Why Do Defendants Consider a Plea Bargain in Criminal Cases? Reasons and Benefits of Plea Bargaining

The fact is, in the state of Florida (and most other states) a large portion of criminal cases are resolved with a plea bargain, which is an agreement of sorts between the defendant, judge, and state attorney. However, even when a defendant considers accepting a plea bargain, it is vital to have a respected and capable trial lawyer should it become necessary to go to trial if the prosecutor fails to offer a fair sentence during negotiations with the defense attorney.

Criminal trials can take a substantial amount of time; many defendants are given the opportunity to negotiate a plea bargain, simply because prosecutors/judges feel pressured to move criminal cases through the system as quickly as possible, due to an overly crowded criminal justice system.

Why do defendants often accept plea bargains? There are a multitude of reasons and benefits, including the following.

Charges are typically reduced, resulting in a lighter sentence. When a defendant goes to trial on criminal charges, the outcome is anyone's guess - and the defendant could be found guilty, and subject to harsh criminal penalties. A plea bargain gives both the defense and prosecution a measure of control over the outcome, and the defendant benefits by being given a lighter sentence than he/she may be subject to if convicted at trial.

Quick resolution, less stress. Awaiting trial can be extremely stressful; through a plea bargain, the matter can be resolved quickly instead of through a long, drawn-out - and stressful - process.

Defendants save money, especially when represented by private counsel. Criminal defense attorneys charge clients fees based on a number of factors, including the time, effort, and work involved in going to trial. In most cases, it takes far less time to negotiate a plea bargain with the state's attorney/judge than the time/effort it takes to go to trial. This means less cost for the defendant.

An improved criminal record. Having a criminal conviction on your record can have a serious impact on many areas of your life, including employment, obtaining housing, even your right to vote or own/possess a firearm. In pleading guilty or no contest to criminal charges, the charge is often reduced to a less serious offense. This looks better on the defendant's record, and has less of a negative impact on his/her life. In many cases, a felony offense may be reduced to a misdemeanor, which offers benefits including:

  • Defendants who hold professional licenses may not be forced to forfeit the license for a misdemeanor offense, as they would for a conviction on felony
  • charges.
  • Employers hesitate to hire individuals who have been convicted of a felony.
  • A conviction for a felony offense will cause the defendant to lose his/her right to own or possess firearms.
  • In many jurisdictions, individuals who are convicted felons lose their right to vote.

Avoiding unwanted publicity. Criminal trials are often in the headlines; by accepting a plea bargain, defendants often avoid dragging their own reputation and their families through what can be an embarrassing situation. Essentially, it is easier to stay out of the public eye when a defendant can avoid going to trial.

Certain offenses are socially stigmatizing . This is particularly true with sex crimes, as a charge of rape or child molestation can devastate relationships with family members and friends. Those who are convicted of certain sex crimes are typically shunned by society. Pleading down from a rape/molestation charge to assault can lessen the social stigma, and reduce the friction in relationships.

There are many advantages for defendants who accept plea bargains, however this is not always the best option particularly for defendants who have been falsely accused of a crime and who are innocent. Speak with an experienced Orlando criminal defense attorney to learn more about plea bargains, and the advantages/disadvantages.

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