Should I cave to pressure to plead guilty and avoid trial?

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Question:

I got charged with shoplifting at the local department store. My public defender says the evidence against me is strong and that I should plead guilty. I want to go trial. Don't I have any say here?

Answer:

One very useful service a public defender -- or private criminal defense lawyer, for that matter -- can provide is a reality check: a knowledgeable, objective perspective on what is likely to happen should your case go to trial.

This dose of reality is vital when you're trying to decide whether to accept a prosecutor's offered "plea bargain." Usually the prosecutor offers a reduced or waived punishment in return for your guilty plea. Your public defender may see this as a tempting deal compared to going to trial and risking full-scale punishment if you're found guilty.

But notice that we said when you are trying to decide whether to take the prosecutor's offer. The decision whether to go to trial is yours and yours alone.

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