To Plea or Not to Plea

One of our members is agonizing over what to tell a family member who has been offered a plea deal. The person who is being charged is basically innocent of the charges. If this were a normal situation for any other type of crime, for an example theft, the decision might not be so severe, but with anybody charged with any form of sex crime the long-term results can be totally devastating. Not only for the person being charged, but for every other family member, thereby the decision to take the plea deal becomes extremely tough. When this question was put to our forum one of our members offered this insight into it.

My brother was with a bunch of friends at a rented apartment. He was helping everyone collect things because the apartment renter was moving. It turned out the renter, one of the people there, had already been evicted, and he was not supposed to be on the property. The cops were called by another tenant, and everyone ran, except my brother. He did not understand how there could be a problem. His statements made to the cops at the time were consistent with someone who had no idea what was going on. He was arrested and charged with criminal trespass.

One of his friends was caught fleeing the scene. He accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty.

My brother refused a plea bargain because — and he was adamant — “I did nothing wrong”. He had to pay over 10,000 dollars for criminal defense lawyer in what amounted to a misdemeanor charge. He took his chances with a jury trial.

During the trial, the prosecutor put on his friend, the one who took the plea bargain, as a witness. The prosecutor asked the friend, “Didn’t you just plead guilty for doing what the Defendant is accused.” The friend replied, “Yes”. But then added. “But I wished I hadn’t, because I don’t feel guilty.”

In the end, the jury took about 10 minutes and came back with a not guilty verdict.

The morals to the story are:

Cops arrest everyone.
Prosecutors overcharge to get leverage.
Over 90 percent of all charges are resolved by plea bargaining.
Criminal Defense attorneys are expensive, and it is hard to know if you have a good one, but a good one can make a difference.
Lawyers like sure things, so they prefer to avoid trials.
Judges like plea bargains because it helps clear their dockets.
Juries are probably better at determining guilt or innocence than they are credited for.

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