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Understanding Plea Bargains in Criminal Cases

If you have been charged with a crime, you might have heard that you could settle your case by taking a plea bargain as an alternative to going to trial. The deal is an arrangement between the prosecutor and your defense lawyer where you plead guilty to get a more favorable outcome than you might expect in court. Still, plea deals have pros and cons, and speaking to an attorney before accepting one is beneficial.

Schedule a consultation with a member of our Newport Beach team by contacting Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC at (949) 251-0330.

What Is a Plea Bargain?

A plea deal can be an attractive option for criminal defendants because it can help mitigate some of the consequences of a charge. Through negotiations between your defense attorney and the prosecutor, it may be possible to arrange a plea bargain allowing you to avoid a lengthy legal process and harsh penalties.

If you and your attorney strike a deal with the prosecutor, you would plead guilty in exchange for:

  • Lesser charges,
  • Fewer charges, or
  • A recommendation for a reduced sentence.

Depending on your legal situation, you might consider a plea deal, as it allows you to find a resolution reasonably quickly while maintaining some control in your case.

When Can a Plea Deal Be Made?

Plea bargains can occur at any stage of a criminal case. Sometimes, they might be made within hours or days after the arraignment. This allows for a speedy conclusion without the defendant having to appear in court.

These deals may happen through formal or informal negotiations. They are often decided after both parties have had a chance to investigate the case. Once the prosecution and defense understand the situation better, they are better positioned to determine what they are willing to compromise on.

What Are the Advantages and Drawbacks of Plea Deals?

As mentioned, a plea bargain allows you to agree to plead guilty in a criminal case in exchange for reduced charges or sentences or other considerations. This legal vehicle has both pros and cons.

Some of the benefits include the following:

  • Having more control over the outcome of your case.
  • Reducing legal costs.
  • Avoiding a lengthy trial.
  • Opening the possibility for a lighter sentence.
  • Having a less serious charge on your criminal record.

On the flip side, accepting a plea deal could lead to several disadvantages, such as:

  • Giving up your right to appeal.
  • Leaving the verdict entirely dependent on negotiations.
  • Pleading guilty even when innocent.
  • Not having your case heard by a judge or impartial jury.

What’s the Alternative to a Plea Deal?

The alternative to taking a plea deal is going to trial. This means that your case will be presented before a judge or jury. Your defense attorney and the prosecutor will present arguments in court. The trier of fact will hear both sides and determine the outcome.

Trials can be long, contentious, and costly processes. Going to court can be stressful and overwhelming compared to striking a deal with the prosecutor.

Should You Accept a Plea Bargain?

Accepting a plea deal can have long-term implications you might not be aware of. The decision needs to be given thorough consideration.

As mentioned, pros and cons exist to plead bargaining, and because every case is different, determining your path forward should not rest on information found online. While you might get a general idea of the process and what’s involved, you won’t really understand the impacts on your particular case.

As such, consulting with a criminal defense attorney is essential. They can help identify potential avenues for success and determine whether accepting a plea deal is in your best interests.

Contact Our Team About Your Case

A plea bargain is an agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offense or agrees to leniency in sentencing, dropped charges, or other outcomes. If you are facing charges, you might have to decide whether to go to trial or accept a deal with the prosecutor. However, the decision should only be made after consulting an experienced lawyer.

To learn more about your legal options in Newport Beach, reach out to Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC by calling (949) 251-0330 today.