Conviction rate

The conviction rate of a prosecuting unit of government (federal, state, etc.) reflects the likelihood that in that jurisdiction a case that is brought will end in conviction. Conviction rates reflect many aspects of the legal processes and systems at work within the jurisdiction, and are a source of both jurisdictional pride and broad controversy. Rates are often high, especially when presented in their most general form (i.e., without qualification regarding changes made to original charges, pleas that are negotiated, etc.). Rates across jurisdictions within countries can vary by tens of percentage points (e.g., across states within the U.S.). In other cases, they are uniformly high, although for distinct reasons (e.g., in China, Japan, and Russia).


The conviction rate of a prosecutor or government can be defined as the number of convictions divided by the number of criminal cases brought.[citation needed]



In Canada, 2017-2018 statistics indicate an overall rate of conviction of 62% (of those charged in adult court), which includes cases involving guilty pleas, deals that are offered, and charges that are lessened; Canadian trial lawyer Kim Schofield estimates that ~50% of all cases end in conviction when the case goes “straight to trial” (i.e., is unmodified by lessened charges or plea).[1]


In China, the justice system has a conviction rate of 99.9%.[when?][2][3]


The national conviction rate in India for offences of the Indian Penal Code is around 46%,[when?] a statistic that varies state by state; the state with the highest conviction rate is Kerala (~84%), while the one with the lowest rate is Bihar (~10%).[when?][4][5]

Throughout 2016, the national conviction rate for Indian Penal Code crimes was 46.8%: 596,078 were convicted and 678,270 were acquitted/discharged; moreover, 1,060,724 were convicted of SLL[clarification needed] crimes and 226,546 were acquitted or discharged of them, making the conviction rate for SLL[clarification needed] crimes 82.4%, and giving an overall conviction rate, in India, of 64.7%, for 2016.[6]


The conviction rate in Israel is around 93%.[when?] Around 72% of trials end with a conviction on some charges and acquittal on others, while around 22% end with a conviction on all charges. These statistics do not include plea bargains and cases where the charges are withdrawn, which make up the vast majority of criminal cases.[7]


The criminal justice system of Japan has been referred to as a form of “hostage justice” (hitojichi-shiho), including in an appeal by 1010 Japanese professors, lawyers, and other legal professionals.[8] Collin Jones, a professor at Doshisha Law School in Kyoto, notes that the system has a conviction rate commonly described as 99.9%, but that the rate is, in fact, closer to 99.4%.[9][10][verification needed] Jones agrees with the group of legal professionals petitioning for change that practices such as interrogating suspects without counsel or charge for up to 23 days, not requiring the disclosure of exculpatory evidence, or of relationships between prosecutors and the courts increases the likelihood of convictions;[9][8] these professionals are unequivocal in their belief in the issue continues despite reforms, and that the system contributes to wrongful conviction:

Japan’s criminal justice practices—stretching suspects’ detention until they confess, forcing detainees to face investigators’ questions without the presence of lawyers and stripping them of their right to remain silent, and coercing them to confess including false confessions—have long been called “hostage justice” and a cause of wrongful convictions. However, the criminal justice reforms including the latest post-2000s reforms did not address this issue and these problems remain to date.[8]


In 2017, there were 697,054 convictions and 1,562 acquittals in Russia, resulting in a conviction rate of 99.78%.[verification needed][citation needed]

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has three prosecuting bodies that cover different geographic areas. The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for Scotland. In Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPSNI) and in England and Wales most prosecutions are brought by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The figures for 2017-2018 in England and Wales show at Crown Court the conviction rate was 80.0% and at Magistrates Court the conviction rate was 84.8%.[11] In Northern Ireland figures show at Crown Court the conviction rate for 2017-2018 was 87.2% and at Magistrates Court it was 79.0%.[12]

United States

In the United States federal court system, the conviction rate rose from approximately 75 percent to approximately 85% between 1972 and 1992.[13] For 2012, the US Department of Justice reported a 93% conviction rate.[14] In 2000, the conviction rate was also high in U.S. state courts. Coughlan, writing in 2000, stated, “In recent years, the conviction rate has averaged approximately 84% in Texas, 82% in California, 72% in New York, 67% in North Carolina, and 59% in Florida.”[15][needs update] In 2018, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that among defendants charged with a felony, 68% were convicted (59% of a felony and the remainder of a misdemeanor) with felony conviction rates highest for defendants originally charged with motor vehicle theft (74%), driving-related offenses (73%), murder (70%), burglary (69%), and drug trafficking (67%); and lowest for defendants originally charged with assault (45%).[16]


  1. ^Harford, Tim (host), and Colin Jones and Kim Schofield (interviewees) (18 January 2020). More or Less: Japan’s 99% Conviction Rate (Radio broadcast). London, UK: BBC. Event occurs at 5:21-8:46, esp. 6:23-7:02, 7:25-8:02. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  2. ^McCoy, Terence (March 11, 2014). “China scored 99.9% Conviction Rate Last Year”. The Washington Post.
  3. ^Connor, Neil (14 March 2016). “Chinese courts convict more than 99.9 per cent of defendants”. Retrieved 4 February 2019 – via
  4. ^Deccan Staff (4 December 2017). “Kerala’s conviction rate double national average”. Deccan Chronicle. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  5. ^Tiwary, Deeptiman (8 August 2015). “Conviction rate up, Kerala tops with over 77%”. Retrieved 21 January 2020 – via TNN.
  6. ^“Statistics” (PDF). Retrieved 2020-01-21.
  7. ^Yahav, Telem (14 May 2012). “Study: Only 0.3% of criminal cases end with acquittal”. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
  8. ^ Jump up to:ab c Imamura, Kaku; Sasakura, Kana; Doi, Kanae; and 1007 others (April 10, 2019). “Call to Eliminate Japan’s “Hostage Justice” System by Japanese Legal Professionals”. Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 3 January 2020.
  9. ^ Jump up to:ab Harford, Tim (host), and Colin Jones and Kim Schofield (interviewees) (18 January 2020). More or Less: Japan’s 99% Conviction Rate (Radio broadcast). London, UK: BBC. Event occurs at 01:15-5:19, esp. 1:44-2:05, 2:32-3:18. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  10. ^Jones, Colin P. A. & Ravitch, Frank S. (2018). The Japanese legal system. Hornbook series. St. Paul, MN: West Academic. ISBN 1642425370. OCLC 1050568527. Retrieved 21 January 2020.[page needed]
  11. ^“Key measures”. Retrieved 2020-01-21.
  12. ^[1][dead link]
  13. ^Beale, Sara Sun, Federalizing Crime: Assessing the Impact on the Federal Courts, 543, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
  14. ^DOJ Staff (2012). “United States Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2012” (PDF). United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  15. ^Coughlan, Peter J. (June 2000), In Defense of Unanimous Jury Verdicts: Mistrials, Communication, and Strategic Voting, 94, The American Political Science Review, pp. 375–393
  16. ^BJS Staff. “FAQ Detail: What is the probability of conviction for felony defendants?”. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved 21 January 2020.

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