Guilty vs not guilty.

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How does this work in court? Pleading guilty to a case guarantees a sentence. Whereas not guilty allows you a chance to defend yourself. Doesn’t seem like most defendants would plead guilty. Why is this even a thing?

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If you think you have little to no chance of winning the trial, you can make a deal to get a reduced sentence in exchange for pleading guilty.

most guilty pleas are the result of negotiations with the prosecutor for a specific lesser sentence than a guilty defendant would receive at trial.

Because going to trial can result in harsher sentences.

Let’s say you comitted a robbery, they have you dead to rights. Video evidence and everything.

Do you go to trial and risk 25+ years, or do you plead guilty and take 10?

Pleading guilty often comes with a reduced sentence compared to what you would get if found guilty at trial. Most cases end in a plea deal. Very few go to trial.

If the court has alot of evidence & you know you won’t get off, enter a Guilty plea & they may show leniency.
If there is little evidence plead not guilty and take your chances on your lawyer fighting your corner.
Depends massively on the crime also of course.

Usually when faced with a trial the prosecution will offer you the chance to plead guilty to a lesser charge for a lesser sentence/penalty in order to not have to spend the time/money/effort of arguing a full trial. Depending on the charge, the defendant might find this more advantageous than risking a much bigger penalty by going to trial and having to rely on 12 strangers to decide your fate.

It’s also very common for minor things, like speeding tickets and traffic offenses. You can often plea bargain these to lower speeds or offenses so you may wind up paying a higher fine, but you won’t get points on your license that would cause your insurance rate to increase

In Australia, lodging a guilty plea early can potentially reduce the severity of your sentence.

Courts don’t like people who are clearly guilty but refuse to say so, so if you say you’re guilty they may give you a break and reduce the sentence you would otherwise receive if you made them go through the effort of showing that you are guilty

* The DA will usually offer a reduced charge or sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. Knowing you will get a 7 years sentence rather than roll the dice on a 5-15 year sentence is a win.
* Even without an offer, pleading guilty creates goodwill that prosecutors and judges often recognize. Conversely, they get annoyed at having to prosecute clearly guilty people, especially when they reject reasonable plea bargains.
* A trial means there will almost certainly be an additional investigation that could uncover additional crimes, including those committed by your friends and family.
* A trial makes all the potentially embarrassing details of your crime a matter of public records. If you take a plea, you can tell people whatever story you want, especially if you plead no contest.
* Lawyers are expensive, and you might be stuck in jail during the trial. Pleading guilty on a charge you almost certainly will be convicted of saves money and starts the clock on your sentence sooner.

Along with the reasons the other people stated, you might simply genuinely be remorseful about the crime and want to own up and accept the punishment.

What’s to defend?

You pled guilty. That means you did it, exactly as alleged.

If there was a compelling reason for you to need to do that, you plead not guilty by way of…. whatever. Self defence. Insanity. Whatever.

But guilty means you accept the exact charge that was levied against you. It *was* assault or theft or whatever. You are testifying before a court that you did it.

Which is why plea deals when you are innocent are stupid. Pleading guilty might well be taken legally as you being at that place, at that time, doing that thing… and that can come back to bite you in other ways.

Guilty pleas aren’t unheard of. People who are bang to rights do it all the time. You can end up with a lesser sentence (because of the hassle of proving the case otherwise).

But a guilty plea is 100% acceptance that what you were charged with happened.

Another reason I’m not seeing here is in the US often times people cannot afford bail and will be held in jail until their trial, which can take months and sometimes years. It is not uncommon to hear that someone was held awaiting trial for 8 months only for the charges to be dropped. So if the offer from the prosecutor is probation if you plead guilty or sitting in jail until trial if you don’t, many people just plead guilty to get it over with.

Basically, the court punishes you for making it work to prove you a liar. Or rewards you for not making it go through the hoops.

Which is great, except when you’re innocent but the case against you looks strong. Then you’ll find yourself in the invidious position of, “I could plead not guilty, but very probably get found guilty anyway and and get a heavy sentence, – or I could plead guilty for something I didn’t do, get a much lighter sentence, but carry that guilty verdict for the foreseeable future”. Happened to a good friend of mine (with a very high probability) – the offence was so out of character, and I knew enough of the surrounding circumstances, that I firmly believed them, and still do (even more – see below), when they said they weren’t guilty. But the potential difference between sentences was massive, and the case against them looked near-watertight (based, I should add, primarily on evidence from someone later convicted of fraud in the matter in question). In the end they took the “guilty” plea. Which, in my view, was brave – but when the evidence in question then became highly suspect, they had no legal way to reverse their plea. “They admitted it, they did it” was effectively the legal position.

**ELI5 Answer**: In most cases, admission of guilt is a sign of remorse and is useful to convince justices to give minimal sentences.

However, there are multiple forms of pleading “Not Guilty” that does admit culpability. For example “Not Guilty by Reason of Temporary Insanity”: Here, the defendant is admitting that they physically performed the crime, but were not in the right frame of mind. In those cases, the recommendation can be admission to a psychiatric hospital (basically medical prison, but usually more controlled).

In the U.S., there is also a concept called *Plea of No Contest*. This is like pleading guilty to save the courts time and energy, but preserving your claim of innocence. This is typically an option taken when a lawyer knows that in a lower-court there’s little chance of victory for their client, but a greater chance that an appeal to the higher-court can “throw out” some aspects of the previous trial due to technicalities. Note, if a defendant does plead guilty, they may still appeal, but it takes extraordinary evidence to entertain that appeal (e.g., proof the the defendant was coerced into confessing and thus rendering a guilty plea).