When someone’s facing criminal charges, the first thing that they usually think about is what will happen if they’re convicted.
The anxiety and stress of the unknown can be very hard to manage, so a lot of defendants will, at some point, at least consider taking a plea deal. Plea deals eliminate the uncertainty in a case by giving defendants a certain outcome — which makes it easier to cope and plan.
What kinds of plea deals are there?
Every case is different, but there are three main kinds of plea bargains out there:
- Charge bargaining: It’s not at all unusual for charges to be adjusted after someone’s arrest. Sometimes, the charges get increased or pile up after an investigation is complete, but they can also go down after negotiation between a defense attorney and the prosecution. For example, aggravated assault charges might be dropped to simple assault, and so on.
- Fact bargaining: When cases go to trial, there can be some hard negotiations between the two sides about what facts will be stipulated and what will not be introduced into evidence at all.
- Sentence bargaining: Sometimes a prosecutor won’t budge on the charges but may be willing to agree to a sentence that’s much lower than the maximum if the defendant pleads guilty.
Should you take a plea?
Prosecutors are often highly motivated to agree to plea deals because those always go down as a “win” in their books and it helps eliminate backlogs in the court.
But a plea deal is also treated the same as a conviction. That can have serious long-term consequences on your entire future if you’re facing serious charges. Before you decide to take a plea, you need to have a long chat with an experienced defense attorney about your choices.