A lot of criminal cases result in plea agreements. These agreements typically involve pleading guilty to some crimes while others are dismissed, or with you receiving lighter penalties than you might otherwise face if you go to trial. Prosecutors are often aggressive in trying to settle cases because they have large caseloads to manage, but you shouldn’t let them bully you into agreeing to something that isn’t in your best interests.
So, when is a plea bargain right for you?
It really depends on the circumstances at hand. However, by assessing these characteristics of your case you might be able to better determine whether a particular offer by the prosecution is right for you, or if it’s better for you to take your chances at trial.
- Prosecutorial weaknesses: The prosecution bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and in that pursuit they can face a lot of challenges. They might struggle to find witnesses to support their charges and evidence can be damaged or even disappear. There can be other weaknesses that you can exploit, which leads us to the next issue.
- The strength of your defense strategies: Depending on the circumstances at hand, you might be able to suppress evidence, attack witness credibility, and diminish the effect of the prosecutor’s arguments.
- The risks associated with going to trial: Some plea deals don’t offer much incentive, given that they seek to impose penalties that are only slightly minimized from those that would be imposed upon conviction at trial. In other situations, though, a plea deal might be drastically different in terms of potential penalties. You need to carefully weigh this factor in light of your likelihood of success at trial.
- Your likelihood of success at trial: Here, you’ll need to consider all of the characteristics mentioned above, but you’ll also want to consider how courts and juries have handled similar cases.
There very well be other factors that you need to consider when assessing your case and whether you should accept a plea deal. To get an accurate assessment of your case and better determine your best course of action, it might be best for you to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney who knows how to aggressively advocate against prosecutors.