Americans are pretty fond of “do-it-yourself” projects, but there are some areas of life that should never be handled without experienced assistance. In particular, we’re talking about plea deals.
The majority of criminal cases in the United States today don’t result in a trial. Plea deals are a daily occurrence inside most courthouses because they keep the court docket from overflowing any further than it already is and ease the way for prosecutors to have a favorable clearance and “win” rate on their cases. They’re also useful for defendants, who can often secure a better outcome through a plea deal than they might get through a trial.
If everyone has something to gain from a plea deal, then why bother with a criminal defense attorney’s services to make one? Mostly, it comes down to this: The prosecutor is unlikely to offer you the best deal you can get without some prodding and negotiation, and you don’t know where those negotiations can happen.
Generally speaking, plea deals are negotiated around three main areas of a case: the facts, the charges and the sentence. Here’s what that means:
- Fact bargaining occurs when there’s some question about the evidence in your case. When the facts aren’t in dispute, there’s no room to bargain — but you’re not really in the best position to know what evidence might have been obtained on shaky grounds or is questionable (at best), and you certainly can’t expect the prosecutor to tell you.
- Charge bargaining often happens when there’s “overcharging.” Prosecutors will often pile on charges knowing that it may scare a defendant and make them grateful for any deal they get. An attorney knows better and knows when charges can be whittled down.
- Sentence bargaining is a very common part of plea deals. Essentially, you’re asked to plead guilty in exchange for leniency — but it often takes experience to know when there’s more room for a better bargain.
If you’re facing a criminal charge, don’t face it alone — even if you think you will ultimately accept a plea deal, an experienced defense attorney can help.