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Those facing federal charges may not see their cases go to trial

If charged with a federal crime, you may think there is little you can do to help your situation. The good news is that isn’t true. When facing federal charges, the sooner you act, the better because more defense options may be open to you early on.

For most South Carolina residents, the idea of going on trial in the federal criminal justice system is, understandably, frightening. Here’s the thing: few federal cases actually make it to trial. Those defendants whose cases do actually make it to trial often end up convicted, though, acquittal is not necessarily impossible.

The numbers

According to the Pew Research Center, 2% of federal criminal cases go to trial. In other words, it is a rare event. Why is that? Most people, 90%, end up taking plea deals. The leftover 8% successfully achieve case dismissals. These statistics do leave out some cases, such as those where pleas of no contest are entered or those placed in the care of magistrate judges. Still, these statistics may be eye-opening to some.

How many people win at trial?

Less than 1% of defendants win their cases by having it played out in federal court. Those who opt for a bench trial tend to have better outcomes than those who want their cases tried by a jury. While this number is small, going to trial is the right decision sometimes. Your legal counsel can offer guidance on the matter. 

Why might you want to avoid a trial?

While wanting to exercise your constitutional rights by having your case heard and decided by a judge or jury is understandable, the reason many cases ultimately settle is the trial penalty. If you lose in court, the penalties you may face will likely be far more significant than they would be if you took a plea deal. This is certainly something to think about.

What should you do?

Federal charges are serious, far more severe than state-level charges. The consequences associated with federal crimes can be far-reaching, even life-altering. Whether you want to take a plea deal or have your case tried in federal court, it is a personal decision — one that no one can make for you.

However, before deciding how you want to proceed, it is best to seek counsel so that you are well informed of your options and what they may mean for your future. Remember, the sooner you act, the better your outcome will be.


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