Based on the many criminal justice shows that come on television these days, it is easy to assume that the bulk of criminal cases play out in a courtroom. However, this is far from the truth. In fact, over 90% of criminal cases never actually go to trial. Instead, prosecutors and defense counsel are often able to come together and settle the case with a plea agreement, which is also known as a plea bargain.
What is a Plea Agreement?
After negotiations between a prosecutor and a defendant’s attorney, an agreement can be formed that spells out a sentence that is acceptable to both parties. This agreement is later presented to the court for acceptance or denial. Ideally, the agreement is accepted by the court and avoids the lengthy, expensive, and tedious process of a trial. This is better known as a plea agreement.
What are the Main Advantages of Accepting a Plea Agreement?
- The amount of incarceration is certain. Unlike traditional criminal sentences, which can vary in severity have uncertain end dates, plea agreements usually consist of a predetermined amount of jail time.
- A lesser sentence. The sentence agreed upon in the plea agreement is almost always something less severe than the maximum allowable punishment under the law.
- There is no need for a trial. Defending a criminal charge is usually a long process. It is exhausting for everyone involved on both sides of the law and can leave the family of a defendant financially drained. A plea agreement can avoid all this.
Why are Prosecutors Willing to Offer Plea Agreements?
While you might assume that the defendant has most of the benefits, the prosecution also obtains many benefits once a plea agreement is finalized. The prosecutor gains the appearance of looking good because the defendant will be punished in some way. Additionally, many jurisdictions throughout the nation have a crowded backlog of cases waiting to be tried. Every plea agreement represents a slot that has been freed in the court’s caseload, which ideally then becomes more manageable with fewer cases actually going to trial.
Are Prosecutors Required to Offer a Plea Agreement? Is a Criminal Defendant Required to Accept it?
Absolutely not and absolutely not. In reality, prosecutors have full discretion over whether they choose to offer a defendant a plea deal. Similarly, the fact that a plea deal has been offered does not mean that a defendant should accept it as there are many circumstances in which doing so is not advantageous. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether accepting a plea that has been offered is in your best interest.
Facing Criminal Charges and Struggling With Whether to Accept a Plea? We can Help
The Ocala criminal defense attorneys of Alavi, Bird & Pozzuto, P.A. have significant experience helping people navigate through the difficult situation of being charged with a crime and offered a plea agreement that they are unsure whether to take. If you are facing charges, contact us for help today so that we can help you weigh the pros and cons of accepting a plea. It is critical that you obtain professional help as soon as possible.