The federal government has vast financial resources. As a result, federal prosecutors often have an easier time securing convictions against criminal defendants than state prosecutors do. Still, any time a case goes to trial, neither side can be absolutely certain about its outcome.
To gain some certainty, federal prosecutors often negotiate plea deals with criminal defendants. In fact, according to reporting from NPR, upwards of 98% of federal criminal prosecutions conclude with guilty pleas. Before you accept a plea deal, though, you should ask yourself a few critical questions.
Are you actually guilty of the charges?
Some defendants do not realize that accepting a plea deal requires pleading guilty to criminal charges. In addition to exposing you to sentencing, a guilty plea gives you a criminal record that follows you for the rest of your life. Consequently, if you are not guilty, you might want to think twice before telling a judge you are.
How strong is the prosecutor’s case?
The U.S. legal system affords criminal defendants some valuable rights. For example, prosecutors have a legal duty to prove each element of your criminal charge beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is scant or there are other problems with the prosecutor’s case, accepting a plea bargain might not be wise.
How good is your defense?
Even if prosecutors have a decent case, a trial gives you the opportunity to mount a defense before a judge or jury. Simply put, if you have a good defense, it might be advisable to decline a plea deal. Ultimately, before waiving your right to a defense by proceeding with a plea deal, you should fully explore your odds of securing an acquittal.