Pleading Guilt or Go to Trial: What to Expect in a Criminal Case

Pleading Guilt or Go to Trial

If you’re accused of a crime, a lot is more involved than your actual innocence or guilt.

In over 90% of criminal cases, the defendant chooses to plead guilty or accept a plea bargain. A surprisingly small amount — just 2% of all cases — ever go to trial.

Once you hire legal representation for your case, your lawyer will help you decide the best way to move forward. Still, it’s not always easy to know the right course to take. Should you plead guilty and hope for a reduced sentence? What happens if you go to trial and lose?

In this post, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of both courses of action. Keep reading to learn more!

Pros & Cons of Pleading Guilty

There are several advantages to pleading guilty, even if you’re innocent. It’s also the fastest and least expensive way to wrap up your case, which is one reason why 97% of criminal cases end with plea bargains.

If you choose to plead guilty, your lawyer and the prosecutor will work together to reach an agreement on the sentence. The hope is that, in exchange for your guilty plea, you can have the charges reduced and be awarded a lighter sentence.

Another advantage of pleading guilty is that you’ll avoid trial by jury, which is always unpredictable. It will also keep you out of the public spotlight, which spares you and your f amily from unwanted media attention.

Of course, there are some drawbacks to consider as well. You’ll end up with a criminal record for the rest of your life, whether you committed the crime or not. You’ll also have to pay fines or spend time behind bars (or both), which is never a pleasant prospect.

Pros & Cons of Going to Trial

Although the vast majority of criminal cases never go to trial, does that mean it’s not worth pursuing? Not necessarily. With a solid law firm like behind you, going to trial could be a viable option.

For starters, it gives you more time to prepare your defense and spend time with loved ones. For an innocent person, it’s the only way to be acquitted and avoid a criminal record. It also avails you full protection under the US Constitution, which states that you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Going to trial may sound like the best choice, but remember there are drawbacks as well. It will take a lot more time and money to settle your case — perhaps many months or even years. You and your family may also become subject to harassment from the media.

Keep in mind, too, that going to trial means you’re placing your fate in the hands of an unknown jury. The judge is also capable of passing a sentence that could be much greater than what you would have received through a plea bargain.

Should Your Criminal Case Go to Trial?

There’s no one size fits all answer to this question, as every criminal case is unique. Your best bet is to work closely with your lawyer and ask as many questions as necessary to understand your options.

Now that you know more about whether to plead guilty or go to trial, what’s next? Keep browsing our site for more informative articles like this one!

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About the Author: Wayne Probert

Wayne Probert is a senior reporter at Zobuz, covering state and national politics, and he is a grantee with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Before joining Zobuz, he worked as a freelance journalist in Kentucky, having been published by dozens of outlets including NPR, the Center for Media.