Do Innocent People Really Go to Prison?
If you’re like most Americans, you have probably been raised to believe in our system of justice – and you should. It is a remarkably efficient system of jurisprudence that has served us well for more than two centuries. It is a system built upon a foundation that recognizes certain fundamental rights for the accused, and it is designed to ensure that guilt is established beyond any reasonable doubt – even if the occasional guilty offender goes free. In fact, Benjamin Franklin once echoed the sentiments of the esteemed Blackstone when he noted that “it is better 100 guilty persons should escape than that one innocent person should suffer.”
The problem is that no system is perfect – and that includes our criminal justice system. Just last year, an article in the Washington Post referenced a study that estimated that at least 4.1% of all death sentence convictions have involved wrongful convictions of innocent defendants. That’s one out of every twenty-five convictions resulting in the wrong person being sentenced to die. By some estimates, there may be as many as 10,000 wrongful convictions each year.
Trust the System?
Given those sobering facts, it should be clear that you cannot rely upon the system to protect your rights when you’re accused of a crime. The fact is that law enforcement personnel and courts around the country are overworked. Many have far more criminal cases than they can properly handle, largely as the result of the thousands of new criminal laws that have been passed in recent decades. As we’ve criminalized an ever broader range of human behavior, those police officers and court personnel have struggled to keep pace.
As a result, that time and attention that should be given to every criminal defendant’s case is instead focused on hurrying defendants through the court system with threats of severe punishment and promises of leniency for those who simply enter a guilty plea. Yes, innocent people plead guilty even to things that they know they did not do, to avoid the promised threat of even more severe punishment if they resist. Fear can do that to a person.
But you don’t have to give in to fear, hopelessness, or a sense of abandonment. Our system provides a means for defending yourself against any criminal charges, regardless of your actual guilt or innocence. When you are arrested, or discover that the authorities are investigating you for a suspected crime, it is important that you immediately recognize that your entire life is now in jeopardy. Your freedom and your family’s well-being are now under direct threat from your government, and you need to act quickly to defend yourself against that threat.
Why You Need a Defense Attorney
There are many different reasons why you should engage an experienced North Carolina defense attorney as soon as you know that you are facing criminal charges:
- You have civil rights that you may not even fully understand. In many cases, these rights are violated by the police and prosecutors, and defendants never even recognize that they’ve suffered a loss. Your attorney understands these rights and can help to defend them against any violation.
- You don’t know the system. The state has to prove each and every element of the crime with which you have been charged, and must do so within the bounds of evidentiary rules. Do you know how that system works? Probably not – but your attorney does.
- Mistakes are common. Look, even the best law enforcement personnel can make mistakes. Without an attorney by your side, you won’t be able to catch these errors and defend yourself in the way that you need to be defended to protect your liberty.
- The police and prosecutors are not interested in your best interests. Let’s be brutally honest. While many prosecutors will say that their job is to find the truth, that’s not really what they’re after. They want convictions. Many police departments have a similar approach: they want to close cases. That often causes them to focus on the first possible defendant, even when there is evidence to suggest that someone else might have committed the crime.
Your criminal defense lawyer is the only one with a real commitment to securing your rights and best interests. While everyone else in the system is trying to obtain a conviction at almost any cost, your attorney will be championing your cause – even if you’re guilty. Why? Because, at the end of the day, defense attorneys are the most important shield you have against overzealous prosecutors and law enforcement errors.
The First Few Minutes Can Determine the Rest of Your Life
So, what should you do when you realize that you’re being implicated in a crime? Regardless of your actual guilt, your first step should involve an invocation of your fundamental right to remain silent. Do not discuss anything with the police. In fact, limit your interaction to these four words: “I want a lawyer.”
Then call and let us take over from there. At The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm, we can ensure that you receive the protection of an experienced criminal defense attorney who will diligently fight to protect your best interests. We’ll work with you to review every aspect of the case, leaving no stone unturned in our effort to help you defend yourself and maintain your rights and your freedom. If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact us today at our website or call (910) 405-8459.