The Brock Turner case spurned national outrage when the young man, who was found guilty of three felony counts of rape, received a mere 6 month sentence in jail. Yet, the case highlights significant disparities in the criminal justice system—one that favors privilege over poverty, one that favors young educated white men over black men, one that favors private criminal defense lawyers over public defenders. The reality is this: if you’re facing criminal charges in America and can afford to pay for representation, doing so can make all the difference in the world.

Female victim of sexual assault sitting on the floor

The disparities in justice are clearest when one compares Brock Turner’s case to another similar one. Daily News reports that when Cory Bately, a 19 year old, black, star football player at Vanderbilt was found guilty of rape, he, like Brock Turner, was found guilty of three felony counts of rape. Yet, unlike the case of Brock Turner, who will serve 6 months maximum in jail, Cory Bately will serve 15 to 25 years in prison.

The reality is that there are vast disparities in sentencing and criminal justice, and in many cases, these disparities have more to do with race and economic background than they have to do with guilt or innocence. According to the Daily News, minority men often face the harshest possible penalties while white men see clemency. In fact, black men face prison sentences that are, on average, 20% longer than whites. And the harsh realities don’t stop there. Black men and Latinos are more likely to be searched by police, twice as likely to be arrested for possession, and more likely to face harsher penalties if convicted.

One public defender in California wrote in Vox that judges sometimes base their sentencing decisions merely on whether they can “relate” to the person being charged. Public defenders note that individuals who do not come from privileged backgrounds may have a harder time swaying judges to their side.

The reality is that Brock Turner’s case highlights the ways in which wealth offers certain criminal defense clients important privileges. Brock Turner was able to hire a qualified criminal defense lawyer who told a compelling story to the judge and jury. Turner was also able to hire expert witnesses. He was able to post bail. The support of his family convinced the judge that he would have help if allowed to go free.

The reality is that individuals in low-income communities are more likely to encounter police because their communities face higher police presence. Young minority men and women are more likely to be charged with crimes than people of privilege. Public defenders note that poorer individuals unable to hire legal representation can face six months in jail for victimless crimes.

The Spodek Law Group, P.C. understands the unique challenges faced by individuals facing criminal charges. The outcome of your case can be impacted by having a qualified criminal defense lawyer in New York City, fighting on your side. If you’re facing criminal charges, it is important to understand that you are innocent until proven guilty. The Spodek Law Group, P.C. can review your case and determine the best course forward under the law.