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Why Do People Plead Guilty Instead Of Going To Trial?

On Behalf of | Jul 22, 2022 | Criminal Defense

When police officers arrest you and then a prosecutor charges you with a crime, you have to choose whether to plead guilty to the alleged offense or to defend yourself. Even people who maintain that they have not broken the law will sometimes plead guilty to criminal offenses.

In fact, current statistics imply that the vast majority of individuals accused of criminal offenses will plead guilty rather than go to trial. Why is it so common for people to take guilty pleas when the state accuses them of breaking the law?

Prosecutors stack the deck against defendants

When people talk about why guilty please are so common, they often refer to the trial penalty. Essentially, prosecutors bring charges in a way that will put the defendant at risk if they go to trial.

It is common practice for prosecutors to pursue the most extreme charge possible or to bring multiple charges for a single criminal infraction. They may offer someone an opportunity to plead guilty to only one offense or a misdemeanor instead of facing the penalties for all the charges or the worst allegations.

The issue with such an approach is obvious. People worried about the possibility of life incarceration or a felony offense on their record may take a plea to a misdemeanor offense because they don’t want to risk the worst-case scenario if they go to trial, even though they know they are innocent.

What you risk when you plead guilty

Especially if the prosecutor wants to charge you with a felony or three offenses for a single incident, the maximum penalties for a conviction might be very concerning. Entering a guilty plea might mean that you only have one offense on your record, but it will ensure that you have a criminal record that potentially follows you for life.

You also have to consider that unless you accept a plea deal with specific sentencing limitations, there is no guarantee that a judge will sentence you to anything less than the maximum penalty possible. Judges can and do use their own discretion when deciding what penalty is appropriate. If you plead guilty with a judge who prides themselves on being harsh on crime, you could end up with a lengthy sentence despite your cooperation.

Defending yourself is the only sure way to avoid the worst penalties possible and protect yourself from a criminal record. Considering the many issues that impact criminal charges can help you decide the right way forward after your arrest.