Solving the Guilty Plea Problem
America has a guilty plea problem.
That is what The Innocence Project says, and it seems to be true. The numbers do not lie. According to the Guilty Plea Problem website, “95% of felony convictions in the U.S. are obtained through guilty pleas.” Even the most ardent supporters of the criminal justice system should be surprised by that number.
Keep in mind what that number means. It’s not saying that 95% of trials end in guilty verdicts. It’s saying that 95% of people who are presented with the possibility of a felony conviction will plead guilty before going to trial.
This really is a problem.
The Innocence Project:
The Innocence Project was started in 1992 by two attorneys who sought to exonerate wrongly convicted citizens. Their primary means to do this is DNA testing, but they also want to do more. They want to reform the criminal justice system.
You probably heard about The Innocence Project during season 1 of the Serial podcast, which highlighted the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, and the Making a Murderer documentary on Netflix, which looked at the story of Steven Avery. Those were just two cases made famous through the media. The Innocence Project also does much more.
In January of this year, they launched a new website to highlight the guilty plea problem. To demonstrate the problem, they created a website that shares video testimonies from four citizens who were exonerated after they pleaded guilty to crimes they did not commit. The website encourages people to sign up with The Innocence Project on their website so they can receive updates on ways to “help pass legislation to prevent wrongful convictions.”
While The Innocence Project’s mission is noble and worthwhile, there is something else you can do to help with the guilty plea problem. It is small but significant. If you have been charged with a crime that you did not commit, you need to make sure that you know all of the possible ramifications of pleading guilty. Admittedly, there may be very good reasons to do so. However, you should always exercise your rights with a skilled attorney at your side.
One reason that the guilty plea problem exists is that the system rewards a speedy conclusion for cases. A lot of people involved in the criminal justice system want to close as many cases as possible, as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this includes some defense attorneys.
Guilty pleas will not ever go away. The point of the guilty plea problem is not to reduce the 95% statistic down to 0%. It is primarily to prevent innocent people from feeling like their only choice is to plead guilty in order to get through a legal situation.
You should never hire a defense attorney that will not explain all of your options to you, especially if you did not commit the crime for which you have been charged. If you want the right kind of defense attorney at your side, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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