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Accepting a Plea Deal Versus Going to Trial

Accepting a Plea Deal Versus Going to Trial

A defendant in any criminal case in Missouri has the right to request a trial, even on a simple traffic violation. There are two different types of trials in Missouri criminal cases. A bench trial is a trial conducted without a jury. In a bench trial, the judge has the sole responsibility of determining guilt or innocence of the defendant and imposing sentence if the defendant is found guilty. In a jury trial, twelve individuals make-up the jury and these individuals are responsible for determining whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. A jury verdict in a Missouri criminal case must be unanimous.

The U.S. Constitution gives a person accused of a crime punishable by a sentence longer than six months the right to be tried by a jury. In Missouri, for example, class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to six months jail. Therefore, the defendant has the right to a jury trial if he or she is charged with a class B misdemeanor. An example of a class B misdemeanor in Missouri is a first-time DWI case.

In every criminal case, the decision to accept a plea bargain or request a trial is solely the defendant’s decision after being advised of the risks and benefits of a trial from the lawyer. Most misdemeanor cases are disposed of without a trial, because favorable plea deals can typically be worked out. In fact, most criminal cases in Missouri are disposed of without a trial. However, the question to proceed to trial or accept a plea bargain is one the defendant should make carefully and based upon an experienced criminal defense attorney’s advice. There are many aspects to consider when making this decision such as the likely punishment if you are found guilty, favorable evidence and witnesses to present in court versus incriminating evidence and unfavorable witnesses, the strength of the prosecutor’s case, the credibility of witnesses and police officers, among other considerations.

At Henderson & Waterkotte, P.C., our St. Louis criminal defense lawyers prepare every case as if it’s going to trial. This allows us to negotiate from a position of strength with prosecutors. This also allows us to receive favorable plea deals in many cases. However, in other cases, a trial may be the best option for a client. If you or loved one is facing a criminal charge, call our St. Louis criminal defense trial lawyers today for a free consultation.