Plea bargains can be a good defense strategy for some defendants who want to avoid going to trial. There are many benefits to a plea bargain, but they are not the best option for every case. Understanding when plea bargains may be an option and the possible downsides can help you make an informed decision about how you want to proceed with your case.
Plea bargains are attractive to prosecutors and judges because they guarantee a conviction — even though it's for a lesser crime — for the prosecutor, and they are a lot quicker and cheaper for the courts to process. Plea bargains can also benefit defendants by giving them a defined outcome and getting the case handled more quickly than if it had to be taken to trial.
When agreeing to a plea bargain, however, it's important to remember that you are pleading guilty to some charge, and that means there will be a conviction on your criminal record. If a case is taken to trial, there is always a chance that you would be found not guilty and have no penalties or marks on your criminal record. However, no outcome is guaranteed, which means you may also end up with a conviction for a more serious crime that carries more serious penalties than you would have incurred by accepting the plea bargain.
Prosecutors do not have to offer a plea bargain on every case, but they can be an option to look at if they are. Talking with your attorney about the specifics of your case and the options is the best way to decide which strategy is the right one for you.
Source: FindLaw, "Plea Bargain Pros and Cons," accessed April. 29, 2015