If you’ve been charged with a serious crime when you’re completely innocent, you certainly deserve your day in court. However, if you have some legal culpability, you may be able to reach a plea deal with prosecutors to lessen the consequences.
You’ve probably heard of “plea bargaining” and seen it done on television. It’s generally not as dramatic as fictional depictions are. However, it’s crucial to know what is negotiable. Generally, judges accept the plea deal reached by prosecutors and the defendant and their legal counsel. However, they have the option to deny it if they don’t think it’s appropriate.
Prosecutors generally prefer not to have to take a case to trial – and most don’t end up there. It takes time, money and personnel, and there’s no “slam dunk” case when a jury is deciding it. Let’s look at what is typically negotiable in a plea deal.
The criminal charge
This is often where the plea bargaining starts. A defendant may offer to plead guilty to a less serious offense than the one they’re facing in return for not going to trial. For example, a felony charge might be reduced to a misdemeanor. A lesser offense can mean a difference in everything from whether you have to spend time behind bars to your job opportunities in the future.
Generally, getting the charge reduced will result in a lighter sentence. It could mean getting probation, community service or a fine. It may mean getting “time served,” which means you don’t have to serve more time than you already have.
Even without reducing the charge, you may be able to negotiate a lighter sentence. If you’re not considered a threat to the community, you may be able to serve your time on “house arrest” with an electronic monitor rather than behind bars, for example.
Plea bargaining is never something you should try to do on your own. It requires experience and knowledge of the law. It helps to understand the prosecutors and the judge you’re dealing with, as well. That’s why it’s crucial to have legal guidance to determine the best course of action for your particular situation.