Why would a judge and a prosecutor agree to a plea bargain? The answer is that in some cases, agreeing to a plea bargain reduces the number of cases on a court’s docket that requires a full trial. This saves both the court and the prosecutor time and money. Although it appears on the surface that defendants benefit from agreeing to a plea bargain, some cases should not be plea-bargained as well.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of a plea bargain.
When a Plea Bargain Makes Sense
The most common reason why defendants request a plea bargain is to receive a lighter sentence. Plea bargain agreements can reduce the sentence a defendant would have received if the case went to a full trial. Judges and prosecutors often agree to lighter sentences to relieve the overcrowded conditions in the California prison system.
A defendant’s attorney can ask the court for a plea bargain that leads to a reduced charge. The reduced charge can be going from a felony to a misdemeanor, as well as lowering the degree of the criminal charge. Prosecutors typically agree to this type of plea bargain when the evidence is not convincing enough to warrant a more serious criminal charge.
Ending a Case Early
Going through a criminal trial places considerable stress on a defendant. Agreeing to a plea bargain ends the case. Not only does a defendant feel better, but a plea bargain also removes the uncertainty of taking a criminal case to trial. A plea bargain allows a defendant to take responsibility for any criminal actions, instead of going through several days or even months of nerve-wracking court proceedings.
When a Plea Bargain Doesn’t Make Sense
Your criminal defense lawyer can advise you when to reject a plea bargain.
Lack of Evidence
Just because a prosecutor offers a plea bargain because there appears not to be enough persuasive evidence does not mean a defendant should accept the plea bargain. Your attorney might discover that the lack of evidence, whether it is from issues with witnesses and/or the evidence, is a good reason to take a defendant’s case to trial. By accepting a plea bargain for a case that you can win, you get a conviction on your record that you otherwise would have avoided by going to trial.
In many plea bargain agreements, a defendant agrees to take the rap for a lesser charge. This means there is still a criminal conviction on the defendant’s record, which can lead to hassles trying to find gainful employment and a decent place to live. Accepting a plea bargain for a lesser charge sometimes makes sense, but there are instances when a criminal conviction of any kind can be a problem moving forward.
Prosecutor Tries to Coerce Defendant
Defendants that do not have adequate legal representation can feel pressure to sign off on a plea bargain agreement. The prosecutor might overemphasize the possibility of the defendant receiving the maximum sentence. Coercive tactics can motivate a defendant to accept a plea bargain agreement when going to a full trial would have been the better legal option.
Work with a California Criminal Defense Lawyer
Fighting back against a coercive prosecutor requires the legal help of an accomplished team of criminal defense attorneys. California criminal defense lawyers Scott Simmons and Dan Wagner fight hard for their clients, as well as understand when it’s right to take a plea bargain and when going to trial is in the best interests of our clients.
Call us today at (949) 439-5857 to schedule a free consultation.