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The power of the plea: Just how common are plea deals?

Criminal charges are based on evidence. Without evidence to support allegations, a charge cannot survive. But just how accurate is the evidence used to support criminal charges?

This question was recently discussed in a publication in Slate. The piece focused on the impact of false evidence by sharing the story of a now discredited drug laboratory chemist out of Boston, Massachusetts. Essentially, the chemist was called out for having production rates that were far above her peers. When questioned, she admitted to not conducting the tests properly, if at all. This meant she was stating that some drug tests were positive without actually conducting the required tests.

When this error was originally discovered, the public expected over 24,000 convictions to be under question. In reality, a very small portion of these convictions will be at issue. This is because the vast majority of criminal convictions are the result of plea deals, not criminal trials.

What exactly is a plea deal? A plea deal is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as:

An agreement set up between the plaintiff and the defendant to come to a resolution about the case, without ever taking it trial.

Why would a person accused of a crime consider a plea deal? A number of factors can contribute to this decision. The most common revolves around the evidence the prosecution claims to have against the accused.

But what if this evidence is wrong? That is the issue brought to light in the case noted above. A number of plea deals hinge on the presentation of this evidence. Those charged with these crimes are likely more open to negotiating a deal if they fear a far greater prison sentence could result from going to trial.

Generally the greater the evidence presented at this time, the greater the potential repercussions.

So where is the justice? Where do those who are falsely convicted of crimes find justice? What if the evidence was faulty? Those facing these charges have options. First, they can fight the charges and choose to go to trial instead of taking a plea deal.

Justice can also be found through an appeal. An appeal is essentially a call for a second trial, for a review of the record.

Those who believe they were falsely convicted have rights. Contact a federal and state appeals attorney to discuss your options.

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Mark J. O'Brien's cases have been featured in:
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