What You Should Know About Plea Bargains
When you’re arrested on criminal charges, you’ll find yourself at the beginning of a lengthy process that ends with a judge or jury deciding whether you’re guilty or innocent.
However, there are often options to agree to a plea bargain which can simplify this process and potentially work in your favor. That said, while many people have heard of plea bargains, they may not fully understand how they work or how to answer basic questions like, “How are plea bargains made?”, “What are my rights to a plea bargain?” and “What happens once I agree to a plea bargain?”
For answers to all these questions, continue reading. If you need legal representation, reach out to us at Faussette & Faussette PLLC. From our office in Phoenix, Arizona, we’re proud to serve clients throughout the Valley and its surrounding cities and across the state of Arizona including Glendale, Peoria, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, and Goodyear.
What Is a Plea Bargain?
When you agree to a plea bargain, you’re essentially choosing to avoid having your case go to trial. Instead, the prosecution and defense lawyers come together to reach an agreement on the final charges and penalties and you’ll have to plead guilty.
However, this doesn’t always mean that you must plead guilty to the original crime you were arrested for. For example, if the charge you’re facing is currently a felony offense, your lawyer may be able to lower this to a misdemeanor charge. Yes, you’d still see penalties for this, but in most cases, they’ll be less severe than you would have received under the original charge.
How Are Plea Bargains Made?
Your legal team will gather evidence and meet with the prosecution in hopes of averting a trial. While it’s true that the prosecution and defense will negotiate with one another during this stage, the defendant must also agree to their proposal. The defendant must knowingly and voluntarily agree to it. If they don’t, the case will be forced to go to trial.
Pros and Cons of Plea Bargains
Your criminal defense attorney can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of agreeing to a plea bargain. The following covers a few key pros and cons:
Pros of plea bargains:
It’s possible to have some charges completely dismissed or reduced.
You may be more likely to receive an alternative to jail such as probation or a treatment program.
The entire process will be over more quickly than it would if it went to trial.
Cons of plea bargains:
It’s always possible that your case could be acquitted if it went to trial; or, you’d receive a less harsh sentence after going through trial.
Accepting a plea bargain requires you to admit guilt.
It almost certainly means you’ll have a criminal record, whereas if you go to trial, you may be found not guilty.
Types of Plea Bargains
There are three main types of plea bargains: charge bargaining, count bargaining, and fact bargaining.
Charge bargaining occurs when you agree to a lesser charge. This type allows individuals to avoid the potential consequences associated with the more severe charge they initially faced. For instance, if you’ve been charged with a felony, your defense lawyer may negotiate a plea agreement that reduces your charge to a misdemeanor, which could mean less time in jail or less expensive fines.
Count bargaining is when you plead guilty to only one or two counts instead of all of them. By doing so, you may receive more lenient penalties and avoid numerous harsh consequences.
Fact bargaining is when both sides agree to omit certain facts to lighten the sentence. These different types of plea bargains offer charged individuals the opportunity to reduce the severity of their charges by negotiating with the prosecution. No matter what, it’s crucial to work closely with a knowledgeable attorney to determine your best path toward an optimal result.
What Happens if I Agree to a Plea Bargain?
You forfeit your right to appeal the conviction when you agree to a plea bargain. This means that after submitting your guilty plea, you typically won't be able to challenge the decision or seek a reversal of your conviction through the appellate process.
Many courtroom procedures are not part of the plea bargain process. By accepting a plea bargain, you forego the chance to question or cross-examine any witnesses. It’s important to be fully aware of these implications before deciding whether or not to take your case to trial. An experienced criminal attorney can provide invaluable guidance and advice.
The Role of a Defense Attorney
Working with a defense attorney is crucial to pursuing a fair result. If your attorney feels a plea bargain is not in your best interest, they may advise you to take a chance by going to trial. In any case, a good lawyer will listen to your side of the story, gather and evaluate evidence, then educate you on your options so you can make an informed decision about how to proceed with your case.
At Faussette & Faussette PLLC, we proudly serve people facing criminal charges throughout the greater Phoenix area. Call us today to get started.