A civil lawyer’s favorite thing to hear his client say is “I’m fighting this on principle!” When both sides feel that way, it sets up the perfect storm. When the gloves come off, the meter goes on, and usually the only ones happy at the end of the day are the attorneys (assuming they were paid prior to disposition).

In criminal cases its the same idea, only its not just money on the line. Its liberty. Yesterday I watched a guy (not my client) get found guilty of a crime after a trial by jury. The case took a half day and the verdict took about an hour to come back. Obviously, the jury thought it was pretty cut and dry. Here’s the thing: This guy was offered a plea deal of 5 years in prison prior to trial. After trial, the judge’s hands were tied and based on the charges and the legislature’s intent, the only possible sentence is Life in Prison (judicial discretion and the lack thereof is a whole different discussion).

But it made me think. If I knew in my heart I was innocent but the circumstantial evidence pointed at me and was enough that a conviction against me was likely (or even possible) would I take the deal in the scenario presented or go to trial on principle?

What would you do?