Trials are risky. The judge in your case can affect the outcome. Juries can be fickle. Sometimes, one or a few jurors can dominate other jurors and persuade other jurors to reach an unjust verdict. While defendants are presumed innocent in criminal cases, juries often find police officers the most credible witnesses. In effect, at times, a criminal defendant must show that he is innocent to sway the jury.
How the judge can decide your case
It is possible that the judge could decide your case before the jury reaches its verdict. In the best-case scenario, the judge could decide to dismiss the charges because of some legal defect, or because it is clear there is not enough evidence to proceed with the case. The judge could also dismiss the case on the recommendation of the prosecutor. Common reasons for a dismissal include the exclusion of relevant evidence, or the desire of the victim not to proceed with the charges; however, this is not a common outcome.
A judge could declare a mistrial. A mistrial occurs when your right to a fair jury trial is substantially affected. A mistrial means that the charges against you are placed on hold. The current jury is dismissed. Mistrials may be due to misconduct by the juror, the inability of a jury to reach a unanimous verdict, or other errors. Normally, the prosecution can then decide to drop the case or request a new jury hear your case. Often, they retry the case.
How the jury can decide your case
A jury can either acquit you or find you guilty. To find you guilty, the jury must be convinced of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are found not guilty, then, generally, double jeopardy prevents you from being tried again. If you are found guilty, there will be a sentencing hearing to determine the length of any imprisonment, any fines, and any other conditions. The sentencing judge will normally consider your prior criminal record.
How you can decide the case
Defendants can strike a deal to plead to the criminal charges even if a trial has already begun. Some judges may be inclined to give defendants a lighter sentence if they plead guilty.
Defendants can plead guilty based on a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between you, your lawyer, and the prosecutor. Plea agreements are usually based on dropping the more serious charges. A judge must approve the plea agreement.
At the Law Office of Perry A. Craft PLLC, our Nashville criminal defense firm has been fighting for defendants for more than 40 years. We assert constitutional, legal, and factual defenses that apply to your case. We have helped clients win their case or stay out of jail. For help with any criminal charge, call us at 615-953-3808 or use our contact form to make an appointment.
Perry A. Craft has dedicated his life to helping people in need. He has tried, settled, or resolved numerous civil and criminal cases in State and Federal courts, and has represented teachers and administrators before school boards, administrative judges, and the state Board of Education. Learn more about Mr. Craft.