According to arrest data gathered from the FBI, around 80 percent of all arrests can be classified as misdemeanors, aka small crimes that carry a maximum sentence of one year. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 13 million misdemeanor cases find their way into a prosecutor's lap every year. That's why many Californians may be interested to know that the misdemeanor system carries an inequality that favors the well-off over the poor.
First of all, individuals with restricted means usually have to hand over their fates to public defenders. These lawyers are often swarmed with such large caseloads that they urge most of their clients to take plea deals rather than fight in court. Conversely, affluent individuals can afford to hire good lawyers who can give their cases the necessary attention.
The second problem is that the legal system is riddled with costs, such as fines, court fees and bail, all of which can overwhelm poor people and force them to fall into debt. Even applying for a public defender requires the payment of a fee. And to make matters worse, being unable to pay those fees can result in being put on probation or getting incarcerated. Moreover, being convicted of a misdemeanor can hinder one's employability in the market, making it all the more difficult to pay what is owed.
The fact of the matter is that courts make a lot of money from misdemeanors. In fact, one legal expert describes the system as a regressive tax policy, where poor individuals pay the most in funding courts and sometimes the general budget of the jurisdiction.
Fortunately, there are extensive efforts to reform the misdemeanor system, including reducing the number of arrests and encouraging prosecutors to only choose cases that merit action. Nevertheless, all misdemeanor defendants should consider hiring a professional lawyer. Experienced legal counsel could devote themselves to a particular case.