Trials and Sentencing

Trials and Sentencing

Going to trial can be a really tough decision when your facing criminal charges. There’s a lot to think about, like how strong is the evidence against you, and what might happen if your found guilty. This article will walk through the pros and cons of going to trial, different types of sentencing, and some things to keep in mind if your a juvenile facing charges.

Deciding Whether to Go to Trial

When your facing criminal charges, deciding whether to take a plea bargain or go to trial can be one of the hardest choices you’ll ever make. And you often have to decide without knowing all the facts – like who the judge will be or who will end up on the jury. Here’s some things to keep in mind when weighing the pros and cons of going to trial:

Pros of Going to Trial

  • You could be found not guilty and avoid a conviction altogether
  • Your lawyer can challenge the prosecution’s evidence and witnesses
  • You get to confront your accusers in court through cross-examination
  • The trial process is public which provides more scrutiny and oversight
  • Your guilt or innocence is decided by a jury of your peers, not just a judge

Cons of Going to Trial

  • Trials can be really expensive in legal fees and lost income
  • They are emotionally draining for you and your family
  • You could end up with a harsher sentence if found guilty
  • There’s always a risk the jury will find you guilty, even if you have a strong defense
  • It can damage your reputation, even if your found not guilty

It really comes down to looking at the potential plea deal versus the range of outcomes at trial, and deciding what level of risk your comfortable with. Definitely talk to a criminal defense lawyer to understand how strong your case is before making a decision.

Types of Criminal Sentencing

If your found guilty of a crime, there’s different types of sentences the judge can give. Here’s an overview of some of the main options:

Determinate Sentencing

This is when the judge gives a fixed prison sentence length, like 5 years. The pro is it provides certainty on how long you’ll be incarcerated. The con is judges have less flexibility to consider mitigating circumstances.[2]

Indeterminate Sentencing

Here the judge gives a sentence range, like 5 to 10 years. The pro is it allows parole boards more flexibility on when to release an inmate. The con is there’s uncertainty on exactly how long you’ll be in prison.

Mandatory Minimums

With these, judges are required by law to give a minimum prison sentence for certain crimes. Supporters argue it ensures consistent punishment, but critics say it takes away judicial discretion.

Concurrent vs. Consecutive Sentencing

If convicted of multiple crimes, the judge can make sentences concurrent (served at the same time) or consecutive (served back-to-back). Concurrent is obviously better for the defendant.

Going to Trial: Judge vs Jury

If you decide to go to trial, you’ll also need to choose between a bench trial (with only a judge) or jury trial. Here’s some differences:

Judge Trial Pros

  • Usually faster and cheaper than a jury trial
  • Judge is more experienced than a jury
  • Judge may be more impartial than a jury

Judge Trial Cons

  • No jury of your peers – just one person decides your fate
  • Judge sees all evidence, even inadmissible evidence a jury wouldn’t see

Jury Trial Pros

  • Jury may be more sympathetic to your defense
  • Better chance of a not guilty verdict with multiple people
  • Can challenge witness testimony through cross-examination

Jury Trial Cons

  • Jury trials take longer and cost more money
  • Harder to predict how jury will decide based on emotions
  • Jury may misunderstand complex legal concepts

Think about the specifics of your case and talk with your lawyer to decide if a judge or jury trial makes more sense.

Sentencing Considerations for Juveniles

If your a juvenile facing criminal charges, there’s some unique things to keep in mind when it comes to potential sentences:

  • Judges focus more on rehabilitation than punishment for juveniles
  • Incarceration is rare for first-time, non-violent offenses
  • Community service, probation, or deferred disposition are common sentences
  • Juveniles almost never serve time in adult jails or prisons
  • Judges can order placement with relatives or in juvenile facilities

Overall, the court system tries to avoid jail for juveniles whenever possible. The emphasis is on giving kids a second chance to get on the right track. But violent crimes or repeat offenses can still result in incarceration. So, don’t wait – talk to a juvenile criminal lawyer right away if your child is facing charges.

Going to trial and figuring out potential sentences are big decisions with life-changing consequences. Hopefully this overview of trials, sentencing options, and considerations for juveniles facing charges provides some useful insights. But there’s no substitute for talking with an experienced criminal defense attorney. They can help weigh the pros and cons for your specific case.