What Is A Plea Bargain?
If you’ve been arrested and/or charged with a crime, you have the right to take your case to trial and be heard by a jury. At the end of the trial, the jury will decide if you are innocent or guilty of the crime you’ve been charged with. But under certain circumstances your attorney may encourage you to not to go to trial and instead to accept a plea bargain.
A plea bargain is a legal agreement between you (the defendant) and the prosecutor in which you agree to plead guilty – usually to a lesser offense than the one you’ve been charged with – in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Why Are Plea Bargains Offered?
The primary reason plea bargains are offered is to swiftly resolve criminal cases in which there is little disagreement about the facts and/or when there is overwhelming evidence of guilt. Plea bargains also increase the efficiency of the courts and reduce your expense as a defendant.
If you are being represented by a court-appointed attorney, they are more likely to recommend accepting a plea bargain than a private attorney. As the defendant, you have a right to accept or refuse any plea bargain, regardless of what your attorney recommends.
Plea Bargain Pros and Cons
The most common reason to accept a plea bargain is to avoid a more serious charge, to have fewer charges brought against you, or to avoid the expense and stress of a trial.
Plea bargains provide a measure of assurance because they allow you (or your attorney) to negotiate the terms of the agreement. In contrast, you have no way of knowing what a jury will decide until they reach a verdict and it is read aloud in court.
On the other hand, accepting a plea bargain typically means waiving potential objections and opportunities to examine and challenge the evidence against you.
Appealing a plea bargain is also much more difficult than appealing a decision at trial because pleas are voluntarily entered into and generally require that you admit to the charges for which you are ultimately convicted.
Types Of Plea Bargains
There are two common types of plea bargains that you may be offered:
Charge Bargain: This is an agreement in which you agree to plead guilty to a lesser criminal charge in exchange for more serious charges being dropped.
Sentence Bargain: An agreement to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence. This, however, is not always successful since it is the judge that determines your sentence, not the prosecutor.
Using An Attorney To Negotiate
A plea bargain agreement can be negotiated at any point in your case, right up until the minute a jury reads their verdict. But plea bargain negotiations can often be complex, and the terms may change if new evidence or circumstances come to light.
To give yourself the best chance at reducing or avoiding serious criminal charges, you should always work with an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Quinnan Law, we take every client’s case seriously and never recommend accepting a plea bargain unless we firmly believe it is in our client’s best interests.
To get help with your case, please contact our offices today.
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