The topic of criminal law is perhaps one of the most complex and intricately detailed subjects available for public study. Not only is it complicated, it is open to misunderstanding and misinterpretation because of the vast number of situations that involve criminal law procedures.
For these reasons, a number of myths regarding criminal law have been put into circulation amongst the general public. These myths are so pervasive that almost anyone can be duped by them. Understanding the difference between myth and reality is one of the most important steps towards a thorough understanding of criminal law.
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Rights Upon Arrest
Myths regarding the arrest process are often created in television shows and popular movies. Many people are led to believe that a person who is being arrested must be read their full Miranda rights at the exact moment of apprehension. This is usually portrayed on television dramas as an officer reciting the Miranda rights as they handcuff the suspect.
In reality, the suspect must be read their rights only if they are being questioned and they can be read their rights after they have already been placed into a holding cell or interview room.
Expensive Legal Representation
Lawyers are often portrayed as super-rich professionals who are only interested in making money and who will always show favor to clients with deep pockets and thick bankrolls. In reality, most attorneys are genuinely interested in providing their clients with a sound defense.
Also, many lawyers specialize in working with low-income clients and offer reduced fee rates. Some lawyers offer sliding scale fees and payment plans so that a person of any financial background can be assured fair and equitable legal representation.
Is It Entrapment?
Hollywood is especially guilty for misinforming the public about the subject of police entrapment. A typical movie scene will portray a character demanding to know if another character is a police officer, stating that if they do not reveal their true identity, they are committing “entrapment.”
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Entrapment refers to a situation in which a law enforcement official forces someone into committing an illegal or illicit activity that they would not otherwise perform for the sole purpose of securing an arrest. This is a clear violation of a police officer’s moral obligation to the community and is incredibly rare.
Juvenile Criminal Records
Youthful indiscretions are quite common but many people mistakenly believe that, as soon as they turn eighteen, all of their juvenile criminal records are erased, expunged or permanently sealed. Although that would be advantageous for some people, it is not the case at all.
While juvenile records are not often taken into consideration in adult criminal proceedings, they are not necessarily hidden from the eyes of judges and prosecutors. Usually, only an official order of expungement or a direct command to seal an individual’s records can conceal past indirections from future searches.
When it comes to criminal law cases, the ability to separate fact from fiction is critical to understanding the legal process. Falling victim to a popular myth, however benign, can have serious consequences.