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Is it smart criminal defense strategy to go to trial?

Is it good criminal defense strategy to reject a settlement offer and go to trial? Our Virginia criminal defense lawyers believe it unwise to provide a blanket answer to that question. Rather, we conduct a thorough investigation of a criminal case before coming up with an appropriate legal defense strategy.

Our review begins with the police arrest procedures, looking for any illegalities in conduct, such as entrapment or an illegal search and seizure. We also continually assess the litigation hazards of a case, remaining open to negotiating a plea with prosecutors in situations where it would best serve our clients’ interests.

Although Hollywood dramatizations may indicate otherwise, a recent analysis by one county’s District Attorney’s Office revealed that less than two-thirds of criminal trials in that jurisdiction resulted in felony convictions.

The data, compiled for internal analysis by the office, examined only the conviction rate from felony cases that proceeded to trial. The conviction rate included instances where a jury found a criminal defendant guilty of lesser charges, rather than the original felony charges. Cases that were resolved by plea bargains were excluded from the result.

Notably, an estimated 92 percent of criminal cases are resolved by negotiated pleas. That means that fewer than 10 percent of criminal cases proceed to trial. The study did not examine whether prosecutors or defendants made the decision to go to trial.

Regardless, the internal analysis indicates that prosecutors are concerned about their win rate. Accordingly, it may be safe to assume that prosecutors feel they will be able to meet their burden of proving guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in cases where they opt for trial, instead of a plea deal. That knowledge, in turn, will inform a smart criminal defense strategy.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune, “San Diego DA felony trial results show 1 of every 3 defendants not convicted,” Greg Moran, Feb. 16, 2016

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