If you are facing criminal charges for the first time in your life, you probably have questions, lots of questions. Will your charges be dropped? Will you go to jail or prison? Will you ever be able to get a good job again? Will your case go to trial? For the purposes of this article, I’m going to answer the last question about your case going to trial.
If you’re like a lot of people, what you’ve learned about trials you gleaned from watching TV and movies, and that’s about it. Some of the most famous trials of the 20th Century that may ring a bell are O.J. Simpson, Casey Anthony, Jeffrey Dahmer, Lyle and Erik Menendez, and Jodi Arias, to name a few. So, what about you, will your criminal case go to trial too? Will a jury decide your fate?
Few Criminal Cases Go to Trial
As a former prosecutor with over 30 years of legal experience, I can tell you that very few criminal cases actually make it to trial. A reasonable estimate would be that 90% or more criminal cases are settled out of court between the prosecutor, the defendant, and the criminal defense attorney through a plea bargain.
While some cases do not reach a trial because the prosecutor dismisses charges due to insufficient evidence, or because the defense prevails at the preliminary hearing, or because the defense avoided a conviction due to a pretrial motion, such as a motion to suppress evidence, still, most criminal cases are settled through a plea bargain.
Why Plea Deals Can Be Beneficial
There are many situations where a plea deal is a positive for both sides of the equation, especially when the defendant made a mistake and there is a lot of evidence against him or her. For starters, the state cannot afford to take every criminal case to trial; that would only clog court dockets and drain the state’s resources.
For defendants, plea bargains can offer definite advantages. Often, by accepting a plea deal, the attorney fees can be kept down, the defendant can receive a lighter sentence, and sometimes the defendant can have lesser charges go on their record. Often, a good plea bargain is a win-win from every angle. Plus, prosecutors hate to lose, so a conviction, even if it’s for a lighter charge, looks better on their record.