Legal Guide

Plead Guilty or Go to Trial: Pros and Cons

When facing a criminal charge, you have the choice of pleading guilty and getting over your charge or standing your ground and having the jury decide your fate. The two options have their pros and cons. 

So, before pleading guilty or going to trial, it is essential to weigh the potential impact of each option on your life and make a decision accordingly. You could decide on your own, but it's best to involve a criminal lawyer to help you make a sound judgment.

Pros for Pleading Guilty

Pleading guilty means facing your charges and taking responsibility for your mistakes. Often, defendants will take this approach if they know they don't have a chance at winning based on the evidence in the hands of the prosecution or if they deem the consequences of conviction not severe.

The main advantage of this option is getting done with a case fast, thus minimizing the cost of legal representation. Also, it helps you move on with life without the weight of a pending case hanging over your shoulders. 

Cons for Pleading Guilty

There are cons to this approach. First, it means having a criminal record that can last a lifetime. Besides a criminal record, it could mean having to spend time in jail or pay hefty fines, which may not be something you will be willing to do if you are not guilty of the offense you are charged with.

Taking a plea bargain is the closest option to pleading guilty, but this time, your lawyer makes a bargain with the prosecution where you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge. The main advantage of a plea bargain is that you get a less severe penalty, but you still get a criminal record.

Pros of Going to Trial

If pleading guilty or taking a plea bargain doesn't feel like the option you want to take or your lawyer advises you against it, you can choose to go to trial. Going to trial has its good and bad sides, too. 

“If you face a charge with potentially lengthy prison time, going to trial may be your best option. First, going to trial buys you time to build your case to improve the prospects of winning it. Also, it allows you more time to spend with your loved ones if going to prison is inevitable,” says criminal defense attorney Teresa DiNardi.

Also, it is the only way of walking off without a criminal record. So, if you are innocent of the charges brought against you, risking it all to go to trial may be your only way of walking away with your record and reputation intact. It can also force the prosecution to offer a relatively fair plea bargain if they are not sure about the strength of their case.

Cons of Going to Trial

When opting for a trial, you are essentially placing your trust in the strength of your case and seeking a fair verdict from the jury. However, it's essential to be aware of certain factors that can impact the trial process.

One such factor is the potential for juror bias. In any courtroom, there is a chance that some jurors may hold preconceived notions or biases that could affect their judgment. This bias might lead to an incorrect guilty verdict, even if you are innocent.

Additionally, if you suspect that jurors were unfairly prejudiced against you during the trial, it's worth noting that you do have the option to challenge a conviction. This process can be complex and time-consuming, but it serves as a critical avenue for seeking justice when concerns about bias arise.

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