You’re facing criminal charges and the odds are seemingly stacked against you, do you plead guilty to lessen the charges? This is a question that many criminal defendants come up against when faced with a criminal conviction. While on the one hand, pleading guilty or no contest to a crime can save money, time, and possibly even reduce the charges against you, pleading guilty to a crime means you agree to giving up your rights in court and it immediately convicts you of a crime, even if you’re innocent.
Even with these negative consequences, plea bargains still make up over 90% of criminal convictions.
Why is this? The amount of criminal cases going through the court system has continued to increase, causing congestion. This means heavier case loads for criminal defense attorneys and more trials for judges. Many criminal defense attorneys will enter into a plea bargain with the prosecution to bypass trial all together. Again, this has both it’s advantages and disadvantages.
This article discusses the rights you give up when you plead guilty, along with the pros and cons of entering into a plea bargain.
The Rights You Give Up
Once your attorney and the prosecution have come up with an agreement that everyone, including you can agree upon. You will be asked to plead guilty in front of judge. If you knowingly plead guilty or no contest to the crime or crimes you are being charged with, the judge will ask you series of questions ensuring that you fully comprehend what you are doing. You will also be asked to sign a waiver signing the following rights away:
- The right to trial with counsel.
- The right to test the state’s evidence.
- The right to call witnesses.
- The right to testify or remain silent.
- The right to make the state prove their accusations beyond all reasonable doubt.
- The right to appeal (you can appeal errors by the Court, the Clerk, or the Attorneys, within certain time constraints)
The Advantages of Pleading Guilty
Even though plea bargains account for 90% of convictions, they only offer two major advantages. These are:
- Saves Time – Criminal trials can sometimes last months, even years before they are over. During this time period, the defendant can feel exhausted and overwhelmed Because of these emotions and the length of time most trials take, many people just want to “get it over with”. By entering into a plea bargain, the defendant can be done with the whole process and move on with their life, albeit, dragging a conviction behind them.
- Saves Money – It’s not a secret that court fees and attorney fees can be steep. Since many attorneys charge for their time, the more hours they spend on your case, the more money you’ll pay.
The Disadvantages of Pleading Guilty
The disadvantages of pleading guilty, not only include having your rights taken away, but they can have negative social consequences. The disadvantages to pleading guilty as spelled out by H.G. Legal Resources include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of a Plea Bargain – Pleading guilty to a crime could cost you the potential for a plea bargain. If the prosecutor has no reason or incentive to enter into a plea bargain with defendant, he or she may choose not do so. If this is the case, it is often better for the defendant to proceed with the trial in hopes of a better outcome.
- Sentencing – Once you plead guilty, you may not have much time to wait for your sentencing. Your case could move through the judicial system more quickly than anticipated, leaving you with less time to get your affairs in order. Additionally, sentencing can mean years in prison. Even if time behind bars isn’t part of the sentence, a conviction that follows you for the rest of your life is. A conviction could mean loss of a job, termination of professional licenses, along with difficulty getting a future job, home, loans, etc.
- Social Consequences – Certain individuals may choose to distance themselves from someone who has been convicted of a crime, especially if it was a more serious crime resulting in a felony. Convictions can also be used against you in civil proceedings, like child custody or divorce. If instead you chose to keep your rights and were found “not guilty” you could potentially avoid the negative consequences that are associated with a guilty plea .
If you’ve been charged of a crime and are unsure of what to do next, contact DWI Springfield to discuss your options. Our criminal defense attorneys will fight aggressively to keep you conviction free. We believe that everyone deserves a fighting chance.