A plea bargain refers to the process of negotiation between a defense lawyer and the prosecution. Both the defense lawyer and the prosecution are able to initiate these negotiations, which then the defendant must accept or reject. During a typical plea bargaining process the defendant pleads guilty to either a lesser charge or only one charge (when facing several). Accepting a plea bargain is beneficial because the costs of a trial are avoided. However, deciding when to accept a plea bargain can be tricky.
How do I know when to accept a plea bargain?
Getting arresting and facing serious legal charges can be overwhelming and intimidating. Accepting a plea bargain might seem like an easy decision, especially when confronted with several charges. Before you accept a plea deal make sure to consider the following three points:
- What does my lawyer say? Even if you have prior experience with negotiating a plea, speaking with a criminal attorney should be your first step in deciding to accept a plea bargain. Consulting with an attorney can help you in two ways. First, an attorney will be able to assess your individual situation and then determine the probable outcome. Experienced attorneys will have a good guess from watching similar trials and balancing current sentencing trends. Second, the mere presence of a defense attorney can aid your plea bargain. Having a defense attorney creates more paperwork and preparation for a prosecutor. They may want to strike a deal to avoid going to trial against a defense attorney.
- Is the plea bargain really a bargain? When presented with a plea bargain, consider if the plea is actually a good deal. It common that the initial round of negotiations is not much of a "bargain." A prosecutor might want to negotiate a plea bargain to gain a conviction without the lengthy process of a trail. A public defender may also seek a plea bargain to keep cases flowing quickly. After a few rounds of negotiations, the bargain is much more likely to be a plea where both sides truly benefit.
- Is accepting this plea in my best interest? Being offered a plea bargain may feel merciful, but a plea bargain is not something done for you out of kindness; it is part of a legal process where each side is trying to win. For instance, a prosecutor reviewing your case might feel like they have the weaker case, therefore offering a plea bargain only to guarantee a guilty plea.
Choosing to accept or decline a plea bargain affects your life in profound ways. It is important to have a knowledgeable private criminal defense attorney who will work with your best interests in mind during this overwhelming time in your life. If you or a family member is facing criminal charges, speak with an attorney today.