Man in handcuffs

How Many Criminal Cases Go To Trial?

Only 2% of the approximately 80,000 defendants in federal criminal cases in 2018 proceeded to trial. As many as 90% of the defendants entered a guilty plea, while the remaining 8% saw their cases get dismissed. Pew Research Center arrived at these findings following an analysis of federal judiciary data.

Man in handcuffs

Most defendants who went to trial ended up with a guilty verdict. Another analysis done by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts found that less than 1% (or 320) of the 79,704 federal defendants proceeded to trial and secured at least an acquittal. These figures consist of defendants who had a felony, a serious misdemeanor, and petty offense charges in U.S. district courts. They exclude a greater group of defendants in state courts, federal defendants whose criminal cases were determined by magistrate judges, and defendants who pleaded no contest.

Variations of Trial Rates Based on Offense Types  

Trial rates are low no matter the types of charges federal defendants face. The rates, however, vary depending on the offense type. Less than 1% (or 89 of 25,575) of federal defendants with immigration offense charges proceeded to trial in 2018. The same applies to 2% (or 499 of 21,777) defendants with drug offense charges and 4% (or 419 of 10,045) of those with property offense charges.  Defendants with violent offense charges had a higher trial rate at 7% (or 192 of 2,879).

Decline in Trials and Increase in Guilty Pleas

The federal criminal justice system has recorded a significant drop in the number of trials over the last two decades. In fact, the percentage of defendants whose cases reached trial dropped from 7% in 1998 to 2% in 2018. Simply put, the number of defendants who proceeded to trial fell from 4, 710 to 1,879 between 1998 and 2018.

With trials becoming less common, guilty pleas have increased significantly. The percentage of federal criminal defendants who pleaded guilty increased from 82% (or 55,913) in 1998 to 90% (or 71,550) in 2018.

Getting Aggressive Legal Representation

A felony defendant can stand a better chance at obtaining a positive outcome in his or her case by getting a criminal attorney for felonies on board. The attorney will leverage the knowledge of the criminal justice system, investigation abilities, and due diligence to get the defendant’s charge dismissed or reduced. This may involve interviewing witnesses, evaluating police reports and medical records, and negotiating with the prosecutor.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.
Minnesota recently passed a public safety bill that brings sweeping changes to the state’s juvenile justice system. While minors sometimes run afoul of the law, the juvenile justice system seeks to account for the differences between children and adults. Therefore, while the penalties for adults convicted of crimes focus on punishment, those for juveniles are aimed at diversion and restorative practices.