Do Most Criminal Cases Settle Or Do They Go To Trial?
Roughly 95% of cases end up getting resolved through either a dismissal or a plea agreement. It’s the rare case that ends up going to a trial.
The main reason is the sheer volume of cases. Tens of thousands of criminal cases get filed in Harris County each year. There’s no way for all of them to go to trial and still have the system function. We have only 22 felony courts and 16 misdemeanor courts in Harris County. That’s 38 courts to handle a population of a little over four million people. If every single case got tried, each case would take years to go to trial. Prosecutors know this and defense attorneys know this, so most cases get resolved without a trial.
Whether those non-trial cases are resolved with dismissals or guilty pleas depends on the facts of each case. Only in the rarest of cases do I advise a client to plead to prison time and only then if I believe it would save the client from a much longer prison sentence.
There are cases where, in the end, I believe it’s in the client’s best interest to enter a guilty plea. But that’s only after a thorough evaluation of the case and as a last resort. It may be a guilty plea to a reduced charge that has less of an impact on the client’s record. Or it may be a guilty plea to a form of probation that can ultimately be sealed from public view. Only in the rarest of cases that I handle do I ever advise a client to plead to prison time and only then if I believe it would save the client from a much larger amount of their life in prison if they did not plead guilty.
Even if your case is set for trial, that doesn’t mean it’s going to get tried. I’ve had many of my trial cases dismissed before, or on the day of trial, once the prosecutor handling it finally realized that he or she couldn’t prove their case.
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