Most criminal cases are settled through plea bargains, and there are several valid reasons for this. For instance, a plea deal saves both the court and the defense time.
But a plea deal also comes with its drawbacks. Thus, it is important that you review the circumstances of your case as well as what you are likely to gain (or forfeit) should you take this route.
Understanding how plea deals work
As the name suggests, a plea deal is an agreement between the prosecution and the defendant where the defendant pleads guilty to a specified offense or makes certain concessions in exchange for lenient punishment. Depending on the nature of your case, this can take any of these three forms:
- Charge bargaining: You get to plead guilty to a less serious offense. An example would be pleading guilty to a manslaughter charge so the prosecution can drop the original murder charge.
- Sentence bargaining: You agree to plead guilty to the crime you have been charged with in exchange for a lenient sentence.
- Fact bargaining: You admit to certain facts of your case so the prosecution can drop certain evidence.
The ultimate goal of a plea bargain is to somehow end up with a lesser punishment. But it is always a good idea?
Like most decisions in life, here are a few things you need to know about a plea deal:
You will forfeit some rights – by entering a plea deal, you will be giving up certain rights. One of these is the right to presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Accepting a plea deal also means that you will be forfeiting your right to appeal the conviction.
You will have a criminal record – since you will be pleading guilty to something, you will end up with a criminal record that you will shoulder for the rest of your life.
Protecting your rights
The decision to accept a plea deal or not is basically yours to make. In making your decision, however, it is crucial that you understand what the prosecution is offering as well as the legal and personal implications of accepting the deal.