Prosecutors often use plea deals as a way to get through cases faster. If you're facing charges and a prosecutor offers a plea agreement, it's important to understand what it means. Defendants should be aware of these 5 things regarding plea arrangements.
A Prosecutor Doesn't Have to Offer One
While prosecutors generally like plea agreements, they don't have to offer them. If a prosecutor feels they have a strong enough case and believes they can push it to victory at trial, they have every right to move forward. Even if you want to make a plea agreement, the prosecutor can just reject it. Notably, your lawyer must inform you of any offer the prosecution makes.
It's Nothing Until a Judge Accepts It
In criminal law, plea agreements are part of the negotiation process. Your criminal law attorney and the prosecutor can hash it out and decide what it does and doesn't include. However, it doesn't mean anything until a judge accepts it. If a prosecutor tries to change the charges, for example, the judge will ask why this is happening.
A prosecutor has the right to move for the court to dismiss the current charges and enter lesser ones. The judge is the one, though, who decides whether this happens or not.
Prosecutors only enter into agreements that give them wins. Regardless of the nature of the case, a deal requires the defendant to plead guilty to something. When you enter the guilty plea, the judge will ask you if you understand what you're agreeing to. Likewise, the judge will verify that you have had competent counsel from a criminal law attorney.
The defendant benefits from pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Usually, this means pleading guilty to an offense that carries less jail time.
Sometimes, a deal takes accelerated penalties under criminal law off the table. For example, someone charged with first-degree homicide might plead guilty to a charge that doesn't carry the death penalty. Similarly, people please guilty to avoid losing their rights to own guns, having to register as sex offenders, or surrendering the ability to work in positions of trust.
Deals Don't Reflect on the Strength of the Case
It's tempting to think a plea deal offer reflects poorly on the prosecution's case. While a prosecutor may be offering a plea to avoid losing, you should never assume that. Hire a criminal law attorney and have them review the case against you before you consider a deal.
For more information contact a criminal law attorney near you.