Pleading Guilty Can Lead to a Reduced Sentence, Even for Very Serious Crimes
In the state courts of Pennsylvania, an overwhelming majority of criminal cases are resolved by negotiated plea agreement; and, in federal courts nationwide, only 3% of cases go to trial. There are many reasons why an accused would chose to avoid trial, including inability to pay for private counsel. Once of the main reasons for trial avoidance, however, is that judges invariably look favorably upon a “timely acceptance of responsibility” by an accused when fashioning a sentence. In other words, a judge may credit the accused for saving the Commonwealth the time and expense of proceeding to a jury trial, or saving fellow citizens from the inconvenience of jury service. A judge may also have a personal interest in avoiding the inconvenience of presiding over a lengthy jury trial that might create a backlog of cases.
Why Plead Guilty If You Are Presumed Innocent?
The concepts of the presumption of innocence afforded to an accused, or the burden of the prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as to every element of an offense before there can be a conviction, are not legal fictions. They are living and breathing things. These concepts were created by our founding fathers to prevent against false or exaggerated accusation. When we forget the presumption, burden and reasonable doubt, we risk losing the foundation of our free democracy.
The Constitution of the United States and that of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania create certain “constitutional” rights that cannot be taken from an accused. The foremost constitutional right is the right to a trial by jury. An accused has the right to participate in the selection of the jury, and to a unanimous verdict by all 12 jurors.
So why plead guilty if you are “clothed in the presumption of innocence?” Statistically, most (but not all) individuals charged with a crime or crimes are guilty to some degree, and would benefit by waiving the presumption in exchange of a favorable plea agreement and sentence recommendation. A smaller percentage of cases involve individuals who have a prior history of criminal conviction, and seek to lessen a potentially lengthy sentence. The smallest percentage of people accused with committing a crime or crimes are actually innocent. They may demand a trial to be exonerated of these accusations or, alternatively, seek an plea agreement to a much lesser offense and avoid the potential for a felony conviction or imprisonment.
The reality is that criminal justice system and courts would be overwhelmed if every case proceeded to a jury trial, which would result in the need for more judges, prosecutors, and public defenders at great expense to the taxpayer. Consequently, the “system” incentivizes the parties to negotiate to a reasonable outcome and to avoid trials. The “negotiated outcome” often involves a less severe sentence recommendation by the prosecutor including, but not limited to: a reduction from felony to misdemeanor, probation instead of imprisonment, an alternative to jail such as house arrest with work release, or a county sentence rather than a longer state sentence. More often than not, the judge will not reject an agreement reached by the parties; especially when the agreement is approved by the purported victim.
Regardless, the ultimate decision as to whether to proceed with a trial defense or a negotiated plea agreement lies solely within the discretion of the accused.
Contact Gary E. Gerson if you are charged with serious felony or misdemeanor crimes
If you have been accused of committing a felony or misdemeanor, you may face potentially severe penalties that include, but may not be limited to: lengthy imprisonment, loss of family, employment and reputation, or even sex offender registration. You will need an experienced, aggressive trial attorney who is also skilled in the art of negotiation to protect and best defend your interests. Contact the law offices of Law Offices of Gary E. Gerson in Pittsburgh if you have been charged with any type of serious felony or misdemeanor crimes.