Lab Reports Show Hundreds “Convicted in Error” for Drug OffensesPublished: Jun 20, 2016 in Criminal Defense
A drug offense in Texas is serious. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, you may end up with a permanent criminal record. Recent information shows that many people are found guilty of drug offenses or pressured into plea deals despite forensic evidence proving their innocence. If you have been charged with a drug offense or believe you were wrongfully convicted, you need a strong Houston criminal defense attorney to help you obtain the best possible outcome. Contact the Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential consultation.
Consequences of Conviction
If you are convicted of a drug charge, you may face significant jail time and expensive fines. Your entire life changes, and it doesn’t return to normal once the sentence is over. A drug offense can hurt your chance of continuing your education, obtaining student loans, getting a good job, and living in safe, affordable housing. If you already had a job in education or government, the conviction could ruin a stable career.
Convicted in Error
In 2014, the Harris County District Attorney (DA) began sending notices to hundreds of people regarding their drug convictions. They were notified that forensic lab evidence had proved their innocence, and they had been “convicted in error,” according to the Houston Press. Many of these defendants, dating back to 2004, took plea deals for misdemeanor and felony drug possession charges. However, a crime lab tested evidence and found it negative for any controlled substance. Despite this mistake, many of those people who were wrongfully convicted have suffered the consequences of drug charges on their criminal records.
The Timing of the Lab Results
In many cases the DA’s office was notified of the negative lab results months after defendants took plea deals. Charges were made prematurely and people were pressured into making plea deals before they had all the information they needed to make educated decisions on taking plea deals versus going to trial.
In some situations, the DA’s office knew about the improper convictions for months or years before they told the defendants. Even worse, it appears that in some cases the DA’s office knew there was no evidence of a controlled substance prior to finalizing plea deals. Some of these defendants were then sentenced to jail despite the lack of evidence of a crime.
The DA’s Office Admits Mistake
The DA’s office is aware of the seriousness of the situation – that hundreds of defendants served sentences and have criminal records despite negative lab reports. The DA has worked closely with the Harris County Public Defender’s Office to contact the defendants affected.
Defendants whose criminal charges are dismissed or who are acquitted may be able to have their criminal records expunged. This means the convictions will no longer be on their records for the public to see. It would not be able to affect going to school or getting a job.
Texas law surrounding expunging a criminal record is complex, and defendants who think they may be eligible should speak with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney.
The Importance of a Strong Houston Criminal Defense Attorney
The gravity of this situation demonstrates the need for every defendant charged with a drug offense to have experienced legal counsel. Plea deals are often beneficial to defendants, but rushing into a deal can put an innocent man behind bars. It’s important to have all of the facts and evidence before making such a big decision.