How common is wrongful conviction in America?

Our justice system is predicated on the idea that the accused are innocent until proven guilty. Many defendants who are wrongfully accused of a crime decide to take their chances with the legal system. They believe, as most of us probably would, that they will eventually be found innocent.

Sadly, wrongful conviction is much more common than many people realize. Although no one knows for sure how many people are wrongfully convicted, recent estimates suggest that between 1 percent and 5 percent of defendants are convicted despite being innocent. Considering that approximately one million people get convicted for serious crimes in the United States each year, wrongful conviction could affect as many as 50,000 defendants annually.

The factors leading to wrongful conviction are varied and complicated. But much of the problem could be attributed to the high volume of cases that move through the criminal justice system each year. Feeling pressure to resolve cases quickly, police may cut corners when investigating crimes and prosecutors may be pushing defendants to accept plea deals.

Shoddy and even abusive police practices are also to blame. Interrogations sometimes last for hours and many involve threats, assaults, false promises and other practices meant to coerce suspects to confess or make incriminating statements. These suspects often have factors already working against them. They may be young, poor, part of a racial minority or have a cognitive disability. Many suspects do not understand their rights during these interrogations, including the right to an attorney.

If you have been falsely accused of a serious crime, trusting the legal system to correct its own mistake can have devastating consequences. To protect your rights and your freedom, please seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

Source: The Crime Report, "America's Guilt Mill," David J. Krajicek, Feb. 9, 2015

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