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What to Expect From a Plea Bargain

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Plea bargain agreements are an important component of the criminal justice process. A plea agreement is a formal mechanism for prosecutors and defendants to resolve a case without having to go through the full criminal trial process.

These agreements allow for some level of leniency from the prosecution, as well as allowing the defendant to avoid the maximum sentences that may have been handed down had they gone to court. There are many different forms of plea bargaining available, depending on the past criminal history and the gravity of the charges against defendants.

If you are in legal trouble, don't hesitate to call Touma Law Group in Greenville. Our lawyers provide top-quality legal services and a free, initial consultation and case evaluation. The experienced lawyers at Touma Law Group will help you understand the role of plea bargaining and how you can receive sentence reductions.

Our Greenville defense attorneys will take you through formal procedures of the plea bargain process, that are difficult to navigate on your own, to reduce your time in prison or get you a lesser penalty. Call us at (864) 618-2323 to schedule a free consultation and learn more.

Types of Plea Bargains

There are several different types of plea bargains, including charge bargaining, count bargaining, fact bargaining, and sentence bargaining. Depending on your case, your lawyer will select the best strategy to get you the minimum sentence and fewer potential consequences. 

Charge bargaining is a legal agreement in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge. This may include downgrading a felony to a misdemeanor, such as changing a drug trafficking charge to a drug possession charge. By reducing the charge, you can potentially avoid mandatory minimum sentencing for certain criminal convictions. 

In count bargaining, the accused person and the prosecutor negotiate the number of charges that will be brought against them. Although they may have committed multiple crimes simultaneously, a plea deal has the potential to decrease the number of charges.

Fact bargaining can potentially lead to a reduced sentence if the prosecutor and defendant agree upon specific details, or facts, regarding the crime.

Sentence bargaining is a legal strategy in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. Certain charges have a variety of potential consequences. In low-level cases, a sentence bargain could result in a fine rather than jail time as punishment.

Sentence bargaining is often seen in cases involving low-level offenses where diversion programs are available. In more severe situations, the act of bargaining may result in a reduction of years from a prison sentence or the conversion of prison time to time on probation.

Advantages of Taking a Plea Bargain

There are a lot of benefits of plea bargains for criminal defendants. By taking a plea deal, you can avoid the high cost and time of a long trial while gaining more control pertaining to the final decision on your case. In some cases, you can even receive a lesser sentence than would be imposed if the case went through a full trial and verdict. Prosecutors may pursue lighter sentences that reduce the corresponding sentence or offer time on probation instead of jail time.

a judge at their stand in court

Furthermore, plea bargains allow you to show remorse and take responsibility for your crimes. This can be beneficial because it paints you as a cooperative participant who is willing to accept sentencing recommendations from prosecutors and judges.

Plea agreements also lessen caseloads for overcrowded courts by reducing the amount of trials which both saves municipal court resources and expedites resolution of legal matters at hand. Ultimately, the primary advantage of plea bargaining is that it provides a swift resolution to criminal cases while minimizing any risks associated with going through a trial process.

Cons of Taking a Plea Deal

The potential disadvantages of plea bargaining are numerous and should be considered with extreme care. The main drawback is the opportunity cost of not being able to attempt to win your case at trial. Nearly every plea bargain requires the defendant to plead “guilty” or “no contest” which leaves behind a permanent criminal record.

Further still, those who enter into a plea deal are giving up several potential objections they could lodge against evidence that could have influenced a jury trial such as challenging prosecution witnesses or other evidence that may prove innocence.

All in all, though the desire for a quicker settlement can be strong, it is important for defendants to really weigh their options if they consider accepting a plea deal far more carefully than if they were going on trial instead.

What to Do Before Taking a Plea Deal

Before taking a plea deal, there are many things you should do including understanding the type of plea agreement you are offered and understanding plea bargaining concepts in general. Meeting with your attorney is the first step as he or she will make sure all your questions about plea bargaining are answered.

Learn More: What to Expect From Pre Trial Intervention

It's also important that you understand your specific charge in plea negotiations and make sure that you are able to bargain on sentencing. Choosing a great lawyer is essential if you want to get a more lenient sentence or less severe sentence. Lastly, it's important to analyze the benefits of plea deals versus the disadvantages of plea bargaining to decide if it's what you want to do.

Meeting with Your Criminal Defense Attorney

Meeting with your criminal defense attorney is an important step in the plea bargaining process. When you meet with your lawyer, be prepared to discuss your case in detail and what kind of plea bargain you are willing to accept. During this meeting, your lawyer will explain the charges against you and any potential defenses that may exist. He or she will also review the evidence and discuss possible outcomes that may occur. 

Understanding the Charges Against You and Your Options

When you are facing criminal charges, it is important to understand the charges against you and your options for resolving them. Because there are many different types of charges and different types of plea bargain negotiations, it's important to discuss your case with your attorney and to understand your constitutional rights in your specific situation. 

Researching the Prosecutor's Track Record on Sentences for Comparable Cases

When considering entering into a plea bargain, it is important to research the track record of the prosecutor handling your case. Knowing what sentences prosecutors in your jurisdiction have handed down in similar cases can help you make an informed decision about whether or not to accept a plea deal.

To research the prosecutor's track record, start by looking up their name on any legal databases available in your area. You can also have meetings with several different criminal defense lawyers to see which lawyer you trust and connect with the most.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Plea Deal

Plea bargains have become a staple within the American justice system, allowing prosecutors to save time and money in lengthy trials. This quick resolution also gives those accused of less serious crimes an opportunity to move on with their lives, avoiding the cost of expensive defenses and the stigma of being associated with a trial.

On the other hand, some argue that by striking a deal with prosecutors defendants can be forced into guilty pleas simply because of limited financial or legal resources that make trials unfeasible. Defendants are also at risk of being unfairly charged if they don’t take the deal offered them – regardless of whether it offers any true benefit to them regarding leniency for their crime. Moreover, defendants who plead guilty waive their right to appeal, making many uncomfortable with the permanence of such decisions.

What Happens After Accepting a Plea Deal?

When you agree to a plea bargain, you are no longer defending your case in court – instead, the prosecution and defense have reached a deal that both must accept. Although this avoids the uncertainty of a trial, agreement of a plea bargain still means an automatic conviction for the charge(s).

Depending on what sentence is negotiated, you will do as requested – i.e. if prison time is set it would be served or local jail or whatever terms of imprisonment have been established; if probation was agreed upon then it's important to seize any opportunity for rehabilitation and avoid violating any of the terms and conditions of probation.

a gavel and legal books on a judge's desk

A plea bargain can provide relief from the worry and dread that you can experience when going through a court hearing – however, it's essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer prior to agreeing to a plea bargain as they will know best how to assess whether or not such a strategy is right for your particular case. Ultimately their legal opinion is invaluable in understanding how well one might do in court – so take their advice carefully if considering such an option.

Discuss Your Options with an Attorney

Making a decision about pleading to a criminal charge is not something to be taken lightly, and consulting with a criminal defense attorney can help you make an informed decision. A criminal lawyer with the experience and knowledge to evaluate your case will be able to assess the evidence, listen to your story, and advise on what will most likely be the most productive avenue for you – whether that’s accepting a plea bargain or heading through the court proceedings.

The attorneys at Touma Law Group focus on criminal defense and can offer sound advice for you depending on your circumstances. They can also help explain all of the options available to you, discuss any potential risks involved with each option, and recommend strategies that are likely to yield the best result in your situation.

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