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Plea Bargains Can Bring Harsh Results for Innocent Defendants

Brian J Smith April 15, 2015

Innocent people should not plead guilty. They should consider a vigorous defense as the best way to resolve criminal charges.

A Guilty Plea Is a Bad Bargain for the Innocent

Many studies and reform efforts have shown that thousands of innocent people plead guilty to crimes they did not commit. They do so as parts of plea bargains and often with the advice of counsel. They believe under the circumstances that the guilty plea will result in a shorter sentence than the result of a trial by jury. The plea bargain process has replaced trial by jury as the dominant method of resolving criminal cases in the United States. While many defense attorneys engage in the plea bargain process, some others insist on working with their clients to provide the best possible defense. Las Vegas criminal lawyers strive to offer a complete dedication to the client’s rights and protections under law. The precious right to a trial by jury is a cornerstone of freedom.

The Rise of Plea Bargains

The dramatic expansion of cases resolved by pleas to plea bargains began when laws and procedures were tightened to provide for stiff sentences and no means to avoid them. Mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of drug and gun offenses led the way. Later, the federal sentencing guidelines further reduced judicial discretion and opportunities to avoid harsh sentences. The result of higher penalties and harsh sentencing was greater acceptance of plea bargains. The balance had shifted nearly completely to the prosecution. They could threaten serious charges and unavoidable long prison sentences unless the defendant admitted to lesser offenses. For defendants, it was no longer a matter of innocence; it was a calculation involving the certainty of long sentences.

Truth Has Consequences

The presumption of innocence is a powerful doctrine. The government bears a burden of proof rather than the accused. The government has many advantages, but the rules of criminal procedures require fairness. A competent criminal lawyer uses all available methods with skill and effectiveness to protect valuable freedom and obtain the best possible outcome.

A Position of Strength

The benefits of an offered plea bargain must be carefully weighed and assessed with the expert assistance of counsel. The preparation of a vigorous defense is a key to getting an advantageous plea offer, and to win an acquittal. The best negotiating position is the strength of a well-prepared defense and the willingness to proceed to trial.