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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Should I take a plea or go to trial?

By Spodek Law Group | February 13, 2023
(Last Updated On: July 27, 2023)

Last Updated on: 27th July 2023, 04:35 pm

Who Makes the Final Call on Pleading Guilty or Opting for a Trial?

As per the stipulations of the Sixth Amendment, all defendants in a criminal case are entitled to a counsel. Yet, some key choices in a case still rest squarely with the defendant, even when it’s at odds with their lawyer’s direction. These include opting for pleading guilty or heading for a court trial, choosing between a bench trial or one in front of a jury, testifying, claiming innocence, or even opting out of an appeal.

Never Overlook Your Lawyer’s Advice

The power to make these profound decisions doesn’t mean that defendants should stubbornly disregard the advice of their attorney. In fact, they need to have a conversation, ask pertinent questions and fully comprehend the advice provided and the reasons behind their attorney’s opinion of how the approach will benefit them.

The Predicament: Accept a Plea Deal or Proceed With Trial?

With a major chunk of criminal cases culminating in plea bargaining, whether to opt for a plea deal becomes a vital decision. Attorneys like Todd Spodek from Spodek Law Group are ethically obligated to present all the facets of plea negotiations to their clients. This includes communicating their clients’ willingness to plead to the prosecutor and relaying the prosecutor’s acceptance of a particular plea to their clients, regardless of their own assessment of the offer.

Between the Devil and the Deep Sea: Plea Deal Or Trial?

As they stand at this crucial juncture, defendants should be privy to all potential alternatives and the probable consequences of each. For instance, if charged with assault with a deadly weapon, their attorney might present an option such as, “The prosecutor is open to accepting a guilty plea for a simple assault and proposing a sentence of six months in county jail along with a fine of $500. It boils down to you—how do you want to proceed?”

Subsequently, the lawyer and the defendant need to have a discussion outlining three plausible options: pleading guilty immediately, doing so later, or negating the guilty plea and heading for trial. The possible outcomes of each option, like potential better plea deals if the guilty plea is deferred closer to the trial or how a conviction could impact future employment prospects, should also be part of the conversation.

Is It Better to Plead Guilty or Go to Trial?

The reason plea bargains resolve many cases is that they provide tangible certainty to the defendant. The plea bargain procedure increments the sureness of the outcome, provided that the prosecutor, defense, and judge concur. In stark contrast, a trial poses a higher risk of a more severe sentence. The uncertainty can weigh heavily on a defendant, making a plea deal appear considerably more appealing.

Furthermore, plea deals usually cost less for the defendants, granting them a quicker return to work. But a trial can sometimes be the sole gate to justice for an innocent defendant. Plus, for defendants not entirely innocent, a trial could work in their favor. In order for a conviction to take place, the prosecution must substantiate every aspect of the case beyond a reasonable doubt. This gives the defense an opportunity to sway the opinion of just one juror out of 12 for an acquittal.

To Plead or Not To Plead: A Dicey Dilemma

Whether to plead guilty or prepare for a trial can turn out to be a tough choice to make. Even if you feel falsely implicated, a careful evaluation of all options is essential. It is beneficial to be aware of all advantages and disadvantages of opting to plead guilty:

Pros of Pleading Guilty:

  • Resolution: Pleading guilty could expedite your case’s conclusion vis-à-vis a jury trial.
  • Cost-effectiveness: A guilty plea can be less financially burdensome as it could save the expenses connected with a trial, such as attorney fees and expert witness costs.
  • Plea bargain: If you admit guilt, you stand a chance to negotiate an agreeable plea deal, leading to reduced charges or milder sentence.
  • Certainty: Opting for a guilty plea can offer a definitive outcome and can give you an estimate of the sentence, something not feasible with a trial.

Cons of Pleading Guilty:

  • Innocence: Pleading guilty to a crime you did not commit can be emotionally crushing.
  • Conviction: A guilty plea equates to a confession of guilt, leading to a sentence based on the judge’s discretion.
  • Criminal record: Entering a guilty plea could tarnish you with a criminal record, possibly adversely impacting your future prospects.

Similarly, choosing to fight your case at a trial is fraught with risks, but the potential rewards can also tilt the scale in its favor.

The Pros of Going to Trial:

  • Time: Opting for a trial grants you more time to build a formidable defense against the charges.
  • Justice: If you are innocent, having a not guilty verdict can give you a sense of justice and vindication.
  • Defenses: Even if you are guilty, you could have strong defenses that can weaken the prosecutor’s case, potentially leading to dismissal of charges or a not guilty verdict.

The Cons of Going to Trial:

  • Cost: Fighting a case in court can be an expensive affair, especially if you require an experienced defense attorney.
  • Uncertainty: Jury outcomes can be unpredictable, and there can be no guarantee of a not guilty verdict despite a solid defense.
  • Penalty: Being found guilty at trial can lead to stricter punishment from the judge than in case of a guilty plea.

When confronted with the decision to plead guilty or opt for a trial, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is vital to take into consideration all the factors and make the best decision for your unique circumstance.

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