I commend to you the article "As Arrest Records Mount, Consequences Last a Lifetime" by Gary Fields and John R. Emshwiller, in the August 19, 2014, Wall Street Journal.
According to the article, over the past 20 years, authorities in the United States have made more than a quarter of a billion arrests. The result? The FBI has 77.7 million people in its database. Between 10,000 and 12,000 new names are added each day. 57 people were booked the other day in Ferguson, Illinois, alone.
The number of charges filed in any particular criminal case has risen exponentially over the last twenty years. There are three main reasons for this. First and foremost is money. As is noted by the WSJ article, spending on law enforcement by states and local governments hit $212 billion in 2011 (fueled in part by unprecedented federal dollars funneled to local police departments based upon the number of charges filed). This money grab is not limited to law enforcement. The budgeting process of the clerks of court is driven primarily by the number of cases. In the old days, a criminal defendant might be arrested for, say, three counts of theft. But there would be but one case filed with three separate counts (and only one set of "court costs"). In recent times, each charge is filed separately to beef up the numbers (which in turn triples the court costs).
The second reason for the increased number of charges being filed in any particular case is a shift in law enforcement theory and enforcement. This has two prongs. First of all, prospective law enforcement candidates are trained differently today than they were years ago. Arrests and charges are emphasized at the Law Enforcement Academy today. 40 years ago cops would actually give people a break. Those of you my age may have been told by an officer to dump out the beer and get home (or else they would tell your father!). In my opinion this type of exercise of discretion by cops caused a high degree of respect for the badge. Regretfully, today I see very few breaks being given to anyone by law enforcement (with the natural result being a decline in respect for the badge). Andy of Mayberry is a thing of the past. The second prong or explanation for increased charges and arrests is simple: Police are trained to search people for drugs or other contraband every chance they get (and whenever a policeman physically arrests somebody the law allows a search of their person). In the old days, many more people were issued citations.
The third reason I see for increased charges is again, I believe, related to police training. Police are trained to never admit they made a mistake. A couple examples come to mind. Several years ago (in a county other than Clay) a client was driving behind a car that hit a mother wood duck. The client stopped to collect the baby ducks and get them off of the roadway . A policeman stopped to see what was going on and ran my client's driver license and was told by the dispatcher that there was a warrant for his arrest on an old matter. When they got to the jail and called me I got the prosecutor on the phone and she assured the policeman that there was no warrant and that the officer had been misinformed. No apology was forthcoming and instead my client was charged with four counts of taking ducks out of season. The jury found my client not guilty but he paid me a considerable fee and the charges still appear on his criminal history (albeit with an acquittal). Another example is a young client who, for reasons that still escape him/her, gave a middle-finger salute to a deputy as their cars passed each other. The deputy turned around, followed client for a couple miles, and then arrested him/her for disorderly conduct. The prosecutor dismissed that charge (which would never have stood up in court) but that young adult has a criminal record now which, even though it was dismissed, has already negatively affected the client's life.
Today anyone can find arrest information about someone on the internet. There are numerous paid services as well as free websites. Potential employers, landlords, and creditors all use these services to weed-out people. The consequence is that innocent people are denied jobs and benefits only because the fact that they were once charged is readily available on the computer.
There should be a simple and effective means by which a person who has not been found guilty can get the record of his arrest expunged.