If you're charged with a crime, your defense attorney will talk to you about taking a plea bargain. This doesn't mean they don't want to fight for you—most cases are resolved with a plea bargain. Here's what you should know in order to decide whether a plea bargain is right for you.
What Exactly is a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain is an agreement made with the prosecutor and approved by the judge in which you agree to plead guilty in exchange for either a reduced sentence or a lower charge or both. Because you are pleading guilty, you will be considered to have been convicted of the crime you plead to just the same as if you were found guilty in a trial.
What's the Advantage of a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargaining is basically trading a bad outcome for one that could be much worse. Even though you'll have a criminal record, the reality is that judges give harsher sentences to people that don't accept plea bargains.
If the evidence isn't in your favor, you don't have much to gain and a lot to lose by going to trial.
Do You Have a Right to a Plea Bargain?
Plea bargains are offered in most cases, but the prosecutor may not offer a deal for a serious crime, if someone has been convicted of multiple crimes, or if there is a crackdown on a certain crime. Whether a plea bargain is offered is completely at the prosecutor's discretion.
While a judge can encourage an offer of a plea bargain, they cannot force it. The only power the judge has is to promise a specific sentence, since sentencing is their job, if the defendant pleads guilty to every crime the prosecution alleged.
Do You Lose Anything By Taking a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain gives up several important rights. You lose the ability to have the prosecution prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, and you give up the chance to cross examine any witnesses who would have been called to testify against you.
A plea bargain is final and cannot be appealed even if new evidence is later found. You will also suffer the job and housing consequences of having a criminal record unless you managed to have the charge dropped to a civil fine.
To learn more about plea bargains or to get help beating a criminal charge, contact a local criminal defense attorney (like those at Fadely Lewis PLLC).