Certainly, everyone who is charged with a crime has the right to their day in court. If you’re innocent of the charge against you, you deserve a strong defense. However, what if you have some legal culpability, and going through a trial could mean being found guilty and ending up behind bars? Do you want to put your future in the hands of jurors?
That’s where a plea deal may be your best option. You’ve probably seen the plea bargaining process depicted on screen between prosecutors and defense attorneys in consultation with their clients. Let’s look at the two items that are most often negotiated in a plea deal.
Negotiating a criminal charge
Negotiating for a lesser charge can make a big difference to your future. You may be able to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. A DUI can sometimes be reduced to a reckless driving charge. A sex-related offense may be reduced to one that doesn’t require being placed on the state’s Sex Offender Registry. If you have information that’s helpful to prosecutors in getting “bigger fish” than you, that can prove extremely beneficial in negotiations.
Negotiating a sentence
Usually, if a charge is reduced, so is the sentence. That can mean getting probation, house arrest or performing community service instead of spending time behind bars. It could mean getting a shorter sentence or having a sentence reduced to “time served,” meaning you don’t have to serve any further time. Fines can sometimes be reduced as well.
Plea negotiations require experience and skill
Prosecutors typically are agreeable to trying to reach a plea deal and avoid going to trial. Trials are expensive for the government and are very time- and labor-intensive. That’s good for those looking to mitigate the consequences of their actions.
However, that doesn’t mean that plea bargaining is easy. You should never try to do it alone. Knowing the law is crucial. Knowing the prosecutors and the judge in the case (who ultimately has to approve the deal) can be extremely valuable as well. That’s why you need legal guidance, both to determine whether a plea deal is your best option and, if it is, to negotiate the best possible outcome.