If you’ve been charged with a crime, you have a right to your day in court. If you’re innocent of the charges you’re facing, you may overcome your situation by presenting a strong defense.
What if you have some legal culpability, but the charge you’re facing is too harsh for what you actually did? Perhaps you have knowledge or evidence that would help law enforcement and prosecutors arrest and charge someone else who committed more serious offenses than you. Under these circumstances, you might be offered a plea bargain.
There are times when accepting a plea deal may be your best option. Fortunately, even if you don’t have something to trade for a plea deal, prosecutors might be willing to offer one anyway. Prosecutors have powerful incentives to avoid taking a case to trial. This effort involves time, resources and manpower they often don’t have. Additionally, the burden of proof in a criminal case is very high. If a defendant won’t plead guilty, prosecutors may offer to reduce the charge and/or the sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.
Should you consider a plea bargain?
In addition to getting a charge reduced or avoiding jail time completely, you might be able to avoid stigmatizing charges like DUI or rape. Getting a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor can also make a big difference to your future. Besides getting a charge and sentence reduced, there are other potential benefits to accepting a plea deal. For example:
- You’ll avoid the wait, anxiety and uncertainty involved with the trial process
- You aren’t putting your future in the hands of a jury or judge
- You can reduce the chances of your case garnering media attention
For some people, these benefits are so important that they’ll consider accepting a plea deal even if they’re innocent. They don’t want to risk going to jail for something they didn’t do, so they’ll agree to probation or other sanctions just to avoid that risk.
While the potential benefits of a plea deal are undeniable, it’s important to remember that it is generally not a good idea to plead guilty to something you didn’t do, as the consequences of doing so can haunt you for years to come.
Regardless of whether the idea of accepting a plea deal sounds appealing to you, you should not take on the plea-bargaining process on your own. Prosecutors are experienced and adept at negotiating these deals. You deserve experienced legal guidance to help you make the right decision for you and then to work towards the best possible outcome.