitution, meaning that you technically don’t actually have an enshrined right to contact someone if you’ve been arrested. However, in most cases the police will allow a suspect to make a phone call to inform family members or contact an attorney. 

In some cases, you may get more than one call, especially if the person you’re trying to reach doesn’t answer. Different jurisdictions also have different rules about when these calls can be made – it could be before or after procedures like fingerprinting or taking mugshots. 

2. The Insanity Plea Will Keep a Suspect Out of Prison

Contrary to popular belief, pleading insanity is not an ‘easy’ way out of a criminal charge. 

In reality, the bar for proving insanity in court is exceptionally high. The success rate for insanity defenses is less than 1% because of the very strict criteria that must be met for the judge or jury to deem it an appropriate outcome. It’s a complex legal strategy that requires meticulous planning and an understanding of both the legal and psychological aspects of pleading insanity. 

Plus, many defendants that do successfully plead insanity are placed in psychiatric hospitals—often for much longer than they would have been sentenced to time in prison. It’s best to build a strong case with an experienced attorney rather than assuming that a plea of insanity will help a defendant avoid jail time. 

3. Longer Prison Sentences Mean Safer Communities

One might think that longer prison sentences would deter crime and make our communities safer. However, this isn’t always the case, and research has shown the opposite can be true. Long-term incarceration in particular has been shown to be an ineffective deterrent and can even have the opposite effect. Inmates may adopt new criminal tactics from others during their time in prison. Plus, longer sentences don’t always mean rehabilitation, which can lead to inmates committing crimes again in the future, even if they served a long sentence. 

4. Spouse Testimony Is Off-Limits

Many believe that one cannot be compelled to testify against their spouse. While there is a degree of truth to this in the form of marital privilege, it’s not an absolute right. The privilege has its limits, with exceptions depending on the nature of the crime, the location where it occurred, and other factors. There are many situations where a spouse could in fact be called to testify against the defendant, which could be disastrous for the defendant’s case. That is why it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney and get their expert advice on how to handle the possibility of a spouse being called to testify. 

5. You Must Be Read Your Miranda Rights

In many shows and movies, police officers are shown reciting Miranda rights to suspects during every arrest, often for comedic or dramatic effect. However, these rights are specifically for situations where a suspect is taken into custody and interrogated. Police are not required to read your rights during every interaction. Information volunteered to police outside of custodial interrogation can still be used in court. It is essential to be cautious in any conversation with law enforcement. When in doubt, exercise your right to remain silent and do not speak to any member of law enforcement until you have spoken to your criminal defense attorney. 

Book Your Free Consultation with Janet Altschuler Today

With so much conflicting information in circulation about the justice system, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome. With over 20 years of experience serving clients in the Tucson area, Janet Altschuler will fight for your rights and build a strong case on your behalf. Contact her today for a free consultation. 

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