Why Enter a Plea Bargain?
If you're being wrongfully accused of a crime you did not commit, plea bargaining probably won't apply to your situation. On the other hand, if the prosecutor has a lot of evidence against you and you're backed in a corner, a plea bargain may allow you to plead guilty to a lesser charge and you may get a much lighter sentence than if you took your chances at trial.
Let's say that you have some money stashed away in savings, a little nest egg, and a decent job. Because your income and assets disqualify you from using a public defender, there's another big advantage of plea bargaining – you can save a ton in legal fees.
As a general rule, it takes a lot more time and money to defend a case in a trial than it does for a defense attorney to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Since full-blown trials are much more involved than plea bargains, they will incur much higher attorney fees.
In addition to the above, there are some other notable benefits for defendants who accept a plea bargain, including:
- They get out of jail. If a defendant is in custody because they cannot afford bail, or because they don't have a right to bail, they may be released from custody right after the judge accepts their plea. In some cases, the defendant may get out of jail altogether or they may be placed on probation. If the defendant does have to serve time, it's usually a lot less time than if their case went to trial.
- If they remain in custody, they may enjoy the benefits of moving to prison. Even if the plea means the defendant is moved to prison, it can still be a positive if the prison conditions are better than the jail's conditions. Also, convicts in prisons are usually entitled to certain privileges that defendants sitting in jail awaiting trial simply don't have access to.
- The can feel relieved because the matter is resolved faster. Knowing that the situation is resolved can bring defendants a sense of relief.
- They have a lesser offense on their record. Plea bargains often mean the defendant has a lesser offense on their record, which looks better to onlookers.
- They spend less time behind bars. With a plea bargain, generally charges are reduced and the defendant carries out a lighter sentence. So, this often means the defendant is free years sooner.
- They avoid the stigma of a more serious offense. When a defendant accepts reduced charges, they sometimes avoid the stigma of a much more serious offense. This single benefit will help the defendant in many aspects of their life.
- They can keep others out of it. Sometimes when defendants accept pleas, they take the "rap" for others involved, such as friends or family. The case is ended quickly and the others who played a role in the crime are not investigated.
- They may avoid deportation (for green card holders). For lawful permanent residents, certain offenses trigger removal proceedings. When charges are reduced, they may help the immigrant avoid deportation.
If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of a plea bargain, contact my West Palm Beach criminal defense firm for a free case evaluation!