That's one anecdote. I'll give you another anecdote. When I went to Stony Brook U., a bunch of guys I knew were driving in a car and got busted for pot. One guy was a working-class guy from upstate New York, first in his family to go to college, working his way through school (that's why he was selling pot). The other guys in the car were rich kids from Long Island. The working-class guy got a public defender, who told him to plead guilty, and I think he served a short sentence in jail. The rich kids' lawyers fought the charges, contested the search, and got them off. Same offense, same car.
Another important issue is how much pressure the cop and district attorney have to get "results". In Baltimore, New York, and most other urban areas, the cops and DA are under a lot of pressure to get "results," i.e., mess up somebody's life. The cops live in the suburbs, they don't care about these people. In rural Virginia, where everybody knows everybody else, the cops may be more concerned about real policing where they just protect people from real crimes and don't concern themselves with the numbers.
But if you want to be scientific about it, there are lots of statistics that show that black people are more likely to be stopped by the cops, more likely to be (illegally) searched, more likely to be prosecuted, and more likely to be sent to jail for the same offense. That came out in the New York City lawsuit against stop and frisk. Don't forget, Freddie Gray was arrested illegally. The cops had no legal reason to suspect that he committed a crime, even after they (illegally) searched him. It's not illegal to look a cop in the eye (unless maybe you're black and it's in the south).
Some of it is race, and some of it is social class. I used to think that it wasn't race, and you could explain everything with social class. But when I looked at the data, I had to admit -- social class was a lot of it, but race was a lot of it too. America is just a racist country. The sooner we face it, the better off we'll be, although the way we're going I think we'll still be racist a generation from now.
Here's a lawyer who explained it better than I can:
OPINION: Justice for all? Why hasn’t Bishop Cook who struck bicyclist Palermo been charged?
A defense attorney says justice is being mocked by the failure of city prosecutors to charge Bishop Heather Cook
Todd H. Oppenheim
January 5, 2015
(Oppenheimer, an attorney in the Public Defender's Office for 10 years, compares the treatment by the State Attorney's Office and police of the upper class criminals such as Episcopal Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook, who killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo in a drunken driving hit-and-run, with his own mostly African-American clients. Oppenheim's clients are immediately charged or jailed, while Cook was allowed to go home.)
Instead, she remains free and “lawyered up” with a veteran Towson attorney who has represented many high-profile clients for a substantial fee. My clients can’t afford an attorney of their choice, and they certainly never get the opportunity to preemptively hire an attorney.
The clients I represent never get such treatment. They are informed of their arrests – and not necessarily for what – with a bang at the front door and a swift take-down by an arrest team of officers.
My clients often sit in jail as the state’s attorney’s office sorts out the charges.
(Other examples of wealthy, connected clients who were given special privileges by the legal system.)