Do Police or Prosecutors Ever “Overcharge” People?


Do Police or Prosecutors Ever “Overcharge” People?It depends on the jurisdiction, the person’s actions, and their prior criminal record, if any; but yes, sometimes. In fact, in some jurisdictions, they do the opposite. They “Undercharge” a person. If somebody is caught with marijuana, of course they’ll be charged with possession of marijuana; and it could be just that straightforward. But then, if the person tries to flee, or argues with the police, or refuses to identify themselves, then they may be charged with “Resisting Arrest” or “Assault on a Police Officer”, or Failure To ID themselves properly, or other possible charges, Thus multiple charges can definitely stem from one event.

If you’re stopped for Reckless Driving for traveling 20 miles per hour or more over the speed limit, then you’ll probably be charged with Reckless Driving [a Class 1 Criminal Misdemeanor as well] But, if you’re rude, abrupt, hesitate to identify yourself or refuse to give up your license to the police officer, then the officer might look to see if your vehicle registration and inspection are in order; or they may look to find defective equipment somewhere; on your car; or look for other problems in which you may have technically violated the law – then charge you with several things. Most people are charged relatively correctly; but in many cases, particularly drug or theft cases, officers will either Undercharge” or “Overcharge” officers for various reasons.


For example when a person commits embezzlement, they usually embezzle money from their employer a little bit at a time, often over a period of time. As a result, they could be charged with a separate embezzlement charge for each time they took money. But often, they’re just charged with only one charge of misdemeanor count of Felony Embezzlement; (depending upon the amount taken each time), and thus they are “Undercharged”. In some jurisdictions, the police and prosecutors believe in “Undercharging” an individual gaining them leverage to tell that person and their lawyer; that if they don’t plead guilty to one charge of embezzlement, they will charge them with other numerous separate embezzlement thefts they committed individually, over time. This is done of course to take advantage of the leverage they have to “Box” a client up in to pleading guilty to the one charge.


Conversely, other jurisdictions will “Overcharge” on that same set of facts. In these jurisdictions, police and prosecutors will charge separately for each and every single individual embezzlement transaction over time; and then say they will agree to dismiss the other charges if the person pleads guilty to one or two of the numerous charges they brought. But, in most cases, most people are correctly charged for what they do. But when police or prosecutors want to use leverage on that individual, to gain an advantage or possibly to gain additional information about their bad acts or those of others, and use pressure, then they can “Overcharge” or “Undercharge” an individual to get what they want. This is a common police and prosecutorial action in particularly serious or complicated criminal cases.

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