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Understanding Plea Bargains: A Straightforward Guide

If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, you have likely heard the term “plea bargain.” But what does it really mean? And is it the right choice for your case? This straightforward guide will break it down for you, so you can make informed decisions.

What is a Plea Bargain?

A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant in a criminal case, where the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge in exchange for some concession from the prosecutor. This could involve:

  • Pleading guilty to a lesser charge: The defendant pleads guilty to a less serious charge than what was originally brought against them. (Example: reduction of the felony charge to a misdemeanor)
  • Recommendation for a lighter sentence: The prosecutor might recommend a lighter sentence than what the defendant could receive if convicted at trial. (Example: a defendant is facing county jail or a state prison sentence and the prosecutor takes away the jail component and instead offers community service or community labor.)
  • Dropping one or more multiple charges: In cases where multiple charges are filed, some charges might be dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on others.

Should You Accept a Plea Bargain?

The decision to accept a plea bargain is a significant one and should be made with careful consideration and legal advice. Here are some points to consider:

Legal Counsel

  • It is advisable to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can assess the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case, advise on the legal options available, and negotiate the best possible plea deal. Make sure the attorney who is handling your case is willing to go to trial. So many attorneys are not trial attorneys and jump at the opportunity to settle your case with a quick plea bargain. Ask yourself if you have a viable legal defense in the event you go to trial. If you do not, then seriously consider a plea deal in your case.

Evaluation of the Case

  • In deciding whether to accept a plea you should consider the defendant’s prior criminal history; the seriousness of the charges; the strength of the evidence including the credibility of the witness testimonies; and the attorney’s trial experience as well as his experience negotiating favorable plea deals.

Penalties and Consequences

  • Sentence: Evaluate whether the plea bargain will significantly reduce the potential sentence.
  • Criminal Record: Consider the implications of having a criminal conviction on your record, such as employment prospects and professional licenses.

Personal Considerations

  • Stress and Anxiety: Trials can be long and stressful. A plea bargain might bring quicker resolution.
  • Financial Costs: Assess the financial costs involved in going to trial, including attorney fees and other related expenses.

Future Implications

  • Appeal Rights: Understand that accepting a plea bargain typically means waiving the right to appeal the conviction later.
  • Post-Conviction Relief: Consider any potential challenges that might be available after conviction and how the plea might affect those.

Why You Need Experienced Criminal Lawyers

Every case is unique, and the decision should be tailored to the specific circumstances and legal considerations of the case. Having a thorough discussion with an experienced attorney, who understands the nuances of the case and the applicable laws, is essential in making an informed decision.

If you are facing criminal charges, the legal team of Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners can help you decide which option is best for you. We have over 50 years plus of criminal defense experience and we know how to weigh your chances of success at trial against a plea bargain. Give us a call at 213-481-6811 for a free in-house consultation and learn how we can help you.