Criminal court cases are not always like what you see on tv, with a prosecutor and defense attorney battling each other in court in front of a jury. In fact, nearly 90 percent of criminal cases are resolved by a plea bargain, when a defendant agrees to plead guilty to a less serious charge in exchange for a lesser sentence. While this may seem like a great opportunity for the defendant to avoid the stresses of a trial, not all plea deals are in the defendant’s best interest. A criminal defense attorney can review the facts of your case and help determine whether you should accept a plea deal.
Advantages of accepting a plea deal
If charges for federal crimes go to trial, neither prosecutors nor defendants know exactly what the outcome will be. A plea bargain protects both sides from that uncertainty. Prosecutors generally benefit from a plea deal in that they are guaranteed a conviction without having to spend hours preparing for and enduring a lengthy trial. Defendants also may be fearful that if they go to trial instead of accepting the plea deal, they could be convicted of a more severe charge and face a harsher sentence than they would have faced if they had just accepted the deal. Accepting the plea deal protects them from a more serious conviction, while allowing them to avoid a costly, time-consuming trial.
Disadvantages of accepting plea deal
While there are some advantages to a plea deal, there are some disadvantages, particularly for the defendant. In some cases, defendants find themselves pressured to agree to a deal even when they are innocent, because they cannot risk going to trial. The truth is that many prosecutors offer a deal in the first place because they do not have the evidence required to get a conviction. Therefore, a defendant may end up agreeing to a deal, even though the trial would have gone in their favor. Additionally, even if you agree to a plea deal, the judge may end up rejecting the terms of the agreement.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to agreeing to a plea bargain. Your attorney can advise you based on the specifics of your deal and help you decide whether to accept the terms.