The criminal justice system exists to protect society, rehabilitate wrongdoers and punish offenders. Prosecutors are responsible for building a case by using only the facts to establish the truth, which means letting accused innocent parties go free.
While doing what is right should be the objective of public servants, politics and ego can get involved and lead an overzealous prosecutor to overcharge to get more convictions or to coerce confessions. What is overcharging, and why does it happen?
What is overcharging?
The practice of overcharging involves manufacturing additional accusations against a defendant in the hopes that one or two will stick. Why would someone use such tactics?
Prosecutors naturally take pride in their win-loss records. Since Texas citizens vote for district attorneys, some may feel pressure to get a high number of confessions or convictions to please voters.
Prosecutors can use trumped-up allegations to put pressure on a defendant before a trial. The possibility of a lengthy prison sentence for numerous charges might frighten someone into confessing to an offense. Prosecutors often employ this tactic when multiple people are suspects and use the strategy to encourage defendants to testify against each other.
How can defendants combat overcharging?
No one can prevent a prosecutor from threatening to bring additional charges. However, a solid criminal defense strategy can counteract this technique and give a defendant better odds of a favorable outcome.
Often, the ideal way to get into the mind of a prosecutor is to get guidance from someone who has done similar work and understands the process from that side. With a total view of the situation, a defendant might not succumb to overly aggressive prosecutors.