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How Many Criminal Cases Go to Trial?

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By Jacob Sal Linwood
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A common question in criminal law is, “How many criminal cases go to trial?” The answer is that most of them don’t. That’s because most clients don’t want to risk further incarceration by going to trial. And, losing a criminal case in court can have devastating consequences for those accused of a crime.

In a criminal case, the burden of proof lies with the government, not the defendant. This means that the government must provide evidence of guilt. The standard of proof for the prosecutor is higher than that of the plaintiff, meaning that the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the crime.

At an initial appearance, a judge reviews the case report and determines whether to hold the defendant in jail until the trial. In some cases, a court may order a defendant to undergo drug testing and electronic monitoring. They may also be required to submit periodic reports to a pretrial services officer.

If a defendant cooperates with the prosecution, a court can consider whether the case merits a trial. A prosecutor should weigh the strength of the case against the accused against any other potential defenses. If the case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, a prosecutor may choose to drop the charges. This is in the interest of justice.

The timing of the proffered plea is critical. Plea agreements at the last minute are not as beneficial to the public as plea agreements. Late pleas complicate case scheduling and waste prosecutorial and judicial time. They are also ineffective because they are not as beneficial to the accused.

The process begins with the government attorney determining which charges to file. A prosecutor must consider what the crime was and which statute applies. A defendant may have committed more than one crime under multiple statutes. The different statutes provide different penalties and different proof requirements. In addition to weighing these factors, prosecutors must present a compelling framework to the court.

While unpopularity is rarely a factor in criminal prosecutions, it can be an issue in civil rights cases and criminal cases involving political figures. In such cases, the prosecutor may have doubts about the case’s outcome. In such cases, the government attorney can still recommend prosecution even if key evidence is unavailable.

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