The deception of conviction rates


As humans we love to try to make sense of things that aren’t easily definable.  In the world of prosecution, conviction rates are a statistic that a lot of people like to point to as a measure success.  Essentially, the conviction rate is the percentage of cases that are won.  Unfortunately, such a simple number fares poorly in giving an accurate picture of the situation. 

 Most people love to bring up conviction rates because it is a simple metric that most people find easily understandable.  Most people like to point to the higher conviction rates and believe that those offices are doing a better job prosecuting the crimes. 

 However, the conviction rate is deceiving for a lot of reasons.  As much as we would like to be able to quantify the legal process, it is much more of an art form than a scientific process.  In order to garner a higher conviction rate, district attorney offices may only try the cases they know are absolute winners.  Now that doesn’t mean that the DA will definitely win those cases, but those are usually the cases that the DA has the most evidence. 

 If a district attorney’s office is only trying cases that it qualifies are absolute winners, this can lead to several issues.  For one, an office may be giving very lenient plea bargains on cases that may have strong evidence, but aren’t absolute winners.  Second, the DA may try to convincing the alleged victims that certain cases are weaker than they actually are in order to plead the case out.   

Finally, in order for justice to take place the people involved in the system need to make the responsible decisions.  The conviction rate doesn’t tell us if the right thing happened in a case.  Conversely, the conviction rate can actually hinder  the wheels of justice.  In the end, we don’t want our district attorneys to be motivated by any other metric other than doing what is right.   There are a lot of factors that go into determining the outcome of a case.  Conviction rates may have their place, but they are fare poorly in showing the true picture.  

For more information: visit http://www.attorneychan.com or contact me at 508-808-8902

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