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How can plea deals potentially help defendants?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Plea deals, also known as plea bargains, are agreements in criminal cases wherein a defendant typically agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to only one of multiple charges in exchange for a lighter sentence than what could result from a trial verdict. While this is the structure of a typical plea bargain, their terms vary.

A plea deal offers several potential benefits, including giving the defendant some control over what happens with their case. Understanding how these deals can help certain defendants is beneficial for those who are considering it as an option to resolve a criminal case.

Charges reduction

One of the most significant benefits of a plea deal for defendants is the possibility of having their charges reduced. This aspect of plea bargaining can substantially affect a case’s outcome and the defendant’s future. A defendant might plead guilty to a lesser offense than the original charge as part of a plea deal. For instance, a felony charge could be reduced to a misdemeanor, typically carrying a lighter sentence, fewer legal repercussions and lesser impacts on the defendant’s public record.

Reducing charges through a plea deal can also alter a defendant’s social and economic consequences. For example, a felony conviction can result in losing certain civil rights, such as the right to vote and to pursue certain employment opportunities. It can also affect immigration status. By agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge, defendants can potentially avoid some of these severe consequences, making plea deals a strategic choice in certain situations.

Strategic considerations for defendants

The decision to accept a plea deal isn’t one to be taken lightly. Defendants must weigh the benefits of possibly receiving a reduced sentence against the certainty of a conviction. This process often involves careful negotiation and legal strategy.

While plea deals often offer the advantage of reduced charges and sentences, they also require a defendant to forfeit their right to a trial by jury and their right to appeal their conviction and sentence. This means the decision should be made with a full understanding of its implications. Defendants should have a legal representative assist them with the process so they can ensure that they’re making truly informed decisions either way.