You’ve never been in trouble with the law before, but the charges are serious. You’re worried about the effect that a trial may have on your family, your reputation and your future — so you’re hoping for a plea deal.
Is that really in your best interest? Maybe. Every case is different, but the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea agreements between the prosecution and the defense. Before you decide what you should do next, however, you need to understand what to expect.
A plea deal’s attractiveness depends largely on what you can get compared to what you stand to lose. With that in mind, there are three basic kinds of plea bargains.
You agree to admit to certain facts so that the prosecution doesn’t have to prove them at trial. Why would you do that? Sometimes the facts of a case raise a lot of problematic issues. By avoiding the specifics of a situation, you may preserve some of your privacy or protect your character in the jury’s eyes.
This kind of deal means that the prosecution either agrees to drop some of the charges against you entirely or lower the charge you’re facing to something less serious in exchange for a guilty plea to whatever remains. This could mean the difference between a single felony conviction and multiple felony convictions — or it could mean the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor.
This type of plea deal will leave you with a conviction and a criminal record, but it allows you to get a sentence recommendation from the prosecution that is, in all likelihood, far less than what you’d receive if you insisted on going to trial. When the evidence isn’t going your way, this can still help you obtain a positive outcome for your case.
You should never take a plea deal in any kind of criminal case without considering all of the options. Plea deals may be widely used, but they’re not for everyone — and you have a right to a robust defense.