Considering a Plea Deal? Here’s What You Need to Know
If you’re facing criminal charges, you may be considering a plea deal. A plea bargain is when you plead guilty to a reduced charge or fewer charges to avoid harsher penalties. While plea deals can be beneficial, they aren’t always the best option. This blog post will look at plea deals for first-time offenders, when you should take one, and when you should walk away.
What is a Plea Bargain?
If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime and are considering a plea deal, it’s essential to understand the benefits and drawbacks of doing so. Plea agreements usually involve you pleading guilty or admitting your responsibility to a lesser charge.
Facing a judge for a courtroom trial can result in fines, prison time, probation, and a criminal record. In addition, you may be on parole/post-release supervision once you get out!
However, with a plea bargain, you may receive an offer of reduced charges, dismissal of some charges, or a recommended reduced sentence.
In return, the prosecutor generally expects you to plead guilty to get these benefits. Sometimes prosecutors will go to extreme lengths to threaten you with charges, even knowing the facts don’t support their case. They may do this to entice you into signing a plea bargain deal.
A prosecutor may also tell you that your sentence will be harsher if you don’t take the plea deal and plead guilty. These threats can scare you into taking a plea bargain when it’s not in your best interests.
It’s crucial to work with a criminal defense lawyer to know when to take a plea deal seriously and when to walk away!
In most cases, plea bargains result in reduced sentences. However, there are risks involved in accepting a plea bargain, especially if you’re not familiar with the criminal justice system and don’t have an experienced attorney!
Plea Deals for First-Time Offenders
The prosecutor may be more likely to offer you a plea deals for first-time offenders. Prosecutors often offer plea bargains to a first-time offender because they don’t want to clog up the court system with cases that may not result in a conviction.
Plea bargains can also benefit you if this is your first charge because they typically result in reduced sentences.
For example, suppose you’re facing a charge of “possession with intent to sell or distribute” (PWISD) marijuana. In that case, the prosecutor may offer you a plea bargain for a lesser charge, such as a misdemeanor or to go through a diversion program after admitting responsibility.
Facing DWI charges with aggravating factors can bring felony charges, so even if it’s your first DWI, a plea process may be in your best interests!
As part of a plea bargain, you may also receive an offer of a drug treatment program or community service hours instead of jail time.
Your attorney may even negotiate a deferred prosecution in which the prosecutor agrees not to pursue charges for a set period of time. In a deferred prosecution, if you stay free of additional charges for a time, the prosecutor may drop your original charges! These plea bargain deals often happen in cases where a defendant’s criminal history is non-existent.
A Plea Agreement is Not Always a Guilty Plea
The prosecutor where you live most likely uses plea bargains to expedite criminal cases and avoid the expense of taking cases to court.
In a plea agreement, you plead “guilty” or “no contest,” and the prosecutor typically reduces or drops some of your criminal charges. A plea bargain can mean that both sides agree to a particular sentence.
Negotiating a plea bargain can make all the difference in a case. A plea offer can help
- Prevent a criminal conviction
- Bring a reduced sentence
- Remove potential court costs and fines
If you accept a plea bargain, you must honestly state what you are guilty of. However, a plea deal may be your best option even if you face charges for a crime you did not commit. And the law allows you to enter a plea arrangement without admitting guilt.
When you plead “no contest,” you are not admitting guilt or innocence. Instead, you accept that there is enough evidence to prove that you committed the crime.
To plead “no contest,” the prosecution must agree to the plea, the judge must allow it, and you must understand the consequences of pleading no contest.
Alford Plea: Plead Guilty While Asserting Innocence
Under an Alford Plea, a defendant pleads guilty while asserting their innocence and acknowledges that the prosecution can probably prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Your defense attorney and prosecutor tell the judge that you are entering an Alford Plea showing that you want to plead guilty but will not admit to committing any criminal acts and will maintain your innocence.
Plea Bargain Agreements
Both parties must sign a written plea agreement before going to court for all felony charges and charges in Superior Court. The prosecutor is not required to accept an alternative plea. In fact, a defendant pleading guilty is often what the prosecutor, judge, and victims expect.
Negotiating a “no contest” or Alford plea requires both sides to agree. Your criminal defense attorney can work with the prosecutor for an agreement to an alternative plea.
When Should You Accept a Plea Bargain?
There are several factors to consider before accepting a plea deal. First and foremost, you should always consult with an attorney before making any decisions. Your criminal defense attorney can help you know what to expect!
Certain charges, such as felony cases, can significantly benefit from the plea bargaining process since a jury trial can be unpredictable. With a guilty verdict, you could be looking at extensive prison time.
However, with a plea deal, you can receive a more lenient sentence for your criminal charge and avoid a trial. A trial can be a long and expensive process for both sides, and you never know what the verdict will be!
With a plea bargain process, your permanent criminal record will show lesser charges than if you face a guilty conviction in a court trial for your crimes. Your original charges may be eligible for expungement if you plead to lesser charges.
You’re Not Alone
If you are facing criminal charges for DWI or drugs, or are facing charges for a crime that you did not commit, you need to consult with a Raleigh, North Carolina, criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
At Scharff Law Firm, our experienced criminal defense attorneys work with defendants in the Triangle area, negotiating plea bargains and protecting rights throughout the entire process! Our experienced attorneys provide advice and guidance. It’s critical to speak to an attorney who can evaluate whether you should challenge the State’s evidence and take your chances at trial or accept a plea bargain in your best interest.
Don’t let yourself be sentenced for a misdemeanor mistake! Instead, get in touch and start moving your case forward!