It is incredibly unnerving for an innocent individual to be charged with a crime and dragged through the criminal justice system, especially if a conviction could lead to serious time behind bars! That is why it is so important for suspects to take advantage of their Fifth Amendment rights and request a local attorney at the first sign of an arrest, then say absolutely nothing without that attorney sitting next to them.
In the best case scenario, the investigators will swiftly appreciate that they have the wrong person in custody and release a suspect with apologies for the inconvenience—but that is not the typical outcome. The district attorney could hear the basics of the case before trial and decide that there is not enough evidence to secure a conviction and instruct police to release the suspect—but that is not something to count on either, nor is it necessarily a permanent solution, as they could always build their case and come after the suspect at a later date.
Next up is a plea deal. While many people who insist on their innocence may feel unenthusiastic about accepting a deal where they acknowledge guilt for a lesser crime, the benefits of plea bargaining can make it worth considering. Whether a defendant eventually accepts a deal or not, it is definitely worth listening to and allowing an attorney to negotiate a positive outcome. If no deal is offered, or if one is rejected, the defendant is heading to a trial.
Though television drama makes it appear otherwise, only a minority of cases ever make it to trial. The Marshall Project reports that 94% of state-level felony convictions are achieved through plea bargaining, with just 6% of cases ever making it to a courtroom. Federal rates are even lower, with roughly three percent of convictions coming from a jury verdict. If a case is one of the few to make it to trial, the prosecution is likely feeling pretty confident about its case. The goal for any defendant is an acquittal, of course, or a verdict of not guilty.
It is important to remember that every defendant is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. In a criminal trial, that means it is up to the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for every element of the charge. Simply put, the prosecutor, through the evidence they present, must persuade a jury that there is no other reasonable explanation for the crime, so the jury is virtually certain of a defendant’s guilt. The defense simply has to convince the jury that there is a realistic possibility that someone else might be guilty. If that happens, a jury will find the defendant not guilty, and the court will acquit. That wraps it up, and you can never be tried on these charges again.
When a case is complex or emotional, juries may struggle to come to an agreement on a verdict by the required voting margin. While certainly a better outcome than a finding of guilt, this is a result that could mean another trial is in your future. The excruciating decision to put more time and money into a whole new trial can be hard-hitting. A tough defense attorney will pressure the prosecutor to drop the whole thing at this point, but that decision is exclusively in the prosecutor’s hands.
Fighting for Defendants
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Boertje & Associates understand how stressful this can be and are committed to sticking by you and fighting for the best possible outcomes. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation in our Springfield office today.