More than 90% of criminal convictions are achieved by plea bargaining, rather than going to trial where the prosecutor is required to prove guilt. When you choose to accept a plea deal, you give up many important rights, including our right to a jury trial and in most cases your right to appeal. You gain expediency and a somewhat guaranteed outcome. In some cases, a plea agreement is a good choice, but in many cases innocent defendants are intimidated into accepting a conviction that they should have fought. In any case, you can count on the prosecutor taking advantage of you if you are not represented by an experienced and highly skilled criminal defense attorney.
Basic Plea Deals
Pleas deals typically involve pleading guilty in exchange for one or more of the following:
- Fewer charges
- Less serious charge or charges
- Reduced sentence
There is a risk to pleading guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence. Although judges usually go with the prosecutor’s recommendation, they aren’t required to, and you may not get what you were promised.
Overcharging as a Strategy
Because plea bargaining is the norm, prosecutors often use overcharging for leverage. They tack on additional charges they know won’t stick, so the situation looks more dire and the defendant is motivated to plead guilty in exchange for fewer charges. Yes, the same way a car salesman always asks for more than they expect to get, except the stakes here are your freedom and your future. And, it adds risk for you because there may be a chance that the prosecutor will win on those extra charges in court.
Your criminal defense attorney can spot overcharging and gauge the risk level, and prosecutors know this. Having an experienced attorney on your side helps to level the playing field for you.
It May be Better to Fight
In many cases, taking a good plea deal is the best move. It can result in less harm to you and save time and money so you can get on with moving forward with your life. But you need to be fully aware of the consequences. The conviction on your record may haunt you for years. The case against you may not be strong enough to hold up in court. There are many reasons why fighting the charge or charges may be your best course of action.
If you are considering taking a plea deal, don’t do it without talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney first. Call McPhillips Fitzgerald & Cullum, LLP, or contact us online today.