Charging Criminal Defendants for Their Own Trials
Every single person reading this knows that if you're accused of a crime in America, you'll be provided with a lawyer if you can't afford your own (it's in every cop show, shouted by the detective at the dramatic moment of arrest). That's because in the 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that forcing poor people to defend themselves in criminal court violates the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the right to a fair trial and an attorney. So you can imagine people's surprise when they got a bill.
That's right: Today, defendants in criminal cases are required to pay for public defenders, jury trials, and buttloads of other non-punitive court costs.
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"There's a $445 surcharge for Justice statue polish, but if that's too steep we can
just use your blood instead."
How in the hell can they get away with that? To find the answer, we must hop in our DeLoreans and revisit the 1980s, when incarcerations increased sevenfold thanks to the wars on crime and drugs, respectively. America quickly discovered that taking care of that many prisoners is fucking expensive. Add in the fact that state legislatures were simultaneously chopping vital dollars from the criminal justice system in order to avoid politically unsavory tax hikes, and suddenly charging defendants for flamboyant luxuries such as their constitutionally guaranteed lawyers and jury trials became an easy way to make up the difference.
As a result, laws in over 40 states have since transformed the criminal justice system into a revenue-generating racket. Criminal defendants aren't only charged for legal representation but also for basic needs such as healthcare, prison stays, ankle monitors, tape to piece America's shredded Bill of Rights back together, and tissues to absorb a bald eagle's tears. If you're too jobless, too homeless, or too sick to cough up the cash, too bad. You should've thought about that before getting accused of breaking the law (the burden of proof is still on the prosecutor, remember).
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"The city's totally over budget, sir. We need to cut either Flag Day,
or the values it represents."