METHODS OF RESOLVING A CRIMINAL CASE
There are a few different methods of resolving a criminal case once you have been arrested and charged. First (and most common) is negotiating a disposition with the Assistant State Attorney handling your case. In this scenario, the Assistant State Attorney will typically make an initial offer; once that offer is made, the defendant can either accept a said offer or make a counter-offer. It is important to remember the State Attorney’s office does not HAVE to make any kind of offer. In fact, in the most serious cases (typically death penalty cases), a formal offer is sometimes never made. The benefit of resolving a case in this method is that the defendant knows exactly what their sentence will be. The obvious drawback is that the defendant is agreeing to a criminal conviction on their record and possible resulting jail time.
The second method of resolving a criminal case is to enter a plea to the presiding Judge. In that circumstance, the Judge will typically schedule a sentencing hearing in which the defendant can offer any mitigation or witness testimony to bolster their position. On the flip side, the Assistant State Attorney can also present witnesses (especially if there is a victim involved) and argue factors they believe should lead to a more severe sentence than what the defendant has requested. A benefit of resolving a case in this fashion is that a Judge will sometimes undercut what the State Attorney had offered, thereby leading to a more lenient sentence for the defendant. Of course, the downside of an open plea to the Court is that the Judge has full discretion to order a sentence up to the statutory maximum. Therefore, a plea to the Court can be risky, and should only be done when a defense attorney is fairly confident in what the Judge will likely do.
The third and final method of resolving a criminal case is to take the case to trial. The potential positives of a trial are tremendous: you could be completely exonerated, with no resulting jail time or criminal record. The major downside is that if a defendant goes to trial and is convicted, the Judge will often impose a harsher sentence than what the State Attorney offered (and what the Judge may have given on a plea to the Court). Essentially, it is quite common for a defendant to be punished for exercising their constitutional right to a jury trial if they are found guilty.
If you are facing criminal charges, it is of the utmost importance that you discuss all available options for resolving your case with a competent criminal defense attorney.