Found not guilty and still doing the time

In the United States, you can be sentenced to prison for crimes you didn’t commit.

Under current federal sentencing guidelines, the government can demand that the court sentence a defendant found guilty of some charges but innocent of other charges as if he had been found guilty of all of the charges.

This, of course, is why they throw any charge they can think of at everyone who crosses paths with the injustice system. Invariably, they’ll manage to convict even the most innocent person of something, even if it’s a jaywalking charge, and get a sentence far in excess of what would be reasonable for such a charge.

A federal district court recently condemned the practice, which it said occurs “routinely.’

After an eleven-day trial, a jury acquitted defendant Michael Ibanga of all of the drug distribution charges against him and one of the two money laundering charges against him in the Indictment. The single count of which defendant Ibanga was convicted typically would result in a Guidelines custody range of 51 to 63 months. However, the United States demanded that the Court sentence defendant Ibanga based on the alleged drug dealing for which he was acquitted. This increased the Guidelines custody range to 151 to 188 months, a difference of about ten years.

Although the Sentencing Guidelines require that district courts include acquitted conduct under certain circumstances when calculating a custody range, U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.3, comment. (backg’d.) (Nov. 2005), the Court declined to sentence defendant Ibanga on this basis. Sentencing a defendant to an extra ten years in prison for a crime of which he was acquitted is constitutionally questionable and would not serve the statutory sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). — United States v. Ibanga

Tim Lynch from the Cato Institute points out that almost all defendants accept a plea bargain (PDF) precisely because if they insist on their right to a jury trial, they risk becoming victims of this insidious type of miscarriage of justice.

When the government accuses someone of a criminal offense, it typically proceeds to exert enormous pressure on the accused to surrender the right to a jury trial. Fewer than 10 percent of the criminal cases in America go to trial. Plea bargaining dominates the system.

Sometimes a person will insist on a trial. This is risky because if the government gets a conviction, it will mete out extra punishment because it was forced to go through the “trouble’ of a trial. . . .

The constitutional right to a jury trial is on life-support and that’s where the government wants it. — Cato@Liberty

Radley Balko of Reason puts this all in perspective:

“If you’re wondering if all of this is a violation of the Sixth Amendment, well, if the Sixth Amendment means anything at all, it most certainly is,’ Balko wrote. “But we’re talking mostly about drug crimes, here — where the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply.’

Do you think people should go to prison when they’re found not guilty in a jury trial?