Whether you face allegations of assault or wire fraud, going to court for a criminal trial probably doesn’t sound fun. In fact, many people are so frightened of the prospect of going to court that they will plead guilty to an offense that they know they didn’t commit.
Research shows that more innocent people than ever before now plead guilty in American courtrooms to avoid a trial or the worst possible consequences that a charge might carry with it. While you may feel tempted to follow this path yourself, there are several compelling reasons to consider fighting back against a charge instead of pleading guilty to it.
- Unless you have a specific plea bargain, you have no promise of reduced penalties
For many people, the appeal of a plea bargain is the idea that they won’t face the worst possible consequences for the offense. However, their expectations may come more from things they’ve seen in movies and television shows than reality.
Unless the defendant has a specific plea bargain, just entering a guilty plea doesn’t necessarily limit the consequences that you could face during sentencing. A judge could still decide to sentence you to the maximum penalty possible, even if you don’t take up the court’s time with a trial.
- The trials are rarely as dramatic and embarrassing as people imagine
If you have a family or a professional career, the idea of an extended court battle might seem like the end of your professional dreams. Countless movies, books and television shows turn the everyday trials of minor offenses into public spectacles that ruin someone’s reputation within a community.
In reality, unless there is particularly salacious information involved in your case, the chances that the local media will take any interest is minimal. Beyond that, what unfolds in court is often quite dull, contrary to how exciting it seems on television. Not many people will go through a trial out of spite for the defendant.
- A criminal conviction will permanently limit your opportunities in life
When you plead guilty, you will end up with an offense on your record. Even if the plea is to a lesser charge than the most serious charge the prosecutor brought against you, your criminal record is going to affect your future.
Every new employer could potentially perform a background check and decline to hire you. You can even lose out on promotions at your current company after a conviction. Your criminal record could also influence educational opportunities and what housing you can access.
Defending yourself in court could help you avoid a criminal record and the penalties that come with a conviction. Exploring what options you have before you make any drastic choices is usually in your best interest.