98% of all violations of Maryland Criminal laws resolve by way of a dismissal (stet or nolle pross) or a plea. Of the remaining 2%, only a tiny number of violations of Maryland Criminal laws go all the way to a jury. Many are resolved by bench (or judge) trials or are dismissed after pre-trial motions. A perfect example of why cases go to trial might be Jerry Sandusky. As a Maryland lawyer, a Pennsylvania lawyer, and a Penn Stater, many people have been asking me why the Jerry Sandusky case went to trial? People (Mostly non-lawyers) have said,
“The evidence was obviously so strong” or
“it’s terrible to put those victims through the agony of a trial” or
“what a waste of time and tax money.”
All those points might be valid, however, there are a couple counterpoints I would generally make:
- As much as it pains me in Sandusky’s case (see my previous 6.20 post here), all people charged with crimes in this country have an absolute right to confront their accusers in open court, to subject their testimony to scrutiny, and to be judged by a jury of their peers.
- The prosecutor was probably asking for at least 20 years in prison based upon the accusations; Sandusky is 70 years old so a 20 year sentence is equivalent to a life sentence. Essentially he has nothing to lose by trying the case.
Why try a case?
As a Maryland lawyer and a trial lawyer, there are plenty of good reasons to try a case.
- First and foremost, because a true trial lawyer is a bit cocky and believes he or she can beat the State and secure a not guilty verdict. As much as I love to try a case, that’s not a good reason to try a case.
- Second, because there are true reasons to “reasonably doubt” the State’s case and a good Maryland Lawyer wants to prove it in open court, if the State won’t drop the case.
- Third, the State is making an unreasonable plea offer and there is not much “trial penalty” for exercising your right to a trial.
- Fourth, you’re innocent of the crime.
- Finally (but not exclusively) there is nothing to lose by trying your case. This seems to be the category Jerry Sandusky fell into. He was going to go to prison for the rest of his life whether he pleaded guilty or had a trial, so why not roll the dice. Juries have been known to do some crazy things. See here. Here. A great trial lawyer here.
These are just a few of the valid reasons to have a trial. There are plenty of invalid reasons to have a trial as well, and they happen. These types of decisions are ultimately with the client, with the advice of a wise Maryland
lawyer; but they must be decided by the client.
Why not to try a case?
For the number of reasons to try a case, there are probably the same number of reasons to plea, in some form (e.g. No Contest, Alfred, or Guilty). Here are just a few reasons you should consider taking a plea to a violation of the Maryland Criminal laws:
- The State has you dead up and can prove it in court.
- There is a substantial “trial tax” or “trial penalty” if you decide to have a trial. what that means is that the penalty you face after being convicted at trial is substantially higher than what you might face by way of a guilty plea. This is a huge variable that is very much judge, jurisdiction, prosecutor dependent.
- You did it, and want to admit you did it. Yes, that might seems a bit nuts, but some clients want to plea, for whatever reason. HOWEVER, Your Maryland lawyer should also make sure the state can prove it; because proving a case isn’t your job, it’s the State’s.
- You’re getting a “sweetheart deal.” There could be 1000’s of reasons you’re getting the deal. “Take it and run for the courthouse doors,” as a great Maryland lawyer has said.
Regardless of your situation, if you find yourself charged with a violation of Maryland Criminal laws, look for a Maryland lawyer who is going to prepare EVERY case like it is going to trial. If you do, you’ll always get the best possible result. ENlawyers prepares every case like we are heading into battle for you, so if you want the best result, call your favorite Maryland lawyer.