When it’s possible, you should consider plea bargaining in a case against you. Considering a plea bargain does not mean it is the best option, or that you should take it, but it is always an option that should be discussed. Most criminal prosecutions end with a plea bargain. According to the Innocence Project, only about 3% of criminal prosecutions over the past 50 years went to trial. In the remaining 97% of cases, the defendant pled guilty as part of a plea bargain.
But it would be best if you did not automatically take a plea bargain. Before you enter into a plea bargain, you should carefully weigh the risks and benefits of trial against the cost of the plea bargain.
Here are some of the considerations to keep in mind in deciding whether to accept a plea bargain in a case against you.
Plea bargains give you some control over your criminal case. For some people, this has value in itself. Other factors that favor plea bargains include:
Plea bargains usually include a sentence recommendation by the prosecution. This gives you certainty.
By contrast, juries are unpredictable. When a jury gets a case, you could be acquitted or found guilty of the most severe charges. After that, you will be at the mercy of the judge who will determine what sentence to give you.
If the prosecution has strong evidence in your case, you may serve time whether you take the plea bargain or go to trial. But if you take a plea bargain, you can start serving your sentence, which allows you to finish your sentence sooner.
Although the prosecution might tempt you with a plea bargain, going to trial might have some benefits, such as:
If you did not commit the charged crime, a trial allows you to test the prosecution’s evidence and present evidence of your innocence. Likewise, if the prosecution has overcharged you, a trial allows you to present mitigating factors, like self-defense.
If you have a clean criminal record, taking a plea bargain could put a conviction into your criminal history. This could have serious consequences for your ability to rent a home, get a loan, or buy a gun. A criminal conviction could also exclude you from some professions, like becoming a teacher or police officer.
In a typical case, the prosecutor offers a deal to your criminal defense attorney. If you want your lawyer to pursue a deal, your lawyer will negotiate with the prosecution to get the best possible terms. Before you accept a plea bargain, you will likely have extensive discussions with your lawyer about its risks and benefits.
Contact Shrader Law to discuss your criminal case and the plea agreement you might receive.
Posted in Criminal Defense
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