Plea Or Go To Trial? Who Decides?

Who has the final say when it comes to your court case…is it the defendant or is it the lawyer? You may be surprised to learn that the defendant has the final decision when it comes to their case. If you or a loved one are ever faced with a criminal charge, it is important to know your rights and how much say your lawyer has in your case. 

The Role of the Lawyer 

A criminal defense lawyer represents and defends individuals, known as defendants, who have been accused of committing a crime. A lawyer will conduct research, study the case(s), and share with the court their findings; ultimately in hopes that the defendant will go free or negotiate a plea bargain or settlement. 

The lawyer advises the defendant, but in the end, it is up to the defendant to make the final calls in their case. As long as the defendant’s decision is neither unethical nor illegal, the lawyer will either carry out the defendant’s decision or ask the judge if they can withdraw from the case. A defendant will want to make sure to listen to their lawyer’s advice, ask questions, and understand all possible consequences, before making a final decision. 

A Lawyer’s Role in Plea Bargains 

Now that you know that defendants have the ultimate say in what happens to their case, it is important to understand what the lawyer’s role is when it comes to plea bargains. 

An extremely important role of a criminal defense lawyer is to uphold the defendant’s right to offer or accept a plea bargain. In doing so they are ethically required to do two things: 

  1. communicate the defendant’s offer to plead to the prosecution and, 
  1. communicate the prosecution’s offer to accept a plea to the defendant. 

A lawyer is required to uphold the defendant’s right to make the final decision on their case, regardless of whether the lawyer believes the prosecution will accept the plea or if the prosecution’s offer is unacceptable.  

 A lawyer may seek to withdraw as the defendant’s counsel if at anytime conflicting and opposing views between the two do not allow for the defendant’s rights to be upheld.  

Consequences to Plea Bargains 

A lawyer should present all the facts and alternatives to the defendant before the defendant makes any decisions. All consequences should be discussed, and although cases and outcomes cannot be predicted, a lawyer with knowledge and experience will be able to provide as much information as possible about past cases and outcomes.  

Defense lawyers have the professional obligation to offer honest advice and judgment and not just tell the defendant what they want to hear. Before accepting or offering a plea bargain, the defendant and the lawyer should discuss the consequences of each possible outcome: 

  • Pleading guilty. What could happen? 
  • Pleading guilty later. Will this affect the case?  
  • Refusal to plead guilty and have a trial. Is going to trial a good idea for your specific case?  

Related Reading> Acceptance of Responsibility  

Representation You Deserve 

Never work with a lawyer that does not listen to you or does not respect your interests and decisions. At Stechschulte Nell Law, we are an experienced criminal law firm specializing in litigation and trial. We will never put our interests over yours and we will make sure you understand your case, the option to plea to go to trial and all the alternatives and consequences that are available to you.  

If you are ready to work with the best criminal lawyers in the Tampa Bay Area call Stechschulte Nell Law at (813) 280-1244 and let us represent you.  

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