If you’re facing criminal charges, there’s no question that it’s one of the most stressful times of your life. Not only are you concerned about the outcome and your future, you’re also suddenly thrown into an unfamiliar world of legal jargon and procedure. During this stressful time, you might be tempted to jump at the first offer that comes along – often in the form of a plea bargain. Before you decide, it’s important to understand what a plea bargain is and when it’s the best option for protecting your future.

What Is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement that is made between the defense and the prosecution, where the prosecution agrees to reduce the charges and possibly recommend a lighter sentence in exchange for the defendant’s plea of guilt or no contest.

A plea bargain may be offered unprompted by the prosecution, however it’s often the case that a plea deal is the result of negotiations that take place outside the courtroom between both the prosecution and defense attorneys. Keep in mind that there must be some incentive for the prosecution to offer a plea bargain – for example, inconsistencies or lack of evidence that might present a roadblock to proving their case in court.

There are essentially three types of plea bargains. These include:

  • Sentence bargaining – negotiating for a reduced sentence in return for an admission of guilt
  • Charge bargaining – negotiating for reduced or dropped charges in return for an admission of guilt
  • Fact bargaining – involving the admission of facts so that the prosecution doesn’t need to supply certain evidence.

Once a plea bargain is offered, the defense has the option to either accept or reject the offer. However, once an offer is rejected by the defense, the decision cannot later be retracted. Because of this, many people facing criminal charges are quick to react without considering the potential ramifications of their decision. There are times when a plea bargain is without question the best option. There are also times when accepting one can be the wrong move, and understanding the difference is key to your defense.

The Pros and Cons of a Plea Bargain

From a procedural standpoint, plea bargains make sense. When a defendant accepts a plea bargain they are reducing the load on both the defense and prosecuting attorneys, as well as the court system. This helps to explain why plea bargaining is so widely used. According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance, at least 90% of criminal cases are resolved through plea bargaining.

The benefits of accepting a plea bargain are often obvious. For example, if the plea bargain is accepted by the judge it ensures that reduced charges will appear on your record and that you’ll face lighter sentencing. Additionally, it eliminates the trial process which can be especially important if you have a pubic reputation to protect.

On the other hand, you give up a certain amount of freedoms by accepting a plea bargain. By accepting the plea, you waive your right to trial by jury and to later appeal the charges. Likewise, you’ll end up with a criminal record, even if you’re really innocent.

Schedule a Consultation

If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s important to not enter into any plea agreement offered by the prosecution without first consulting with your own defense attorney. Contact John D. Kirby today to speak with a San Diego attorney who’s experienced in defending cases just like yours.