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Innocence is not always enough to avoid criminal convictions

Any individual in New Jersey that is issued any criminal charge is risking their future and their freedom in failing to aggressively defend against the criminal charge. There are instances in which an individual is wrongly accused of a crime -- be that a sex crime, a white collar crime or a violent crime -- yet the innocent defendant is still convicted. That suspect may think that because they are innocent, the matter will be cleared up, and apologies will be issued. The individual might think that by repeatedly stating their innocence, they will be fine.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and a wrongful conviction is a terrible fate to befall an innocent individual. Innocent individuals can and have lost years of their lives in prison cells for crimes they did not commit. Accordingly, as soon as an individual learns they are under investigation, it is imperative to seek the aid of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

A study funded by the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice examined wrongful convictions in violent crime charges leveled against innocent individuals. The study compiled 460 cases of wrongful convictions, acquittals and dismissals of innocent individuals charged with violent crimes across the country in roughly the last 30 years to identify patterns of risk factors for such an outcome.

While there have been examinations into convictions of innocent defendants, the lead author of the study says, "Missing so far in the literature is a study that asks how the criminal justice system identifies innocent defendants in order to prevent erroneous convictions."

Unfortunately, factors like age, criminal history and false claims from non-eyewitnesses are outside of a defendant's control. Luckily, there is a huge step that an innocent individual can take when they are initially charged with a crime: speaking with an attorney. Police often are unable to consider alternative suspects when they think they have a culprit. Therefore, authorities can develop tunnel vision when questioning a suspect, relentlessly accusing the individual and setting the stage for a wrongful conviction. Retaining an experienced criminal defense attorney can mitigate this risk, and ensure that an innocent individual's constitutional rights are upheld.

Source: Legal Times, "Study Reveals 10 Factors Common in Wrongful Convictions," Mounira Al Hmoud, March 12, 2013

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