In the legal system, many defendants plead guilty in order to reduce their sentence rather than taking their case to trial and risking a harsher penalty if found guilty.
Although plea bargains are often the most expedient way to resolve criminal cases, there are plenty of pros and cons to consider before deciding whether to take one.
Here’s what you need to know about how plea bargains work and how they can affect your criminal case.
1) You Give Up Some Rights
Plea bargains can be advantageous to some defendants because they can save the time, money, and stress of going to trial.
However, there are some consequences that come along with taking a plea bargain.
These include the fact that you will not have an opportunity to present your side in court which may result in inaccurate accusations being made.
Another consequence is that your sentence might be more severe if you are found guilty later on down the line.
For example, this could happen if you were given probation for a misdemeanor crime but then convicted of another misdemeanor offense at a later date.
The reason for this is because many jurisdictions consider probation as time served when calculating jail sentences for subsequent convictions.
2) You Avoid Going to Trial
Many defendants choose to enter into plea bargains because they want to avoid the risk that comes with going to trial.
If you are found guilty after trial, you may face harsher penalties than if you had entered into a plea bargain.
For this reason, many people would rather have their fate decided by the prosecutor or judge in exchange for avoiding the risk of an unfavorable jury verdict.
But don’t forget that a plea bargain also carries its own set of risks and disadvantages.
In addition to potential financial losses.
There is the possibility of losing your reputation and having restrictions on your ability to vote or travel abroad depending on the severity of your offense.
You also lose the opportunity for restitution from being found not guilty at trial.
These disadvantages should be weighed against any potential benefits before entering into a plea bargain.
3) The Judge Decides Your Sentence
If you take the plea bargain, you will be sentenced in the court’s discretion.
This means that the judge will decide your sentence based on your case, which can vary between different types of cases.
For example, if you were driving without a license or without insurance, then it is likely that you will get jail time for this offense.
However, if you were driving without either one but had no prior offenses, then it is likely that you would just get fined for this offense instead.
The judge might also order community service as a form of punishment instead of jail time.
Sometimes judges give defendants opportunities to avoid being incarcerated by paying fines or doing community service work with their probation officer before they are sentenced, especially when they have committed minor crimes like petty theft.
4) You Might Get a Lighter Sentence
A plea bargain is an arrangement between the defendant and the prosecution which allows the defendant to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for some kind of concession.
The most common type of plea bargain involves pleading guilty to a lesser charge with an agreement that, instead of prison time, you will receive probation or house arrest.
If you are arrested, it is important to know that you don’t have to take any deal offered by the prosecution.
You can refuse a plea bargain if it doesn’t suit your needs.
For instance, if you’re innocent and want to fight the charges, then refusing a plea bargain is appropriate.
However, if you want to try for a reduced sentence rather than going straight to trial (and risking receiving a harsher sentence), then accepting the offer might be wise.
It’s also possible that you’ve committed a crime but only out of necessity, such as when someone steals food to feed their family.
In this situation, taking a plea bargain might be the best option.
It’s important to note that even when you accept a plea bargain, there are always consequences attached.
5) You Might Get a Harsher Sentence
A plea bargain is an agreement with the prosecution to plead guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence.
It should be taken with caution, because if the court rejects your plea bargain, it could result in harsher sentencing.
Additionally, this might affect any future plea bargains in the future.
6) You Could Get a Better Sentence:
The prosecutor can also offer you a better deal as well when you take a plea bargain.
They might charge less serious charges or give you more time on parole.
However, there are risks involved with a plea bargain- like the possibility that the judge will refuse to accept your plea.
There are many benefits and consequences that come from pleading guilty through a plea bargain.
One benefit would be getting a lesser sentence than what you would have received by going to trial.
On the other hand, one possible consequence is having an even harsher sentence than what was initially given by the judge.
Another potential risk includes not being able to get another plea bargain for some time due to objections from courts or prosecutors.
7) You Might Have to Admit Guilt
A plea bargain is when you plead guilty to an offense in exchange for a reduced sentence.
This is often done because the defendant does not want to take the time, money, or risk involved with going to trial.
However, this can be an effective strategy if you are confident that you will be found innocent at trial.
For example, if your attorney tells you that the prosecution’s case against you is weak, then it may make sense to do a plea bargain so that there will be no need for a costly and risky trial.
Likewise, it might make sense to do one if your legal team thinks they can win at trial but they think they would have trouble getting a jury verdict on some points of law.
In these cases it might make sense to try some points while conceding others as part of a plea deal.