How to Get the Most Out of a Plea Agreement
According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance, most criminal cases are resolved through plea bargaining. However, it can be hard to know when to accept a deal from the prosecutor. You must weigh the pros and cons of what is presented to get the most out of the agreement.
What Is a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and the prosecutor representing the state in a criminal case. During a plea deal, the defendant will plead no contest or guilty to a crime in return for a sentence that is less than the maximum for the charge against them.
A plea bargain sometimes involves the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser charge. This allows them to have a less severe crime on their criminal record and a lower sentence.
How Do Plea Bargains Work?
The prosecutor often offers a plea bargain after an initial charge is presented at the arraignment. The initial charge may be inflated or barely supported by evidence to scare the defendant.
That way, when the prosecutor offers a lower sentence or lesser charge, the defendant is more inclined to accept the agreement.
Negotiating a Plea Agreement
After the prosecutor makes the offer to the defendant’s attorney, the legal representative will present that offer to the client. If the client feels the plea deal is fair, they may accept it. However, it is often beneficial to negotiate with the prosecutor.
The criminal defense attorney can return to the prosecutor with plea bargain terms that the defendant feels are more beneficial. There is no guarantee that the prosecutor will negotiate, but they may reduce their offer if there is room to budge.
A Judge Must Approve the Plea Agreement
Acceptance of the plea agreement by the defendant and the prosecutor is not the end. The judge must review the plea deal. The judge will also ask the defendant many questions to ensure they agree with their own free will and understand the consequences.
If the judge approves the plea agreement, they will officially sentence the defendant. The defendant may take their case to trial if the judge doesn’t approve the plea deal.
How to Get the Best Plea Agreement Possible
It’s essential to know that the initial plea offer from the prosecutor does not always have to be the final deal. With a skilled negotiator, you could reduce your charges or sentence significantly. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your plea agreement.
1. Compromise, But Don’t Settle
When the evidence is stacked against you, a plea bargain can be a good deal. However, you shouldn’t sacrifice everything right away. Find out the minimum and maximum sentences that could be thrown at you if you go to trial.
You will likely have to compromise and accept a deal somewhere in the middle. Don’t settle for the prosecutor’s initial offer.
2. Understand the Prosecutor’s Purpose
When the prosecutor makes a plea deal, they do so with a purpose. They may be trying to save themselves time and the state resources.
If they don’t offer you what you feel is fair, they may try to prove a point to future defendants. When you understand the prosecutor’s goal, you can better negotiate with them.
3. Make Sure Your Goals Are Realistic
Although the goal of a plea bargain is to get a better deal than the maximum sentence you might face at trial, you need to be realistic. You will receive a penalty if you plead no contest or guilty to a criminal offense.
However, if this is your first crime or the charge isn’t too severe, you might avoid incarceration. In other situations, you should shoot for the lowest possible jail time. Remember that the sentence will still be proportionate to the crime you are pleading to.
4. Understand the Strengths & Weaknesses of Your Case
Every criminal case has strengths and weaknesses. Evidence could support arguments made by both sides – defense and prosecution. You must know how much information is working for and against your case.
Your criminal defense attorney can help you better understand whether the evidence supports the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
5. Hire a Skilled Negotiator as Your Attorney
Some attorneys have received education and have taken significant training to build their skills as a negotiator. Those abilities benefit you when obtaining a fair plea deal.
Negotiation is more than going back and forth with the prosecution. It involves a certain amount of smooth talking and pointing out the strengths of your case and weaknesses in theirs.
A Criminal Defense Law Firm Can Help with a Plea Agreement
You may be worried about the potential penalties if you face significant criminal charges. You can take control by negotiating a plea agreement with the prosecutor before going to trial. With the help of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, you can get the best deal possible.