I wish people knew and understood how things used to work in America and how different they are today, for truly we have come a long way--a long way in the WRONG DIRECTION!
In school I was taught that the great thing about America was that you were innocent until proven guilty. (Whoops. Excuse me. I got that wrong. I was taught that you were presumed innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty.) That's what made America great! You had a government that gave you the benefit of the doubt, and they treated you civil. And the legal system was set up to be fair to you whether you were guilty or not. But now times have changed. Today you are automatically viewed as guilty (not presumed that way, you are just viewed that way), until proven innocent!
Let me show you the difference. In early colonial America and even under the Constitution up until the time of the Civil War, this is how the legal system worked. If a man was wronged by another, the wounded party would go to the court and make an accusation to the judge. The judge would then send the accused party a legal document called a "Writ of Habeus Corpus." ("Habeus Corpus" is a latin term that pretty much means "Have your body...") The sheriff would deliver this paper to the accused, and the paper would instruct that person to have their body in court on an appointed day and time to stand before his accuser. This accused person was not jailed. Why? Because they were presumed innocent. And, they did not come to court to prove they were innocent. They went to court for the accuser to try to prove they were guilty. (For the accuser could have been lying!) This was fair to both parties. The accused had time to prepare his defense, while the accuser had his day in court to met the man face to face of whom he felt wronged him. The judge presided and heard both sides.
Now, if the accused did not show up in court on the appointed time before the judge and his accuser, then and only then, was a paper called a "Warrant" issued by the judge. This was a warrant for the arrest of said person. And, (watch this now, as it's very important) that person was not arrested for the crime itself that he was accused of, rather he was arrested for the crime of disobeying the judge's demand of not appearing in court! That is, he was only arrested for not making an appearance in court.
Once the accused was apprehended for not appearing in court, he remained in jail until trial. And, he was viewed as probably guilty for not going to court to defend himself. But even then he was still to be presumed innocent, and it was the prosecutor who was to prove that he was guilty.
This is how things worked in early America. What a great justice system! If a man did right, he was given the benefit of the doubt by his government and had the right to know when an accuser chose to sue him. He also knew the date of the trial and had plenty of time to prepare his defense. And, if a man was indeed guilty, he had time to run. He could "leave town" so to speak, and never look back. In fact, if he left the country he could get away from facing up to his crime, (and in those times many people did just this, traveling to Australia, Africa, New Zealand, India, and other places) and even get away with it in some cases. This was fine with the government, as that was one less law breaker in their midst! And one less trial a judge had to preside over. The victim had been defrauded and there was nothing more that could be done, end of story as far as the legal system was concerned.
All this worked well, and everything was great, that is until the Civil War. And then everything changed. Who's to blame? That would be Abraham Lincoln. (He's probably one of the worst President's America ever had, but they still try to make him out to be a "honest" and good guy.)
It was Abraham Lincoln who did away with the "Writ of Habeus Corpus." And, it has yet to be instated or put back into effect even in our own time. Further, under his administration Lincoln and his cabinet and his army practiced forced arrests of people upon mere "suspicion" of guilt. That is people were rounded up and imprisoned indefinitely without any proof whatsoever of having committed a crime. (They were viewed as guilty until proven innocent). Not only was this a great injustice, but many of them were not even given the right to a trial by jury, nor were they allowed to plead their innocence. They were simply locked up and the key was thrown away upon mere suspicion of them being a Southern Sympathizer. How is this fair, just, or righteous? It's not.
Today, the legal system of the United States of America is very different from what it was like in the Pre-Lincoln days. If you are suspected of a crime in our day, the police can go to a judge and get a warrant without a writ of habeus corpus, and they can come into your house against your will (never mind the Constitution has a clause against unreasonable searches and seizures) and arrest you and throw you in jail. They can further take anything they want and keep it. This doesn't sound like justice, does it? This sounds more like the Communist KGB or the Nazi thugs in Germany. Where's presumed innocence until proven guilty?
Furthermore, the authorities can arrest you and keep you in jail until trail (if they allow you to even have one, for under the Patriot Act they can hold you indefinitely now if they want to). You might be allowed out of jail on bond if you can afford to pay the outrageous amounts usually imposed by the judge, but if not then you must remain in jail until you go to trail. And then during your trial, you are not presumed innocent until proven guilty, rather you are already presumed guilty until you can prove your innocence. What a fearful and oppressive system!
Doesn't the early legal system in America sounds much better? When we compare how it was then and how it is now, the difference is like night and day. One system allows you freedom to either defend yourself from false accusations or to admit your guilt and pay restitution. (I forgot to mention that part. If a man was guilty he didn't have to do prison time. He only did it if he couldn't pay grievances to the accuser. If he could pay, the judge made him do so, and he was then set free). But look at our system today. It demands jail time, and doesn't just dish it out as a penalty once a person has been found guilty by a jury, but it often makes a person rot in jail as they wait for their trial. Where's the freedom?
What's changed over the years? The attitude of the government towards its citizens is what changed. Before, Americans were viewed as sovereigns with certain rights, given them by GOD himself. (What the Declaration of Independence clearly states.) Now, God has been kicked out and the government has become secular, viewing its citizens as nothing more than property which they presume are always guilty until they can prove they are not. (Which incidentally is how a Communist Government views their own citizens).
Because of the lack of belief in God, there is a widespread lack of morals, and this has led to much more crime. Because of this the American court systems are over filled, and it's easy for judges, lawyers, and juries to become cold and callous, thinking everyone is guilty. They have become used to dealing with people who truly are guilty, and thus, they feel that anyone who is accused is most likely guilty so they should be locked up. But what about those who are innocent? Should we not treat everyone the same whether they are guilty or not? And how can we know until after they have been found guilty by a jury of their peers? Why do we automatically assume they are guilty and treat them as such?
I believe what America needs is to get back to the old system. What a great system it was. You give the accused a chance to appear in court after serving them with a Writ of habeus corpus. That gives them a heads up that they are accused. If they are guilty and run, then we know they are most likely guilty. And, we treat them as malcontents fleeing from the law. The judge serves a warrant for their arrest and they go to jail, not for the crime itself, but for disobeying the judge. Next, you give them a speedy trial. (This waiting in jail for years before trial is ridiculous! What a waste of taxpayers money!) Next, you still treat them as innocent until they are proven guilty without any shadow of a doubt. And then we allow them the option of either paying financially for the crime themselves or choose to reject payment and do jail time as payment for their crime. This would help clear out the prisons, for if a man can pay money as restitution, that would help pay for a lot of the expenses of the legal system.
This would work great for every crime in America, except murder, rape, and kidnapping. For these crimes a person should not be able to buy their way out. Nor should a person go to jail for life for these crimes. Rather, there should be capital punishment if a person is found guilty of these heinous crimes. But this is not my own personal opinion. This is what the Bible teaches, and is something that for many years was even practiced in the American justice system. Even up until the beginning of the 1900s there were still public hangings of those found guilty of these crimes. Why? Because when you intend to steal the life of another human being or defile them through rape, you have forfeited your own life. And for this reason, you should not be allowed to live! Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth!
Today it's quite different. We let murderers, rapists, and kidnappers go to jail for several decades, and then we let them out. And quite often, the first thing they do when they get out is go and do those very same things all over again, raping, killing, kidnapping. And then it's back to jail with them, and the process starts all over again. Why is this? It's almost like the modern Legal System rather than punishing true transgressors is guilty of empowering them to commit those heinous crimes again. Why have they stopped practicing capital punishment?
In summary, America used to be great. It was so because each individual was viewed as a sovereign citizen with many rights given them by God. And, if one of them was accused by his fellow citizen, then a just and righteous system was in place to protect the accused in case the accuser was deceitfully trying to falsely accuse a righteous man. But if the accused was guilty, the system was set up to make sure he was not taken and hung by out of control mobs just upon a mere accusation of guilt. Rather he was given a fair and speedy trial and witnesses were given ample time to tell what they saw. And if a man was truly guilty, he had a chance to make things right, by making restitution to those he wronged. But in case of murder, kidnapping, or rape, when there was no way whatsoever to make things right, it was the duty of the state to execute judgment, and they did, which usually was in the form of hanging or sometimes in front of a firing squad.
But today America's legal system is in decline. It's full of guilty people who fall through the cracks and quickly are set free only to go and do the same crimes all over again, while sometimes (and probably more often than we think) innocent people are wrongly jailed and left to sit in prison for crimes they didn't commit. It's sad that no one cares or seems to want to do anything about it. I submit that maybe the answer is to go back to the old way of doing things. What's wrong with serving a Writ of Habeus Corpus first? Then, and only then, if a man doesn't appear in court, have a judge issue an arrest warrant. And then hold the trial. It worked back then, and it will work today. If only they would try it!