Dedicated Texas Criminal Defender

Will a guilty plea reduce the penalties someone faces?

On Behalf of | May 2, 2023 | Criminal defense

An arrest doesn’t always lead to charges, but when it does, people often plead guilty. People who are facing criminal allegations often assume that if there are grounds upon which to build a case against them, they have no hope of avoiding a conviction. They may also feel intimated because a prosecutor files multiple charges or the most serious accusations they can justify based on the circumstances.

Every defendant has the right to fight back at trial, but many do not make use of that right. When Texas prosecutors decide that the police have collected enough evidence to justify bringing criminal charges against someone, they will announce those charges in an arraignment. The defendant must then make a decision that will largely shape their future. They can plead guilty, or they can enter a plea of not guilty and seek to defend against the charges they’re facing in criminal court.

A defense can seem impossible

There are many ways to avoid a criminal conviction during a trial. Fighting back against criminal charges might involve raising questions about a police search or bringing in expert witnesses to undermine state evidence. The process often seems too demanding and risky for those facing charges. They may convince themselves that pleading guilty is the best solution to their current challenges. However, a guilty plea is no guarantee of a lenient sentence.

Texas has rules that determine possible sentencing terms

Every criminal charge falls into a category. Texas has different classes of misdemeanor and felony offenses that prosecutors can bring against someone. Each category of offense has both minimum and maximum sentences attached to it. When someone pleads guilty to a criminal offense in Texas, the judge hearing their case will typically get to determine what penalties they face, so long as the punishment falls within the guidelines set by state law. There is no guarantee of leniency just because someone pleads guilty.

The only time a guilty plea can favorably affect someone’s sentence is when there is a very specific plea deal in place that includes certain sentencing concessions or suggested guidelines. For those whose main goal is to reduce or eliminate certain criminal penalties, like the possibility of jail time, a guilty plea will not necessarily achieve that goal. By contrast, choosing to seek legal guidance and defend against criminal charges in Texas rather than pleading guilty could help people actually minimize the consequences that they’re facing.