What Every Defendant Should Know About Plea Bargains

The vast majority of criminal charges do not go to trial. These cases get resolved through the plea bargain process. Juries are unpredictable. Many people prefer to resolve a case with the prosecutor by agreement rather than take their chances on a potentially worse outcome with a jury. Also, many people choose to negotiate their cases to save money on attorney fees.

A Seattle criminal defense attorney can explain your legal rights and help you navigate the court system if you get accused of or charged with a crime. Keep reading to learn more about what every defendant should know about plea bargains.

Don’t Represent Yourself

You should not try to handle a plea bargain without a lawyer representing you. The prosecution has no obligation to protect your legal rights or treat you fairly in plea negotiations. Without a criminal defense attorney by your side negotiating on your behalf, you could get a grossly unfair result in your plea bargain.

  • A plea bargain can involve a guilty plea or outcome where the case is continued for a period of time for you to fulfill certain conditions and earn a dismissal.   You lose the right to a trial or to plead not guilty if you enter into a plea bargain. 
  • The plea bargain does not guarantee you a reduced charge. You might have to plead guilty to the original charge in exchange for a reduced sentence.  Sometimes charges are reduced as part of the plea negotiation process.
  • Some plea deals reduce the number of criminal charges against you if the prosecution charges you with multiple offenses or counts.
  • Certain criminal charges can adversely affect your entire future, so if you can reduce those to lesser charges that will not cause as much damage to your life, a plea bargain can be worthwhile.

What are the Downsides of Accepting a Plea Bargain?

As with anything else, plea bargains can have their downsides. Plea bargains do not guarantee a certain sentence, though the prosecutor commits to make a particular sentence recommendation to the judge in the plea negotiation.  The judge is not bound by the deal that your lawyer and the prosecutor reach. On rare occasions, a judge will refuse to accept the terms of a plea bargain, however, most of the time the judge will follow the agreement the parties have made.

You cannot appeal from a plea bargain, except in extraordinary circumstances. Once you enter into the deal, you are stuck with the terms and cannot withdraw from the plea because you regret it or are not happy with the sentence you received.

If you have a strong defense or the prosecution’s case relies on questionable evidence, you will not be able to challenge the evidence or present your side of the story when you enter into a plea bargain. You lose the right to a trial when you do a plea deal, which means that you never get to cross-examine witnesses, refute the prosecution’s case, or get a not guilty verdict.

People will tend to assume that you were guilty if you enter into a plea bargain unless the plea bargain is one that ultimately results in the case being dismissed at the end.

Don’t Feel Like You Have to Do it All

When you get arrested or charged with a crime, the decisions you make can impact the rest of your life. It can be difficult or impossible to get into a select college, land a dream job, or rent an apartment with certain convictions on your record. You could lose your professional license or be barred from entering the career field you desire.

A Seattle criminal defense attorney can protect your legal rights and fight hard to get you the best result possible in your situation. Contact our office today.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on various aspects of criminal procedure. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.