Mounting a criminal defense may end up being a fairly involved job, and clients have a right to think about what the pros and cons of possibly going to trial might be. Here are three things a lawyer would likely tell you to consider before deciding how far you're willing to go with your defense.
Getting to the Initial Hearings
Most attorneys will want to take most cases at least as far as the first few hearings. The initial arraignment, in particular, represents a good chance to see whether the prosecution came ready or doesn't have a great case. Your lawyer will have the chance to question police officers under oath about why you were charged. If there are problems with the affidavits they filed after arresting you, the arraignment is an opportunity to make the judge aware of the issues.
Depending on how the jurisdiction handles cases, there may be a couple more hearings. The big goals during this phase are to learn what the charges are and try to poke holes in the basic logic of the case. For example, someone presenting a criminal defense against charges drugs were found in their car might question the basis for the initial traffic stop and the subsequent vehicle search.
There is also a possibility the prosecution might offer some sort of plea agreement. If the charges you're facing are pretty bad, a plea deal could keep the worst risks of the case at bay. For example, it's common for negotiations in sex crime cases to structure the plea so the defendant doesn't have to register as an offender. That can make a huge difference in how life goes after serving a sentence.
Some courts also use diversion programs to deal with folks who have either have nothing or very little for a record. In some instances, a plea deal may include a request that the judge suspends the sentence pending certain stipulations. Usually, the stipulations include something like completing substance disorder or anger management counseling. If you follow the program, the sentence is reduced or goes away. If you don't then you have to serve the full sentence.
If you're inclined to play hardball, you might want to push for a trial in order to get to the discovery phase. This is a pre-trial period where the prosecution has to turn over all of the evidence they have against you. You can then raise questions to the judge about the evidence. If this doesn't change things, though, you're going to have to either enter a plea or go to trial.