If I Decide To Take My Domestic Violence Case To Trial, Is The Sentencing Going To Be More Severe If I Am Convicted?
Clients commonly wonder if the sentence will be more severe if they choose to go to trial. This is frequently referred to by lawyers, judges, and the defendant/client as a “trial penalty.” Whether the trial penalty actually exists has two answers. The theoretical answer and the answer courts want you to believe is that you will not be punished by going to trial if you are convicted, with your sentence being more severe if you are convicted. Such a result is supposed to be unconstitutional and flat-out wrong.
However, in practice, statistics tell us that defendants that go to trial and lose are sentenced far more severely at a regular rate than those who plead guilty. Those are just the facts. Many potential reasons for this have nothing to do with the fact that you went to trial. Plea bargains frequently reduce the seriousness of the charged offense, which of course, means if you’re convicted as charged at trial, you’re going to be facing a more severe penalty than if you plead guilty to a reduced charge as a result of a plea bargain. There is a particular statute called 769.4(a) that allows a judge to take a first-time domestic violence offender’s conviction under advisement. Under 769.4(a), if you successfully complete probation, the case against you is dismissed, and you don’t have a criminal record. That is a benefit of pleading guilty under that statute. Judges frequently comment that “When a person pleads guilty before me and just says, ‘My wife and I got in a fight, I shoved her,’ that’s all the information I have, and I sentenced accordingly. When I hear the wife testify at trial that he repeatedly took his fist and punched me in the face, that gives me a much different perspective on the case and will frequently lead me to levy a far more severe sentence.”
The bottom line is that trial has risks, but it also offers the reward of a possible acquittal. Weather the risks outweigh the reward is something that you and your lawyer must decide, in the answer is different in every case.
For more information on Domestic Violence Law in Michigan, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (248) 509-0056 today.