Weighing the pros and cons of a plea bargain

Last week, we provided a brief overview of the plea bargaining process. Plea bargaining is a process in which someone charged with a crime pleads guilty to that crime-or a lesser crime-in exchange for pre-defined, lenient treatment from the prosecution.

A plea bargains offers certain advantages to everyone involved. It allows the judge and prosecutor to avoid a trial and gives them more time to focus on other cases. It also gives the defendant the opportunity for a lighter sentence and a less serious criminal record.

Nonetheless, the decision to accept a plea bargain should never be taken lightly. Below, we examine a few factors you should always discuss with your attorney when evaluating whether or not to accept a plea bargain:

Is the deal in my best interest?

How do the penalties associated with accepting the deal compare with the penalties you could face if you were found guilty in a trial?

How strong is my case?

Even if you know you're innocent of the crime you've been charged with, there may be strong evidence that indicates otherwise. Understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses of your case can help you to judge your likelihood of winning your case, if it went to trial.

What are all of the drawbacks of the deal?

It's important that you understand all of the ways in which pleading guilty will impact you-over the long and short term. For example, if pleading guilty will result in having to pay a fine, this penalty may be a relatively easy pill to swallow. On the other hand, if pleading guilty means you would lose your professional license and would no longer be able to work in your established field, it might be a deal breaker.

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