Congdon Law. PLLC.

How Often Do Criminal Cases Actually Go To Trial?


There are thousands of cases charged in criminal courts in Minnesota every year, but very few of them actually go to trial. Some cases get dismissed, most cases get plea-bargained and the remaining cases go to trial. It’s probably around 5% or less that actually go to trial.

Do Most Criminal Defense Attorneys Avoid Taking Cases To Trial?

I think a lot of attorneys are very much trying to avoid trial, even if they don’t tell their clients that. Many attorneys don’t like to do trials because they don’t have the skills, because they don’t do them very often, and because it takes a lot of time. When you’re in trial, you have to expect that you’re going to spend a week preparing the case and at least a week in the courtroom. That is time away from your desk and time away from other potential clients. So, some attorneys will try to talk their clients out of having a trial for their own benefit.

What Criteria Do You Consider When Deciding Whether To Take A Case To Trial Or Not?

The decision of whether or not to take a case to trial is always the client’s. We will talk through all of their options and the pros and cons of each, but it’s always the client’s choice. When we are sitting down to evaluate a plea offer, we take a lot of things into account. First, we assess the evidence and decide how strong the prosecutor’s case is. Next, we have to take into account whether or not the plea deal offers an outcome that is substantially better than what we could get if we lost at trial. Then we must consider the collateral consequences of going to trial. If the prosecutor is offering a reduced level, less probation or no jail time, then we have to consider whether or not going to trial is worth it. Ultimately, it is really up to the client whether they feel like they want to move forward with the trial or if they want to take a plea bargain.

Should Someone Take Their Case To Trial If They Don’t Like The Plea Offer?

If a person doesn’t like the plea offer, then that is certainly a reason to go to trial. However, that’s not the only reason to go to trial. I’ve had prosecutors make fantastic plea offers, but since my clients weren’t guilty, they didn’t want to plead guilty. There are a variety of reasons for someone to decide to go to trial, and this is where consulting with your attorney comes into play. The attorney may be saying, “Hey look, this really isn’t that great of a case for trial, you’re going to risk a lot more.” You really have to trust that your attorney is giving you that advice because it’s best for you, and not because it’s best for them.

What Are Some Reasons That Cases End Up Being Dismissed Altogether?

Generally, cases end up being dismissed altogether due to lack of evidence. When a prosecutor charges a case, they charge it with the assumption that they’re going to have all of their witnesses and all of their evidence. However, as cases go on, people sometimes disappear and lose contacts with the prosecutor. If they can’t find a key witness to their case, then they may not be able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, the prosecutor may choose to dismiss the case ahead of time. Occasionally, cases are dismissed by judges if there is a violation of someone’s constitutional rights. That’s generally done after a hearing and a lot of arguing between the parties.

What Are The Top Misconceptions People Have About A Criminal Trial?

I don’t know if there’s a misunderstanding of what a trial consists of. I think there’s an expectation that everything goes as quickly and smoothly as it does on TV, and that’s simply never the case. There’s always something that comes up in trial that no one is expecting, whether it’s a witness who says something that surprised the prosecutor or defense attorney, or just a lengthy procedure. The lawyers are operating under the rules of evidence, so certain things that a client may want to bring up in trial are ruled inadmissible or out of bounds by the rules of evidence. So, it’s not that there’s a misunderstanding about what a trial consists of, it’s just how constrained we actually are in presenting information and evidence.

For more information on Criminal Defense Trials In Minnesota, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (800) 684-9740 today.

Jennifer Congdon, Esq.

Call For A Free Consultation (800) 684-9740