Law Offices of M. Gabriela Guraiib

Preventing Wrongful Convictions: Strategies for Criminal Defenses in California


Wrongful convictions cause tremendous harm to innocent people and their families. Understanding and identifying the causes of wrongful convictions and the defense strategies that can be used to prevent them from taking place is crucial. One of the major jobs criminal defense attorneys have is to protect people from wrongful convictions. The Law Offices of M. Gabriela Guraiib are committed to ensuring justice through effective defense strategies.

Understanding Wrongful Convictions

Convictions may be classified as wrongful for one of two reasons. First, the person convicted is factually innocent of the charges. Second, procedural errors violated the accused’s rights. It is important to the integrity of our justice system that we take every step to prevent wrongful convictions.

Common causes of wrongful convictions can be:

  • Misidentification by witnesses
  • Misinterpretation of forensic evidence
  • False confessions
  • Government misconduct
  • Inadequate defense

In addition to the innocents convicted and their families, there is a tremendous impact on the crime victims when justice is not properly served. The public trust in police is also negatively impacted by these wrongful convictions. Faith in the justice system’s ability to convict the guilty and clear the innocent can be called into question. 

General Strategies for Preventing Wrongful Convictions

Proper legal experts can deploy defense strategies to prevent wrongful convictions from occurring. Utilizing a thorough and independent investigation of the evidence is vital in ensuring that forensic evidence is utilized effectively. Challenging any questionable forensic methods and advocating for the use of reliable and advanced forensic techniques ensure there is no mishandling of the case. 

Building a strong attorney-client relationship is vital in any defense strategy. Establishing communication and trust, as well as having a clear understanding of the client’s background and the case details, ensures that someone has your back. An attorney can also secure expert witnesses and investigators, as well as challenge any eyewitness testimony or expert identifications.

Specific Defense Strategies Depending on the Circumstances of the Crime

Wrongful convictions can happen in all manner of cases, from white-collar, violent, drug-related offenses and even Sexual Assault cases. Depending on the case’s specific circumstances, more specialized defense strategies will be needed. 

Violent Crimes

Violent crimes such as assault, battery, robbery, homicide, etc., require a careful look at the evidence and motives involved. Scrutinizing forensic evidence such as DNA and ballistics has become important; many wrongful conviction cases are due to forensic science errors. The National Registry of Exonerations discovered that “false or misleading forensic science has contributed to wrongful convictions of over 460 individuals… as of January 2017.” Having independent experts scrutinizing the evidence can ensure that potential errors in evidence are identified. 

Eyewitness testimony should also be questioned and examined for credibility. While eyewitness testimony tends to be compelling and persuasive, many testimonies are susceptible to being shaded with false information provided to them after the event, in addition to the potential of false witnesses who may have their own motives for giving testimony. 

Under the right circumstances and carefully examining the evidence, an attorney may find that another person might have committed the crimes charged. This defense must be made with clear and compelling evidence and cannot be used to confuse the facts of the case. In addition to flawed and alternative motives, this can show that the state has failed to meet a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Drug Related Offenses

In drug-related offenses, it is important to look at the obtaining and handling of evidence. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. It is possible to prove an unreasonable search and seizure took place if there is a lack of a valid search warrant and an exemption to the warrant requirement does not exist in the case. 

The handling of evidence and the chain of custody may also come into play during the defense. An attorney can find irregularities or discrepancies in documentation, which can be sufficient to challenge how the item was stored, labeled, or tested. A judge may rule that there is insufficient evidence to allow the case to continue. 

Entrapment may also need consideration in some cases. Claiming entrapment is not sufficient; evidence must be gathered to show that an officer actively and overtly persuaded the defendant and that the defendant had no predisposition to commit the crime before the police persuaded them. 

Sexual Assault Cases

Sexual assault cases can have serious and lasting effects on people’s lives, even past any criminal sentencing. A careful evaluation of the consent narrative and an understanding of the words, actions, and social cues of a given situation is crucial. With consent culture constantly evolving, it is important to have an up-to-date understanding of laws and social norms.

Understanding the evidence and psychology involved in these cases is important. An attorney can help employ an expert witness in psychology and forensics to examine the case. In addition to looking at those involved in the case, this can aid in contesting digital and physical evidence of the case. 

White-Collar Crimes

In cases of fraud, embezzlement, and other white-collar crimes, various defenses can be considered. Disputing the intent and knowledge of the defendant can show that the perceived crime is nothing more than an error on the part of the defendant. Calling upon character evidence during these cases can also show that a defendant would not intentionally commit these crimes.

Additionally, a proper analysis of financial records and transactions is needed for a proper defense. Scrutinizing financial records, income statements, and cash flow can identify discrepancies or irregularities. Following the money trail and uncovering attempts to manipulate the system may help show the truth of a situation. This, in addition to the lack of direct evidence, can highlight that the defendant did not have direct involvement in the accused’s crime. 

Don’t Let Wrongful Convictions Ruin Your Life

Having a defense strategy tailored to your specific circumstance is important. Every case is different, and the Law Offices of M. Gabriela Guraiib can help with dedication to justice and the protection of the accused through diligent and skilled legal representation. Learn more about how we can assist you by scheduling your consultation today.