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Going to Trial vs. Pleading Guilty to Reduce Your Federal Criminal Sentence

Jeff Cole
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan & Cole

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You’ve had your first appearance in court, and you know that the evidence against you is fairly overwhelming. You don’t want to hire an attorney if he’s just going to tell you to plead guilty—and at this point, it’s looking like you have no other option. Can pleading guilty to criminal charges mean less prison time?

Pleading Guilty Is Only One Way to Reduce a Federal Criminal Sentence

If you plead guilty, you may be able to reduce your sentence in a plea bargain, or an agreement between the federal prosecutor and your attorney. However, you may also plead not guilty and take your chances at trial, with the added benefit of being able to change your plea later in front of a judge (and accept the terms of a plea agreement).

Here are a few more ways to reduce your criminal sentence:

  • Acquittal. If you decide to go to trial, your attorney and the prosecutor will submit evidence in front of a jury and a federal district court judge. If you are found not guilty, you will be acquitted of all charges and serve no further time.
  • Sentencing hearing. If you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial, you may be able to reduce your sentence at the sentencing hearing. The Federal Probation Office will examine the information about your case (including information about you and the people you have wronged) and send the judge its recommendation for your sentence. Your attorney may be able to find a way to convince the judge to lessen the sentence, such as moving for probation and monetary fines instead of incarceration in a federal prison. It will be up to the judge to impose the final sentence.
  • Appeal. All defendants have a right to appeal the sentence they have been given. In addition, defendants who did not plead guilty have the ability to appeal both the sentence and the guilty verdict, and may be granted a new trial.

Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can tell you whether you should plead guilty or go to trial. Even if pleading guilty is your best option, you will still need a skilled legal representative to argue for a reduced sentence and lowered penalties in your case. Call Zimmer, Duncan and Cole, LLP today at 888-733-2992 to explain the details of your case to us so we can begin building your strongest defense.


Category: Criminal Defense


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