If you have recently been arrested for a crime, you may feel that there is no hope and you'll just need to plead guilty in order to just "get things over-with." And while facing the prospect of being convicted of a crime is frightening, you don't have to go through it alone. You should retain a criminal defense attorney in order to work with the prosecutor and perhaps come up with an agreeable plea bargain. Here is an overview on how plea bargains can be helpful for you.
Plea Bargain Process
Most criminal cases are resolved through the plea bargaining process before they even go to trial. If you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge, your sentence will be more lenient and the more severe charges are dismissed. When the negotiation process is taking place, the prosecutor will take into account how serious the alleged original crime is, and how strong the evidence against you is as well. Your defense attorney will also look at how high the probability of you being found guilty at trial is, in hopes that you can walk away with a better deal. The courts generally encourage plea bargains in order to weed out cases that are filling up court calendars and help with keeping non-violent criminals or criminals who are no danger to society out of overcrowded jails.
Illustration of a Plea Bargain
To determine how a plea bargain is reached in a criminal case, let's say you were charged with a misdemeanor petty larceny. You have no prior record, which means you've never been convicted with a crime prior to this current charge. A plea bargain may be reached in the following couple of ways:
- The prosecutor may approach the defendant offer you a deal up front. Usually you would have either already made restitution for the items you allegedly stole, or you would have already returned the items that were allegedly in your possession.
- In cases such as smaller misdemeanors, usually a prosecutor will offer the charge be completely dismissed in exchange for your promise to stay out of trouble for a specified time frame.
- It's also possible that the amount of items you allegedly stole is worth a bit of money, or the evidence against you is quite strong. In this case, your attorney may work out a deal with the prosecutor that has you pleading guilty to the original crime in exchange for a less severe sentence than you may have received without the benefit of a plea bargain.
Plea bargains are not worked out with defendants who don't have a criminal defense attorney, so it's in your best interest to at least consult with a criminal defense attorney like Andrew H. P. Norton as soon as possible.