3 Reasons Legal Representation Is Crucial For The Criminally Accused

The potential for misleading evidence, wrongful conviction and lingering stigma make legal assistance advisable for most people facing criminal charges.

When faced with criminal charges, many people in Kew Gardens may consider forgoing legal representation. For most people, it can be easy to believe that a conviction is unlikely or that working with an attorney is unnecessary. Unfortunately, this can be a costly decision. The following factors make seeking legal counsel advisable for most people who have been accused of serious criminal offenses.

1. EVIDENCE CAN BE UNRELIABLE

Many forms of evidence that are used in modern criminal cases are fairly subjective. For example, last year the National Academy of Sciences released a report that emphasized the fallibility of testimony from eyewitnesses. According to The Washington Post, the report notes that memory is highly dynamic and prone to evolve over time. As a result, eyewitness recollections can become severely distorted, often with devastating consequences.

More objective forms of evidence are not infallible, either. The Innocence Project notes that forensic evidence, which is often viewed as incontrovertible, can be inaccurate for various reasons. These include:

  • Mistakes during analysis. For instance, analysts may mix up forensic samples or misinterpret test results.
  • Deliberate professional misconduct. For instance, in cases where people were accused of possession of controlled narcotics, analysts have lied about test results or fabricated results without conducting any tests.
  • Use of questionable evidence. Some criminal cases hinge on evidence that hasn't been scientifically proven reliable, such as hair microscopy. Exacerbating the problem, in some cases analysts may misrepresent the reliability of this evidence.

These various issues can increase the risk that a person will be inappropriately charged or convicted. However, an attorney who is familiar with these potential problems can make sure that all evidence against a person receives appropriate critical assessment.

2. UNSUBSTANTIATED CHARGES HAVE CONSEQUENCES

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that people who have been arrested often face lingering ramifications, regardless of whether they are ever convicted. An arrest record can significantly limit a person's ability to find employment and housing. One study also suggests that people who have been arrested are less likely to graduate, live above the poverty level and become homeowners.

An attorney may be able to help a person avoid these outcomes in various ways. First, an attorney can pursue the dismissal of charges, which results in automatic record sealing in New York. Alternately, an attorney may be able to assist a person in seeking a conditional sealing of a conviction.

3. WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS DO HAPPEN

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, over 1,700 wrongfully convicted people, including 210 people here in New York, have been exonerated since 1989. The number of wrongful convictions that have not been caught may be higher still. These convictions can occur due to various factors, including evidence issues, perjury and false confessions on the part of the accused. This makes wrongful convictions a serious risk for anyone facing criminal charges to appreciate.

An attorney may be able to craft a defense for an accused individual and pursue a less damaging outcome if charge dismissal isn't an option. This makes consulting with an attorney crucial for anyone facing criminal charges and the associated serious consequences.