What is a Plea Bargain?
Most criminal cases are resolved through a plea bargain before the trial begins. A plea bargain means that the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge than the one for which they would face the jury. A defendant may plead guilty for various reasons, one being that they will likely be found guilty of the initial charges anyway.
If you’re facing severe criminal charges, a plea bargain could be a favorable option for resolving your case, especially where the evidence of guilt is overwhelming. It could increase court efficiencies while reducing the time and money spent on the court process. However, consult a skilled defense attorney in Seattle for legal counsel before taking a plea bargain.
What is the Necessity of a Plea Bargain?
The criminal trial process can take many months or years to complete. The justice system would be overwhelmed if every criminal defendant demanded a full jury trial, including pre-trial hearings and post-conviction motions and appeals. The justice system lacks enough resources to accommodate entire trial processes for every criminal case brought before it.
So, prosecutors and judges seek a quick and efficient resolution to cases whenever possible. As a primary benefit, plea bargaining removes the risk of complete loss at trial for both the prosecution and defense. A skilled Seattle criminal justice attorney can take you through everything you need to know about plea bargains and help you gauge your options.
Types of Plea Bargains
The legal system provides for three types of plea bargains, each involving sentence reductions achieved differently. The first is charge bargaining, where you agree to plead guilty to reduced charges. For example, you can plead guilty to aggravated assault instead of facing charges of attempted murder.
The second type is sentence bargaining, which makes the court issue lighter sentences in return for your pleading guilty. An excellent example of sentence bargaining is when a defendant pleads guilty to murder charges to avoid getting the death penalty. It’s a viable option in less-serious cases where you could get immediate release instead of serving jail time.
Thirdly, your Seattle criminal justice lawyer might advise you to settle for count bargaining in your plea negotiation when facing multiple charges. Under this option, you may be allowed to plead guilty to fewer counts, even if the counts are not identical. The court may drop one of the charges or several in exchange for a guilty plea on the rest of the charges.
How Does Plea Bargaining Affect Criminal Cases?
Plea bargaining has become common in the U.S. justice system because it saves time and resources in a lengthy trial. Without it, judges would not have enough time to oversee all the criminal cases before them. Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys can work together toward individual and collective goals through plea bargaining.
In cases where the evidence for or against a defendant is questionable, plea bargains present a feasible way for the lawyers to reduce their potential losses by agreeing to a mutually acceptable outcome.
Prosecutors acquire the chance to encourage defendants to testify against other accused criminals in the cases and avoid trials that carry no guarantee of success yet are time-consuming, costly, and labor-intensive. By rationally using plea bargaining, prosecutors can ensure penalties for offenders who might be acquitted on technicalities.
However, prosecutors cannot negotiate every criminal case, which would attract public fury. They may only bargain routine matters or those characterized by difficulties or weak evidence to save time and resources for more time-demanding issues.
How Does a Plea Bargain Affect the Outcome of My Case?
If you accept a plea bargain, you stand to benefit in the following ways:
- You can avoid facing more severe charges
- You serve a lighter sentence
- You minimize the uncertainty that comes with a criminal case trial
Once you agree to a plea bargain, you gain some sense of security because you can negotiate the terms of your sentencing. If the charges are less severe, you also benefit from time savings related to repeated court appearances that require time off work and other commitments.
However, you want to be sure that a plea bargain is your most viable option. So, consult an experienced criminal justice attorney in Seattle before deciding. Remember that a plea bargain waives most of your potential objections to evidence that could influence a jury trial and eliminates the possibility of getting a “not guilty” verdict.
When Can I Make a Plea Deal?
You can arrange a plea bargain with a prosecutor anytime during the trial. That can be before the prosecutor files charges or after the jury deliberates on your case’s verdict. A prosecutor may also negotiate a plea bargain after a conviction if you appeal it and your argument has merit.
Sometimes, a criminal trial results in a hung jury, meaning the jurors cannot agree unanimously on the verdict. That may cause both sides to agree on a plea deal to cut down on the additional expenses and effort of a new trial.
An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Providing Legal Guidance in Your Criminal Case
Agreeing to a guilty plea means that you admit having committed a lesser offense than the one for which you face charges. The result is the same as going to trial and being convicted of the initial charges because you will have a conviction on your record. However, you could get a lighter sentence and reduce the time your case takes to go through trial.
Consult skilled Seattle defense attorneys before agreeing to a plea bargain. They can advise you on your options and help you get the best deal. Our criminal justice attorney can walk with you during this frightening time, providing the legal counsel and representation you need. Contact The Law Offices of Kevin Trombold at 206-590-7667 to schedule a FREE case assessment.