One of the most difficult decisions you can make during criminal court proceedings is whether or not to take a plea bargain. On one hand, you could receive a lesser punishment. On the other hand, you might lose the ability to hold a fair trial first. This choice is so difficult that it has been controversial for decades. Regardless, 9 out of 10 defendants accept a plea bargain on average.
You will have to consider many factors to determine if you should take the plea deal or proceed to trial. Here are five common factors to consider:
1: What does the offer include? Consider the offer that the prosecutor makes as well as what matters to you the most. For example, you have a young child and a prosecutor offers you significantly reduced jail time. You may choose to take the plea deal in order to miss as little of your child’s life as possible.
2: What does your lawyer suggest? Your criminal defense attorney will draw on their experience to advise you in plea bargains. While you are the one ultimately in charge of your plea, you may want to hear why your attorney believes one option will benefit you the most.
3: How long do you want court proceedings to be? Time is usually a big advantage in taking a plea deal. Not only can you get sentencing and penalties over with, but you can also spare yourself from biased media attention and a painstaking trial.
4: Is the suspense worth it? In a plea deal, you know the exact outcome. Even if it seems unfavorable, you won’t be held in suspense during a criminal trial. Going to a trial gives you the opportunity to be heard, but you will be heard in front of twelve people who have never met you. Although going to trial doesn’t necessarily mean you will be found guilty, a plea bargain can eliminate the risk of an even greater punishment.
5: Are there signs of coercion? Courts can be intimidating, especially if you aren’t an expert in the law. It’s easy to feel pressured to accept a plea deal so that law enforcement can get what they need from you. Your attorney can watch for suspicious deals and act as a barrier between the court and your rights.
These are five of many factors that you should consider. Every case is unique. While there are downsides to both choices, everything depends on your specific situation. Do not accept a plea deal before you discuss your options with an experienced defense lawyer.