The foundation of our criminal justice system is that any person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the reality is that approximately 97% of all criminal cases are resolved through guilty pleas and not through trial.
But why would anyone plead guilty to a crime they never committed? Even the most innocent person may take a plea in exchange for a reduced sentence. Below are more reasons why innocent people plead guilty.
Trial penalties can be harsh
People who choose to fight their criminal charges and lose face harsher penalties than what was offered in a plea deal. This is sometimes referred to as a “trial tax,” because it can lead to longer sentences. For this reason, some defendants are legitimately afraid to go to trial, regardless of their innocence.
They want to avoid the uncertainty of a trial
Often, the prosecution uses the carrot-and-stick approach. They threaten a longer jail time if you fight and fail, or you can accept a plea deal with a reduced sentence or no jail time. Going to trial may have some uncertainties – the jury can be unpredictable, or the prosecution may uncover additional evidence, which may lead to a conviction. Moreover, trials are very public, and pleading guilty may help prevent media attention.
They want to get home sooner
The criminal justice process can be stressful. Defendants have to wait a long time for the charges to be filed and go to trial, which can take months. Therefore, they may consider a plea bargain as a solution to make the problem go away. In addition, a shorter jail term may be more appealing since they can go home sooner and get their life back.
If you’re facing criminal charges, the prosecution may offer you a plea deal. While accepting the offer means you don’t have to go through the rigorous trial process, your life will never be the same again, even when you get home. It’s wise to seek assistance to help you determine your legal options and evaluate all your defense options.