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Is It Better To Go To Trial?


Many lawyers cite the old saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” to encourage their clients to accept plea bargains. This saying is usually true, but we need to break it down.

According to the dictionary, this saying means that “The things we already have are more valuable than the things we only hope to get.” So, before you decide whether it’s better to go to trial, ask yourself what do you have, and how strong is the hope for something better.

These questions aren’t easy to answer. So, a Tampa criminal defense attorney develops a theory of the case, prepares a defense, and then recommends a plea or trial. Some lawyers skip straight to the third part, or they only spend a little time on the first two parts. This entire process is especially important in white collar crimes, since these prosecutions have so many moving parts.

Plea Options in White Collar Criminal Cases

Most pleas in embezzlement, bribery, and other white collar criminal cases are agreed pleas. Open pleas are always available as well, and in some cases, may be a better option.

Out-of-court settlement negotiations in a criminal case are a lot like new car purchase price negotiations. Usually, prosecutors make the first offer. Then, a defense attorney makes a counteroffer.

One big difference is that a buyer’s counteroffer is usually based on principles as opposed to facts. If the buyer says s/he can’t afford the proposed payments, the seller usually doesn’t demand bank records or other documents to support that claim. A Tampa criminal defense attorney must produce evidence to support a counter-offer. This evidence could be facts in the case or an important legal case. Either way, attorneys must do their homework before they negotiate with prosecutors.

Sometimes, these negotiations break down. These breakdowns are especially common in white collar criminal cases which have strong political or social undertones.

If the prosecutor refuses to offer a reasonable deal, or refuses to offer any deal at all, and the facts aren’t favorable enough for trial, an open plea is another alternative. Basically, the defendant pleads guilty or no contest and then asks the judge to assess punishment. Open pleas are a little more common in federal court, because the Federal Sentencing Act gives some guidance. But in state court, open pleas are somewhat risky. The judge could sentence the defendant to anything, from the bare minimum to the absolute maximum.

Trial Options

Bench trials and jury trials are the two main trial options in white collar criminal cases in Hillsborough County.

Usually, a bench trial, in which the judge serves as both fact finder and legal referee, is a good idea if the defendant has a complex legal defense. Additionally, defendants who choose bench trials don’t have to wait as long for their days in court, and the trials themselves are somewhat less formal.

Jury trials usually favor the party who doesn’t have the burden of proof, which in this case is the defendant. A Tampa criminal defense lawyer must only convince one of twelve people (six in a misdemeanor) that there’s a reasonable doubt as to the evidence. Additionally, attorneys can subtly play to juror sympathy in jury trial matters. So, if the defendant is a good person who made a serious mistake and any sort of legal defense could apply, a jury trial is usually a good way to resolve a white collar criminal case. 

Work With a Thorough Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. Convenient payment plans are available.

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