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How Often Do Drug Cases Go To Trial?


The decision of whether or not to take a drug case to trial is a decision made by my client with my counsel after careful consideration of the evidence and reviewing all available options. Only after I thoroughly discuss the strengths and weakness of the State’s evidence with my clients, they will then make a decision on how to proceed. I have tried many drug cases including cases involving possession, possession with intent to deliver, as well as delivery of controlled substances. However, it does not mean that I take every case to trial. Generally, if my client decides to take a case to trial, it is because I believe I have a strong chance to win the case, and get a not guilty verdict at either a bench, or jury trial. Every case is different, and the decision to go to trial turns with the individual facts of each case.

Do Many Attorneys Avoid talking Drug Cases To Trial?

I do know that many attorneys do not like to take drug cases to trial. I am not one-hundred percent sure why that is, but I have some ideas. For starters, some lawyers are lazy. They assume that every client of theirs is guilty, and therefore they should all plead guilty. They do not want to waste time taking cases to trial. I do not understand lawyers who think like this. If you do not want to practice law, then you should pick another profession. But do not do a lousy job because it gives the rest of us a bad name when lawyers do not do their job well. For example, when I represent someone, I give the case my focus, and energy that I have to produce an extraordinary result in that case. I take my clients’ cases personally, and I treat them as if I was representing a family member.

Another big reason that lawyers avoid trials is they are afraid to charge the appropriate fee to go to trial. There are many cut-rate lawyers out there that charge a lower fee than other reputable attorneys do, and because their fee is lower, they cannot afford to spend an appropriate amount of time on each case, and that includes taking the case to trial. When it comes to drug attorneys, you get what you pay for. If the fee sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

One more reason that lawyers avoid trial is because they are out of practice, or just not even well versed in trying cases. Taking a case to trial is the most challenging, and exciting part of my job. It is what I have studied, and trained for through a good part of my life. When I take a case to trial, I give my heart and soul, which is probably why a very high percentage of my cases that go to trial result in a not guilty verdict. However every case is different and I cannot predict or guarantee results in a case.

What Factors Do You Consider When Determining Whether Or Not To Take A Case To Trial?

My clients make the decision on how to proceed in their case, but that is with my input, and opinions. Ultimately, it is usually a simple analysis. The first criterion is, do I think we can beat the case? In other words, do I think the state can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt? If the answer is yes, and I think the state can prove its case against my client, we probably are not going to take that case to trial. Not always, but it is a good rule of thumb. Secondly, has the state’s attorney offered my client any plea agreements? If the state has made an unreasonable offer, then we might decide to go to trial, even with a weak case, because we do not have anything to lose.

Conversely, if we feel we have a strong case, and that we will prevail at trial, but the state offers a plea agreement that is favorable, my client may take that plea agreement, because it is too good to pass up. There are always risks associated with going to trial, even with cases I feel strongly about, and an outstanding plea agreement would remove that risk.

If Your Client Does Not Like A Plea Agreement Is It Sufficient Reason To Take A Case To Trial?

If a plea agreement does not meet my client’s goals, there are generally a couple of options available. We can continue to negotiate the terms in the plea agreement that my client is seeking. I can also go over the head of the prosecutor that I have been talking to, and see if I can get that individual’s supervisor to give us the plea agreement that we are looking for. If all negotiations fail, I still have other options available for my client. For example, if we think the judge would give us the terms we are seeking, we could ask for what is called a 402 conference, or we could also do what is referred to as a blind or open plea.

A 402 conference refers to the Supreme Court rule number 402, and this is a conference in contemplation of pleading guilty. The conference is between the judge, prosecutor, and me. At that conference, the judge hears evidence that would ordinarily not be heard if the case went to trial. The judge also hears information about my client that they would not ordinarily know, such as my client’s criminal background, family history, work history, and education. After listening to all of that information, the judge indicates what he or she would sentence my client to if they wanted to plead guilty. My client does not have to take that plea agreement, but if they do not like what the judge has to offer, it is not a basis for us to get a new judge.

A blind or open plea is where we appear in front of a judge, and the defendant pleads guilty without any deal, or agreement whatsoever. We would present mitigating factors in an effort to obtain a lenient sentence, but ultimately the judge alone would make the decision as far as what that sentence entails.

For more information on Drug Trials In Illinois, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (815) 290-9170 today.

Donald N. Macneil, Esq.

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