Hayes, Williams, Turner & Daughtry, P.A.

When to take and when to refuse a plea bargain

Some attorneys avoid discussing plea bargains with their clients out of a desire not to be perceived as unwilling to take a case to trial. Yet plea bargains are common components of the American justice system and make up approximately 90 percent of the total criminal cases.

In a plea bargain, the defendant and prosecutor agree that the defendant will plead guilty to a lesser charge or receive a more lenient sentence. While these agreements must meet with the court's approval, most judges agree to sign off on them barring protestations from the victim(s).

Were there no plea bargains, the legal system would quickly be so bogged down with trials that the system would cease to function. Plea bargains free up vital courtroom space and prosecutorial attention for more contested and serious matters. It is a cheaper alternative for both sides to negotiate pleas in most cases.

But plea bargains can sometimes backfire, as defendants can feel pressured to admit guilt for offenses they never committed, thereby letting the real offenders get off scot-free and adding a black mark to their criminal records.

Some cases are so clear-cut that they should never be pleaded out. Cases where the witnesses themselves are suspect or shady, or where the warrant itself was improperly worded or issued, or the evidentiary chain of command was flawed, should not be subject to plea bargains.

If you feel that you are being hastily pushed into a plea agreement in a winnable case, you should have a very frank discussion with your North Carolina criminal defense attorney and make your position on the matter very clear.

Source: FindLaw, "Plea Bargains: In Depth," accessed May 06, 2016

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