Should I Accept a Plea Bargain or Go to Trial?

When having to choose between taking a plea deal or going to trial after an arrest, many people may unaware of which option to take. They don’t know which one would be better for their specific case.

So, how do you choose? There are several factors one should consider. First off, let’s define plea bargaining.

What is Plea Bargaining?

Cornell Law School states that plea bargains are “agreements between defendants and prosecutors in which defendants agree to plead guilty to some or all of the charges against them in exchange for concessions from the prosecutors. These agreements allow prosecutors to focus their time and resources on other cases, and reduce the number of trials that judges need to oversee.”

A plea bargain’s validity depends on three components:

  1. Knowing waiver of rights;
  2. Voluntary waiver; and
  3. Factual basis to support the charges to which the defendant is pleading guilty.

Plea deals are viewed as almost a guarantee of what your conviction will be, whereas if you go to trial, you are at the mercy of a jury of your peers. The jury of your peers could assign you the highest maximum conviction if they deem fit regarding your specific case. The defendant in plea bargains must be willing to surrender his or her rights to file an appeal on the conviction, unless specified in a doctrine outlining legal parameters that will be accepted. Waiving your rights to appeal means you are mandated by law to accept the sentence that is agreed upon; however, the judge may alter your request for the plea deal.

The Three Areas of Negotiation in Plea Bargaining

Many people who have been arrested with a criminal charge will choose a plea bargain. Plea bargaining involves three areas of negotiation:

1. Sentence Bargaining

Typically, when posed with a plea bargain, which is typically a sequestered process, defendants will have to enter in a plea of guilty in exchange of a less severe charge, known in Florida as a Sentence Bargain. The plea bargain thereafter must be approved by the court, and in certain cases, plea bargains can be altered or even fully rejected by the judge.

2. Charge Bargaining

Another form of a plea bargain is referred to as a Charge Bargain, which is when the prosecutor eliminates all charges or perhaps reduces the charges. This type of plea bargain is only allowed if the defendant enters in a plea of guilty to a lesser charge in trade for a plea of guilty regarding a main crime.

3. Fact Bargaining

Fact Bargaining is the least used negotiation. Fact Bargaining “involves an admission to certain facts (“stipulating” to the truth and existence of provable facts, thereby eliminating the need for the prosecutor to have to prove them) in return for an agreement not to introduce certain other facts into evidence,” according to FindLaw.

Why choose a plea bargain instead of going to trial?

Here are some other reasons one may choose to bargain for a plea deal:

  • Less costly than going to trial within the courts
  • Less time consuming than going to trial
  • Lessening the chance of a more severe conviction as well as unwanted publicity
  • Trial results are indeterminate
  • Resolving the incumbrance of each case needing to be heard in a trial court

Conclusion

Plea deals are quite serious, and one must really take all parameters into consideration with an attorney of the highest credibility. Negotiations are the most important aspect of plea deals by an experienced attorney, but the final decision will be yours on whether or not to accept the negotiated plea bargain. The defendant must compare the state’s plea bargain proposal against the probability of the sentence results and make the decision to ultimately accept the ramifications of waiving further legal rights. Correspondingly, with the popularization of “victims’ rights groups,” one must take into consideration that maintaining the privacy of plea deals is going obsolete and is more likely to become publicly detailed.

Attorney David Joffe practices criminal defense in both State and Federal Courts. With access to reliable support staff and in-house investigatory services, our attorneys at Joffe Law, P.A. are able to bring their substantial skills to bear more efficiently and more effectively to work on your behalf. For a free consultation, call our law firm today at 954-723-0007.