If you’ve been charged with a crime that you didn’t commit, you deserve to have a vigorous defense. However, if you have in fact broken the law, you may be able to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor to lessen the consequences.
Most criminal cases are settled out of court, and many involve plea deals. Prosecutors typically prefer not to take a case to court if they don’t have to. It involves time, money and manpower – all of which are in short supply in most areas. Often, even if they won’t admit it, they may not have enough evidence to feel secure that a jury will convict someone. A plea deal gets them a conviction – even if it’s not the one they would prefer.
What is negotiable when plea bargaining?
The two primary areas that can be negotiated are the charge and the sentence. Defendants can often get either or both reduced by agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser offense than the one they’re facing. For example, someone may be able to get a DUI charge reduced to reckless driving. The consequences and the stigma around that are not as bad. It can even be possible to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. This can have a less serious impact on your ability to get a job in the future.
A reduced charge typically means a lighter sentence. It can mean the difference between going to jail and getting probation or maybe electronic monitoring. Sometimes, prosecutors won’t agree to reducing the charges but will agree to lessen the sentence or other consequences.
Don’t try to plea bargain on your own
You should never try to reach a plea deal with a prosecutor on your own. It’s crucial to understand the law and what is most likely to be acceptable to the prosecutor (and ultimately the judge, who has to approve the deal). It can also help significantly to know the prosecutor and the judge from prior cases. Having experienced legal guidance is crucial, whether you’re fighting the charges or seeking a plea deal.