Some are surprised to learn that not all criminal cases go to trial. In reality, most are resolved through some type of agreement. You always have the option of going to trial, but when is this a good option? Will the realities of out-of-trial agreements affect how your lawyer handles your case? In this blog post, we will answer all these questions and more.
Statistics on How Often Criminal Cases Go to Trial
Criminal cases don't often go to trial, and in fact, the number of trial cases has decreased over time. It used to be that between 5-10% of cases went to trial. However, Georgia Public Broadcasting reported this number is only 2%. This percentage is specifically for the federal court system; however, the state courts have followed suit with similar numbers, with some having percentages lower than 3%.
How Are Criminal Cases That Don't Go to Trial Resolved?
If cases don't go to trial, how are they resolved? The overwhelming majority of cases are resolved through plea bargains. Plea bargains are an agreement where you plead guilty to a crime or a lesser offense. This typically comes with less severe punishments. For example, if you've been charged with a DUI, you may be able to plead guilty to the crime of reckless driving. Reckless driving crimes add a few points to your license, but it won't be suspended immediately as it would with a DUI conviction.
Other cases are resolved with a dismissal. This could happen if there is a rights violation made during proceedings, like forcing you to take a voluntary test or an officer making an illegal arrest. It would be unjust to allow the case to proceed in these circumstances, so the charges against you are dropped.
When Is It a Good Idea to Insist that a Criminal Case Go to Trial?
Even though most cases don't go to trial, you still have the right to a trial by jury as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. In some cases, you may want to insist that your case go to trial. This is usually true when you have a high likelihood of winning the case. For example, a less safe DUI charge happens when the government doesn't have any test results against you. Without this piece of data, it's much easier to argue that there isn't enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In such cases, there would be little point in accepting a plea bargain since you'd still have a criminal record and have to accept the punishment of the lesser charge. Getting acquitted is the best-case scenario, so it's an opportunity you should take if the evidence (or lack thereof) speaks in your favor.
How Do These Statistics Affect Lawyers?
The fact that most trials end in plea bargains doesn't change what we do as lawyers. We will still prepare a case as though it is going to a jury trial. Everything we do from the time we first get the case until the time that eventually does resolve is geared towards being ready to have the case taken to a jury or a judge. After all, the strength of the case is ultimately what gets you the result. If you do end up agreeing to a plea bargain, but you have a strong trial case, you end up with a great deal.
Wondering Whether Your Case Needs to Go to Trial? Contact Brett Willis Law Today
Though you always have the right to a trial, accepting a plea bargain or getting the case dismissed may be better options depending on the situation. At Brett Willis Law, we can assist you in moving forward. No matter what option you ultimately choose, though, we will treat the case the same. You can expect us to fight for you every step of the way, paying attention to even the smallest details for the best results. Criminal cases may go to trial infrequently, but we're still fully equipped to stand before a jury and fight for your rights — contact us today to get started.