Many people facing a court case following an arrest are given so many options, hear so many legal terms, and are forced to make decisions on the fly. It’s confusing for anyone who is not well-versed in the law, and that’s why many people hire an attorney to represent them in a case such as this. If you’ve been arrested for a crime that’s being taken to the court, you have many options presented to you. You can plead guilty or innocent of the crime. You can go to court, or you can settle. You might be offered plea bargain. It’s imperative you understand what a plea bargain is and how it works for you before you make any decisions. Your attorney is here to help you understand what it means, and whether a plea bargain is enforceable.
What is a Plea Bargain?
The basic definition is an agreement. A plea bargain is the compromised agreement your attorney makes with the attorney prosecuting your case. This agreement is mutually satisfactory for both sides, and it’s usually one that allows you to face a smaller penalty for your crimes. Your attorney will agree to this if he or she doesn’t believe your case will have a favorable outcome in the courtroom.
With a plea bargain, the prosecuting attorney typically works with your attorney to forgo one or more of the charges they want to bring against you. This requires you plead guilty to the crime, or it requires you to plead no contest. Your charges are typically dropped to something lower and less severe in terms of the penalties thrown at you, and the prosecuting attorney will then ask the judge in your case to consider a lesser charge so you have lesser penalties.
This is something prosecuting attorneys like because they essentially win the case. Defense attorneys will turn to this if they feel they might not win the case, or if the evidence is stacked against you. It’s also something many criminals choose because they can guarantee they have a specific sentence that’s shorter and less serious versus going through a trial that might last for months at a time with no guarantee what the outcome might be.
Are Plea Bargains Enforceable?
You’ve been arrested, and your chances of going to jail for a crime scare you. Your attorney approaches you with an offer for a plea bargain. You have a decision to make. You can say no to the plea bargain and opt instead to head to court for a trial. This means a jury is selected, evidence is shown, and any witnesses to your crime are brought in to testify. You might be able to convince the jury you are not guilty of the crime, but there’s no guarantee you can do that. You face a serious sentence if you cannot prove your case, and it could mean long-term jail or worse. This is a decision you must make.
You can go through the trial and hope for a good outcome that sets you free right now, or you can be sentenced to spend the rest of your life or a very long time in jail for your crime. Or you can take the plea bargain offered to you by the prosecuting attorney and say you did it, but take a much lesser sentence. This is guaranteed, and your chances of spending less time in jail are almost always granted.
That said, there is always a chance you might accept a plea bargain in your case only to find out the judge on your case doesn’t approve of the plea bargain. In this instance, the plea bargain you’ve accepted is not enforceable. It’s entirely up to the judge to approve or deny your bargain, and they might decide your crime is bad enough to warrant no plea bargain. There is no guarantee a judge is going to accept the terms of this offer.
It’s also important to note the prosecuting attorney can offer you anything he wants, but he can only recommend this to a judge. The judge is not required to do what the prosecuting attorney suggests, which is where it becomes tricky for the person on trial. You have a decision to make if a plea bargain is offered to you. It’s a personal decision, and it’s not one anyone else can help you make. You do what’s right for you, and your attorney will help you understand what the terms mean, how the conditions work, and what your future looks like as a result.
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