FBI admits mistake, reviews thousands of cases

The FBI admits that it may have contributed to the wrongful convictions of thousands of Americans. Because of mistakes made by analysts, the agency is reviewing criminal cases that occurred between 1985 and 2000. The cases under review all relied on the use of hair samples to secure conviction. The FBI is stating that although valuable, the technology used to match hair samples may have been overstated in court.

The use of hair samples was questioned in a handful of cases, one of which involving a young man who was convicted of sex crimes in the eighties. The young man was exonerated after DNA testing found his hair did not match the sample found at the crime scene. Unfortunately, the man served over twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit, largely in part to an analyst's testimony that the man's hair samples "were indistinguishable" from those found at the crime scene.

This is just one example of the misuse of evidence during a trial. In some cases, the misuse of evidence can lead to a reduction or even dismissal of charges.

The many impacts of a criminal conviction

Criminal charges should not be taken lightly. It is no surprise that a criminal conviction comes with penalties. Criminal penalties can include imprisonment, monetary fines and community service.

The negative consequences of a criminal conviction do not end with criminal penalties. Those who have a criminal conviction can also experience difficulties finding employment. The University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law recently published an article that addressed the difficulties experienced by individuals who have a criminal record. In addition to the above mentioned criminal penalties, employers can view an applicant with a record as "less desirable and less qualified." For workers attempting to enter an already difficult job market, a criminal record could mean the difference between getting a job offer or a rejection.

Charged with a crime? Defenses are available

As a result, it is important to take criminal charges seriously before they become a conviction. Those charged with a crime in Pennsylvania have a variety of defenses that could lead to a reduction, or even dismissal of charges. These defenses include an analysis of the process used by the enforcement officer to make the arrest in the first place. If the law was not followed, any evidence gathered at the time of the arrest may not be allowed in court.

Defenses available vary with each situation. Those charged with a crime should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss their situation and better ensure their legal rights are protected.