Plea deals, sometimes called plea bargains, have taken over the court system. Reports suggest that no more than 3% of criminal cases actually go to trial because, in 97% of them, the defendant makes a plea deal.
That is unlikely to change any time soon, and there can be advantages for both sides to this agreement. Courts see their workload reduced, prosecutors and victims get a positive result and defendants get the chance for a more lenient sentence than they might otherwise have gotten. At least, that is the theory.
As a defendant, you need to take great care
If you accept that you committed a crime, and someone offers you the chance to reduce your sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to it or to a lesser offense, it may be in your interest to proceed. Yet, the consequences of a conviction will not be pleasant, and even if you manage to walk away with just a fine or community service, you will still have a criminal record hanging around your neck for the rest of your life.
Do not assume a charge will lead to a conviction
The police can make mistakes. just like anyone else. They can be mistaken in their belief that you committed a crime. Prosecutors do not always have watertight cases, either. They may know their chance of proving you guilty in court are slim. By accepting their plea deal, you forego your right to a trial and assume guilt for a crime, whether you committed it or not.
There are many ways to fight criminal charges and potentially avoid a criminal record and punishment. It’s worth getting help to examine them all to see if a plea deal really is your best option.