Understanding Plea Bargains

If you have been charged with a crime, there are many ways that you can handle the issue. While most people think about going to court, presenting their case, and hoping that the judge or jury rules in their favor, that is actually not how most cases are resolved. For many cases, including white-collar cases, the defendant will engage in a plea bargain with the prosecuting attorney. This is where you come to an agreement regarding the charges, the penalties, or both, in exchange for either a guilty plea, or a plea of no contest (nolo contendere).

Pros & Cons of a Plea Bargain

A plea bargain has a variety of advantages and disadvantages for both the defendant and the prosecutors. For the defendant, it is important to evaluate these pros and cons to see if it is a good option for you. The following are some benefits to enter into your evaluation:

  • Added Control – When you enter a plea bargain, you may know exactly what your penalties will be, so there is no unknown risk involved.  It may depend on whether your case is being heard in state court or federal court.
  • Eliminate Charges – You can often have some of the charges dropped in exchange for pleading guilty to other charges, which may be lesser in severity.
  • Much Faster – You can enter a plea bargain and generally have it accepted by the court far faster than you could go through a full trial.

Of course, there are also disadvantages to this option, including the following:

  • Guilty – Whether you end up pleading guilty or no contest, you will have the criminal conviction on your record for the rest of your life.  Again, it depends whether your case is being heard in state court or federal court. In state court, under certain circumstances, the court may withhold adjudication thus avoiding a criminal conviction.  This option does not exist in federal court.
  • Can’t Argue Your Case – Once you enter a plea bargain, the courts aren’t interested in hearing whether you are guilty or not.  In the case of a guilty plea, you are admitting your guilt.

Negotiating a Plea Bargain

You are always able to negotiate with a prosecuting attorney, or have your attorney do it on your behalf, to try to get the best plea deal possible. If you can’t come to an agreement that you like, you can always have a trial which will compel the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Having an aggressive and experienced attorney work with the prosecutors to get you the best deal possible should generally be given a chance, as it may help to minimize the risk and result in a satisfactory outcome.

Is a Plea Bargain Right for You?

Whether you are actually innocent of the charges against you or not, it is important to carefully consider whether a plea bargain is the right option. For most people, accepting a plea bargain is primarily a matter of risk mitigation. When you are facing criminal charges that come with very serious penalties, you can often enter an agreement that is dramatically less severe. Please contact us to have an attorney review your case and help to decide if a plea bargain is the right option in your situation.

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Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

As experienced trial lawyers with a passion for justice, our firm provides clients with compelling advocacy, attorney availability, and creative solutions to your tax or criminal law matters.

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