Should I Plead Guilty or Accept a Plea Bargain?Published: Sep 29, 2017 in Criminal Defense
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you’re probably asking yourself, “should I plead guilty?” It’s likely that the prosecutor has offered you a plea bargain, and they’re pressuring you to accept it. A plea bargain is a contract between you and the prosecutor’s office involving the prosecutor’s promise of reduced penalties in exchange for your promise to plead guilty to the crime. The prosecutor has probably told you that the plea deal is your best shot at avoiding the harshest penalties for the offense you’ve been charged with. This is not always the case.
The prosecutor usually convinces the defendant to plead guilty before the trial starts. In many of these cases, however, it’s likely the defendant could have achieved a better case outcome by fighting the charges at trial, filing crucial pre-trial motions, and having a skilled Texas criminal defense attorney negotiate a better plea bargain. Do not accept a plea bargain without consulting with your lawyer.
If you’re debating whether or not to accept a plea bargain that’s been offered to you, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential consultation.
When Is it a Good Idea to Accept a Plea Bargain?
The only way to know whether accepting the prosecutor’s plea deal is a good idea is to closely review the prosecutor’s case against you. If the prosecutor’s case is strong, it may be in your best interest to plead guilty and avoid the expense and time of going to trial. The factors to look at in determining the strength of the prosecutor’s case, and the relative weakness of your own, are:
- The evidence connecting you to the crime, and whether the police obtained that evidence legally
- Witnesses the prosecutor intends to use, and whether you have any evidence of their untrustworthiness or the unreliability of their recollections
- Whether the evidence and witness testimony can show beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime
- Whether you can raise any defenses
- How the particular judge who will hear your case has ruled in similar cases
- Whether you are willing to have a public trial about potentially embarrassing allegations
What Will my Plea Bargain Look Like?
Taking a plea bargain does not simply involve accepting the prosecutor’s first offer. Instead, your attorney will make a counter offer based on the weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case. For example, your lawyer can highlight how difficult it might be for the prosecutor to prove a certain element of the crime at trial, and use that fact to obtain a better deal.
Many factors can affect your plea deal. In addition to the relative strengths of the defense’s and prosecution’s cases, the final plea bargain may be affected by:
- The seriousness of the allegations against you
- Whether you injured anyone
- Whether you showed remorse for your crime
- The personal impression you made on both the prosecutor and judge
- Your criminal and mental health history
- Your professional and personal situations
- The perceived likelihood that you will offend again
Your defense team and the prosecutor will negotiate until you find an agreement that both parties can agree to, and which the judge is likely to approve. The final agreement will consist of you pleading guilty (to the original offense, or possibly a less serious offense) and receiving any of the following penalties:
- Deferred adjudication
- Community service
- Restituting the victims
- Drug testing
- House arrest
- Jail or prison time
How Can I Defend my Case If I Turn Down the Prosecutor’s Deal?
If you and your lawyer see a way of beating the charges, you should turn down the prosecutor’s plea deal. There may be several different strategies for defending your case, the most common of which include:
- Suppressing the evidence- Prosecutors are not allowed to use illegally obtained evidence to prove your guilt at trial. For example, if you are charged with drug trafficking based on evidence the police obtained after a warrantless search of your home, your lawyer may be able to have that evidence removed from the case. Without evidence, the prosecutor cannot prove your guilt. In many cases, the successful suppression of the evidence results in the dismissal of the charges before the trial begins.
- Showing reasonable doubt- To obtain a conviction, the prosecutor must prove every element of the crime against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If your lawyer can show there is even a possibility that you were not the person who committed the crime or that you lacked criminal intent, the jury will be instructed to acquit you.
- Using an affirmative defense- An affirmative defense involves admitting that you committed a forbidden act, but that you were justified in doing so. The most popular affirmative defense is self-defense. If you’ve been charged with battery, you may get acquitted if your lawyer can show that you were defending yourself or another person from harm.
How a Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Too many defendants agree to plea deals without fully considering the ways in which they might beat the charges against them. You should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before accepting any plea bargain. Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential case consultation.