Should I Take a Plea Agreement in My Criminal Case?
Many cases in Virginia’s criminal justice system end in plea agreements. A plea agreement can benefit everyone involved by reducing uncertainty and avoiding the time and expense of going to trial. However, not all plea bargains are created equal, so it pays to understand the different types of deals and whether accepting one is right for you.
What Is a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain is a deal between a criminal defendant and a prosecutor, typically with a criminal defense attorney acting as an intermediary. The process of reaching a plea bargain can occur any time before the trial begins.
In most cases, a plea deal involves a defendant agreeing to plead guilty to certain charges in return for a reduction in the severity or number of charges against them. A judge must approve a plea bargain before it can take effect.
There are several pros and cons to accepting a plea bargain, and they look different for each case. A Virginia criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether a plea deal is in your best interests.
Common Types of Plea Bargains
The four primary types of plea bargains include:
- Charge bargains – In charge bargaining, a defendant agrees to enter a guilty plea to a less severe offense than their original alleged offense in exchange for reduced charges.
- Sentence bargains – In sentence bargaining, a defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charges in exchange for a recommendation from the prosecutor for a reduced sentence.
- Count bargains – In count bargaining, a defendant facing two or more charges agrees to plead guilty to one charge in exchange for the others being dropped.
- Fact bargains – In fact bargaining, a defendant enters a nolo contendere, or “no contest” plea, and accepts the legal consequences to avoid having certain information appear in court records.
Pros and Cons of Entering into a Plea Agreement
Some of the potential advantages to accepting a plea deal could include:
- A reduction in the number and severity of criminal charges
- The certainty of a guaranteed outcome to the trial
- Less money spent on attorney’s fees and legal expenses
Some possible disadvantages of accepting a plea bargain include:
- Getting a conviction for a crime you did not commit
- Waiving your constitutional right to have a jury hear your case
- Establishing or adding to a criminal record that will follow you for life
- Criminal penalties such as fines, probation, or jail time
When Should You Accept a Plea Agreement?
Accepting a plea agreement is a big decision. It can be difficult to tell whether the benefits of a particular deal outweigh the costs. That’s why you should always consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney before making any deals. A lawyer can help you understand the possible consequences of a particular agreement and negotiate aggressively on your behalf to get the best plea bargain possible.
Contact an Experienced Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you have been arrested or accused of a crime in Virginia, contact us online or call Upton Law, PLLC, for a free and confidential initial consultation. Defense attorney Samantha Upton has the resources and experience needed to protect your rights and seek the best possible resolution for your case.