Wrongful Convictions and Racial Disparities in North Carolina’s Criminal Justice System

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Do I need to hire an attorney if I have been falsely accused?”


North Carolina’s criminal courts use the highest burden of proof for convictions and imprisonment. However, even the highest burden of proof may not protect innocent defendants from racial disparities and biases within the criminal justice system.

chain-Charlotte-Monroe-Mooresville-Wrongful-conviction-Criminal-lawyer-300x225If you believe that you or your loved one was wrongfully incarcerated or convicted, you may be able to sue bad actors and obtain financial compensation for the wrongful conviction or incarceration.

Do not hesitate to contact our criminal defense lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to discover your legal options and pursue the compensation you deserve.


Racial Disparities in North Carolina’s Criminal Justice System

A new study found that 62% of the criminal defendants serving life without parole sentences in North Carolina are black, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. The study also found that:

  • Criminal defendants were more likely to be sentenced to life without parole in North Carolina counties with more white homicide victims; and
  • Defendants were more likely to receive a sentence of less than life in prison in North Carolina counties with more black homicide victims.

The study, which was released in late October 2020, examined over 1,600 cases in which North Carolina defendants were sentenced to life without parole between 1995 and 2017. The vast majority of those convictions – 95% – were imposed on defendants convicted of first- and second-degree murder, while another 3% were imposed on defendants who committed other violent crimes.


Why are Defendants Wrongfully Convicted in North Carolina?

Some of the potential causes of wrongful convictions and incarcerations in North Carolina include:

  • Tampering with evidence
  • Withholding evidence
  • Mistaken identity
  • False or coerced testimonies or confessions
  • Police misconduct
  • Prosecutorial abuse
  • Government misconduct
  • Violations of DNA preservation

Given the existence of racial disparities within North Carolina’s criminal justice system, black defendants may be more likely to be wrongfully incarcerated or convicted. If you or your loved one has been wrongfully convicted, you should contact a Charlotte criminal defense attorney right away. Do not let the conviction ruin your life.


Can You Seek Compensation for Wrongful Conviction?

After an exoneration, the defendant may seek compensation by:

  • Filing a civil rights lawsuit against individuals and entities in state or federal court, including police officers and prosecutors; or
  • Seeking statutory compensation from the State of North Carolina.

Under North Carolina G.S. § 148-84, state compensation for wrongful convictions amounts to:

  • Up to $50,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment, but no more than $750,000 in total;
  • 12 month of job skills training; and
  • Payment of tuition and fees for a public community college or institution within the State of North Carolina.

When filing a civil lawsuit against bad actors who committed misconduct, a wrongfully convicted defendant may be awarded additional damages. Individuals wrongfully convicted or incarcerated in jails or state prisons in North Carolina have a right to file claims with the Industrial Commission within five years of receiving a pardon or being declared innocent.

Contact our skilled criminal defense lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to aggressively protect your legal rights and hold bad actors accountable for wrongful incarceration or conviction. Call our lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 to evaluate your options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.







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