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TRIAL OR PLEA?

When someone has been charged with a criminal offense, at some point the decision must be made to plead guilty or exercise one’s right to a jury trial.  This statement is true in most criminal cases.  I say most,  because some criminal cases are dismissed by the prosecutor before trial or plea.

The decision to enter a guilty plea or insist on one’s right to  a trial is a very important one for one’s future.  There are a number of factors that go into the decision to accept a plea bargain offer or .  The decision is very case specific and can’t be made until a lawyer thoroughly investigates the facts of the case, including speaking to the witnesses where possible, and fully understands the law applicable to the case.  Other important but somewhat intangible considerations involve the defense lawyer.  Does he or she practice in the county in which the charge is pending?  Does the lawyer know the practices of the particular court in which the case is pending?  Has the lawyer tried this type of case before and is he or she familiar with the sorts of punishments are common for thus type of offense.

It is not possible for your lawyer to advise you as to whether you should try the case or accept a plea bargain offer unless the attorney has the information I discussed above, as well as a realistic grasp of what sorts of outcomes are reasonably likely in the case pending against the client.  An inexperienced attorney is not going to know whether a particular plea bargain offer is “good” or “bad.” 

When a person enters a plea bargain with the state, they waive their constitutional right to a jury trial.  A person waives the right to remain silent, the right to confront the witnesses against you, the right to present evidence on their own behalf, the right to appeal (with limited exceptions) and the right to require the state to prove every element of the alleged offense beyond a reasonable doubt, among other rights.

The above rights are important, and they are personal to the accused person.  They should not be waived lightly, if at all.