After you’ve been charged with a crime, knowing your legal options is important. Perhaps the best result for you would be a complete dismissal of all your charges. While you can fight for that, part of defending your criminal case is likely going to involve plea bargaining.
What is plea bargaining?
Plea bargaining is basically an intense negotiating session between you and the prosecutor. The negotiations can take place over days or weeks. If you are represented by a criminal defense attorney, your attorney negotiates on your behalf.
Most criminal cases do not go to trial but end up being resolved through a plea deal. This only happens if the plea bargaining results in a resolution to your case that you and the prosecutor agree on.
What is a plea deal?
A plea deal is like a contract. It is an agreement between you and the prosecutor as to how to dispose of your charges. Like most agreements, a plea deal usually requires some compromise on both sides.
This means that your plea deal is not likely to be that all your charges are dismissed. A plea deal typically means you agree to plead guilty or no contest to some of the charges, while the other charges are dismissed.
A plea deal can also involve a reduced sentence for the charges you plead guilty to. While prosecutors have enormous resources at their disposal, they do not have the time and resources to take every case to trial. They have an incentive to offer you reduced penalties as part of a plea bargain.
Once you and the prosecutor agree on a plea deal, it must still be approved by the court. You will be scheduled for a hearing and the deal will be proposed to the judge, who will accept or reject it.
Pros and cons of accepting a plea deal
There is no one answer to whether or not you should accept a plea bargain. The answer depends on the circumstances of your case. Accepting a plea deal could be in your best interest, to avoid you the cost, time and risk of losing at trial and receiving a harsher penalty.
However, you could opt to take your case to trial. It is best to make your choice after listening to the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney.