In recent years, there has been a lot of conversation about criminal justice reform, especially related to length of jail/prison sentences. Some meaningful reforms have been introduced, but there is still much work to be done to solve the problem.
According to a recent report, the length of time that alleged offenders spend in jail (pre-trial and post-trial) actually increased by 20 percent between 2014 and 2019. The study looked at jail populations in three U.S. counties that, taken together, seem to represent national trends.
Why is jail time increasing?
The study’s authors point out that there are three factors contributing to longer jail stays. The first is high bail amounts, which make it difficult or impossible for alleged offenders to get out of jail while their case is pending. The second is the number of young offenders (ages 18-24) behind bars. And the third is an increase in serious criminal charges, which would result in a longer sentences for those convicted.
While these problems will require systemic changes in order to be fully solved, individuals facing criminal charges may be able to reduce their time behind bars by seeking the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. A good attorney can help protect your rights and freedom from the very start of your case.
Could your bail be reduced?
Judges set bail amounts based on a number of factors, including whether they believe the accused person will fail to return to court for trial. In many cases, an experienced attorney can advocate for you to seek a reduction of your bail or even ask that it be waived. There are no guarantees of success, but having a courtroom advocate at your bail hearing can be very helpful.
Protecting young offenders throughout the process
Juvenile offenders and even young adults are often unaware of their rights in the criminal justice system. Because of this, they may say or do things that make it easier for police to gather evidence against them and for prosecutors to secure a conviction.
If you’ve been arrested, one of the most important things you can do is to have an attorney by your side before agreeing to answer any questions. You have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney, and you should exercise both of those rights immediately.
Arguing for reasonable sentences and seeking post-conviction relief
Whether you plan to fight the charges or seek a plea deal, it is imperative to work with a skilled attorney. A good defense lawyer will be able to assess weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and can use that assessment to help you decide how you want to proceed.
Even if you take a plea deal, your attorney may be able to help you negotiate a much more favorable sentence for your cooperation. If the case goes to trial and you are convicted, your attorney may be able to seek an appeal or pursue a reduced sentence through post-conviction relief motions.
The bottom line is simple: No matter what criminal charges you are facing, working with the right attorney can make a major difference at nearly all points in the criminal justice process.