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How do you know if you should seek a plea deal?

On Behalf of | Jan 28, 2024 | Criminal Defense

You may have heard that very few criminal cases ever go to trial. If all or even most of them did, our courts, judges and prosecutors would be overwhelmed. 

A big part of the reason they don’t is because prosecutors and defendants reach a plea agreement. That’s when a defendant pleads guilty — often to a lesser offense than they’re charged with — and get their potential sentence reduced. 

In return, prosecutors don’t have to spend time and manpower on preparing and trying a case and risking a “not guilty” verdict by a jury. They also get a “win,” which looks good on their boss’s record when they seek re-election – and on their own record.

How do you know whether to seek a plea deal?

Certainly, if you’re innocent of the crime for which you’re facing charges, you can and should fight to get the charge dropped or be found not guilty. However, if you have some legal culpability and there’s solid evidence that can be used against you, it can be worthwhile to seek a plea deal. If you have information that can help prosecutors arrest and charge someone who’s committed a more serious crime, that can be an excellent bargaining chip.

The process of working out a plea deal is called “plea bargaining.” It generally revolves around one of two things.

The charge

This is the most common subject of bargaining. A defendant charged with DUI may offer to plead guilty to reckless driving, which has fewer consequences on their future. Felony charges can sometimes be reduced to misdemeanors, which are less likely to affect a person’s future job prospects.

The sentence

Typically, when a charge is reduced, so is the sentence. Sometimes, however, a person can plead guilty to the crime with which they’re charged but get a lighter sentence. Maybe instead of time behind bars, they can get probation, community service, house arrest or “time served.”

Plea bargaining is never something you should do on your own – know matter how many times you’ve seen it done on the various Law & Order series. You need experienced legal guidance – first to determine if seeking a plea deal is your best option and then, if it is, to handle such crucial, intricate negotiations.