Many criminal cases are resolved with a plea bargain. They make sense for the defendant because the defendant can receive a lower charge or lighter sentence instead of risking a much worse outcome after a trial. They make sense for the prosecution because it saves the government the time and expense of preparing the case for trial. However, it's important to understand that you're giving up several important rights when you agree to a plea bargain.
The Right to Confront Witnesses
The United States Constitution gives people accused of crimes the right to confront the witnesses that have spoken out against them. This allows them to find out who is making the accusation and to have their attorney cross examine the witness to challenge their testimony.
This right is only guaranteed in a trial. If you are charged with a crime, it may have been based on an anonymous tip or the prosecution may have simply believed the witness's account without asking any hard questions that you might have had your lawyer ask if you had gone to trial.
The Right to Have Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
In a criminal trial, the prosecution must present proof beyond a reasonable doubt to win a verdict of guilty. The standard for filing criminal charges, probable cause, is much lower.
While prosecutors are only supposed to bring charges when they think they can win at trial, there are many cases where they don't have proof beyond a reasonable doubt right from the start. They might need to perform additional investigation to support the evidence they based the charges on, or they might need to convince a witness to testify at trial.
The Right to Have a Jury Decide the Case
When you enter a guilty plea, you are essentially saying the prosecution had enough evidence to win. No one checks to see if they have enough evidence for a conviction because you have the right to move for a dismissal or ask for a trial instead of entering a guilty plea.
The Right to Remain Silent
In a plea bargain, you also give up your right to remain silent. In order to enter a plea, you are required by law to admit to the crime you are pleading to in court.
To learn more about what you give up when you agree to a plea bargain and whether a plea bargain is still worth it for you, contact a local criminal defense attorney today. Visit a site like http://www.jdlarsonlaw.com for more information.
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