A plea agreement is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for the prosecution to drop charges, reduce charges to a less serious offense, or recommend to the a judge a sentence that is acceptable to the defense. While plea bargains have some shortcomings, statistics suggest that greater than 90% of criminal convictions come from negotiated pleas. There are some distinct advantages and disadvantages to plea agreements. This post will consider some of the elements that might determine whether a plea agreement is worthwhile.
The Advantages of Plea Agreements
Some of the advantages of plea agreements include:
- Individuals can avoid the cost of an extended trial by accepting a plea agreement.
- Licensed professionals who might lose their license are often able to keep their licenses by obtaining a charge less than a felony.
- Judges favor plea bargaining because it speeds up the judicial process by avoiding trials. This increased speed is that while criminal trials have the potential to take months, plea arrangements can often be handled within a matter of minutes.
- Plea agreements offer the opportunity for a reduced sentence on a less severe charge in addition to having lesser offenses listed on one’s criminal record.
- Prosecutors often prefer plea agreements because these agreements reduce a person’s caseload.
- Trials often have unpredictable outcomes while plea bargains provide both parties with some degree of control over matters and a sense of foreseeability.
The Disadvantage of Plea Agreements
Some of the disadvantages of plea agreements include:
- In some cases, plea bargaining has resulted in individuals not taking the time to properly prepare their cases in addition to substandard investigations by law enforcement.
- There is a significant chance of a person being pressured into plea bargaining. Each year, a large number of low income individuals who are innocent accept plea agreements believing that they are innocent but lacking the funds for a strong legal defense.
- Many people still view plea arrangements as secret and sneaky arrangements that are against the will of the person who is being charged.
- These arrangements might be biased to the prosecution, which can take full advantage of accepting criminal acts.
- The justice system is at risk of suffering because plea arrangements involve a power struggle between defense and prosecution rather than a trial.
- Some individuals argue that plea bargaining is unconstitutional because this process takes away the defense’s constitutional right to trial by jury.
Obtain the Assistance of an Experienced Attorney
Deciding whether to accept a plea agreement is a difficult choice and frequently depends on the specific facts involved in a person’s case. Plea agreements can result in less severe penalties than trial convictions but might result in a person feeling forced to accept a criminal conviction. Fortunately, a seasoned criminal defense attorney can help in these situations. Contact Federal Criminal Law Center immediately to obtain assistance in determining whether a plea agreement is a good idea for you.