When a person is facing serious criminal charges, it’s not uncommon for prosecutors and defense attorneys to negotiate a plea deal. This is typically not something you want to consider if you’re innocent – nor would any reputable attorney ask you to. However, for people who are guilty of criminal wrongdoing, a plea deal can mitigate the consequences.
Prosecutors are often willing and even eager to make plea deals because it can save them the time and work of taking a case to trial. Further, if the evidence is shaky, the victim isn’t sympathetic and the defendant is, they might not want to take their chances in front of a jury. They might prefer getting a smaller win than risk a complete loss.
What is negotiated during plea bargaining?
Generally, negotiations center around one or both of two things: the charge(s) and the punishment. If you’ve been charged with a crime that’s a felony, prosecutors may be willing to settle for a guilty plea to a lesser offense that’s a misdemeanor – particularly if you have information that will help them prosecute someone else. Having a misdemeanor instead of a felony on your record can make a big difference in a person’s life moving forward.
Sometimes the punishment the defendant will face is also up for negotiation. Often, the sentence will be shorter if the charge is plea-bargained down. However, a defense attorney might be able to get prosecutors to agree to probation, house arrest or even time served.
As should be obvious, this is not something you want to do on your own. It requires skill and experience. However, as a defendant, no deal can be accepted on your behalf without your agreement. A judge also has to agree to the deal. Typically, judges will go along with plea deals that prosecutors make. However, judges can be an unpredictable lot, so there’s no guarantee.
Only you can decide what’s best for you given the facts of the situation. Whether you want to present a strong defense in court to seek a “not guilty” verdict or try to work out a plea deal with prosecutors, experienced legal guidance is crucial.