How much time to expect the bad guys to do in jail or prison when you catch them doing a crime.

You’re working a case… maybe it’s a theft case, maybe it’s worker’s compensation fraud… and you’ve collected the evidence. You’ve got a good solid case. Maybe there’s going to be a prosecution and probably a conviction – how much time do you expect a bad guy to do off of this?

Well, the short answer is none or very little. And this should not be a terrible concern for you and I’m going to explain why.

First, I want to explain two different aspects of crime prevention and keeping people from committing crimes and that’s the severity of a punishment and the certainty of punishment.

The severity of punishment means society / politicians decide if they make the punishment very severe that should deter the crime. The logic is… if the bad guys know they’re going to have to do 7 to 10 years in prison, then they are going to think twice before they do this crime.

The other side of the prevention theory is the certainty of being caught, the certainty of a conviction. So if the bad guys say, “Well, yes, 7-10 years in prison. But they’re never going to catch me.” Then, they’re going to go ahead and commit the crime.

What you have some control over is the certainty of them being caught. The bad guys are doing their crimes—the worker compensation’s fraud, thefts, whatever – and thinking that they’re going to get away with it. And while we and I can’t affect the severity of punishment, we certainly can affect the certainty of it. We can make sure that they get caught.

Our job is to collect evidence. And if the evidence comes together and it makes for a nice case, maybe you get a nice little conviction out of it. But I’m a believer that the certainty of being caught is a stronger deterrent than the severity of the punishment.

But don’t expect criminal to do a lot of time.

Think about it in your own life. You’re driving down the express way, going a little over the speed limit. Down the road you see a cop working a laser or radar doing traffic enforcement, speed enforcement. You slowed down. You backed off the accelerator. Not because of the severity of the punishment just increased. It’s no more costly to be speeding now than it was a mile ago. It’s the certainly of being caught has increased. The police officer is right there doing traffic enforcement. You can affect the certainty of a person being caught. When you’re brought onto a case and you start to work it, you can put together a case that’s strong for your client. But don’t expect the person to do a lot of time.

Here’s the interesting thing. You work the case. The person is charged with the crime and they ignored the summons. They just don’t show up. What happens? They get a warrant issued for their arrest. To me this is the best outcome for working a case like this because it means that person is walking around with an active warrant for his / her arrest.

When (and it’s only a matter of time) inevitably the police stop them for something and find that active warrant… you’ve just given the police another tool they can use to protect the general public.

Now the police can search the car. They have the discretion whether or not to arrest the person. This can be very, very valuable. I would much rather have the person running around with a warrant out for their arrest because that helps them keep in line or helps bust them on a bigger case. If they show up for the case you built for them… they simply cop a plea bargain, get a suspended jail sentence, pay a fine and go their way.

I love it when the person has the warrant out for them because it helps the entire community. It’s like having an invisible leash on this criminal. You need to know, when you’re working a case, that it’s a completely appropriate outcome if they skip out on your case. This is okay because, when they’ve got a warrant out for their arrest, you’ve done a good thing for everybody – the whole community… even if they don’t do a single day in jail.

Leave a comment and let me know if you worked a case where a person has done a long sentence or maybe one where they’ve gotten off easy and let me know how you felt about it.

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