Many Americans place a good deal of faith in the nation’s criminal justice system. However, research shows that overcharges and false convictions are pervasive problems nationwide. This suggests that you may have cause for concern if you are currently facing a criminal charge.
According to the Innocence Project, the increasing availability of DNA science has led to more than 360 DNA-related exonerations since the late 1980s. This highlights how often alleged offenders receive convictions under false pretenses.
Innocence Project statistics
False convictions carry serious consequences and have the potential to impact virtually every area of your life. The 365 people who underwent exoneration after DNA evidence proved them innocent spent an average of 14 years behind bars following those false convictions. Also, 10% of them spent at least 25 years behind bars, and 21 of them were also facing death sentences until DNA evidence exonerated them.
Issues contributing to false convictions
False convictions arise from a variety of circumstances. Sometimes, judges or juries assume that offenders who commit one act also committed others, even though the evidence may not support this. Other times, false convictions arise because the alleged offender confesses to the offense, even though the confession is false. This is more common than you may think, with about 25% of those falsely convicted confessing to the offenses they did not, in fact, commit.
There is some disagreement over what percentage of offenders receive wrongful convictions. However, many believe the wrongful conviction rate falls somewhere between about 4% and 6%.