Criminal law encompasses a wide variety of topics. At Corso Law Group, our attorneys work on cases involving DUI, criminal speeding, CDL tickets, photo radar tickets, felony charges, drug possession, weapons possession, violent crimes and more – all of which can yield different outcomes in court.
The following is a guideline illustrating the basics of a criminal case and the possible outcomes.
What is a plea bargain and what happens if you take one?
A plea bargain is a proposed agreement between the defense and the prosecution that involves sacrifices and benefits for both sides. The defendant gives up their right to a jury trial by pleading guilty but gains some form of leniency such as a lighter sentencing. The prosecution loses the opportunity to go to trial but is guaranteed a conviction.
Leniency may include pleading guilty to a less severe crime, less jail time or lower fines.
A plea bargain is made official in court by a judge who ensures the defendant has willingly chosen the plea bargain and understands the rights he or she is waiving. A judge may also adjust the proposed sentencing at this time.
What happens if you go to trial?
If a plea bargain isn’t reached, or if the defendant doesn’t plead guilty or not guilty, the case can be taken to trial where the defense and the prosecution will argue either sides of the case in order for a verdict to be reached.
There are several trial options, but the two main ones are a jury trial and a court trial. During a jury trial, which is the default option, a jury will examine evidence from the case and come to a conclusion. During a court trial, this is done by a judge.
What happens if you’re found guilty?
When a trial is concluded with a guilty verdict, the next step will be sentencing.
A specific date will be chosen when a judge considers a variety of influences such as the crime at hand, the person’s criminal record and more to determine an appropriate sentencing, which could include jail, fines, probation, community service and more.
If you’re found guilty but believe there is a legal reason to appeal the verdict, you can work with an attorney to begin the appellate process.
What happens if you’re found not guilty?
When a trial is concluded with a not-guilty verdict, the defendant is released from custody and there is no criminal charge. However, the arrest and trial verdict still exist, but can be expunged in some cases so they no longer appear on a permanent record.