How Often Are People Charged With Crimes They Did Not Commit?

The stories are becoming more pervasive in recent years: an inmate is on death row, still claiming innocence, and new evidence has come to light that proves a great miscarriage of justice occurred. But how many of these stories are based on facts versus fiction? How many people are falsely accused or charged of crimes they did not commit? How many people are locked away, right now, because of those mistaken charges?

No one will like the answer.

Obviously these situations can occur, but most of us would probably imagine they do not happen all that often. How could they? The system works, right? For most people, sure it does. But a 2014 study found that at least 4.1 percent of those sentenced to death row are in fact victims who were falsely charged and convicted of a crime!

Of course the issue with trying to find relevant statistical data for mistakes lies in the difficulty of doing so. For example, studies suggest that almost all alleged rapists are accused by victims who are telling the truth. But do we really know for sure? Nope. The evidence to guarantee guilt does not always exist, which is why so many rapists are allowed to walk free — another obvious travesty of our legal system, a system that obviously fails us far too often. 

Still, it is difficult to ignore the claim that around 10,000 people are wrongly convicted every year. Do the math: those are just the people who were convicted. That means many more may have been charged with crimes for which the evidence just was not there. 

A powerful example of wrongful conviction arose from the Central Park jogger case after a 28-year-old white woman was brutally assaulted and raped on April 19, 1989. Based on police interviews with some of the suspects — who were African American and Hispanic — the public was quick to throw a group of five kids, who were aged only fourteen to sixteen, under the bus. Donald Trump even took out a full-page ad in the newspaper just to call for the death penalty.

Even though the DNA evidence guaranteed they could not have committed the crimes for which they were eventually found guilty, the five were convicted by a jury of their peers and sent to prison. Although most of them had already served their sentences, they were eventually exonerated in 2002. Even today Trump will not admit their innocence.

How often does this sort of story really happen? The truth is this: we do not know.

Were you falsely accused in Southern Florida? A Valiente Law defense attorney Miami can help.

Category: Law