The criminal justice system looks much different now than it did in past eras. Plea bargains, for example, have been around in some form since the 1600s, but they are more prevalent than ever in the 21st century.
Today, plea bargains are deemed necessary to relieve overburdened court systems in all American states. These deals arise when a prosecutor offers a defendant the chance to plead guilty to a lesser offense, which can minimize the consequences of a conviction.
The question defendants must ask themselves is whether an offered plea deal is in their best interests.
They can provide several advantages
Depending on your goals, you may find the bargain a prosecutor offers attractive. For example, if staying out of jail is your top priority, you may be tempted to accept a deal that preserves your freedom.
Other possible advantages include:
- Reduced jail sentence (when imprisonment is unavoidable)
- Quicker resolution than a trial
- Privacy preservation
- Minimal damage to your criminal record
A plea deal also removes much of the uncertainty defendants experience. They often feel much better about their circumstances after accepting the bargain.
What is the downside of plea deals?
The biggest disadvantage of a plea bargain is losing the right to defend yourself against conviction. Accepting a deal essentially closes your case. If you are innocent of the charges, you will have a black mark on your record that you do not deserve.
It is wise to consider the pros and cons of a bargain before deciding whether to accept or refuse a proposed deal. We also urge you to learn more about your criminal defense options to remain well-informed through every step of your situation.