Every defendant in a federal criminal case would like to know what the odds are of an acquittal. Unfortunately, there are no sure bets when you’re involved in a criminal case. However, there is information you can use to make decisions about your future.
Here are some of the facts:
1. Many federal defendants make deals rather than go to trial.
In 2018, approximately 80,000 people found themselves facing federal charges. Only 2% of those defendants went to trial. The vast majority — 90% — decided to plead guilty, likely with a negotiated sentencing agreement or recommendation. A total of 8% (or about 6400 defendants) were able to get their cases dismissed.
2. Those who do go to trial fare better with a judge than a jury.
You may not like to hear the following statistics, but research indicates that the vast majority of defendants who go to trial are ultimately convicted. However, there are differences in the way in which defendants are convicted. For example, even though defendants often choose a jury trial over a bench trial (where the case is decided by a judge), those who chose a bench trial are more likely to be acquitted. Approximately four out of every ten defendants who went to a bench trial were acquitted. Only 14% of those who appeared before a jury could say the same.
3. The statistics don’t necessarily reflect your reality.
This is the most difficult concept to grasp for most defendants. No matter what the statistics say, they don’t necessarily indicate what will happen in your case. Each federal criminal case is dependent on a highly unique set of facts — which means that you can’t really determine what is likely to happen in your case based on other people’s experiences.
Don’t try to handle your case on your own. Experienced legal advice is essential if you’re facing federal charges.