Will My Case Go To Trial?

When you think of the legal process, you probably imagine a lawyer in a courtroom cross examining a witness in front of a jury and a judge. However, despite what you see on TV, a majority of cases do not go to trial. Most of them enter a plea agreement. 

So let’s say you are accused of committing a crime and you get arrested. How do you know whether you can expect a trial? That depends entirely on your situation.

When Cases Go To Trial

In Utah, there’s a good chance the case will go to trial if you plead “not guilty.” However, if you were charged with a felony or misdemeanor, you will go through something called a “preliminary hearing” first.

During this time, the judge hears witness statements and looks at the evidence. If the judge determines that there is probable cause, the case goes to trial. If not, the judge dismisses the case.

For misdemeanor B and C crimes, there is often a pretrial conference, where the prosecutors and defense attorneys try to work out a settlement for the case. They present it to the judge, who decides whether or not to accept it. If the two sides — along with the judge — can’t come up with anything they all agree on, the case will move to trial.

The Purpose of a Trial

If you were born and raised in Utah, you are guaranteed the right to a fair trial. Why? Because you are a citizen of the United States. It’s spelled out in the sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says:

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed….”

The amendment further outlines that you have the right to be informed of the accusation, be confronted by witnesses of the alleged crime, be able to find witnesses of your own, and have a lawyer to represent you. 

This right is all about keeping the powers of the government in check. It ensures the state isn’t being coercive in arresting and prosecuting people. In a dystopian world where trials don’t exist, police could throw you in prison just because a politician doesn’t like you.

Why You Might Want to Plead Guilty

Despite the fact that the right to a fair trial is guaranteed to you, most people do not take it. There are no hard numbers, but some scholars say about 90%-95% of cases — both federal and state — end in a plea agreement.

The reason for this is because prosecutors will usually offer a lesser charge or sentence if you plead guilty. While the absolute best outcome possible would be for you to be acquitted after a trial, the very act of going through with one might be risky. There could be a lot of evidence stacked against you, and the jury may not think you are sympathetic enough.

Before you make any kind of plea deal, it’s important to discuss it with your attorney. Prosecutors don’t have your best interests in mind. They might tell you that they have a ton of evidence against you even if it’s not substantial enough for anyone to take seriously. It can be difficult for someone not trained in the law to know that, but your lawyer will be able to sniff it out.

What You Should Look For in an Attorney

When you are looking for someone to represent you, you want that person to be of top quality. The best attorneys have been working in law for years. During that time, they have honed their skills, learned from their mistakes, and helped many people navigate the complicated legal minefield.

Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat is a law firm based in Salt Lake City that specializes in criminal defense. All of the attorneys here have been practicing for a long time — some for two decades. If you are looking for quality representation, so you can get you the best outcome possible, look no further. Call (801) 532-5297 today for a free consultation.

Sources

brownbradshaw.com/posts/four-ways-utahs-legal-system-differs-from-tv

utcourts.gov/en/legal-help/legal-help/procedures/court-process/criminal.html

constitution.congress.gov/browse/amendment-6/

fairtrials.org/the-right-to-a-fair-trial/

bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/media/document/pleabargainingresearchsummary.pdf 

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