Pros and Cons of Pleading Guilty or Going to Trial

Every criminal defendant will need to make the decision whether to plead guilty or go to trial. While a criminal defense attorney can provide guidance on the options and potential outcomes, only the defendant can make the final decision.

Pleading Guilty: Pros

Most criminal defendants plead guilty as part of a plea bargain, where the defendant’s legal counsel negotiates with the prosecutor on a fair sentence. This can result in a lighter sentence or a lesser charge in exchange for a guilty plea.

Pleading guilty allows a criminal defendant to resolve a case more quickly and avoid the uncertainty of a trial. Juries can be unpredictable and more evidence may be uncovered by the prosecution; a guilty plea avoids this uncertainty.

Trials can be very expensive. If a defendant feels that he or she is likely to be found guilty, the expense of a trial can be avoided by a guilty plea.

Pleading Guilty: Cons

If you are innocent, pleading guilty means you may be subjected to fines or jail time for a crime you did not commit and being saddled with a criminal record for the rest of your life.

If you plead guilty to a crime with a statutory minimum sentence, you will be required to serve at least that minimum sentence.

A judge can overturn a plea deal and impose a longer sentence.

Going to Trial: Pros

The only way an innocent person can get justice after being charged with a crime is to go to trial. This is also the only way to avoid a criminal record.

By going to trial, a defendant receives the benefits of his or her constitutional rights, including the presumption of innocence. The prosecution must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high standard. If there has been police or prosecutorial misconduct, the case may be dismissed.

A defendant may receive a better deal from the prosecutor to plead guilty as the trial nears.

Going to Trial: Cons

One of the biggest disadvantages of a criminal trial is that a defendant’s fate lies in the hands of a judge or jury, and neither is predictable. With no plea bargain, a defendant faces the maximum penalty for the alleged crime.

Whether you are facing a serious federal white-collar prosecution, a state murder charge, or misdemeanor charges, The Cogdell Law Firm has the experience, knowledge and reputation you want for your legal team. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or