Based on the way the justice system is portrayed in modern television shows and movies, it would be easy to think there is a criminal trial after nearly every arrest. As a result, many people are surprised to learn that the majority of criminal cases are resolved through a process known as “plea bargaining,” which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser offense in return for the prosecutor recommending that the judge impose a lenient sentence. This kind of arrangement can save both sides the uncertainty and time associated trial and often results in a much better outcome for defendants than they would have obtained had they been found guilty.
Typically, plea bargains are reached through out-of-court communications between the prosecution and the defendant’s attorney. Once an attorney “enters” a case (which means she gives the court notice she is representing the defendant), the lawyer contacts the prosecutor and begins negotiating. In some cases, a standard plea bargain is offered based on the offense. In others, intense negotiation between the attorneys handling the case will result in a plea bargain. The defense attorney’s role at this stage is to identify and point out weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to negotiate a favorable deal.
If you are currently facing a criminal case, you may wonder whether you should accept a plea bargain. Ultimately, the decision to enter a plea is up to you, but the assistance of a lawyer can be invaluable in weighing your options, understanding the potential outcomes, and securing a plea bargain that avoids the most serious consequences that you are facing. There are cases in which accepting a plea is clearly the best option—such as when the plea involves entering into a diversionary program that, if successfully completed, will result in the case against you being dismissed. Others are more difficult decisions, especially if you believe that you are innocent.
It is important to keep in mind that some plea deals do result in convictions—even if they keep you from having to serve jail time. As a result, they may affect your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, possess a firearm, go to school, or even vote. As a result, you should carefully consider all of the ramifications of a plea bargain before accepting one. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you do this.
If you have been accused of a crime, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. As a former prosecutor, Randolph Rice understands how to negotiate favorable plea bargains on behalf of his clients. In addition, Mr. Rice is a skilled litigator who is not afraid to take a case to trial should it be in your best interests. To schedule a free case evaluation with Mr. Rice, call our office today at (410) 288-2900 or send us an email through our online contact form.