For those arrested, the justice system may present you with an opportunity to bargain for a reduced punishment. When many people consider the issue of plea bargains, they sometimes hold a negative viewpoint, perhaps believing that criminals are not being properly punished for breaking the law. There are some very compelling reasons for plea bargains, however, and a good understanding of how the system works could help you, especially if you stand accused of a crime. Read on to learn more about this fascinating aspect of U.S. justice.
What is a plea bargain? If you've been arrested for a crime, you may be offered a chance to plead guilty to a certain charge in exchange for having your case put on trial. Whether your attorney negotiates with the state or the prosecutor's office steps up and makes the offer, you should scrutinize the details of the offer carefully with your defense attorney. No one can tell you to accept the plea bargain, but your attorney can advise you on the potential outcomes of various scenarios to help you make your decision. For example, if you go to trial and are convicted for murder, you may be facing life in prison or even the death penalty. If you accept a plea bargain and plead guilty to manslaughter, you may be facing several years in prison. There is always a chance that you will win at trial and face no punishment whatsoever, however.
Why am I being offered this plea bargain? You may be wondering how a plea bargain benefits the state. Take a look at just a few positive aspects of this system of eliminating litigation.
- One less case on the calendar: Judges and attorneys often have their hands full of continuous cases and it's extremely challenging to get court cases scheduled on crowded court calendars. A plea bargain allows more serious or more complex cases to move forward in a more timely manner.
- One less inmate to deal with: Most city and county jails have only a limited amount of space to hold prisoners awaiting trial; not everyone gets bail or gets bailed out. If your offense can be "pleaded down", you will eligible for immediate release or transfer to prison, depending on your sentence.
- One more notch in the prosecutor's belt: While it may seem childish and inappropriate to many, the district attorney's position is often an elected office, and the number of convictions do count toward enhancing that sitting prosecutor's reputation as being "tough on crime". A plea bargain goes in the "win" column, and without spending much time or funds on the conviction.
Accepting a plea bargain is not to be taken lightly, so discuss this issue with an attorney, such as at Barbour & Simpkins LLP.