Anyone who is familiar with previous posts on this blog knows that a common theme that is reinforced regularly is the notion of "innocent until proven guilty." This common phrase is supposed to be one of the bedrocks of our country's criminal justice system, although it has been degraded over time due to the constant news cycle that can essentially convict a person in the public eye immediately upon arrest. However, people should know it is a constitutional right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty.
The burden is fully upon the prosecution in a criminal case to prove a defendant's guilt. There is a high standard to meet, known as proving guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." Knowing this, why would a defendant ever begin plea negotiations?
In any legal situation there are positives and negatives to weigh, but never is the analysis more important than when a person's liberty is on the line. For a defendant to enter into plea negotiations with the prosecutor, there is usually a determination that "cutting a deal" is a better option than taking the risk of a more severe penalty if the case ever goes to trial. In some cases, even if the allegations are less than completely true, defendants will often times agree to terms with the prosecutor in order to put the whole ordeal behind them or, in many cases, simply to get out of jail so that they can return to work and provide for their family.
The consequences of a criminal conviction can be significant. But, for many defendants, the alternative is simply untenable. When the evidence that the prosecutor has amassed seems overwhelming, defendants who are weighing their criminal defense options sometimes see a plea bargain as the best result in a bad situation.