What’s the “trial tax,” and should it worry you?

What’s the “trial tax,” and should it worry you?

| Sep 20, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

You’ve been charged with one or more felonies — and you know the situation is serious. You think, however, that the prosecution’s case against you is pretty weak. The fact that the prosecutor is offering you a plea deal only increases your suspicions that you can beat the charges.

Should you take your chances in court? Frankly, only you can make that call. However, you should at least consider the following information:

Most cases are resolved through plea deals

Usually, through some form of charge bargaining or sentence bargaining, roughly 90% of criminal cases are resolved through plea deals

The fact that the prosecution is offering you a deal doesn’t necessarily mean that they have doubts about their case or the evidence against you. The criminal court system is terribly backlogged already, so every plea deal they make helps keep the system in motion and eases the strain.

You could face bigger charges or a longer sentence

The reality is that prosecutors often have a tremendous amount of leeway when it comes to how they charge defendants. Judges also often have considerable leeway when they impose a sentence after a defendant’s conviction. 

If you choose to go trial, the prosecutor may decide additional charges are warranted after a review of the case, which ups the ante for you, should you lose at trial. In addition, judges have been known to be excessively punitive after a conviction simply because they view a defendant’s choice to exercise their right to a trial as a lack of remorse.

Collectively, this is known as “the trial tax,” and it’s a steep price for anybody to pay.

Does this mean you have to accept a plea deal?

Absolutely not — but you should make your decision with your eyes wide open. Make sure that you fully understand the implication of the charges against you, potential charges that could be added and what a plea deal means for your future before you make a move.