When to Plea and When to Fight Your Charges

When to Plea and When to Fight Your ChargesIf you have been charged with a criminal offense in Killeen, Copperas Cove, or anywhere in Central Texas, you may immediately start weighing your options. Should you plead guilty? But you are innocent! Should you fight your charges? But then you might get jail time! There are pros and cons to each, but no matter what, you should never try to fight a criminal case on your own. If you are innocent, you may think that it is a no-brainer to take your case to court and have a trial. It’s obvious that you are not guilty!

However, a jury may not see it the way you do, even if you are telling the truth. You may not be completely aware of all that is at risk when it comes to either option. While it is good to weigh the pros and cons, you should always seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the case in order to receive the best possible outcome.

Benefits of pleading guilty to charges

Even if an attorney gives you legal advice and encourages you to make one decision, the final decision is ultimately up to you. If you choose to plead guilty to a crime in Killeen, some of the pros are:

  • It’s over with. You may feel anxious, nervous, or frustrated the longer that a case drags on. If you go to trial, it could take months until your case is finally resolved. A guilty plea will give you a resolution without it weighing on your shoulders for too long.
  • Lesser charges. Sometimes a prosecutor will offer you a plea bargain in lieu of going to trial. Oftentimes this will drop your criminal offense to a less serious offense in order to reduce your sentence. Prosecutors will sometimes offer this when they feel they do not have enough evidence for a jury to convict you. You may actually get less time with a plea bargain than if you went to trial and were ultimately found guilty. And if you actually did do the crime, you still may end up with a lesser offense charged.
  • Knowing a certain result. Going to trial is always intimidating because you never know what will happen or what the jury is thinking. When you plead guilty to the crime or to a plea bargain, you know for sure what the outcome will be because you are the one controlling it.
  • Less money out of pocket. Going to trial is expensive. Many lawyers will require hourly payment—and between preparing for trial and actually going to trial, it can add up fast. You also may need to pay for expert witnesses too, depending on your case. Pleading guilty will cut most of those costs.

Downsides of pleading guilty

Of course, it is not always the best idea to plead guilty to a crime. If you plead, you should be prepared for:

  • Imminent conviction. You know that if you say that you did do the crime, you will receive some type of punishment from the judge. They may let you off a little easier by admitting to it, but you will not get off completely since you broke the law.
  • Getting a criminal record. By admitting to a crime, you will be convicted of it and you will receive a lifelong criminal record. This is very important to think about before pleading guilty, because having a record can affect jobs willing to hire you, landlords willing to rent to you, and universities willing to admit you.

It is important to remember that you have a Constitutional right to a trial with a jury of your peers. You waive that right if you plead guilty, and you cannot change your mind once you have accepted the plea.

Benefits of fighting criminal charges

Sometimes pleading guilty to a crime is not the best move for your specific case. There are benefits to going to trial and fighting the charges instead. Some of those are:

  • Time to build a case. Once you plead not guilty, you will get a trial date. This typically happens within 30 days, but it can be either a little sooner or later than that. This time may not seem like a lot, but our Killeen criminal defense attorneys will effectively use it to help build up a solid case to have those charges dropped, or to get you acquitted of them.
  • Having a defense a lawyer on your side. During trial, your Killeen defense attorney may have concrete evidence proving that you are innocent of the crime. Or they just may be able to prove that the officer who caught you with drugs did not have probable cause to search you, for example. This can ultimately cause a case to be dismissed or you may be found not guilty.
  • Receiving justice. If you are innocent, then going to trial and having people vote in favor of your innocence is so gratifying. It also gives you the opportunity to prove to everyone else that you were telling the truth about not committing the crime.
  • Protecting your future. The collateral damage of a criminal conviction can extend far beyond potential jail time and fines. A successful defense against those charges can mean keeping your job and educational opportunities, retaining your Constitutional rights, and restoring any loss of reputation you may have sustained.

Downside of fighting criminal charges

Although you may be gung-ho about going to trial to clear your name, make sure to weigh the risks of it as well. Some of the downsides of going to trial are:

  • Higher costs. We talked about this a bit earlier, but it is important. Paying for a good attorney who has enough experience to defend you and prove your innocence can get expensive—especially when you factor in all the time they will spend on your trial defense.
  • Even if you and your attorney think that you have a solid case, juries are unreliable, so you will never know what the outcome will be.
  • Harsher punishment. You could receive a bigger fine or more time in jail if you take your case to trial instead of pleading guilty right out of the gate. You will always run the risk of the judge wanting to “make an example” out of you to show others how harsh punishments can be for certain crimes.

Deciding whether to plead guilty or go forward with a trial for criminal charges is tough. If you are facing criminal charges in Central Texas, it is vital that you speak with Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm. Our criminal defense lawyers in Killeen and Copperas Cove defend clients throughout all of Central Texas, including Temple, Belton, and Waco, as well as McLennan, Coryell and Bell Counties. Our experienced attorneys will weigh the pros and cons with you and help you determine the best foot forward. If you choose to plead not guilty, we will fight aggressively to help achieve the best possible outcome. Call our office or submit our contact form today to schedule a consultation.