Understanding the Different Types of Plea Bargaining
A plea bargain is a common tool used in the justice system to speed up and simplify cases. When a defendant agrees to a plea bargain, they enter a plea of guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a less severe sentence, in most cases. This saves the courts time and money. No police investigation, case development, or trial is necessary. Too often, individuals may not be fully aware of the implications and far-reaching effects of a plea deal. Never accept a plea on a criminal offense without a full evaluation from a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
Though widely used, plea bargaining is a controversial practice. Some people feel that it allows individuals to get off too easily while others feel it is a coercive practice; that is used to get people to enter a guilty plea when there may be insufficient evidence to convict. Innocent people have been urged to plead guilty when offered a deal as well. It can be tough to consider remaining in custody, or going through a trial, and a plea deal could appear to be the best option. The consequences of pleading guilty, whether to a misdemeanor or felony, are not minor. Your criminal record will reflect your guilty plea, impacting every area of your life going forward, particularly your ability to find employment.
Types of Plea Bargains
Plea bargains are employed as a negotiation tactic in many criminal cases and are most commonly used in the following ways:
- Defendants will plead guilty to a lesser charge than that for which they were arrested, such as pleading guilty to a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
- Defendants will plead guilty to only some of the original charges, while others are dropped.
- Defendants will plead guilty or no contest after both sides have agreed on what the sentencing will be; often, this is a reduced sentence.
- Defendants will plead guilty only if the prosecution is willing to omit certain facts from the case that may result in a harsher punishment (for example, on a drug charge, the prosecution may decide to omit the quantity of drugs found at the time of the arrest).
Effects of a Plea Bargain
The first thing to remember about a plea deal means you plead guilty. Not guilty? If the evidence points directly at you, and yet you did not commit the crime, this is a serious legal problem. A complete investigation into the facts could not be more important at this point. A conviction will haunt you forever. If the prosecution lacks confidence in their case against you, there could be pressure to accept a plea bargain. It may be that it would be preferred (from their perspective) that you are convicted on some charges, rather than risking a trial in which you are likely to be found not guilty. Juries are difficult to read; innocent people CAN be convicted. Weighing the cost of court and trial against the cost of having a guilty verdict on your record is something you must decide upon with the help of your attorney, and without the coercion of the prosecution.
Speak with a Criminal Attorney Before Accepting Any Deals
It could not be more important that you discuss any offer of a plea with a qualified criminal defense lawyer. Once you have accepted such a deal, it can be difficult to reverse your consent. At New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we will help you understand every aspect of a plea deal, as well as negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a more favorable deal, when possible. We are familiar with the personnel in the district attorney’s office, and have worked with them extensively. Contact us today to discuss your options.