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Few federal cases actually go to trial

In fiscal year 2018, there were roughly 80,000 defendants from South Carolina and other states who were charged with federal crimes. Of those defendants, only 2% decided to take their cases to trial, and another 8% had their cases dismissed according to the Pew Research Center. That means that in 90% of cases, defendants chose to plead guilty instead of taking their cases to trial. Of those who chose to go to trial, only 320 were acquitted by a judge or a jury.

Defendants were more likely to get a better outcome in their cases if they opted for a bench trial. A bench trial allows a judge to decide a defendant's fate as opposed to a jury of his or her peers. The number of federal cases that are going to trial are decreasing while the volume of federal cases has increased since 1998.

One reason why fewer people want to go to trial is the fact that they could risk a longer sentence if convicted. It is also unlikely that individuals will choose to go to trial in cases run by state courts. In the 22 states where data was available, fewer than 3% of cases went to trial. In Texas, only .86% of defendants chose to go to trial as opposed to seeking some other form of resolution of their legal matters.

Defendants who are looking for a favorable resolution to their cases may want to work with a criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to help with the plea negotiation process with a judge or prosecutor. It may also be possible to take steps toward obtaining an acquittal. This might be done by establishing that a defendant was the victim of mistaken identity or the victim of misconduct by federal authorities.

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