What Are They & Why Are They Used?
Plea bargains run our criminal justice system. 90% of cases are settled by way of plea deals. When you’re charged with a crime, your lawyer will negotiate a plea bargain. But is a plea bargain your only way out?
Some Basics About Plea Bargains
A plea bargain is a pretrial settlement.
Instead of going to trial and risking a guilty verdict, you may be considering a plea bargain.
Plea deals are encouraged under Federal & State law.
However, if you’re innocent of your criminal charges, a plea bargain may not be an option.
We will discuss everything you need to know.
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- Quick resolution to your case
- Avoid going to prison
- Save money on legal fees
- More control over your case
- You’ll get a criminal record
- Even if you’re innocent, you’ll have to plead guilty to a crime
- You may have to be a witness against your friend
Are They A Quick Fix?
Plea bargains offer the quickest way for you to be done with the criminal justice system.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you know that it’s the worst feeling in the world.
The whole purpose behind plea bargain negotiations is to get you out of your problem quickly.
You may consider taking accepting a deal when you receive a guarantee that you will not go to prison.
First-time offenders will usually be offered a plea deal in exchange for probation and no prison time.
See Pretrial Intervention
When Should I Consider Taking A Deal?
You should consider a plea bargain when there is a lot of evidence against you.
In other words, there may no way for you to win at trial.
For example, nowadays there are video cameras everywhere.
If there is a video of you clearly committing the crime you are accused of, there may be no way to win your case.
You may consider making a deal if you were arrested as a co-defendant.
If you were arrested with one or more people, you will have co-defendants.
A typical example would involve a “drug party situation”.
If the police arrested ten people for marijuana possession at a party and you were part of that group, you may be offered a plea bargain in exchange for your cooperation.
If you were at the party but were not in possession of marijuana, why should you get a criminal record and go to prison?
You would get a plea bargain in exchange for being a witness against the other people at the party.
Why Do Prosecutors Prefer Plea Bargains?
Prosecutors love plea deals because it lightens their caseload, wastes less government resources and guarantees a conviction.
The more convictions a prosecutor gets, the higher their success rate.
Even when a prosecutor has a strong case, a jury still might acquit a defendant.
Trials can be expensive and sometimes Prosecutors offices run low on resources.
As a result, they may be motivated to offer attractive plea bargains.
Lastly, prosecutors often use plea offers to further their case against a co-defendant.
They may accept a plea bargain arrangement from one defendant in return for damaging testimony against another. (Discussed above)
Does A Prosecutor Have To Offer Anything?
Federal and State law encourage plea bargains, but a Prosecutor does not have any obligation under the law to offer a deal.
We’ve represented many clients charged with serious felonies and they were not offered anything.
Remember, if the prosecutor has a slam-dunk case, he/she may elect to go trial.
Sometimes you only have two choices:
- Either plead guilty to the crime; or
- Go to trial.
Whose Decision Is It To Accept A Plea Bargain?
Accepting a deal is a difficult decision.
Your decision will depend on the specific facts of your case, your finances, your criminal history, and your willingness to risk it all on a trial.
Here’s our firm’s philosophy:
If you’re truly innocent; if you know in your heart that you did not do what you are accused of, then you should never plead guilty.
Of course, we understand that the biggest challenge of a plea bargain is when you feel pressured to take the safer path and avoid the risk of a trial.
However, this decision is yours and yours alone.
How Can My Defense Attorney Help Me?
Your criminal defense attorney will identify & explain the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
He may be able to get your case entirely dismissed.
If a dismissal is not possible, he will discuss your legal defenses.
Then he will enter into plea bargain negotiations.
Once everything is on the table, it’s all up to you.
Remember the advantage of making a deal is that you can avoid jail, wrap your case up quickly, and save money.
The disadvantages involve pleading guilty to a crime, getting a criminal record, and maybe betraying your friends.
Lastly, if you are innocent and believe that you can win at trial, it may be time to go “all-in”.