“Plea bargain” is a term many Fort Bend Criminal Defense lawyers use often. The term is also referred to as:
- plea deal
- plea agreement
- copping a plea
- plea in mitigation
Despite its many names, it has one meaning: compromise. According to the Nolo Legal Encylopedia:
“A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest (nolo contendere) in exchange for an agreement by the prosecutor to drop one or more charges, reduce a charge to a less serious offense, or recommend to the judge a specific sentence acceptable to the defense.”
Thus, a plea bargain means your case doesn’t have to go to trial. Both prosecutors and judges benefit from plea deals because it allows them to spend more time and money on other cases. Caseloads can get heavy, and trials are long and costly. Plea deals lighten the load, freeing up time, money, and resources.
And it’s pretty common, too.
More than 90% of convictions come from negotiated pleas, which means less than 10% of criminal cases end up in trials.
A Plea Bargain is a Contract
It is important to note that plea bargains are essentially compromised contracts between defendants and prosecutors. They can happen at almost any stage in the legal process.
If one side breaks the deal, the other party is no longer bound by the contract. In other words, if a prosecutor goes back on the bargain, the defendant has the right to seek relief from a judge. This often leads to retraction of pleas, forcing the prosecutor to remain in the deal, or other actions.
Why Not Just Plead Innocent Instead?
Fort Bend criminal defense attorneys do set out to win your case; however, the best possible outcome may not be dismissal, depending on your situation.
Imagine you’re in a situation in which you’re facing extreme legal penalties, such as prison time or heavy fines. A plea bargain gives you the chance to escape from those penalties by simply agreeing to a contract.
Your sentences may be changed, your charges may be reduced, and you could end up with a better outcome overall if you accept the deal.
Your Fort Bend criminal defense lawyer will tell you if he or she thinks you are likely to be found innocent. In that case, you should still plead innocent. If, however, there is significant evidence against you and conviction seems likely, a plea bargain may be in your best interest. It all depends on your personal situation.
Do Plea Deals Affect my Criminal Record?
Yes, accepting a plea bargain, as any Fort Bend criminal defense attorney will tell you, results in a criminal conviction. Pleading guilty, whether through plea deal or another way, leads to conviction.
A plea deal may not be right for you if you are facing felony charges; a guilty conviction would lead to relinquishing your rights to vote, own firearms, and more. Hence, it is important to spend time discussing all your options with your Fort Bend criminal defense lawyer before making any big decisions.
However, some plea deals come with the benefit of the ability to expunge it from your criminal record, though that is not the case in every plea bargain.
What Else Should I Know?
The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure lay out how plea deals should be handled in the United States. There are two main types of plea agreements: 11(c)(1)(B) and 11(c)(1)(C).
- Doesn’t bind the court
- Defendant can’t withdraw plea
- Prosecutor’s recommendation is only advisory
- Binds the court once deal is accepted
- Court has the power to reject if it disagrees with the sentence
- Defendant can withdraw plea
Contact Fort Bend Criminal Defense Attorney David Hunter Today!
If you need a Fort Bend criminal defense attorney who will fight for you and your rights, look no further than David Hunter. His years of experience in the legal field, as well as his experience behind the bench as a judge, give David an edge over the competition. He knows the field well and is highly familiar with the local system. Contact him today for a free consultation!