The Deal on Plea Deals
By: Gerri L. Elder
A plea deal is the method by which many criminal cases are resolved. The prosecutor and defendant’s criminal defense lawyer may negotiate a plea deal in order to allow the defendant to plead guilty, sometimes to a lesser charge, in exchange for a reduced criminal sentence.
Negotiating a plea deal may be the best option for a prosecutor, especially in cases with questionable evidence. If the prosecution feels unsure about securing a conviction with a jury, it may be more willing to offer a plea deal. Prosecutors may also consider the severity of the alleged crime in making the decision as whether to offer a plea deal and the nature of the offer.
If a deal is made for the defendant to plead guilty, there is no need for a jury trial. It takes the guesswork out of the equation, as a guilty plea is a conviction without a trial. By pleading guilty, the defendant may avoid jail time or receive a reduced sentence, fines may be reduced and prevent a more serious criminal charge appearing on his or her criminal record.
Since the criminal court system is clogged, plea deals are often a favorable method of reducing the caseload on the courts. Criminal trials are expensive, quickly deplete resources, and can be lengthy. Plea deals save the government time and money, and reduce the burden on the overworked criminal courts.
After a plea deal is reached, it must be submitted to the court for the judge’s approval. If the judge agrees to the terms of the deal, the defendant may plead guilty and receive the reduced penalties. If the judge rejects the plea deal, the defendant’s criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor must go back to the drawing board and work out an acceptable deal, or prepare to take the case to trial.
Defendants who choose to represent themselves may want to seriously consider seeking the advice of a defense attorney before accepting a plea deal. An attorney can review the proposed plea deal and make sure that is it the best option, which may help the defendant avoid misunderstanding or making a serious mistake.