Most criminal cases are resolved by a plea agreement in Chesterfield County and throughout Virginia. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense, it is likely that you will have to decide whether or not to accept a plea agreement at some point in your criminal case.
Like many decisions you must make in life, there are pros and cons to accepting a plea bargain. Understanding them can help you make the right decision in your criminal case.
Pros of Entering Into a Plea Agreement
A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecutor and defendant where the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a certain offense, and the prosecutor gives them a benefit for doing so. For example, the prosecutor could agree to recommend a less severe sentence or to reduce the charges to a less serious offense.
The prosecutor and judge like these agreements because they help clear up their busy caseloads and court dockets. Here are the potential benefits to you:
- Certain result. If you enter into a plea agreement, you remove the uncertainty of what could happen to you in your criminal case. Even if you are innocent, the reality is that you could be found guilty at a trial.
- Reduced punishment. You will most likely receive a benefit by entering into a plea agreement such as being sentenced to less harsh punishments or having your charges reduced to a less serious misdemeanor or felony offense.
- Cost. It can be expensive to take your case to a jury trial. You can save money and time if you reach an agreement that avoids having to pay attorney fees and litigation costs associated with a trial.
Drawbacks of Agreeing to a Plea Agreement
You should not just consider the benefits of a plea bargain. You need to also weigh the drawbacks of accepting one. They include:
- If you are innocent, it may feel very unjust to plead guilty for something you did not do and face a punishment you do not believe you deserve.
- You could have strong defenses to the charges you face—even if you are guilty. By entering into a plea bargain, you waive your right to raise these defenses that might result in the charges being dismissed.
- If your attorney knows you want to resolve your case through a plea bargain, they may not investigate the facts surrounding your arrest as completely and may not discover a strong defense you could have raised to fight the charges.
- You would be waiving important constitutional rights such as your right to a jury trial.
- You would be pleading guilty to an offense and would be sentenced to some type of punishment.
- You would have a permanent criminal record.
How to Know If a Plea Agreement Is Right for You
You should not try to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor or decide if you should accept one offered by them on your own. You need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to make this important decision in your case and ensure that you receive the best plea agreement given your circumstances. To learn how I can assist you, call my Midlothian office, or start a live chat to schedule a free consultation today.