Should I plead guilty or go to trial?
One of the primary questions that most criminal defendants have is whether they should accept a plea bargain or go to trial. Electing to plead guilty or fight your charges in court is a difficult decision that must be made with the experienced assistance of your criminal defense attorney. Your best option will depend on the unique circumstances surrounding your case. Our New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Sitzler & Sitzler explore some of the factors you should consider when deciding whether to plead guilty or proceed to trial.
Pros and Cons of Plea Bargaining
A plea bargain involves an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in a criminal matter. To obtain a plea of guilty, a prosecutor will offer the defendant the opportunity to admit guilt to a lesser charge with a lower maximum sentence. For example, a defendant facing a felony charge may be offered a plea deal to a misdemeanor charge, or the parties may agree to a specific lower sentence.
If you are facing serious criminal charges, plea bargaining comes with some considerable benefits. Agreeing to a plea takes away the uncertainty of a criminal trial and can ensure you avoid the maximum sentence. Further, entering into a plea bargain will typically get your case resolved far sooner, allowing you to accept the punishment and move forward with your life.
On the other hand, accepting a plea bargain early on may not allow your attorney sufficient time to investigate the case. At times, thorough investigations could reveal evidence that would result in dismissal of the case. You should additionally understand that any plea of guilty will come with consequences, including a criminal record and potentially fines or jail time.
Anyone facing criminal charges should consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney who will closely review the facts of the case to provide you with an accurate assessment as to whether you should accept a plea bargain. Ask your attorney what your chance of success at trial is and what penalties you should face. Armed with all of the information, you can make a reasoned decision as to whether to plea or proceed to trial.