What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Taking a Plea Bargain?
Most criminal cases are resolved through the process of a plea bargain. While we at Scott Russell Law always look for other solutions first, the truth is there are going to be times where we advise our clients to take the deal.
Every plea bargain should be weighed carefully and on an individual basis to determine the best course of action. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of plea bargains in general.
Advantage #1: Lighter Sentences
Often you get the ability to plead guilty to a lesser charge and to accept the lesser sentence should you choose to plea out.
Sometimes you get credit for time served if you’ve been sitting in jail for some time, which happens to those who are not granted bail, or who can’t afford it.
For some defendants, a plea bargain will mean getting to go home.
Advantage #2: Predictability
Trials are inherently unpredictable and they are not always fair. Plea bargains can take away a lot of uncertainty.
They give you some control over the process that you might not otherwise have, and that control can be very valuable.
Disadvantage #1: You Lose the Ability to Be Declared Innocent
Nearly 20% of the wrongful convictions recorded by the National Registry of Exonerations were the result of plea bargains. Innocent defendants plea out all the time. They do it because they’re tired. They do it because they don’t think they have the money to hire a private lawyer. They do it because they don’t have confidence in the system. They do it because they get pressured into it by a legal system that promises retribution against them by maximizing their sentence if they exercise their right to trial.
If you know you are innocent and the evidence works in your favor then plea bargaining may be an extremely bad choice for you.
If you know you are innocent but the evidence is against you then you might want to consider it.
Disadvantage #2: You Get a Criminal Record
If you plead guilty then you’re going to get a record for whatever you plead guilty to. That means you face all the consequences of getting a criminal record such as difficulty obtaining housing, difficulty obtaining employment, and difficulty in continuing your education.
Is a plea bargain right for you?
Only you and your attorney can truly determine whether plea bargaining is the right move to make in your case.
If you have a private attorney you are more likely to get a wise answer here, as most public defenders tend to advise their clients to take the plea simply because they do not have the time or energy to bring to bear on their behalf.
If you need help, contact Scott Russell Law today.