What Is A "Good" Outcome In A Criminal Case?

A 2012 report indicates that 97% of federal criminal cases and 94% of state cases end in plea bargains. This means that criminal defendants need to reconsider what it means to have a "good" outcome for their case. If you've been charged with a crime, keep the following things in mind.

A good outcome doesn't necessarily mean an acquittal.

If you're entirely innocent of any wrong-doing, then you quite naturally want to fight for your innocence and you want an attorney who will be comfortable taking your case to trial if necessary. However, if you are guilty of something, a plea bargain may be the best possible outcome that you can hope to achieve. 

Prosecutors typically don't proceed with charges unless they think they have the evidence to convict you. If the evidence is weak, they may decide to offer you a plea bargain, hoping that you'll take it instead of going to trial. However, the statistics suggest that they offer plea bargains to almost everybody, so you can't assume that's why you're being offered one. It's usually a case of simple economics for the prosecution: a plea bargain saves time, money, and is a guaranteed win for the books.

If you're guilty of some wrongdoing, a successful plea bargain can be a "win" for your side as well. There's significant evidence that a conviction after a trial is likely to result in a much harsher sentence than you can get with a plea. For example, the average sentence in 2012 for drug offenders who took guilty pleas was 5 years and 4 months. For those who fought it out at trial but ended up convicted, the average sentence skyrocketed to 16 years!

Naturally, your attorney is going to try to do the best for you that he or she can, but you may need to be open to the idea that a good outcome for your case may involve a little bit of jail time.

It may involve a chance at rehabilitation.

Depending on your situation, your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution that allows you a chance for rehabilitation or allows you to make use of alternatives to prison. There are a number of possibilities:

  • confinement to a half-way house 
  • confinement to your home on "house arrest"
  • the ability to serve your sentence on weekends so that you can keep your job and maintain your life during the regular week
  • attendance at diversion programs or programs designed to address whatever behavior led to your arrest (such as a substance abuse treatment program)
  • long-term probation with strict supervision by probation officers
  • fines and restitution, if the crime caused financial losses for the victim
  • electronic monitoring of your whereabouts through things like ankle monitors
  • random drug or alcohol testing 
  • lengthy community service commitments 

Rather than view any of these alternatives as a bad outcome for your case, try to consider them as an opportunity to avoid a harsher sentence and a chance to get treatment if you have a problem, like drug or alcohol addiction, that played a part in your crime. 

If your attorney is able to arrange for any of these alternative treatments, you may eventually even be able to ask the court to expunge your record, or wipe it clean, once you've completed your sentence.

For more information, or to discuss your particular case, consider contacting a criminal defense attorney from a firm like LaCross & Murphy, PLLC in your area today.