Being arrested and charged with a criminal offence imposes very heavy responsibilities upon defendants. One such responsibility is the decision as to whether you should plead guilty or go to trial. This article discusses some of the benefits and shortcomings of pleading guilty when you are facing criminal charges.
It results in a speedy end to proceedings. A criminal trial can be a lengthy process that can drag on for several months or even years. This creates anxiety in the mind of the accused person (and the loved ones) since they do not know how it will all end. You can plead guilty and cut short this lengthy process so that you can deal with the consequences (jail time) of your actions.
You incur lower legal fees. Criminal trials can drain your finances since you have to pay your criminal solicitor to gather evidence, file documents, appear in court and recruit expert witnesses. You can plead guilty and avoid that high cost. This is especially helpful if the chance of losing the case is very high. Your solicitor, like David Allchin, can advise you on your chances if the case goes to trial.
You may get a less severe sentence. Most jurisdictions have a plea bargain system that allows the prosecution to offer an accused person a lower sentence if he or she pleads guilty. Your criminal solicitor can help to negotiate the lowest sentence possible if you agree to plead guilty to the charges levied against you.
Cons of Pleading Guilty
You get a criminal record. A "guilty as charged" plea has consequences beyond the courtroom where you have been arraigned. You will have a criminal record that may affect you for the rest of your life. For instance, you may be deported if you are not a citizen and you plead guilty to criminal charges. Such effects could have been avoided if your case had gone to trial and you were found innocent.
You can still get a harsh sentence. Some jurisdictions impose minimum sentences for certain criminal offences, so you are likely to get a "stiff" penalty/sentence even if you plead guilty. For instance, the law may stipulate that child molesters are liable to a minimum of 15 years in jail and a maximum of a life sentence. Your plea will still see you go to jail for that minimum duration. Besides, the presiding judge is responsible for sentencing, so he or she may not be comfortable awarding the sentence your criminal solicitor agreed with the prosecution. The judge may pronounce a more punitive sentence (defeating your objective for plea-bargaining).
As you can see, you should think very carefully before you plead guilty when facing criminal charges. Hire a criminal solicitor to give you expert advice during this difficult time when it may be hard for you to think straight.