Should I plead guilty to avoid trial?

Should I plead guilty to avoid trial?

Pleading guilty or not guilty in a case of criminal law is one of the most important decisions a defendant can make. It determines the entire process and outcome of the case and depending on how you plead – will have lasting impacts on the defendant and their family. The defendant should consider the pros and cons of either decision with the knowledge that regardless of whether they’re innocent or not – both scenarios have huge consequences. But which one is better to choose? Here are the pros and cons of pleading guilty. 

Circumstances are everything 

When faced with criminal charges, it’s important not to rush your decision either way. Weighing up different options can also be a difficult thing when you’re unfamiliar with the legal processes surrounding trials and guilty pleas. While everyone’s situation is different – you’ll want to look carefully at the facts and consult with a professional criminal lawyer before you decide either way. 

Pros of pleading guilty 

When the defendant pleads guilty this means they are confronting the case immediately and without the delay of waiting for a full criminal trial. In doing so, they bypass the uncertainty of going to trial. Pleading guilty and accepting a plea bargain will usually result in a deal between the defence and the prosecution and typically carry a shorter sentence. However, this is not always a given. When the trial begins – you don’t know what evidence might be brought up against you – a risk that could lead to a longer sentence. There’s also the issue of cost. Going to trial is expensive. And the longer it lasts the more money the defendant will need to fork out. By pleading guilty you will save huge amounts.

Cons of pleading guilty 

The main downside of pleading guilty is if you are innocent – they will be paying fines or doing jail time for a crime you did not commit. Not only will you bear the brunt of the sentence – you’ll also have a criminal record for the rest of your life. In Australia, there are mandatory minimum sentencing laws that will apply if you plead guilty o a particular offence. If you plead guilty – hoping for a quicker and more lenient sentence – you may be hit with a minimum sentence that is longer and harsher than a plea deal. 

Pros of pleading not guilty 

Pleading not guilty will initiate a criminal trial. This is the only way a defendant can prove their innocence and avoid having a criminal record for the rest of their life. There are also other advantages of going to trial. Because going to trial is a long and arduous process, depending on the circumstances, they might be able to spend more time with their family before their day in court. Pleading not guilty will also give the defence crucial time to prepare for the case – giving them a better chance at acquittal. 

Cons of pleading not guilty 

One of the main disadvantages of pleading not guilty and going to trial is that your case will now be decided on by a magistrate. With that choice out of your hands – it’s over to the trial process to determine the outcome. Once you’ve pleaded not guilty – you’ll want to be prepared to defend yourself. Consulting with lawyers and preparing for trial will be very time-consuming. Be prepared to be fully involved and donate a lot of time to the issue. 

Presumption of innocence 

If a defendant is on trial – the basis of understanding is that the accused is innocent. This holds true all the way through trial until a decision is handed down by a jury or magistrate. This presumption of innocence is one of the main cornerstones of the legal system and applies to anyone on trial. The presumption of innocence is designed to protect against wrongful convictions.

Burden of proof 

Once on trial, it is the task of the prosecutor to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is in fact guilty. In the event that the defendant decides to plead not guilty, it then falls on the prosecution to prove otherwise. During the trial, the accused doesn’t need to present evidence to prove their innocence – and cannot be sanctioned for not doing so. 

Seek professional legal assistance 

If you are facing criminal charges, or fear that you might, it’s always a good idea to contact a criminal lawyer who can advise you on how to proceed. Navigating the complex legal system – especially if you’re facing charges can be a daunting and stressful experience. If you aren’t sure how to proceed – always enlist professional help.