The dirty little truth about plea bargaining is this: innocent people plead guilty to charges for which they are not actually guilty so as to avoid the risk of greater sentences should they be convicted at trial. People’s risk tolerance can trigger a surrender syndrome causing them to plead guilty merely to get out of jail in a reasonable time. Under certain circumstances this can make sense but for the most part it is a nasty and disagreeable practice and should not be allowed. Instead, the practice is supplanting a defendant’s right to a jury trial and resulting in the incarceration of factually innocent men and women.
Recent statistics on federal guilty pleas show that 97% of federal criminal cases end in guilty pleas. This isn’t hard to understand because prosecutors, both State and Federal, pile on the defendant at the outset. Any single alleged criminal act can be charged by multiple statutes, some of which allow probation, some of which require prison, some of which carry relatively short jail sentences and some of which carry huge prison sentences.
It's sadly understandable then, how many defendants might choose the path of least resistance and plead guilty rather than risk fortune and freedom fighting to prove their innocence. Their defense lawyers frequently don’t help matters because defense lawyers are by nature, training and painful experience very risk averse. They ordinarily care about their clients and the last thing they want to do is “lawyer” their client into a greater sentence than a plea bargain would have yielded. And, of course, some cases simply are not remotely triable and should be bargained.
But most cases, especially when the defendant is factually innocent, are triable and should be tried. The former Public Defender of Ventura County, Dick Erwin, used to say to his lawyers in the Public Defender’s Office, “You can’t win them if you don’t try them.” He was correct but his sage advice is now apparently more honored in the breach than the observance by criminal defendants who throw in the towel and plead guilty to crimes they did not commit in order to minimize their sentences.
At Schwartz & Powell, each partner has over 30 years experience successfully defending cases others said were indefensible. We have obtained astonishing results and are proud to say no local Ventura County law firm has obtained as many not guilty or otherwise favorable verdicts as Schwartz & Powell. We know you cannot win your case if you do not try your case. Not all clients should go to trial and we understand that. We know what cases should be bargained.
But we also know which cases should and must go to trial. If you or a loved one has a criminal case under investigation that could lead to court action, or if charges have been filed, you should call Schwartz & Powell. We understand “You can’t win them if you don’t try them.” We have found this true over the years.
Remember that Experience Matters.
Schwartz & Powell