Thousands of people get arrested for alleged criminal offenses in Florida every year, and a significant percentage of those arrests lead to criminal charges. Some people face state prosecution, while others end up in federal court.
Although every criminal defendant has the right to defend against pending charges, only a tiny fraction of people make use of that right. According to recent research, nearly 90% of those accused of criminal offenses plead guilty instead of attempting to defend against the charges they face.
Why do so many people fail to make use of their right to a trial after an arrest in Florida?
Prosecution intimidates many defendants
Quite a few people arrested for alleged criminal violations maintain their innocence but still choose to plead guilty. The conduct of prosecutors plays a major role in why guilty pleas are so prevalent. Prosecutors often file the harshest possible charges against someone even when the situation might warrant a degree of compassion. It is also common practice to pursue multiple different charges against one defendant for the same incident.
Criminal defendants often look at the worst possible sentence for a conviction and determine that it is not worth the risk to take the matter to trial. What they fail to consider is that the guilty plea does not automatically protect them from that worst-case sentence.
Unless their lawyer negotiates a very thorough plea deal with restrictions on the sentence or an agreement to reduce the charge, there is no promise of leniency. Judges have the authority to hand down the sentence that they believe is appropriate given both the circumstances and current criminal statutes. Those who maintain a tough-on-crime stance may sentence someone to the maximum possible fine and a period of incarceration even though they plead guilty instead of taking the matter to trial.
Most people have defense opportunities
Contrary to what people frequently assume, many individuals accused of crimes in Florida have defense options available. Sometimes, they can raise questions about police conduct or the validity of evidence. Other times, people may have alibis or witnesses that can help exonerate them.
A careful review of the state’s case with the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney is usually the best starting point for those hoping to defend against criminal charges. Recognizing that a guilty plea offers very little protection against negative consequences should motivate people to look into their defense options before settling on a particular course of action.