Many people assume that if they are charged with a crime in Florida, their case will go to trial, where a jury will decide their fate. But in reality, most criminal cases are not resolved by trial verdicts, but rather through plea bargains, which are also known as plea deals or plea agreements.
What is a plea bargain and how do these agreements work? What are the pros and cons of accepting a plea deal? Why should you consult with a Tampa criminal defense attorney before agreeing to a deal? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.
What is A Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain is an agreement that is made between the prosecution and the defendant in a criminal case. If a defendant accepts a plea bargain, it means they agree to plead either guilty or no contest to certain criminal charges in exchange for some type of benefit.
For instance, the prosecution may agree to drop certain charges if the defendant agrees to a plea deal. Or the defendant may face reduced charges or lighter penalties if they agree to accept a plea deal.
For example, say you are facing felony burglary charges. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that allows you to plead guilty to trespassing instead of burglary. Trespassing is a misdemeanor, so accepting this deal would allow you to avoid a felony conviction and the serious penalties that come along with it.
When Are Plea Deals Made?
A plea deal can be made at any point in the criminal case. The vast majority of plea deals are made after charges have been filed and before the trial has started. But it is possible to reach a plea agreement in the middle of the trial. Both sides can agree to a deal at any time.
How Are Plea Deals Made?
The prosecution and defense will need to work together to negotiate the terms of the plea bargain. If you are facing criminal charges, it’s important to let a criminal defense attorney negotiate the terms of your plea deal. Do not try to reach an agreement with the prosecution on your own. Defense attorneys are skilled negotiators that know how to fight for favorable terms on behalf of their clients.
Even if you choose to accept a plea bargain, the terms of the agreement are not binding until they have been reviewed and approved by the judge. The judge will consider a number of factors when determining whether or not to accept a plea bargain, including:
- The nature of the crime
- The defendant’s prior criminal record
- The defendant’s character
- Severity of the charges
Then, the judge will choose to accept or reject the plea bargain. Sometimes, the judge may decide to accept the plea bargain with certain conditions. For instance, say the plea bargain allows the defendant to avoid jail time by completing a certain number of hours of community service. In this case, the judge may accept the plea bargain under the condition that the defendant completes the required number of community service hours by a certain date.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Plea Bargains?
It’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of plea bargains before deciding whether or not to accept a deal in your case.
There are a number of different benefits to accepting a plea bargain. For instance, accepting a plea deal allows you to avoid a trial. Taking a case to trial is not only time-consuming, but also stressful and expensive. If you want to reach a quick resolution, accepting a plea bargain may be the best option for you.
Taking a plea bargain also helps you avoid the uncertainty of going to trial. No matter how solid your case may seem, it is impossible to predict what the jury will think. This is why there is always some level of risk involved in taking a criminal case to trial.
Accepting a plea bargain can also help defendants avoid the more serious penalties of a conviction. This is because the state typically agrees to drop certain charges, reduce charges, or recommend a lighter sentence as part of the defendant’s plea bargain. For instance, you may be able to avoid incarceration by completing a probationary term as part of your plea bargain. If you are facing serious charges that carry lengthy jail or prison sentences, you may want to talk to your attorney about the possibility of accepting a plea bargain.
There are also some disadvantages to accepting a plea bargain. If you agree to plead guilty as part of a plea bargain, you will have a conviction on your criminal record just like you would if you were found guilty by a jury.
Having a criminal conviction on your record can negatively impact you in many different ways. For example, if it is a felony conviction, you will lose the right to purchase or possess a firearm in the state of Florida. Having a conviction on your record could also impact your ability to find employment or housing in the future. If you are a licensed professional, a criminal conviction could negatively impact your career. It’s important to carefully consider these consequences when deciding whether or not a plea bargain is right for you.
Schedule A Free Consultation With Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Today
If you are facing criminal charges, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from the criminal defense attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter what type of charge you are facing—there’s a lot on the line in every criminal case. That’s what motivates our team of criminal defense attorneys to work tirelessly to reach the best possible outcome for each and every one of our clients.
Take the first step toward protecting your rights by scheduling a free consultation with our team today.