A plea deal is a negotiated conclusion of a trial between the defendant and the prosecution. Most criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains, and only a small fraction proceed to full trial.
Usually, a plea deal involves pleading guilty to a lesser offense or the crime you are charged with in exchange for a lighter sentence. While it may seem an easy way out, it is advisable to understand what the prosecution is offering you and whether it is in your best interests.
When to consider a plea deal
Whether or not you should accept a plea deal depends on the individual facts of your case. There is no one shoe fits all response to whether you should agree to a plea deal. Sometimes, it’s better to accept a plea deal, and other times, reject it.
For instance, the evidence against you may not be watertight, but the charges you face are serious, and a conviction could result in a heavy prison sentence. In such a case, the benefit of a plea deal far outweighs the risk.
Still, it is crucial to know what you are signing up for when you choose to accept a plea deal. Remember, you waive some of your rights with a plea deal, such as the right to appeal, have a jury trial or confront witnesses. In addition, a guilty plea will result in a criminal record.
The buck stops with you
The good thing is that the decision to reject or accept a plea deal rests entirely on you. The prosecution cannot force you to accept one, given that you have a right to a fair and speedy trial.
Making the right decision requires an informed evaluation of the odds in each scenario – accepting the deal or taking your chances at trial.