There are many variables in a criminal case. Each defendant, judge, and prosecutor is different and the outcomes of cases are not always the same. The final decision is made by the judge or jury. Generally, the severity of the crime will correlate to the severity of the punishment. Here are the 6 potential outcomes of a criminal case:
1.Found Not Guilty
The best outcome of a criminal case would be to walk away free, without punishment because you were found not guilty. In cases where a jury is not needed, the judge can dismiss a case because the evidence brought forth is not sufficient to prove any type of guilt. For cases that have a jury present, the defendant can be acquitted because the jury finds them not guilty of the accused crime. With either decision, the defendant walks away found not guilty and free.
2.Plea to Lesser Charge
Prosecutors will often bargain with the defendant to plead guilty or no-contest for a less severe charge. If a defendant is looking at a ten-year sentence, a prosecutor may give an option to serve only four years if they plead guilty or no-contest. In these cases, the defense and prosecution will bring the deal to the court in front of a judge. Most times the judge will agree to the plea agreement but the final decision is in the hands of the judge.
If the defendant is either found guilty or pleads guilty, they can potentially serve time in jail. Time served in jail is based on the severity of the crime committed. For misdemeanor offenses, a person can serve up to one year in a county jail. Many times jails will offer educational, substance abuse and vocational programs to help inmates to improve their lives and give them a chance to avoid a return visit to jail. Common misdemeanors that could result in jail time include, but are not limited to, possession of substances, DUI, assault and battery, driving with a suspended license, and malicious destruction of property (less than $1,000 in damages).
A person who is convicted of a felony has the potential to serve time in prison. Felony charges are much more serious than misdemeanor charges and the punishment is more severe as well. Prisons are run by the state or federal government and are high-security establishments and are designed to be occupied by long-term inmates. A few common felonies that can result in time in prison include carrying a concealed weapon, murder, carrying substances with intent to distribute, and rape.
The court can suspend jail time for a person who has been convicted of a crime and allow them to live in the community. The convicted person needs to abide by multiple court-ordered rules in order to avoid facing jail or prison time. Probation is most commonly offered for the first time, non-violent offenders. A person who is on probation may have a probation officer that they must report to and provide drug and alcohol tests to. A probation officer’s role is to make sure that the person on probation is following the orders determined by the court.
6.Alternatives to Traditional Incarceration
Any type of punishment or treatment other than time in prison or jail is considered an alternative to incarceration. A court can decide to keep the defendant out of prison or jail and order them to community service, boot camps, house arrest, drug or alcohol rehabilitation, or wearing a tracking device.