When the police arrest you, proving your innocence is often one of your first wishes. Entering state custody, even temporarily, can be a humbling and potentially traumatizing experience. Focusing on your innocence can help you endure this often dehumanizing process.
The idea of vindication motivates many people to defend against pending criminal charges at first. However, a shocking number of people end up pleading guilty rather than going to trial. Even those who maintain their innocence may plead guilty to serious offenses rather than going to court to defend themselves.
When is accepting a plea bargain a beneficial decision?
When the prosecutor has brought multiple charges or felony charges
State prosecutors must use their own discretion when they decide what charges to bring against an individual. Rather than pursuing the charges for which the state has the best case, the prosecutor may instead bring the most serious charges possible given the circumstances. They know they don’t have to worry about proving the charges if the accused pleads guilty without going to trial.
Sometimes, prosecutors find ways to bring multiple charges for a single incident. Other times, they may turn what could be a misdemeanor offense into a possible felony charge. Those facing a felony conviction may feel like accepting a plea to a lower offense is a good option. Felony charges could mean a lifetime of career restrictions or even issues related to the custody of someone’s children.
When the penalties you face in court are simply too high
For some people, it is not the charge that they face but rather the consequences possible at sentencing that convince them to accept a plea deal. Mandatory jail sentences are often a strong motivating factor for those who accept plea bargains rather than going to trial. Currently, around 94% of people accused of criminal offenses at the state level plead guilty rather than go to trial.
When you accept a plea deal, the charges you agree to accept may be lower than the charges you’d face at court. You may also be able to secure terms that limit the punishment you face during sentencing.
However, the prevalence of plea bargains does not make defending yourself a bad choice. When you know you are innocent and want to protect your freedom and your reputation, planning a robust defense strategy in response to major felony charges may be the better approach than pleading guilty.