In criminal law you will hear many different words used by lawyers, court staff and judges. Plea bargain is one of those terms, and it is a controversial concept in the law.
A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and the prosecutor, where the defendant accepts guilt for the crime in exchange for reduced time in prison or other benefits offered by the prosecution. Benefits of plea bargains, as seen from the court’s perspective, are that it expedites court cases and, from the defendant’s perspective, it can avoid the risk of a more severe sentence if convicted at trial.
Is it always a good idea to accept a plea?
Not in all cases. Sometimes plea bargains are not beneficial to the defendant. For example, in a case where the evidence is weak, and the defendant has excellent grounds to appeal a conviction if they are convicted at trial. Remember that if you take this plea, you are admitting to having committed the crime, which has another set of consequences to consider. Attorneys can negotiate plea agreements with the prosecution.
One of the significant problems with plea agreements is that they can lead to wrongful convictions. It is a widely known problem for the prosecution to put pressure on defendants to accept a plea agreement as soon as possible to have the case closed and move on to the next one, but what if you did not commit the crime? You have the right to a fair trial and an opportunity to prove your innocence.
Plea agreements can be beneficial for both defendant and the prosecution. For that reason, it is essential to understand the terms of the offer and to have an experienced professional evaluate it and advise you on how best to respond.