When you take a plea bargain you agree to plead guilty to a lesser crime than the one you’ve been charged for. This usually results in a reduction in your sentence and will allow you to count time served against the sentence you receive.
Other stipulations, such as giving up information about other criminal activities and suspects, often apply.
Plea bargaining is a more common way to resolve criminal cases then going before a jury of your peers. And making a decision about whether to take one may be one of the toughest decisions you have to make during your criminal case.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of a plea bargain is the reduction of risk. When the bargain is on the table you’ll know exactly what’s going to happen, whether you’ll serve jail time, how much jail time you’ll serve, and more. In some cases, you may avoid jail entirely.
When you get a jury trial all of these factors are up in the air, subject to the whims of the jury. And if you’re found guilty, it’s important to know some judges offer harsher sentences to defendants who reject plea bargains.
Often, plea bargains may involve turning felonies into misdemeanors and misdemeanors into civil infractions. This can certainly impact your record and how deeply the criminal charge could impact your ability to secure employment or housing in the future.
Obviously if you are innocent taking a plea bargain can be a very bitter pill to swallow.
It’s also entirely possible the state doesn’t have much of a case against you. Since we don’t usually know the exact shape of the prosecution’s case it can be hard to tell. If you have an air tight alibi and a private attorney who can be successful in conveying that alibi to a jury it would be downright foolish to walk away from an opportunity to prove your innocence.
After all, nothing shows up on your record when you’re acquitted. And chances are your life has already been severely disrupted by the arrest. Some defendants end up feeling like it’s better to see the whole thing through, even if they have to wait in jail longer.
Obviously going to trial is always an option.
Sometimes the state’s case is also so weak that a really good criminal attorney can pick it apart and get it dismissed, which is an even better outcome than an acquittal.
Where this isn’t possible, a good attorney can sometimes talk you into certain programs which you may be able to enter and complete in lieu of jail time.
Making the Decision
Deciding whether or not to take a plea bargain isn’t the sort of decision you ought to be facing on your own. A private attorney is your best bet if you want a careful case evaluation which results in a good, solid recommendation. Public defenders are strapped for time and nearly always recommend taking the plea.
Are you facing this decision right now? If so, give us a call for a free case consultation. We’ll be happy to help.