In the legal strategy known as a plea bargain, people charged with a crime plead guilty in return for reduced charges or a specific penalty. Prosecuting attorneys sometimes prefer this option because it saves time and money, and they know courts tend to already be overloaded with cases.
If you've been charged with a crime, you may be torn between having a lawyer defend your innocence in court or having a lawyer negotiate a plea deal. Consider the reasons that many people choose the plea bargain option.
When you agree to a plea bargain, you know the outcome. You don't risk the possibility of worse consequences with an unpredictable judge and jury.
The most common scenario is for the prosecuting attorney to agree to reduce the charges. That usually has the automatic effect of a lesser penalty.
Consider the difference between being convicted of second-degree murder or pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Second-degree murder is a charge involving intent to kill someone, whereas involuntary manslaughter involves unintentionally killing someone. Although states differ in their sentencing guidelines, a person pleading guilty to the lesser charge may expect to spend about a year in prison. Being convicted of second-degree murder would result in a substantially longer prison sentence.
Another advantage is having the lower charge on your criminal record instead of a worse one if you are convicted.
Avoiding or Reducing a Jail Sentence
In this plea deal, the person pleads guilty to the original charges in return for a shorter term of incarceration than would be typical, or no jail sentence at all. This advantage is not as common as that of reduced charges and it's not allowed in all jurisdictions.
Negotiating a plea bargain is a much faster process than bringing a case to court. You don't tie up your mental energy in waiting for your case to go to trial, which can be extremely stressful. It also costs you less since the lawyer doesn't have to prepare for a trial and spend time defending the case in court.
You can plead guilty to the charges and still maintain your innocence to people you know and in public, explaining the reasons you chose this option.
If you believe the evidence against you is lacking and you feel it's crucial to have a jury find you not guilty, you can proceed with a defense case.
It's important to have a criminal defense lawyer help you with this decision and provide you with legal representation no matter what you decide.
For more information, contact a lawyer in your area, such as O'Brien & Dekker.