When you’re faced with federal criminal charges, you can expect the prosecutors to pursue your case vehemently. Criminal charges at the federal level tend to get more public attention and scrutiny. If you’re unlucky enough to come up against a prosecutor looking to make a name for themselves, expect an overzealous prosecution. When faced with such a prospect, Aronfeld trial lawyers can provide you with excellent legal representation. You want such professionals by your side when facing criminal charges. This helps ensure that you don’t do things that could result in your incarceration.
Among the many things that prosecutors will get you to do is take a plea deal. Such deals may not always be in your favor. An experienced lawyer will help you evaluate your options before committing to any such plea deals. However, this is easier said than done. Prosecutors have become adept at cornering defendants into taking deals that guarantee a plea of guilt. This has come to be known as the “trial penalty.”
The Defendant’s Right To A Trial
The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution states that all defendants in a criminal prosecution, “…shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…”
Every person accused of a criminal offense is entitled to a fair trial before a jury of their peers. This, along with the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven, are some of the key principles of due process in criminal prosecution. While this is what is expected, the reality can be different.
The burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt lies with the prosecution; they have to present compelling evidence for a defendant to be convicted. However, this is not always possible.
There are times when the prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to secure a conviction. Other times, the evidence against the defendant may have been obtained through less-than-acceptable means. This presents the likelihood of derailing the whole case. In such cases, the prosecution offers the defendant the option of pleading guilty to the crime or a lesser charge in exchange for a reduced sentence. Such an offer is usually presented with the threat of a much harsher sentence should the defendant lose the case.
The use of plea bargains as a tactic by the prosecution is now common practice, especially in federal criminal charges. The thought of receiving a stiff penalty after a conviction causes great distress to many defendants. In such scenarios, the thought of pleading guilty to a crime while receiving some leniency as far as imprisonment goes suddenly becomes appealing. In such cases, the defendant gives up their right to a fair trial including the right to challenge any evidence against them.
Using the threat of a much harsher sentence after a trial to get defendants to plead guilty is the core of what constitutes “trial penalty. Defendant will suffer serious consequences if they choose to go to trial instead of agreeing to the prosecution’s demands.
Should You Take Your Case To Trial?
Whether or not you choose to go to trial will greatly depend on the facts of your case. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer during such circumstances gives you the best chance of making the right choice. Given that many prosecutors in federal criminal cases resort to the “trial penalty” to get defendants to plead guilty, going to trial will seem like a bad option.
Going to trial or choosing to plead guilty both have their advantages and drawbacks. When you choose to go to trial, you’ll have some advantages like:
- i) A chance at justice: Being falsely accused of a crime can be very devastating. Going to trial offers you a chance to beat the rap and clear your name.
ii)Having more time for preparation: Facing serious criminal charges requires enough preparation to have any chance of winning the case. Rarely is a criminal trial scheduled immediately after arraignment. Your lawyer will have ample time to prepare a credible defense.
Regardless of your innocence or guilt, going to trial gives you a chance at poking holes in the prosecution’s arguments. For example, if the evidence against you was obtained illegally or your constitutional rights were violated in any way, your lawyer can use these facts to help your case.
Regardless of your innocence, going to trial presents the same risks as though you were guilty. Juries can be unpredictable; leaving your fate in their hands could mean receiving a very long prison sentence compared to taking a plea deal. An experienced lawyer will take you through all the likely scenarios while explaining their possible outcomes.
Ultimately, “trial penalties” seem to be setting a trend whereby the defendant’s right to a trial seems diminished. The choice of whether or not to proceed to trial largely depends on what the defendant finds acceptable.