If you face criminal charges, the prosecutor will, in all likelihood, offer you and your attorney a plea bargain at some point. Should you accept it? That depends on the bargain itself, what it requires you to do and the consequences thereof.
Per FindLaw, three kinds of plea bargains exist as follows:
- Charge reduction bargains: The prosecutor agrees to dismiss your original charge(s) if you agree to plead guilty to one or more lesser charges.
- Sentence reduction bargains: The prosecutor agrees to recommend to the judge that you receive a lighter sentence if you agree to plead guilty to your original charge(s).
- Fact bargains: The prosecutor agrees to forego bringing up certain facts at your trial if you agree to stipulate that certain other facts are true.
Plea bargain pros
The main advantage of accepting a plea bargain is that it saves you what could be a considerable amount of time and money to defend yourself in a trial. Not only does it bring your case to a speedy conclusion, it also provides you with reasonable clarity as to what you can expect at its conclusion.
Plea bargain cons
The main downside of accepting a sentence reduction plea bargain is that the judge does not have to follow the prosecutor’s recommendation. You will not know your sentence until the judge imposes it on you.
Other disadvantages include the following:
- You will have to admit your guilt, whether to the original charge(s) or reduced ones, in open court.
- Once you admit guilt, you will have considerably more difficulty getting a new trial or securing an acquittal on appeal.
- You have a constitutional right to a trial by a jury of your peers; giving up a constitutional right is always a serious and problematic undertaking.
Bottom line, before accepting any plea bargain negotiated between the prosecutor and your attorney, make sure you fully understand what it entails and how it will affect you in the future.