Unless you binge watch a lot of criminal justice shows, you might be completely surprised by some court practices if you’re ever charged with a crime. While your criminal defense team will obviously advise you as best as they can about what to do when being charged with a crime, there are some aspects of court that can be unexpected. Here are a few realities of life in criminal law that aren’t super well-known.
Most cases are settled before court.
Did you know that the vast majority of criminal and civil cases are settled before anyone even steps in a courtroom? Court cases are expensive and drawn out compared to out-of-court settlements, so many clients prefer to settle things quickly.
Defendants might be offered a plea bargain.
You might be offered an Alford guilty plea. That sounds a bit counter-intuitive, to plead guilty before you even have a trial, right? But Alford pleas are popular criminal case defense options to put a quick end to an otherwise lengthy trial. Basically, you will be made an offer for a sentence from the prosecution. The sentence will be lighter than if you are convicted of the crime you’ve been accused of. Technically an Alford plea puts you down in the books as ‘guilty’, putting some closure on the case, but someone who accepts an Alford plea can still maintain that they are factually innocent.
Some existing evidence may not be presented.
To create a good criminal case defense and prosecution argument, evidence must be presented and discussed. During any criminal investigation, a plethora of evidence is collected and analyzed. Some of it will seem like strong indicators that the accused are guilty or innocent. And some of it won’t ever see trial. That’s right, even evidence that might be considered especially compelling might not be submitted to or approved by the court.
You have to invoke your fifth amendment privilege, and it can be waived in certain circumstances.
“You have the right to remain silent”, right? This actually refers to your rights under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects you against self-incrimination and double jeopardy. There are certain cases where you can invoke your Fifth Amendment rights and the trial judge can waive your invocation. The whole business gets a little too complicated to explain in detail here, so try reading this post from legal blog Nolo for a little more explanation.
Courts are as complicated as a good criminal case defense. That’s why lawyers, judges, and lawmakers spend their whole schooling and careers studying the ins and outs of the system — to guide everyone else through it. If you’re going through a trial and feel confused about some aspect of court, don’t hesitate to consult your lawyer.