What You Need To Know About Plea Bargains

Gavel depicting plea bargains

Are you confused about plea bargains?

The confusion is understandable. Most of the widely publicized in real life and highly dramatized criminal trials in fiction represent the exception to what is commonly practiced in actual criminal court proceedings.

Almost all criminal cases are settled outside of trial in a process called plea bargaining. If you are charged with a crime, it’s most likely that your case will involve a plea bargain rather than a criminal trial with a jury, unless you are facing severe felony charges.

What Are Plea Bargains?

A plea bargain is an agreement reached by the prosecutor and the defendant to avoid a trial. Criminal trials are expensive and can take a lot of time. In addition, trials are perceived to be a more significant risk. It is usually in the best interest of all parties to make a deal.

The defendant must plead guilty or no contest to the charges in exchange for one or more charges to be dropped or for the charge to be reduced to a less serious offense.

Sometimes, if a charge can’t be dropped or changed, the prosecutor will agree to recommend a specific sentence in the interest of the defendant.

When Are Plea Bargains Made?

Plea bargains can be made at almost any stage of the criminal justice process:

  • Shortly after a defendant is arrested.
  • Before the prosecutor files criminal charges.
  • As a jury is returning to a courtroom to deliver a verdict
  • In the event of a hung jury at trial.
  • And sometimes even as a defendant is convicted but while on appeal.

Two Types of Plea Bargaining

Attorneys and judges divide plea bargains into two different types:

  • Charge bargaining
  • Sentence bargaining

Charge bargaining pertains to prosecutors agreeing to drop some charges or reduce charges.

Sentence bargaining refers to the practice by prosecutors of offering a specific sentence or a lighter sentence to particular charges in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty or no contest to the charge.

Plea Bargains and Your Criminal Record

Whether you are found guilty by a jury or plead guilty in a plea bargain agreement, you will have a criminal conviction on your record. You will lose any rights you would have lost had your guilty conviction been the result of a criminal trial.

However, depending on the type of conviction, you may still have the option of sealing or expunging your criminal record.

A no contest plea works almost the same way as a guilty plea. You are telling the court you choose not to contest the charges against you, but that you recognize the state has enough evidence to convict you.

This plea still results in a criminal conviction, and it will show up on your criminal record. However, if the victim later tries to sue you, a no contest plea can’t be used in civil court as an admission of guilt. A guilty plea does serve as an admission of guilt in civil court.

Are You Facing Criminal Charges?

Whether you intend to take your case to a criminal trial or plead guilty or no contest to your charges to avoid the risk and expense of a trial, you need an experienced criminal lawyer working for you to obtain the best possible results.

Call my office today for help negotiating a plea bargain.

Let’s Get Started!