We know how difficult it is to face criminal charges. Your reputation suffers, you may fear losing your job, and worst of all, your freedom may be at stake.
One of the tools your defense attorney has is a plea bargain. Per FindLaw, a plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between your attorney and the prosecutor. You never have to accept a plea bargain, and you should not do so unless and until you understand exactly what it is, what you are agreeing to do, and what the consequences will be.
Plea bargain types
There are three kinds of plea bargains as follows:
- Charge plea bargain: The prosecutor agrees to reduce the charges pending against you in exchange for your agreement to plead guilty to the reduced charge(s).
- Sentence plea bargain: You agree to plead guilty to the charges pending against you in exchange for the prosecutor’s agreement to recommend lighter penalties.
- Fact plea bargain: You agree that your attorney will stipulate to the truthfulness of one or more facts that the prosecutor intends to bring up at trial in exchange for the prosecutor’s agreement not to bring up one or more specified additional facts.
Be aware that although the prosecutor agrees in a sentence plea bargain to recommend a lighter than normal sentence, the judge does not have to follow the prosecutor’s recommendation. (S)he can sentence you as (s)he feels is appropriate under all the circumstances.
Plea bargain advantages
The main advantage of a plea bargain is that it gets your case over with sooner, oftentimes much sooner, than it would be if you opt for a jury trial. This is a major consideration if you have problems raising bail. In addition, you know exactly what to expect from a plea bargain. Going to trial is always a gamble no matter how strongly you and your attorney feel about your innocence. No one can accurately predict what a jury will do, what evidence they will think is important, or what verdict they will arrive at.
Plea bargain disadvantages
You have the constitutional right to a jury trial when facing criminal charges. Notwithstanding the unpredictability of juries, waiving your constitutional right via a plea bargain is not something you should do lightly. In addition, with both a charge bargain and a sentence bargain, you must plead guilty to committing one or more crimes. By law, the judge must ask you if you are pleading guilty voluntarily. Once you say yes, there is no going back. You cannot change your mind later.
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