Assaults in North Carolina, among other states I imagine, are one of the easiest ways for people to abuse the justice system. The system basically works like this, a person calls the police and reports an assault on another person. Usually some sort of injury may help with the police going forward, but it is not essential. The police will routinely turn this report into charges against the alleged aggressor.
If you look at this process, it needs to be changed. Criminal charges are ordered with nothing more than a victims statement. While it seems that justice will prevail in the end, I argue it cannot prevail at all. In circumstances like this, the accused is already going to suffer punishment just for being accused. Examples, the charge causes an employer to fire the accused or a landlord decides to evict. Whether just or not, those examples happen on a daily basis, no one wants someone who is charged with assault on their premises or place of work. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the immediate punishment or injustice for the accused. The accused will usually have to hire an attorney who will cost money, or get an appointed attorney that also costs money. This is where the main injustice lies with the way the procedure is handled because the accused is already out money and possible job or apartment. Why? Because someone claims they were assaulted. Should there not be more than a victim statement or pictures of an injury?
I have handled cases in which the “victim” was high on drugs or that never even saw the assault occur, but in both cases that was enough to bring the defendant through the system. I do not know of exact ways to solve this problem, but it seems a criminal check on the “victim” should give the police officers a clue on the degree of credibility they have. They can also look at past reports of similar actions and the results. Unfortunately there is probably no way to prevent it from happening once or twice from a victim, but a lot of the time there is a history of these kind of actions in the “victims” past. I am not saying a criminal record precludes one from being assaulted, but the officers should at that point, dig a little deeper into the story etc. to see if charges are warranted.
Dismissal: Even when a case is dismissed because the evidence is weak or the “victim” is not credible, the damage has already been done. The damage goes beyond what has already been pointed out, because of the consequences of the record. If someone has used an expungement before, they may not qualify to have this arrest expunged from their record. What this means? It means that for the rest of that persons life, potential employers and landlords can see that you were charged with an assault. Does anyone think that will not persuade them to not hire or not rent to that particular individual? This is an incurable injustice that will last that persons entire life. Why? Because anyone has the power under this system, to ruin someones life.
January 26th, 2011