Guilty Plea Ends Local Murder Trial
On August 25, a Broward County murder trial came to a close when the defendant entered a guilty plea. In the middle of his trial, before closing arguments, Jalil Allen pled guilty to one count of second-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. During the trial, the prosecution’s key witness said that Mr. Allen was not the shooter. In exchange for the pleas, Mr. Allen will serve three years in prison and six years of probation. Mr. Allen’s defense lawyer noted that while he was confident in his chances at the jury returning a not guilty verdict, losing would have meant that Mr. Allen faced three life sentences. Mr. Allen was not willing to take that chance.
For many defendants, navigating whether or not to take a plea deal can be difficult. Particularly if a trial may yield a much more severe sentence, defendants may not want to gamble with their freedom or their life.
How does Pleading Guilty Work?
A guilty plea occurs when a criminal defendant stands before a judge and, rather than proceeding with a trial, admits to his or her guilt and proceeds straight to sentencing. When a defendant pleads guilty, the case is treated as if he or she had been convicted by a jury – he or she will be sentenced for the crime and his or her criminal record will reflect a “conviction” for that particular crime.
Why Plead Guilty?
Defendants may plead guilty for a number of reasons, but the most compelling reason may be the offer of a plea deal. Plea deals are essentially agreements between the prosecution and defense – the defendant agrees to plead guilty, thus saving everyone the time, cost, and effort of going through a criminal trial. The prosecution generally gives something in return – usually a favorable recommendation to the judge regarding sentencing. Because judges ultimately decide what sentence will be imposed, a prosecutor cannot guarantee a particular sentence. However, a judge will usually consider the prosecutor’s recommendation regarding sentencing, and thus a favorable recommendation from the prosecutor can still help a defendant receive a less severe or lengthy sentence than he or she would have received otherwise.
By accepting a plea deal, a defendant agrees to admit to the crime and avoid a trial, and in return he or she will usually receive a more lenient sentence than he would receive if convicted after an entire criminal trial.
Who Makes the Decision
Ultimately, the decision about whether or not to plead guilty rests with the defendant. Generally, the legal system recognizes that the lawyer has control over the means of the case, while the client has control over the goals of the case. This means that in a criminal case, the client has decision-making power over whether to plead guilty or not guilty, whereas the lawyer has decision-making power how to best achieve that result – such as, in the case of a not guilty plea, how to question witnesses during trial, which arguments to make to the jury, etc. Thus, even if an lawyer does not feel that the defendant should accept a plea deal, or is confident that the defendant will be acquitted by a jury or judge, the choice regarding whether or not to accept the deal is ultimately the defendant’s choice to make. An experienced lawyer, however, will be able to provide information about the process and advice to support his or her client in making an informed decision about the case.
If you or your loved one is facing criminal charges, it can be difficult to understand the criminal justice system and the potential outcomes. Contact the experienced Florida lawyers at The Baez Law Firm for a consultation regarding your case today.