23 December 2010
Short version of the story:
Long version of the story:
The whole experience of what happens pre-trial was a real eye-opener. One of the things which I learned was that if one uses a bail bondsman in the US they require a 10% payment which they keep even if you do show up for court. That makes getting out of jail phenomenally expensive.
The alternative is to raise enough cash to pay the entire bail, which will then be returned after the trial. The amount of work it takes to liquefy investments and raise that sort of cash is ridiculous. If one were inside jail and limited to a few phone calls, it would likely be an impossible task.
What would you do if you unexpectedly ended up in an American jail with one phone call? Are you going to pick a lawyer at random from the yellow pages (assuming those pages still exist in the jail's copy)? Do you have family who will take charge of the situation? In my case I'm fortunate: I could just phone the consulate for one of Her Majesty's governments. Those pages are likely to still exist in the jail's phone book.
On a related subject, I photographed this sign in Muir Woods last summer. It's nice to know where the constitution does and does not apply in this country.