When someone gets charged with a crime, the state has to inform them of the charges against them and provide an opportunity to defend themselves. Prosecutors and law enforcement officers have a vested interest in ensuring the successful prosecution of those accused of crimes.
Police and prosecutors get evaluated based on their success rate, which means the rate at which they catch and convict people accused of specific kinds of offenses. Unfortunately, those statistics may artificially inflate the ability of law enforcement and prosecutors alike, as a significant number of people choose to plead guilty even when they are innocent of the crime that they have been charged with. Why would innocent people accept a guilty plea?
The consequences of the charge may seem too severe
When state prosecutors try to bring criminal charges against someone, it is standard practice to maximize the charges and potential penalties. In some cases, prosecutors who get creative may be able to turn a single offense into multiple criminal charges or turn what seems like a victimless crime into a serious felony.
It is exactly the practice of inflating the criminal charges people face that often pushes people into pleading guilty when they know that they are innocent. If an individual faces decades of incarceration or other life-altering consequences, they may become less worried about proving their innocence than they are about mitigating the worst possible consequences.
In other words, innocent people plead guilty because they can’t tolerate the risk involved in defending themselves and possibly getting convicted.
Jail isn’t the only consequence possible with a criminal conviction
In some cases, when a person accused of the maximum possible offenses associated with the situation pleads guilty, they do so because the prosecutor has promised certain concessions, like no jail time. The idea that they can completely avoid incarceration with a plea deal versus facing possibly decades in prison if they defend themselves can be adequate motivation to take a guilty plea on its own.
These people may not consider the long-term implications of the guilty plea and how a criminal history will affect everything from their educational prospects to their career and housing opportunities. No matter how frightening the penalties of a charge me seem, there is always an opportunity to defend yourself, especially if you are innocent and did not commit the offense in question.