Trial Rights

The ultimate decision to plead guilty or proceed to trial is solely the client’s decision. An attorney should advise you as to what they think is in your best interest. You can accept their advice or reject it. An attorney should not get upset if your reject their advice regarding the decision to plea or proceed to trial because at the end of the day you live with the consequences of your decision. If you plead guilty or are found guilty you are the one living with the consequence of your decision (the conviction, the fine, the sentence, the stigma of being a felon). You have the right to have a trial either by a judge or jury. The prosecution is required to prove your case beyond all reasonable doubt. If you elect to have a jury trial the prosecution must convince all 12 jury members beyond a reasonable doubt of your guilt. In order for you to be found not guilty all 12 members of the jury must vote not guilty. If there is any combination of jurors voting guilty or not guilty then it is a hung jury. At the trial the prosecution will attempt to prove your guilt by calling witnesses who have to take an oath to testify truthfully and testify before you. Those witnesses can only testify as to those matters they have personal knowledge of, generally. Typically, witnesses are not allowed to testify as to what other individuals have told them (hearsay). The prosecution’s witnesses are subjected to cross-examination by your attorney. After the prosecution presents its case you have the right to present your own case. You are not required to present any evidence because you are favored with  the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence is a trial right that means you have no burden to prove anything. You have the absolute right to testify or not testify. Should you choose not to testify no negative inference can be drawn from that by the jury. Additionally, you have the right to have witnesses testify on your own behalf. Should a witness be unwilling to come in then you have the right to subpoena that witness. A subpoena is a court order requiring the individual to come in and testify. If the individual disobeys the subpoena they are subject to arrest. Should you choose to testify or have any witnesses testify on your behalf you or they will be subjected to cross-examination by the prosecution. If at the end of the day you are found guilty you will have the right to appeal any adverse rulings made against you. If you are sentenced to more than one year you have the right to apply to appeal your sentence. If you choose to plead guilty pursuant to a plea agreement you will be waiving all of these rights. If you choose to plead guilty but do not have a plea agreement and are sentenced to more than one year then you still retain the right to apply to appeal your sentence but waive all other rights. Again, the decision to plead guilty or proceed to trial is solely your decision.

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