To Plead, or to Go to Trial: The Costs and Benefits of Fighting a Criminal Charge

When you’re accused of a crime, it can be tempting to say that you’ll fight the charges against you. Indeed, on the surface, it’s not immediately clear why someone wouldn’t fight criminal charges with every fiber of your being. And yet, an estimated 95% of criminal charges result in plea deals, ending the legal process before it ever gets to trial. Understanding why people plead out so often can help you if you ever find yourself accused of committing a crime.

First, the legal process is incredibly disruptive to your life, even if you’re not held in jail to await trial. You’ll need to take time off work to attend court, arrange for transportation (if you don’t own your own vehicle), and rearrange all the other parts of your life to fit the court’s schedule. On top of that, there are other conditions the court can impose, like mandatory rehabilitation or therapy, even if you haven’t yet been convicted or pled to a crime. If you do get held in jail (either because the judge in your case decided to remand you without bail, or because you couldn’t afford bail), there’s a good chance you’ll lose your job, and possibly even your current residence, depending on whether there’s someone else to make sure your rent gets paid while you’re being held.

Second, going to court is costly. Even if you get a court-appointed lawyer rather than hiring a private attorney, you may need to deal with all sorts of additional expenses, such as arranging for bail or a bail bond. If the court imposes pre-trial conditions like rehab or therapy, you’ll likely have to pay for those as well, as those costs aren’t covered by the courts. Even relatively minor charges can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to fight, without considering lost income due to taking time off work, or lost clients due to the damage a criminal charge can do to your reputation.

Finally, going to trial is risky. While there’s a chance you might be able to get yourself acquitted of the charges against you if your trial goes well, you could also be convicted of those charges, and suffer up to the maximum legal penalty. Plea deals, while they are unfavorable compared to a total exoneration, are usually meant to be a fair middle ground between acquittal and conviction. In the case of misdemeanor offenses, you could easily spend more time fighting the charges against you than it would take to serve the sentence in your plea deal.

Those who have been charged with a crime can face serious legal consequences. A New York criminal defense lawyer, who is experienced in handling criminal cases of all sorts, can advise you of your legal rights and will fight for your best interests in court. If you or your loved one has been arrested, contact the Suffolk County criminal defense attorneys at McGuire, Peláez and Bennett at (631) 348-1702.

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