If your criminal case is like many others, there may be elements of truth in the prosecutor's assertions. Though you may not have done everything the prosecutor says you did, there might be enough evidence to charge and possibly convict you. Faced with this reality, it can make sense to consider the possibility of a plea bargain.
There are pluses and minuses to a plea bargain, also known as a plea agreement or negotiated plea. Before making the decision to seek a plea bargain, you should carefully consider the consequences. In this blog post, we will discuss some of those pluses and minuses, and when a plea bargain might be the best course of action to take.
When might a prosecutor agree to a negotiated plea?
There are different degrees to many types of crimes in Tennessee. For example, theft of property valued at $500 or less is a Class A misdemeanor while theft of property valued at more than $500 to $1,000 is a Class E felony. Class A theft carries lesser penalties than Class E theft, so it can make sense for a defendant to plead guilty to the lesser charge rather than going to trial and risking conviction for Class E theft.
The job of a District Attorney is to gain convictions and efficiently manage the criminal prosecution process. Because of the time and expense of criminal trials, prosecutors often prefer negotiated pleas rather than taking every case to trial. The outcome of any particular trial is also uncertain, so rather than risking the possibility of a not guilty verdict or a mistrial, prosecutors often agree to negotiated pleas. A plea agreement spares everyone involved in a case a lot of trouble, including the prosecutor, the court, and the defendant.
When should a defendant agree to a negotiated plea?
A defendant who risks the possibility of a long jail sentence may be much better off by accepting a plea bargain. Depending on the circumstances of the case, he or she may even be able to avoid jail altogether, by agreeing to community service or substance abuse treatment. A defendant who faces multiple charges of moderate severity may also be able to get most of the charges dropped in exchange for a negotiated plea.
In addition, a plea bargain can resolve a case much more quickly. It can significantly reduce legal fees by avoiding the need for trial. And it can avoid the opprobrium that can accompany conviction for a stigmatizing charge.
Pleading guilty to a lesser charge is not always in the best interest of a defendant. You should agree to a negotiated plea only after discussions with your attorney. You should take time to understand the consequences of pleading guilty and the penalties you will incur for the lesser charge, as well as the risks and opportunities of going to trial.
If you have questions about your case, speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.