A criminal charge is a terrifying and stressful experience. Especially, if a plea bargain is offered by the prosecution. Trial cases often require guilty pleas rather than convictions for more serious charges. Some instances may benefit you if you admit guilt to a crime you didn’t commit. Criminal lawyers evaluate the evidence against you, assess your trial chances, and advocate for you.
Why do prosecutors offer plea bargains?
The criminal justice system halts if every case went to a full jury trial. Prosecutors have massive caseloads and limited resources, so plea bargains give them a faster resolution. It moves cases through the courts efficiently while still earning a conviction. Prosecutors often prefer a plea bargain even when there is strong evidence against the defendant. Trials save time and money, and jury verdicts are no longer unpredictable. The defendant must waive their right to appeal after pleading guilty. For defendants, plea bargains provide the certainty of defined punishment limits without the gamble of a trial. Sentencing is almost always less severe than if convicted at trial. The process gives defendants some control in a system designed against them.
When plea bargains are offered?
Plea bargains may be offered at any time during the adjudication process. Ideally, your defense will negotiate with the prosecution early on to have the best bargaining position. If the defense’s case isn’t ironclad, they may offer a favorable deal to avoid losing altogether at trial. As you get closer to trial, the prosecution gains confidence in a conviction and seeks to negotiate from a greater position of strength. At this point, deals often become less attractive. Too early, and the defense lacks proper information to evaluate the plea bargain wisely. The closer to trial, the more desperate the Scarborough local criminal lawyers becomes to avoid courtroom uncertainties. Timing is everything and your lawyer must determine the most strategic moment to engage in plea discussions.
What are the most common types of plea deals?
While deals vary case-by-case, common examples of plea bargains include:
- Charge Reduction – Pleading guilty to a lesser charge that carries a shorter sentence. You can plead to misdemeanor assault instead of felony assault.
- Sentence Recommendation – The prosecutor will recommend a lighter sentence but cannot guarantee what penalty the judge will impose.
- Charge Dismissal – Dismissing some charges in a multi-charge case in return for a guilty plea on the remaining charges.
- No Contest – A no-contest plea means the defendant does not admit guilt but concedes the prosecution likely has sufficient evidence for conviction. There is still a penalty but avoiding admission provides some benefit.
- Deferred Sentencing – The plea agreement is held open until the defendant must meet certain obligations like community service. If satisfied, the case may be dropped.
Your lawyer’s familiarity with prosecutors, judges, and typical case outcomes will inform what deals may be on the table and what makes sense for your situation. While giving up some legal options, plea bargains offer many advantages over trials. Certainty alone may be worth compromising if you are risk-averse.