When people get charged with a serious crime, often their minds go directly to what the punishment will be. But in many cases, the better question to ask is, “Does the charge actually fit the circumstances?”
Criminal prosecutors often engage in overcharging. That means prosecutors will charge a defendant with multiple crimes in the hope that at least one or two charges will lead to a conviction. Alternatively, the prosecution may charge a defendant with a felony when the charge should really be a misdemeanor. These kinds of overcharging happen even when prosecutors know that the defendant will not be convicted on all the charges.
Overcharging happens in all types of criminal cases, including those involving:
Why do prosecutors overcharge?
All you have to do to know that prosecutors overcharge defendants is look at the results of criminal cases. Often juries find that a person is guilty on one charge but not on others. Charges also end up being dropped or dismissed because there is insufficient evidence to convict on a particular charge. Prosecutors often know this, but they overcharge the defendant anyway.
So why do prosecutors charge people with multiple crimes when the likelihood of a conviction on all the charges is so low? In many cases, prosecutors use a multitude of charges to intimidate or place pressure on the defendant. This often happens when multiple people are believed to have engaged in a crime together, or if a defendant is believed to have relevant information about another defendant. The prosecution in such cases may try to intimidate the defendant into being a witness against another defendant.
Prosecutors may also bring multiple charges against a defendant in order to make an impression on a jury: essentially to suggest that the defendant is a criminal engaged in multiple types of crimes, even if that is not the case. It is then up to the jury to sift through the charges and determine which ones, if any, are appropriate.
Overcharging must be addressed right away with the help of an experienced defense lawyer
If you have been overcharged by prosecutors, the inappropriate charges will not simply go away on their own. You need to talk to a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Early intervention by a defense lawyer is often the key to securing the best outcome available. A criminal defense attorney can investigate your case to determine whether any of the charges against you should be dropped. A defense lawyer can also work on your behalf to reach a favorable plea agreement or defend your rights and freedom at trial.