Schmierlaw is Not Afraid to Take Your Case to Trial... but What If You are Offered a Deal?.
If you are accused and arrested for a crime, you will confront the decision of whether you should go to trial or try and make some deal with the prosecutor. Although many defendants believe that their guilt or innocence should be the main determining factor, often times there other reasons that should be considered and may be more important.
A principal benefit of entering a plea of guilty is receiving a lesser charge or, even if the charge is not reduced, a lighter sentence. In addition, defendants who are represented by their own lawyer can save money on attorney fees by pleading guilty rather than going to trial and racking up additional fees. Another benefit is that when you go to trial, you never know what the jury might do. Even if you are innocent, you still can be convicted, so it’s a roll of the dice. Plus, when you make a deal, you have control, you know what the charges are and what the penalties will be.
For instance, I recently represented a client who was accused of a drug crime. According to my client, he was a passenger in a car driven by his friend. The friend was speeding and a state police officer initiated a stop. Before pulling over, the friend pulled a small bag of pot out of his pocket and handed it to my client telling him to eat it. Unfortunately, my client put the small bag in his socks, leaving a visible bulge, which the officer saw when he came up to the car. In addition, when the officer searched the car, he found a digital scale. My client was charged with manufacturing and delivery, a four-year felony. My client assured me neither the pot nor scale were his. In fact, he stated he was willing to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence to me and he wanted to plead not guilty.
After speaking with the prosecutor, we were offered a deal. If my client pleaded guilty to possession, a misdemeanor, they would drop the felony. In addition, because this was his first drug possession offense, he was eligible for 7411 status, which meant that if he fulfilled the terms of probation, the charge would be dismissed and he could say that he had never been convicted of a crime. We took the deal, even though, he insisted and I believe him, that he was innocent.
So rather than making guilt or innocence the main determiner, the accused should conduct a cost/ benefit analysis. If the benefits far outweigh the costs of going to trial and the associated risks if a jury convicts you, then making a deal with the prosecutor may be the best decision. If, however, the punishment will be the same or nearly the same, going to trial is the best course of action.
Remember, the choice of going to trial is yours, and yours alone. But when making this decision, listen to the advice of your attorney, consider what will happen if you are convicted, put aside any anger or emotion, and make a decision that will be in your long-term best interests.
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