Extra charges often result in wrongful convictions
Lady justice, themis, statue of justice on sky

Extra charges often result in wrongful convictions

| Apr 29, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

Hearing the prosecutor’s charges against you may have come as a shock. Your arrest was for only one of the offenses. While you may be hoping that the extra charges were a mistake, overcharging is actually a common tactic prosecutors use.  

Why would government employees purposefully claim you are guilty of extra crimes? 

Charge stacking

By stacking extra charges against you, the prosecutor gains leverage. Even one extra conviction may add prison time and thousands of dollars in fines. The prosecutor may be banking on your fear of the extra penalties to pressure you into a guilty plea for the original offense. Whether you committed that offense or not is irrelevant if the prosecutor assumes you did. 

Extra charges also mean you are likely to have to pay more bail money, or else you will have to sit in jail until the trial without the ability to gather evidence for your defense. 

False convictions

Some people believe that harsher penalties benefit the community by keeping offenders behind bars for longer. To them, this is just a method of ensuring justice. According to the Constitution, it is the opposite of justice to deny people a fair trial. Charge stacking is a big contributor to false convictions. 

The Innocence Project gathers data and seeks exonerations for the wrongfully convicted. It reports that of 365 people exonerated due to DNA evidence, 25% confessed to the crime they did not commit, and 11% pleaded guilty. On average, they spent 14 years incarcerated. Including all exonerations, more than 2,500 innocent people have received false convictions and later proved their innocence. Thousands more serve the full sentence for crimes they did not commit. 

The prosecutor will probably pressure you to accept a plea deal and end your case, but make sure you understand all the consequences of agreeing, especially if you are innocent of all charges.