Television shows, films, and other sources of popular culture have all helped perpetuate widely held notions about the U.S. criminal justice system. Some of these notions may be true, but many are either patently false or do not reflect the “whole truth.” Let’s shine some light on five of the most common misconceptions about criminal justice in America.

Misconception #1: You Have a Right to One and Only One Phone Call

The freedom to place a single phone call after being arrested isn’t enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Still, a suspect generally is permitted one or more phone calls to notify family members and secure the services of an attorney after being taken into custody. What can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction is at what point the suspect may place a call during the process. It may be before or after fingerprinting, mugshots, etc. A suspect may also be allowed to make more than one phone call, as they may need to notify multiple parties or make an alternate call if an individual doesn’t answer.

Misconception #2: Pleading Insanity Guarantees a “Slap on the Wrist”

The idea that a defendant can escape a lengthy (or any) prison sentence by pleading “not guilty by reason of insanity” is false. Courts hold a high threshold for proving insanity and may not accept the plea. In fact, defense attorneys deliver a successful case with an insanity plea less than 1% of the time. If found not guilty by reason of insanity, a defendant can expect to be confined to a psychiatric hospital, possibly for longer than they would a conventional prison.

Misconception #3: Giving Convicts Long Prison Sentences Make Us Safer

According to a report published by the National Institute of Justice, an office of the U.S. Department of Justice, “prison sentences (particularly long sentences) are unlikely to deter future crime” and can in fact have the opposite effect if inmates learn new criminal tactics from their fellow prisoners during incarceration. In addition, many convicts don’t emerge from prison reformed and ready to forsake their prior criminal behavior, leading to a pattern of recidivism that many criminologists believe calls for a change in U.S. sentencing policy.

Misconception #4: Reforming Criminal Justice Will Help the “Bad Guy”

While some types of criminal justice reform remain controversial and untested, others have been implemented and may offer benefits to law enforcement, suspects, or witnesses. Footage from police body cameras, a relatively recent example of criminal justice reform, can provide corroborating evidence for any involved party. The ultimate judgment of the court may then better serve justice.

Misconception #5: A Person Can Never Be Compelled to Testify Against Their Spouse

Marital privilege is not a right without limitations. There are various exceptions based on where the crime was committed (if a criminal case), the severity of the malfeasance, and other factors. It’s not a case of “never.”

Online Criminal Justice Degrees for Every Stage of Your Career

Common criminal justice misconceptions are dispelled in The University of Texas Permian Basin’s online criminology and criminal justice studies degree program. Guided by the same expert faculty who teach an identical curriculum on campus, you’ll learn the criminal justice system from people who have worked in the field. Let’s explore these degree programs so you can choose the best fit for your education level and current experience in the criminal justice field.

Online Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice Studies

This program provides an ideal foundation for students who wish to pursue public service careers and want to transform the American criminal justice system from within. We examine a comprehensive range of topics, including ongoing challenges in the criminal justice system, approaches to conflict resolution, and methods for preventing crime.

Online Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration

Students who have completed a criminal justice-related bachelor’s degree and are already working in the field can prepare for leadership roles by earning a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration. Many students take as little as one year to complete our online program, which provides an advanced exploration of crucial criminal justice methods and concepts.

The Truth About Online Learning From UT Permian Basin

At UT Permian Basin, we believe education should propel you forward, not hinder you. Our criminal justice programs are delivered in an asynchronous, 100% online format that enables you to complete coursework on your own schedule, 24/7. What’s more, you can learn from any location in the world with internet access. You won’t find a more convenient, flexible way to earn a career-enhancing graduate credential while fulfilling your work and personal responsibilities.

Master criminal justice practices and principles with a degree from UT Permian Basin!