Before we start, we’d like to address the question: “should you accept a plea bargain or go to trial?” We need this to be completely clear – ONLY YOU (with the guidance of your attorney) can reach that decision! Every case is different. Every defendant is different. Every prosecutor is different. There is no one-size-fits-all answer that works for every case. However, it’s a question that comes up in most criminal cases, so we’d like to share some information with you about what’s involved
Many people’s idea of what a defense lawyer does comes from TV shows and movies. In a nutshell, a few jail visits followed by passionate arguing in court during the trial. And that’s certainly part of it. But not every case ends up in trial. Most are resolved long before that, with what’s known as a plea bargain. However, because plea bargains don’t usually make for good television, they don’t get nearly as much screen time. So people tend to know less about the process.
According to the US Federal Court data, more than 90% of felony cases end with some type of guilty plea.
That means less than 10% of federal criminal cases actually go to trial. So statistically, plea bargains happen far more often than trials. Why? Because they are cheaper than trials (both for the defendant and for the government) and because in many cases, a plea bargain offers the certainty of less time behind bars, as opposed to the uncertainty of trial (which could result in a LOT more!)
Some plea bargains involve no time at all behind bars. However, accepting a plea bargain offers a criminal defendant more control over their own case than leaving the sentencing decisions totally up to the judge. Of course the downside to a plea bargain is that there is no trial and no chance for a not guilty verdict.
So how does this work? Well, let’s look at plea bargains in our state courts. Say an unarmed Michigan resident is accused of breaking into someone’s home, stealing some cash and a laptop, and then trying to sell the stolen items on Craigslist. They’re charged with several felonies, including: Breaking and Entering with Intent to Commit a Felony or a Larceny Therein (10 year felony), and Second Degree Home Invasion (15 year felony).
At this point, if convicted, the defendant is looking at many years in prison.
The sentences would usually be served concurrently with the maximum time in prison being 15 years to be exact, So, should they go to trial, or should they accept a plea bargain in the hopes of getting off with a shorter prison sentence? The answer to that is… it depends. Is the defendant a young person hoping to keep their record clean to avoid screwing up future job opportunities? Or are we dealing with a retiree in poor health whose main concern is their health behind bars?
Are they a repeat offender with a long and varied criminal history, or someone who’s never had so much as a parking ticket on their record? Is the evidence against them pretty solid, or is the prosecution’s case full of holes? Did the cops handle the arrest by the book, or are there questions about protocol and chain of evidence? There are so many factors that would affect the decision about whether or not the case should go to trial, or a plea bargain should be worked out.
Generally speaking, plea bargains take the form of sentence bargaining or bargaining about the specific charges. Sometimes plea bargains involve both a reduced sentence and reduced charges. Often time, the strongest criminal defense attorneys get the best plea offers. That’s one reason that we always tell you the right attorney is critical.
The truth is, only you can make that final choice about accepting a plea offer.
Why? Because you have to live with the consequences of that choice. Your attorney can advise you (a good attorney will provide very valuable advice that you should listen to) but the final decision still lies with you. So the best thing you can do, if you’re arrested and charged with a crime, is to get the best lawyer available to you. It’s one of the few parts of this process you can control. And often one of the most important!
If you or a loved one have been arrested and charged with a crime, what you do next can have a huge impact on your future. The choices you make, words you say, and things you agree to will impact every part of your life from here on. So make the best choice you can in this situation, and call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys can help you sort out the rest just as we’ve done for thousands of cases all over the state of Michigan during the past decades.