When facing criminal charges, you can easily feel overwhelmed and without anyone on your side. The potential consequences you face can also scare you, especially as many involve lengthy stays in jail or enormous fines that may threaten to send you into debt.
When you face poor odds and a risky sentence, you may want to lean on a plea bargain if offered. But before you make that choice, you should understand what it is and what it might mean for your future.
What do plea bargains ask for?
Cornell Law School gets into plea bargains and their uses, along with who they benefit the most. First and foremost, it is important to thoroughly understand the plea bargain that the prosecution has offered you.
In most cases, a plea bargain asks for something in exchange for a lighter – or even entirely dropped – sentence. It usually involves pleading guilty to one of the lesser charges you face, if you are up against multiple. A reduced charge may also get included as part of the incentive. In other cases, a plea bargain catches “bigger fish” by giving you a lighter sentence if you testify against someone else.
Why are they offered?
Keep in mind that prosecutors do not always offer plea bargains for you or in your best interest. Sometimes, they just want to get a case through the system faster. Others feel they may lose the case. And sometimes, a judge expects them to make an offer before the jury deliberates.
You should thus analyze any offer given to you to ensure it serves your best interest, rather than leaping to an immediate agreement, even if it is tempting at first. This is where it pays to have legal help to walk you through things.