When Is It Wise To Accept A Plea Deal?

Posted on

The vast majority of criminal cases that result in convictions ultimately end up there by way of plea bargains. It's a standard solution for a criminal lawyer to ask a client to consider. Most folks at least want to consider fighting charges, and that begs a question about when will a criminal defense lawyer tell a client that it's wise to make a deal.

Only After Hearing the Charges and Seeing the Evidence

It's rare for an attorney to want to jump at a plea agreement until they've had a chance to learn what the totality of potential charges in a case is. First, any decent plea deal should bring as much of the case as possible to an end. While it's understandable that, for example, a city attorney can't do much about possible subsequent federal charges, they can at least put a bow on all of the city's charges against a defendant.

Second, the ability to reach a deal may improve once you get to see the prosecution's evidence. You have a legal right if you push the case closer to a trial to demand what's called discovery. This means the prosecution has to lay out for your criminal lawyer all of the evidence and testimony it might introduce in court. Oftentimes, the evidence indicates where the weak spots in a case are. After a prosecutor sees this for what it is, they may be more willing to negotiate.

When Going to Trial Means Potentially Big Jail Time

While people often want to fight charges tooth and nail, there is always a balancing act between what one might gain in court versus what one might lose. If a plea deal takes jail time off the table in exchange for something like drug and alcohol counseling, for example, it may be smarter to take the deal. Likewise, some deals are tied to diversion programs, meaning you might be able to keep the conviction off your record if you comply with everything the court asks of you.

After Exhausting Other Possible Solutions

The process of getting to trial is a long one. You will have opportunities along the way to bring concerns about the case to a judge's attention. For example, a criminal defense lawyer won't have much interest in pleading a client out if there are major civil rights violations tied to the initial arrest. The standard operating procedure for the defense in that sort of case is to pressure the judge to dismiss the charges while also encouraging the prosecution to drop the case.

If you have more questions, contact a local criminal lawyer.