Appearing before a judge or jury in a criminal trial may seem frightening, so if the prosecutor offers a way to avoid this ordeal through a plea bargain, you may feel tempted to take it.
You would not be alone in this, as over 95% of criminal convictions in the U.S. come from plea bargains, according to the CATO Institute.
Benefits of plea bargains
Plea bargains have numerous benefits. They save you the time and expense of going through a trial, and they save the court’s time and money, as well. A plea bargain can be a strong defense strategy in many cases, and it could give you a more certain path forward than if you must wait and put your faith in a judge or jury to decide in your favor. Not only that, but a plea bargain is typically private and may save you the exposure of a public court case.
A guilty plea
This offer from the prosecution may involve pleading guilty to a lesser charge so you receive fewer penalties, or pleading guilty to one charge so the prosecutor drops the others. The bargains the prosecutor offers may vary, but they all hinge on one factor: your willingness to plead guilty.
The prosecution’s pressure
Even if you are not guilty of the charges or the prosecutor does not have the evidence needed to obtain a conviction, he or she may be able to make it seem as if your conviction is a foregone conclusion. Although the process should include negotiation, and defendants do not have to accept any deal offered, many feel pressured to accept out of fear of the consequences. Under these circumstances, a guilty plea may not be voluntary at all.
The crux of the matter is that whether a plea deal is actually a good bargain or it causes more harm than good depends largely on the individual factors of your case.