When you are accused of a crime, the pressure to admit your guilt usually starts the moment that you are taken into custody or are first approached by law enforcement. Authorities usually use scare tactics to pressure people into admitting that they have committed a crime and then to plead guilty. When you plead guilty to a crime in court, you are admitting the allegations against you, allowing the court to impose any punishment it wants that is authorized by your state’s criminal code. For this reason, you should never agree to plead guilty without fully understanding all of your options and carefully considering all of the potential implications of your guilty plea.
The following are some of the benefits that can result from pleading guilty, however, these benefits do not apply in every case.
Plea bargaining has become a major part of the criminal justice process in Philadelphia and it requires that the prosecutor and your defense lawyer sit down and negotiate the terms of a possible guilty plea. Prosecutors want people to plead guilty because it helps them avoid the process of preparing for and conducting a trial. Because defense attorneys know that a guilty plea is preferable, they can use this as a bargaining tool to seek lesser charges or a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.
Lesser charges – Prosecutors tend to pursue the most serious possible charges against you based on the circumstances. In many cases, a prosecutor will agree to amend your charges if you agree to plead guilty to the lesser charges. If there are multiple charges against you, a prosecutor may agree to drop all but one if you plead guilty to the remaining one. Prosecutors also may agree to reduce the charges to a less serious offense that may carry a less severe possible punishment. This can include the following as more:
- Amending a speeding ticket down to a non-moving violation so you can avoid points on your license;
- Amending a charge of driving under the influence (DUI) to reckless driving or a similar offense;
- Amending a first-degree murder charge to second-degree murder to avoid the possibility of capital punishment.
Reduced Sentence – Even if your charges are not amended down, your defense lawyer can still negotiate for a more favorable sentence if you plead guilty. While sentences are determined by a judge, the court will place a lot of weight on the recommendations of the prosecutor. In many cases, prosecutors agree to recommend a reduced sentence if you agree to resolve the case without going to trial. Some facets of a reduced sentence can include:
-Probation instead of jail time
-Shorter term of imprisonment
-Agreeing to substance abuse treatment, ankle monitoring, house arrest, or other conditions in lieu of jail time
-Agreeing to an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) or a pretrial diversion program, such as drug court
Through plea bargaining, your attorney allows you to have a little more control over your fate, your convictions, and your possible sentence.
Trial Comes with Many Uncertainties
Admitting that you committed a crime and having a conviction on your record may not seem ideal and your initial instinct may be to fight your charges at a criminal trial. In some cases, trial is absolutely appropriate, especially if the evidence against you is particularly weak or if you have been wrongfully accused of the crime. However, going to trial can be very risky and you do not want to take that risk in many situations.
If you go to trial, the prosecutor will likely seek the most serious charges and the maximum penalties if you are found guilty. Whether you are convicted will be completely up to a jury of your peers and juries can be unpredictable. Your sentence will also be at the complete discretion of the judge and you will have no control over the sentence issued. For these reasons, it is wise to plead guilty in many cases and avoid the uncertainty of trial.
Contact Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Zeiger Today
If you have been accused of a crime, the decision to plead guilty should not be entered into lightly. In some cases, pleading guilty may minimize the potential consequences that you are facing and even result in the avoidance of a conviction. In others, however, it may be a better idea to take your case to trial. Attorney Brian Zeiger will thoroughly review the facts of your case and advise you as to your options. To learn more about how we can help you, call Brian Zeiger today at 215-546-0340 or send us an email through our online contact form.