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I Know That I Am Innocent; Do I Still Need an Attorney?

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There is an unfortunate misconception that if you are charged with a crime and you know that you are innocent, then the mistake will eventually be realized by police, the prosecutor, the judge, or the jury, and you will be set free after being offered a sincere apology. The truth could not be more different. In fact, according to Vice News and the Innocence Project, between roughly two to five percent of all incarcerated people are innocent, meaning there could be 120,000 innocent people currently behind bars for crimes they did not commit. A record number of inmates were exonerated in 2015, according to NBC News, for crimes that they did not commit. However, very few people are exonerated each year. In 2015, that number was only 149, many of whom were only cleared because DNA evidence showed they were not the offender.

Public Defenders Spend Two Months Fewer on Their Cases Than Private Attorneys

Furthermore, funds for public defense in Pennsylvania are extremely low, and left up to the county to allocate. This means that many public defenders in Pennsylvania do not have the time, resources, high professional standards, or experience to properly defend a case in court, which is why they almost always seek plea deals even if they know their client is innocent. Public defenders in Pennsylvania spend, on average, two months fewer on their cases than private criminal defense attorneys, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts as reported by WHYY News.

How Do Innocent People Get Sentenced?

Reasons why innocent people end up in prison include the following:

  • Police Mistakes or Corruption: Law enforcement makes mistakes just like everyone else. Mistakes can include collecting bad evidence or even planting evidence, not talking to key witnesses, missing important pieces of the puzzle, and more. Police may not have the time, resources, or interest to find out who really committed the crime, and may be encouraged or even pressured to simply find a culprit and pad their monthly numbers for administrative purposes.
  • Incorrect Witness Testimony: Witnesses are known to be unreliable, as proven by countless studies. Yet, jurors are often swayed by eyewitness stories, even if the witness was under extreme duress at the time and did not get a good look at the offender. Occasionally, witnesses may even knowingly give false information to protect themselves or another person, though simply making a mistake is more common.
  • Corrupt Prosecution: A prosecutor’s job is to put the defendant behind bars, and sometimes inappropriate measures are taken in the name of success at all costs. Misconduct includes intimidation, false confessions, racial profiling, and much more.
  • Incorrect Expert Witness Testimony and Forensics: Expert witnesses and forensic evidence may paint an incriminating picture, even if the defendant in no way participated in the crime. Jurries are quick to take the side of a professional, even if logic and all other evidence contradicts the science.

A Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You Today

You need an experienced, highly regarded criminal defense attorney to ensure that bad police work, overworked public defense, incompetent judges, racially biased jurors, and prosecutorial misconduct do not cause you, an innocent person, to end up behind bars. Call the Philadelphia office of van der Veen, O’Neill, Hartshorn, and Levin today.

Resources:

news.vice.com/article/why-are-there-up-to-120000-innocent-people-in-us-prisons

whyy.org/articles/wrongful-murder-conviction-points-to-systemic-problems-with-public-defense-in-pennsylvania/

nbcnews.com/news/us-news/jailed-innocent-record-number-people-exonerated-2015-n510196

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