Did you know that over 90% of criminal cases never proceed to trial because the defendants and their attorneys reach a plea deal with prosecutors? If it weren’t for plea deals, the criminal courts would be even more backed up than they already are, and the prisons would be more overcrowded. However, a plea deal can be the best resolution for a defendant who accepts some level of responsibility for their illegal behavior.
Defendants who are innocent will sometimes accept a plea deal to avoid putting their family through the rigors of a trial or because they feel the evidence is stacked against them. However, that’s rarely advisable –- and certainly not without careful thought and discussion with your attorney.
If you accept a deal, you’re admitting to committing a crime, and you’ll have a criminal record. It may be possible to plead “no contest,” but that can have implications for your future as well.
When should you plea bargain?
Typically, a defendant will give their attorney authorization to plea bargain with prosecutors if they have a chance to plead guilty to a lesser offense than the one with which they’re charged and/or get a lighter sentence or no prison time. Further, they don’t feel confident that a jury won’t convict them. Therefore, rather than take a chance on serving a lengthy sentence, they may agree to a plea bargain where they admit to a less serious crime that comes with a lighter penalty.
Whether you accept a plea deal will depend in part on what prosecutors offer. This is where the “bargaining” part comes in. Your attorney will do their best to mitigate the charges, your sentence or both.
Deciding whether to plea bargain is a question that’s unique to each person and situation. However, it’s important to understand the pros and cons as they relate to you. It’s never something you should try on your own. An experienced criminal defense attorney understands the options and will ensure that the agreement is codified accurately in writing.