Why Some People Plead and Others Go to Trial
If you get charged, you will, at some point, have to make a choice of whether to plead to some charge you and prosecutor agree to or demand trial. A lot of things go into the decision. Here are some things to consider when you decide what to do.
Sometimes it Depends on the Crime
Crimes like felony non-support is a crime where going to trial just doesn’t make any sense. The elements of the felony non-support are that a court ordered you to pay child support, that the Court or FOC ordered you to pay a certain amount and you failed to pay that child support and cannot show you did. If you could show you paid it, you wouldn’t be in Court. It is purely numbers. You paid or you did not pay, simple. Why you did not pay is not something you could explain to a jury. The Judge is not allowed to let you tell a Jury that you are married to another woman, have other obligations including helping your mom and dad, who are getting older, plus you have your own kids. That has been considered by the FOC and was ordered by the Court. If something has changed since the order was issued you must file a “change of circumstances” motion with the FOC. But any money owed is only retroactive after you file. Regardless, if the Prosecutor can easily prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime, then it’s in your best interest to make a deal and plead.
Will I Get a Stiffer Penalty if I Lose
If you do go to trial, will this Judge hold it against you and increase the penalties? To answer this question you must have some experience or access to experience before this particular Judge. Is there a legitimate question of your guilt or is it just some pie-in-the-sky bullshit where the evidence is so substantial that you are wasting the Court’s time and the taxpayer’s money? If the former is true, then going to trial and losing won’t hurt you. But, if indeed, there was never a question of your guilt and you just won’t admit it, well, you will get the book thrown at you. What the judge thinks is an OK reason to go to trial is why you need an attorney who has experience.
What is this Judge like in a Trial
I have been in front of Judges who just sit and listen or daydream and listen, and some who decide to ask the witnesses questions. Some Judges do and some don’t. But let's say there is something that you don’t want ask about in front of a jury so you might not ask certain questions. The Judge might. If your Judge is one of those Judges who asks questions, how are you preparing to meet the challenge of defending against the Prosecutor but periodically interrupting to ask his own questions that you wanted hidden from the Jury because if they hear they will surely convict you.
Sometimes the Evidence Against You is Overwhelming
I recently defended a client who was charged with false ID. He went to the SOS to get a State ID card using his Brother’s ID. The brother told me it was so he could get refills of his brother’s prescriptions which included some controlled substances. Even though my client was not successful obtaining the card, there was video of the entire transaction and a picture of the purloined birth certificate. Again, no sense going to trial and the Judge probably would not be happy if you not, unexpectedly, lose.
Are There Diversion Programs Available?
Sometimes regardless of guilt or innocence, it make sense to plead guilty and take the consequences. For example, a person charged with possession of a controlled substance who fervently claims that the drugs are not his but there is no way of proving it, may be better off taking a plea under 7411, refrain from using alcohol or drugs, put up with reporting once a month for an hour to the court, and knowing it will not appear on is record, call it a day. A trial does cost money and you could lose
Will I go to Jail
If you are a first time offender and this is a minor misdemeanor like shoplifting, a lawyer will certainly keep you out of jail and negotiate with the Prosecutor and Judge to try and keep this off your record. Even a two time offender may not face jail time depending on the lawyer you retain and the jurisdiction your case is in. So for first time offenders, the reason to hire an attorney is not to stay out of jail but to keep the conviction off your record.
Sometimes a Trial Makes Sense
On the other hand, there are certain crimes, where the penalties are so severe and there is at least some creditable issue you can raise, then a trial makes sense. And, even if you lose, the Judge will have expected you to raise certain issues in front of a jury unless the Prosecutor had made you a seriously attractive offer.
You Have a Lot of Big Decisions to Make
Get yourself an attorney, Whether it's me or another decent lawyer, get help. While a public will certainly protect your Constitutional Rights in your appearances, the old saying as we all know is true…"you get what you paid for".
We help people who have been charged with a crime, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, a drunk driving offense, or just a traffic ticket. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the best decision you can make. Schmierlaw has the experience, knowledge, and track record to help, if you are charged with any criminal offense.
Law Office of James G. Schmier, PLLC
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