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How Often Do Wrongful Arrests, Convictions, and Imprisonment Occur?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin defense attorney, Wisconsin criminal lawyer, mistaken identityWhile most of us would like to believe that wrongful convictions are rare, the real truth is that they are more common than most people realize. Steven Avery, who spent 18 years in jail for a rape he did not commit, and a San Francisco man who spent six years in jail while awaiting trial for a violent mugging that he never did are just two people wronged by our justice system. But they are many. They are also largely unpublicized and undisclosed to the general public.

Study Estimates More than 10,000 Innocent People Are Convicted Each Year

A recent study asked 188 judges, state attorneys general, prosecuting attorneys, public defenders, police chiefs, and sheriffs to estimate the prevalence of wrongful conviction in the United States. Approximately 72 percent of them estimated that less than one percent, but more than zero, received a wrongful conviction.

On the surface, that might seem like a very small percentage, but when put into context, it equates to approximately 10,000 wrongful convictions each and every year.Even more concerning is that these estimates are not on minor crimes. Instead, they include charges like arson, aggravated assault, burglary, forcible rape, larceny-theft, manslaughter, motor vehicle theft, and robbery – all crimes that can result in a felony conviction and long-term imprisonment.

Possible Contributing Factors

Although the authors discovered a myriad of possible reasons behind the massive number of wrongful convictions in America, more than half (52.3 percent) involved eyewitness misidentification. Other causes included perjury by a witness, negligence of criminal justice officials, coerced confessions, “frame-ups” by guilty parties, and a general overzealousness on the part of police officers and criminal prosecutors to close the case, which resulted in both unintentional mistakes and intentional bending of the rules.

Correcting Mistakes and Repairing the Criminal Justice System

Overall, the study called for a prohibition of identification procedures if an attorney is not present to reduce the risk of intentional inaccuracies or coercion, and an evaluation of all officials that are connected to any known wrongful conviction. The authors also stated that wrongfully imprisoned individuals should be fairly compensated for the impact the conviction had on their lives, but even they are not deluded enough to believe that the majority of wrongfully convicted individuals will receive damages or recovery fees for loss of time or life.

Do Not Face Criminal Charges Alone

If you have been arrested for a crime, you are innocent until proven guilty, and the law should treat you as such. Unfortunately, since this is not usually the case, it is critical that you have someone on your side, protecting your rights. With more than 40 years of experience, Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP can help. Secure a passionate and aggressive Milwaukee criminal defense attorney today by calling 414-271-1440 to schedule your consultation.



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