Can You Negotiate a Plea Deal for Theft?
Theft crimes are typically misdemeanors, which means you may serve a jail sentence and face fines. Remember that any time in jail is time away from friends, family, and your job. Technically, any criminal charge can end with a plea deal, but whether it is the right choice for your case is an entirely different story.
When facing criminal charges, you are under tremendous pressure. You want to get it over with and spend as little time in jail as possible. And with the prosecution and police telling you that you can lose months of your life if convicted of theft, you find yourself toying with the idea of taking a plea deal.
Any criminal charge can be plead out, but that doesn’t mean it is a good idea. Whether you are innocent or even guilty, you should consult with an attorney before assuming that the only route is pleading out. In many cases, your attorney can get charges reduced by arguing against evidence, while other times, they can negotiate a better plea deal than what you can yourself.
Before You Negotiate or Agree to Anything, Follow a Few Steps
While you are tempted to take a plea deal offered to you (one that cuts your jail time in half, for example), remember that a plea deal means you are admitting guilt. Therefore, you will have a permanent criminal record that could impact your future employment opportunities, government assistance, and more.
Speak with an Attorney First
You should never take a plea deal if you have not consulted an attorney. An attorney is a valuable resource that will ensure you get a fair deal.
You want someone who is there representing your interests – not the states. You want a criminal defense attorney that has experience handling cases just like yours and knows how to negotiate with the prosecution. Likewise, you want to make sure what is offered to you is a good deal and not something that could negatively affect you more than taking your chances at trial.
An attorney will look at the evidence against you, and they will determine how much of that evidence they can dispute. After all, your lawyer might be able to have evidence excluded, and the prosecution may have no option but to drop the charges. If you take the plea deal, you may miss out on a chance to walk away without a criminal record entirely.
A defense attorney might offer the prosecution an alternative deal because they know you are ready to fight, and they will make sure you get a fair deal. Prosecutors have one job: to close cases quickly and get convictions. Therefore, they often will accept plea deals proposed by the defense. This means that, if your attorney comes back with one that benefits you, you might get a prosecutor who agrees to it.
What Are You Gaining from the Deal?
A prosecutor needs to get as many cases through their queue as possible without having to go to court.
They will rush to negotiate a plea deal, but it doesn’t mean you are getting a fair one. You need an experienced, private criminal defense attorney who can analyze the short and long-term consequences of taking that deal. Ultimately, you want someone assessing what you gain by pleading guilty.
Then, you want to weigh what you might gain versus what you would lose by taking the deal. For theft, are you getting a lesser theft charge? Are you serving community service rather than time in jail?
You need to ask yourself if you are getting something good from that deal or if you are setting yourself up for failure. Maybe the prosecution will let you off without any jail time, but you will have to do extensive community service that affects your job and makes it impossible for you to work. While you are not in jail, you put your employment in jeopardy by taking that deal.
Is the Offer in Your Best Interest?
Again, having an experienced attorney by your side is key here. An attorney reviews the case and decides what is in your best interest – and sometimes, it is not taking a plea deal that results in a criminal record. Pleading guilty means that you can never go back. The charge will stay on your record, you must report it as a criminal conviction, and it could impact you forever.
Prosecutors try to sell plea bargains as them being generous to you. They will make you think that they are on your side and that they are doing you a favor by giving you that deal.
You Will Forfeit Your Right to Appeal
Remember, if you take a plea deal, you forfeit your right to appeal. If you plea no contest or guilty, you no longer can appeal for a true trial and you might even get sentenced unfairly by the judge despite the deal you made with the prosecutor.
Judges Decides the Final Sentence
While you strike a deal with the prosecution, the person who has the last say in a plea bargain is a judge. The judge may feel that a deal is too lenient, and they may sentence you harshly. You have already pleaded guilty, so you cannot turn back, and you may serve more time or have a harsher penalty than taking your chances outside of the deal.
Bottom Line, Hire an Attorney before Taking a Deal
Yes, you can negotiate a plea deal, but not by yourself. Instead, you need a criminal defense attorney by your side ready to ensure you get a fair deal.