A surprising number of people who have been accused of criminal infractions in California plead guilty. They know they have a right to defend against the charges in question and may deeply believe their own innocence, but they think that going to trial will be too much of a gamble.
There is a common misconception among those facing criminal charges that entering a guilty plea is often the best solution to any criminal charge, especially non-violent offenses. People believe that if they throw themselves at the mercy of the courts, then they won’t have to face the worst possible penalties for the charges against them. However, the truth for California criminal defendants is that there is typically no guarantee of lenience when pleading guilty.
State law determines someone’s sentence
California has very thorough statutes exploring the different criminal penalties the courts can impose for specific infractions. Judges do often have some degree of discretion when deciding what exact penalties to impose, but they have to abide by the standards established in state law.
A judge typically cannot deviate from minimum sentencing requirements just because someone pleads guilty to an offense. There is also no guarantee that an individual will receive a sentence of probation instead of incarceration if they plead guilty. Only those who successfully defend themselves effectively avoid the criminal penalties that a conviction might carry.
Those who can challenge state evidence, establish an alibi or otherwise raise questions about their involvement in criminal activity with the assistance of a legal professional can potentially avoid criminal consequences, including a criminal record that will limit their future options. Understanding the risks involved in pleading guilty might inspire some people to pursue a strong criminal defense strategy.