If you've been arrested and are now under the valuable guidance of a criminal defense attorney, you may soon be faced with a major decision. Often, those charged with crimes are offered an opportunity to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for forgoing a trial. Since a trial by jury is a right afforded to those who've been arrested, this is a difficult and important decision to consider. You must speak with your attorney about it and listen to the advice provided, but in the meantime, read on and learn more about plea bargains and what participating in this process might mean for you.
Why are plea bargains offered? This legal maneuver serves several important functions to the justice system. For you, it means that you will go from being charged with a crime to being sentenced for another, lesser crime without going through the trial process at all. While this can serve an important benefit for some, it may also mean giving up one of your basic rights. Below are some of the prime reasons why plea bargains exist.
It frees up space in the jails: When you were arrested and jailed, you probably joined hundreds of other people who are awaiting trial. For relatively minor offenses and for those without extensive criminal histories, plea bargains get people out of jail and released or moved to prison or other forms of punishment. In many cases, a plea bargain will involve incarceration alternatives, such as probation, community service, work farms, classes and more.
It frees up court calendars: Yet another criminal justice right is the right to a speedy trial, and that can be difficult to arrange when there are so many people awaiting their turns at trial. A plea bargain will mean one less expensive and time consuming court case to try and more time to litigate more serious crimes.
Its a win for the prosecution: Yes, they do keep score and a plea bargain counts as a conviction for the prosecutor's office. Not only is it a win, but a win that didn't involve the time and expense and litigating the case in court. This matters more in places where the prosecutor is an elected office, but hubris and competitiveness are also at work here.
It can protect informants: This is an instance where a smaller fish is thrown back in the hopes of catching a bigger one later. For instance, a low-level dealer might be given a light sentence and released to prevent a confidential informant (CI) from having to lose their cover and testify about a drug offense.
Work closely with your defense attorney so that you will have a complete understanding of what you are agreeing to when you accept the plea bargain, or not. Contact a company like Cheryl Brown Attorney at Law for more information.