If you’re facing criminal charges, then there’s a strong chance that prosecutors may offer you a plea deal. Why? That’s because an estimated 90% of all criminal cases end in some kind of plea deal. Plea deals go down as a “win” in the prosecutor’s book, and they keep the court docket from being overly full, so they’re often a practical move on the part of the authorities.
There are various reasons why prosecutors offer plea deals and several different types of plea bargaining arrangements. Learning more about how plea deals work can help you make an informed decision.
How do plea deals work?
Plea deals most commonly involve prosecutors often reducing a defendant’s charges or agreeing to advocate for a shorter sentence in exchange for a defendant’s guilty plea to a crime. There are three general types of plea bargaining, including:
- Charge bargaining: Involves a defendant agreeing to plead guilty to a lesser charge. A defendant may plead guilty to manslaughter versus their original murder charges, for example.
- Sentence bargaining: A defendant may plead guilty to the originally alleged crime in exchange for prosecutors petitioning a judge for a lower sentence, such as probation or house arrest instead of prison.
- Fact bargaining: Involves a defendant pleading guilty to an offense in exchange for prosecutors not making other indiscretions to light. This is the most uncommon of all three plea bargains. Judges tend not to approve such deals.
Which of these prosecutors offer you, if any, depends on the nature of your alleged offenses and the prosecution’s goals. Generally speaking, prosecutors won’t negotiate a plea deal directly with a defendant, but with their attorney, instead.
Should you take a plea deal if it is offered?
Prosecutors offer plea deals for various reasons. They may do so because they lack confidence in their case’s strength or reduce both their and the court’s workload. Defendants, in comparison, often accept plea deals to reduce their legal costs and reduce the uncertainty of taking a case to trial. Whether or not a plea deal is right for you may depend on numerous unique factors. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of pursuing different defense strategies. An attorney can provide guidance as to how to best do that in your case.