Should you take a plea deal?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

These days, plea deals are more common than criminal trials. It’s estimated that roughly 98% of criminal cases in federal courts end that way, and figures in local jurisdictions are not thought to be much different.

None of that means that a plea agreement is right for you, however. Here are some things to consider before you make that kind of bargain against your future:

What can a plea deal get you?

Plea deals come in various forms, but most will boil down to either charge bargaining (which might involve eliminating some charges or lowering them from felonies to misdemeanors, for example) or sentence bargaining (where the prosecutor agrees to recommend a sentence that is lower than what the defendant could expect at trial). 

Both have the net effect of reducing the overall impact of the conviction, but you do not want to agree to a deal until you evaluate:

  • The strength of the evidence against you: If the evidence seems overwhelming and conviction at trial seems likely, a plea deal can be your best route. If the prosecution’s case is weak, however, you may want to reconsider. A plea deal is a guaranteed “win” for the prosecution, but it leaves you with a permanent criminal history and facing all the consequences. 
  • The collateral consequences you may experience: Speaking of consequences, you need to think about what happens to your life beyond whatever sentence you receive. You may not get jail time with a plea, for example, but you could face discrimination in your personal life, with housing and with employment forever thanks to your criminal history.

Most people choose a plea deal for a combination of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that a “sure bet” can be better than the uncertainty of trial and an unpredictable outcome – but you may chafe under the idea if you are factually innocent. Seeking early legal guidance can help you assess your options and decide what’s right for your situation.