“Near Nature. Near Perfect.” What’s a Motto with Spokane?

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Like any good motto, Spokane’s is less a statement of fact than an ideal for which to strive. So, where do we fall short? Are we not as near perfect as we suppose? The numbers suggest we aren’t even close.

Not so perfect crime.

According to the latest crime statistics, Spokane ranks higher in both violent and property crime than the national average. A person in Spokane has a 1 in 14 chance of being the victim of property crime. Auto theft is the leading property crime where Spokane has ranked in recent years as high as the fourth highest rate in the U.S.

Murder is close to the national average in Spokane but rapes and assault are significantly higher than the norm. It seems our little slice of paradise is fading away with the passing century.

What to do?

To Spokane’s credit, they are not sitting back, ignoring the numbers. Police are employing modern detection methods to reduce crime; at least they are reporting that this is the case. People, in general, enthusiastically support increased efforts by law enforcement. However, lacking specific details on this crackdown it may be just as important to monitor their methods as the results. If the effort to reduce crime in Spokane spawns a view that the end justifies the means, it could create an environment as predatory as the crime itself.

Precedent set by law enforcement over drinking and driving for instance, raises specific concerns regarding any new methods deployed to reduce crime. Current DUI arrest methods include tacit suspension of certain 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendment rights. Additionally, revocation of driving privileges by an independent body (the DMV) apart from the judicial system makes a DUI arrest a legal exception to the axiom, “innocent until proven guilty.”

Just like DUI arrests, the number of criminal arrests becomes an important political statistic denoting success or failure by law enforcement. Police often feel pressure to step up their arrests of certain crimes to assuage the public. As in anything of this nature though, more arrests don’t mean better arrests. Consequently, an increase in arrests doesn’t necessarily indicate improvement of the crime situation, especially if the arrests fail to produce a conviction of the actual perpetrators.

What is the backlash?

An increase in arrests won’t make the streets of Spokane safer if the arrests aren’t tied to solid evidence and proper police work. Criminal defense attorneys in Spokane are obligated to punch holes in any case based on a shoddy arrest and inadequate proof. This keeps the system honest and functioning, as it should.

When law enforcement cuts corners, the guilty go free and the innocent have their lives turned upside down and possibly destroyed, even when the court finds them not guilty. This strategy may be good PR for law enforcement but its ultimate consequences are crowded jails, a clogged judicial system, and even increased crime.

Who is to blame?

Popular culture likes to portray the defense as in league with the bad guys. A far cry from Perry Mason and even further removed from one of the founders of our freedom. Few people make the connection to some of our most fundamental documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to a criminal defense attorney named John Adams. His belief in a fair criminal justice system was foundational on how he viewed all freedom.

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As the man who stood between the British soldiers involved in the Boston “Massacre” and a certain lynching, he defended the accused with the following,

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.

But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.

Despite the crime wave in Spokane, defense attorneys aren’t to blame. They will continue to hold the prosecution liable to prove guilt. If after examination, guilt is in doubt, the law is clear; the accused is not guilty.

The solution is clear.

The only irrefutable answer to any crime problem is for law enforcement and the prosecution to improve their methods. It may mean more police or improved facilities but it most certainly shouldn’t mean circumventing constitutional rights or bypassing due process. The war on crime will succeed only when law enforcement presents clean cases with proper evidence and procedures.

As defenders of freedom, defense attorneys won’t be changing their methods. They will always stand between the accused and their accuser. It is a principle of freedom as inviolate as any freedom we enjoy.
Our crime statistics indicate that Spokane is not yet near perfect; thankfully, our criminal justice system, with the help of men such as John Adams, is as near perfect as it can be.


This post was submitted by a guest writer. This may or may not reflect the ideas or opinions of the attorneys of Action Legal Group.

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