Worried for the outcome of your potential trial? You’re not alone.
Dozens and dozens of defendants, defense attorneys, and prosecutors all attempt to avoid going to court due to a large risk- the possibility of losing the case and their clients’ support. It is no wonder that there is so much fear in the legal system- cases can have completely opposite verdicts depending on a completely different jury in every trial.
Though legal precedents help, there is no denying that because each case is individual, and not all juries see through the same eyes, there’s no way to be able to predict the outcome of the case.
One way that is used in now 90% of criminal cases to help come up with a solution that is negotiable and doesn’t have to involve a full trial is plea bargaining- when the defense and the prosecution agree to have the defendant plead guilty for a lesser charge than originally called for.
Advantages to Plea Bargaining
When people think of a trial they often think that their only option is to fight for their innocence. You should certainly fight for your innocence if you know you are innocent, but if you know that you are not completely innocent, then there can be several advantages to accepting a plea bargain.
1. Chance of a Lesser Sentence
When accepting a plea bargain there is a better chance of a lesser sentence than in a trial because no jury is involved in plea bargaining.
Those of you who decide to take a plea bargain as an option have the opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the case with the prosecutor, who is often willing to negotiate because he has a very booked calendar and wishes to devote his time to major cases that would definitely require a trial.
In some cases there is a minimum sentence required by the law, and that can be easily worked out between the prosecutor and defense, giving both sides benefits- the former more time for important cases, and the latter a lesser sentence from the judge.
2. Judges are Partial to Plea Bargains
Judges have extremely full dockets without plea bargains, due to major crimes all across the state. A plea bargain is a great way to lighten a judge’s burden with the amount that they do already.
“Generally speaking, plea bargains help create more judicial economy…” according to Thomson Reuters’ article “Plea Bargain Advantages and Disadvantages.”
A judge is very willing to listen and agree to the prosecutor’s recommendation of sentence if it has been used in a plea bargain and will take less time than a full trial. If the crime is a misdemeanor, then nearly all involved with the case would like to see it end quickly with a pre-arranged agreement that would benefit all, hence the plea bargain.
3. More Predicable Outcome
With a plea bargain there is a larger chance for a certain trial outcome. To feel comfortable with a case, you may decide to make a plea agreement because the chances of both a prosecutor giving an assured recommendation and the judge adhering to it are nearly certain. If the judge believes that the plea agreement was not done in honesty or is not fair, he may impose a greater sentence or “no sentence at all,” but that is rarely the case.
Plea agreements are both a judge’s and a prosecutor’s friend, and so the outcome is almost every time the exact or similar to the plea agreement’s terms when a judge listens to a hearing.
Disadvantages to Plea Bargaining
While plea bargains can save you jail time, legal fees and reduce charges against you, there are still some disadvantages to taking this route. We will cover the two main disadvantages of plea bargaining, however one important point should stand above all else; if you are innocent, you should fight for your innocence.
1. Hard to Appeal
Plea bargains are harder to appeal to higher courts because not all plea bargains are fulfilled due to a judge’s difference of opinion from the prosecutor. The defendant can have a harder time appealing the judge’s decision because the person pleaded guilty.
According to the Prison Law Office, “There are special rules for challenging a conviction or sentence after a guilty or no contest plea [bargain]. These rules limit the types of issues that defendants can raise and require special procedures for raising some issues.”
Often such rules will place the defendant into their former position before the plea agreement was made, and when a higher court is taken into consideration, prosecutors can add both previously revoked and new charges onto the new trial. Obviously that can be a problem to defendants attempting to get the lightest sentence possible.
2. Disables Constitutional Right to Free Trial by Jury
If you have confidence in your innocence, then a plea bargain is definitely not for you. Though hearings are held before a judge, a full jury is not assembled and plea bargains are agreements to plead guilty.
If you are guilty but still believe that you have a chance of winning the case, and are willing to risk a jury which could not rule in your favor, then a plea bargain would not be ideal for you. The idea of a randomly selected jury is to give the defendant a chance to defend himself against an impartial group of people not related to the case.
The constitutional right to trial by jury, depending on the individual case, could easily be a better option than that of a plea bargain.
Receive Help to Determine the Best Path for You
The best way to figure out whether a plea bargain is the right path for you to be satisfied with your required legal settlement is to talk to attorneys who will examine every aspect of your individual situation and with whom the plaintiff hires for prosecution.
JacksonWhite Criminal Defense will assess your specific circumstances and discuss with you the best options to achieve an optimal result for the accusation against you, whatever that may be. We have a large amount of experience in a diverse amount of criminal law, and will work to put your needs at top priority, and try our best for the maximum outcome that will benefit you.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.