You’re in trouble with the law, but you’ve been offered a plea deal by the prosecution that could quickly resolve your situation. Should you even think about it?
The answer depends on the specifics of your situation, but there are definitely some things you need to consider.
No plea deal is without its price
Most of the time, plea deals involve one of two things: Charge bargaining or sentence bargaining.
Charge bargaining is where the prosecutor either offers to lower the number of “counts” against you or is willing to reduce a charge to a lesser offense (like murder to manslaughter). Sentence bargaining means the prosecutor is willing to give you a reduced sentence (or recommend one) in exchange for your guilty plea.
Either way, however, you end up with a criminal record — and that could negatively affect your personal and professional life in numerous ways. In addition, if you ever get into trouble again, your prior conviction (because a plea agreement is the same as a conviction) will be held against you.
Refusal may also have its costs
You always need to ask yourself why the prosecutor is offering a plea deal in the first place. Is their case against you is weak? If so, you may want to insist on your right to a fair trial — but you do so at your own risk.
Sometimes prosecutors offer a plea deal simply because they believe that a conviction is inevitable, and they want to save the time and expense of a trial. A plea deal that requires you to admit your guilt can also offer closure to any victims in the case.
If you insist on going to trial, the prosecutor may actually up the ante and raise the charges against you. If you’re convicted, you may also end up with a sentence that’s on the high end for those particular charges. This is referred to as the “trial tax,” and it’s a real problem for defendants.
So, is a plea deal right or wrong for you? Only you can decide — but you shouldn’t make your decision alone or without the benefit of experienced legal guidance.