When many people think of the court system in the United States, they immediately picture prosecutors and defense attorneys arguing in front of a jury during a courthouse trial. However, the overwhelming majority of legal conflicts conclude without ever going to trial. Negotiating and accepting plea agreements is a far more common occurrence than you might believe. While it is not usually the only option defendants have, it is an option worth considering. Though we have briefly described these agreements in the context of an arraignment, we believe that providing further details may prove beneficial. Here are some factors that determine if you should accept a plea bargain.
Plea Bargain Definition
Plea bargaining is when the legal representatives for both sides in a criminal or traffic case reach an agreement. Under this agreement, the defendant would plead guilty to charges that may be less severe than the ones for which they were originally accused or in other cases, to charges without any reduction. In exchange, they may then receive a lighter sentence than they faced otherwise. The terms may vary based upon many factors, and the lawyers for the prosecution and defendant(s) might come to such an agreement in very little time, or in other circumstances may need many months or even years to reach such an agreement.
Plea Bargain Pros and Cons
Regardless of the other factors involved, accepting a plea agreement generally means that the defendant will plead guilty, although there are many different possibilities for such a plea. It does not always result in a conviction that will go onto the defendant’s rap sheet and follow them for the rest of their life. Sometimes, the result of a plea negotiation is a supervision, which in Illinois is a non-conviction and other times, the plea negotiation may result in a special kind of sentence called a deferred prosecution or a special probation that may later be expunged. Still, the judge may impose penalties on the defendant which may range from fines to jail, so a plea agreement is not a free pass.
With that said, there is a reason for why so many defendants and attorneys often select this option. Concluding the legal process at this early juncture obviates the need to go to trial. There are a few benefits to this approach:
- A plea bargain resolves the matter at hand in a way that, after negotiations with the prosecutor, the defendant receives a more or less assured sentence. Otherwise, they must go to trial and face a possible conviction with a potentially more severe (and unknown) sentence. A trial may affect the rest of a defendant’s life and the uncertainty of a trial may be averted with a plea agreement.
- Trials may last weeks or even months, which may translate into high costs and expenses. A plea bargain may be discussed and sometimes handled shortly after the beginning of the legal process. Choosing this option might bring the legal issue to a swift end - though negotiations may sometimes be lengthy.
- This type of agreement can be particularly helpful for “open and shut” cases. Sometimes, the circumstances and facts already known from the outset of the process leave little chance for the defendant to be found not guilty. In such difficult situations, the defendant may escape an especially severe sentence by pleading guilty to lesser charges.
Accepting a plea bargain is not always an easy choice to make, and it may not always seem ideal. You should never let any talk you into pleading guilty to a charge, but depending on various factors, a plea deal’s benefits sometimes greatly outweigh its negatives. If you or a loved one face criminal charges, you will want a skilled Chicago criminal defense attorney on your side.
Accepting a plea bargain is not always an easy choice to make, and it may not always seem ideal. You should never let any talk you into pleading guilty to a charge, but depending on various factors, a plea deal’s benefits sometimes greatly outweigh its negatives. If you or a loved one face criminal charges, you will want a skilled Chicago criminal defense attorney on your side. The lawyers at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC can help you evaluate all your options and present you with the best courses of action. If you agree that plea negotiations may be best, we can use our knowledge and experience to get you an agreement with the most favorable terms available. Contact us at [phone-num er] for a free consultation today.