If you are a fan of legal dramas on television or in the movies, you might think most criminal cases go to trial. This is not the case, though. In fact, according to the Marshall Project, about 90% of state felony cases and 97% of federal felony cases end with defendants pleading guilty.
Even though it certainly may be in your interest to plead guilty, doing so is likely to have extreme consequences for you. Therefore, before you plead guilty, you should ask yourself three questions.
1. Did you commit the crime?
Pleading guilty to a crime means you admit your guilt. If you are facing felony charges, pleading guilty is likely to make you a convicted felon for the rest of your life. Consequently, if you did not do what the prosecutors say you did, you should think twice before pleading guilty.
2. Do the prosecutors have a solid case?
You probably know prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. You may not realize, though, that they must prove each element of every charge by this comparatively high legal standard. If prosecutors have a shaky case or insufficient evidence, pleading guilty may play right into their hands.
3. Do you have any good defenses?
Even if you know you are guilty, it still may be too early to admit it. Indeed, if you have any good defenses, it does not hurt to flush them out. After all, you have a right to defend yourself and may be able to convince jurors not to convict you.
You obviously may not be able to answer these questions without some guidance from an experienced attorney. Ultimately, though, you must be certain you have explored all of your options before pleading guilty to any crime.