Understanding Plea Deals
Plea bargaining is a common part of the criminal process, but it can be complicated and overwhelming without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall, our attorneys have years of experience with the plea bargaining process. We fight tirelessly for the rights of our clients and work to ensure they receive the fairest possible outcome in their case. Call our Virginia criminal defense lawyers at 703-934-0101 if you have been charged with a crime.
What Is a Plea Deal?
A plea deal occurs when the prosecution offers some benefit in exchange for the defendant pleading guilty. These benefits may include dropping a charge, reducing the charge, or recommending a reduced sentence. Sometimes plea deals are in the best interest of both the defendant and the prosecution. The prosecutor is often seeking to clear up their docket by settling some cases before trial, while the defendant may like to have some control over their conviction and sentence rather than submitting it to a jury to decide. Ultimately, under Virginia Code Section 19.2-254, a judge may reject a plea agreement if they find the terms to be unfair.
However, it is important to remember that plea bargains are not always a good deal for the defendant. According to the United States Office of Attorneys, defendants may not plead guilty to a crime they did not commit. Unfortunately, however, many defendants have pleaded guilty or no contest to crimes they were innocent of because they were afraid of being found guilty at trial.
While plea bargaining can be effective for both parties, there is often a power imbalance between the defendant and the prosecutor, making the negotiations unfair. If you have been charged with a crime, consider visiting with the attorneys at the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall to help
ensure the terms of your plea bargain are fair before you accept.
Types of Plea Deals
Plea deals typically involve a compromise as to some part of the criminal charge. Below are a couple of the most common types of plea bargains.
One common form of plea bargaining is when the prosecutor offers to reduce or drop a charge in exchange for a guilty plea. Charge bargaining may mean that one or more of multiple charges is dropped entirely, or reduced to a less serious offense.
Recommending a Reduced Sentence
Prosecutors may also offer a reduced sentence. Although judges have the final decision as to the defendant’s sentence, they often rely heavily on the prosecutor’s recommendation. For example, a prosecutor may tell you that if you plead guilty, they will recommend the normal sentence, but if you are convicted at trial, they will recommend an enhanced sentence. This can be a daunting choice for defendants, as they are often feeling fear and shame. Having an attorney by your side may help to calm some of this anxiety and help you look at the plea offer objectively to ensure it is actually a good deal for you.
When To Consider a Plea Deal
The key to understanding plea deals is knowing when it makes sense to accept. While there are pros and cons of plea deals, these are some scenarios where a plea deal may be in your best interest.
When it is a defendant’s first offense, especially for a lower-level crime like a misdemeanor, it is often in everyone’s interest to clear the case quickly. Defendants do not want to experience astronomical legal bills, and prosecutors typically do not want to waste a lot of time punishing a first offender. A plea bargain may involve accepting probation or a diversion program in exchange for no jail time. In these cases, a plea deal may benefit both sides.
High Likelihood of Guilty Verdict at Trial
Another reason a defendant may want to accept a plea bargain is if there is a high likelihood of being convicted at trial. If during discovery it becomes clear that there is a lot of strong evidence against you, you may wish to accept a lower charge or sentence, rather than let the jury decide your fate.
It Is Fair Under the Circumstances
Sometimes, a plea bargain seems fair to both parties. If you know you are guilty, you may wish to accept the punishment if you believe it is in your best legal interest. On the other hand, if you are not guilty or do not believe the charges brought against you are fair, you may want to take on the risk of a trial in the hopes that the jury finds you not guilty. Visiting with an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall
When Not to Consider a Plea Deal
There are several circumstances where you should not consider a plea bargain.
Have Not Spoken to a Lawyer
If you have not spoken to an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you should take careful consideration before you make the decision to accept a plea bargain. It is difficult for a criminal defendant to be able to identify unfair terms, as criminal cases are often legally complex and challenging. This is an emotional and overwhelming time, so take the time to consider whether or not visiting with an attorney would be in your best interest. Criminal defense attorneys are able to answer defendant’s legal questions as well as ensure their legal rights remain protected.
If you are not guilty, you are legally allowed under the law to accept a plea bargain. However, the reality is, however, that innocent people accept plea bargains every day. Sometimes people feel powerless to prove their innocence at trial, so they accept a plea deal just to get their case completed. However, pleading guilty to a crime you did not commit is not only unfair, but it can also cause lifelong hardships. Having a criminal record can create obstacles for future employment, housing, and educational opportunities, and it still carries an unfortunate social stigma. At the Law Office of Faraji A. Rosenthall, we fight to defend our clients against wrongful accusations.
Trust Our Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you are facing criminal charges and considering taking a plea deal, you should consider speaking to our criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible. We understand that attempting to face the criminal justice system alone can be overwhelming and our legal team would welcome the opportunity to visit with you about your circumstances. Call our attorneys today at 703-934-0101 to set up a free consultation and tell us about your case.