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A charge is an accusation that a person has committed a crime, while a conviction is a finding by a court or jury that the person is guilty of the crime
What is a charge?
A charge is an accusation that a person has committed a crime. When an individual is charged with a crime, this means that the prosecutor has filed formal charges against the individual.
What is a conviction?
A conviction is a finding by a court or other tribunal of law that a person is guilty of a crime. Once an individual is convicted of a crime, this means that they have been found guilty by a judge or jury. A conviction will stay on an individual’s criminal record permanently.
The difference between charges and conviction
In the United States, a criminal charge is a formal accusation that someone has committed a crime. A conviction, on the other hand, is a finding by a court or jury that someone is guilty of a crime. The vast majority of criminal charges never result in convictions. In fact, less than 10% of all federal criminal charges end in trial and conviction.
The vast majority of criminal charges are resolved through plea bargains. In a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence. For example, someone who is charged with first-degree murder may agree to plead guilty to second-degree murder and receive a shorter prison sentence.
Plea bargains are advantageous for both defendants and prosecutors. Defendants avoid the risk of being convicted of a more serious crime and receiving a harsher sentence. Prosecutors save time and resources by avoiding lengthy and expensive trials.
How to know if you’ve been charged or convicted
If you haven’t been arrested but think you might have been charged with a crime, you can check court records in your area. Keep in mind, however, that just because there’s no record of a charge doesn’t mean you haven’t been charged – sometimes charges are filed but not yet entered into the court system.
If you’ve already gone to court and been found guilty of a crime, there will be a record of your conviction on your criminal history.
The consequences of being convicted
If you are convicted of a crime, the consequences can be very serious. A conviction can lead to a prison sentence, a fine, or both. It can also result in a criminal record, which can make it difficult to get a job, rent an apartment, or get insurance. In some cases, a conviction can also lead to the loss of your driver’s license or the right to vote. If you are convicted of a felony, you may also lose your right to own firearms.
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