Understanding Criminal Defense
A defendant in a criminal case has the right to be informed of the charges against him/her and to enter a not guilty plea. The defendant is also entitled to know what the evidence is that the prosecuting agency intends to use to prove the case. If you are charged with a crime, the court will presume that you are innocent, unless and until you are found guilty or plead guilty.
The prosecutor may offer a defendant plea bargain, which would resolve the case without the need to go to trial. The prosecutor is not required to offer a plea bargain in every case, and prosecuting agencies often have standards governing how they treat different kinds of cases. If the defendant chooses not to enter into a plea agreement or if none is offered, then the case will proceed to trial.
You may be entitled to a jury trial, depending on the nature of the charges against you. Generally, if you are charged with an offense that requires jail or prison upon conviction, you are entitled to a jury trial. All felonies carry the right to a jury trial. Most misdemeanors do not carry the right to a jury trial, but DUIs and what are termed "crimes of moral turpitude," such as prostitution and shoplifting, are permitted jury trials. The number of people on the jury varies based on the severity of the charge. In misdemeanors, juries are made up of six people. On felonies, juries are made up of either eight or twelve people, depending on the amount of prison time the defendant might face upon conviction.
Whether you choose to resolve the case by way of a plea agreement or by going to a jury trial, it is important that you understand the charges you face, the evidence against you, and the possible penalties upon conviction. A conscientious attorney will make sure that her client is kept fully informed about these matters and provide input into the ultimate decisions to be made.