Pros and Cons of Plea Bargaining in a Florida Criminal Case
Plea agreements, commonly known as plea bargains, are quite common in Florida as an option for resolving criminal charges. In fact, according to the Innocence Project, 97 percent of all criminal cases in the US are disposed of through an agreement between prosecutors and defendants. The option to plea bargain may seem attractive, since it can result in reduced punishment.
However, there are just as many pros as cons when it comes to making an agreement regarding criminal charges. Without a legal background, you may not fully understand the implications – and you may not realize that there are other options. If you’re considering a plea bargain, you should consult with a Florida criminal defense lawyer before going forward. Meanwhile, you might find it useful to review some of the basics.
Overview of Plea Bargaining: At its core, a plea bargain is an agreement you negotiate with the prosecutor to resolve criminal charges after an arrest. You’ll typically need to either plead guilty or no contest in the case, but the end result will usually be:
- A reduction of the charges, such as from a felony to a misdemeanor; or,
- A reduced sentence or probation in lieu of jail time.
Note that, even after you reach a plea agreement, the court must still approve it. There are situations where the judge will not accept the plea bargain, so you could be forced to go through a trial.
Advantages to Resolving a Case Through Plea Agreement: Aside from the obvious benefit of reduced punishment, there are other reasons you may consider a plea bargain. First and foremost, you enjoy certainty in resolving the case. When you go to trial, there are risks. Juries can be unpredictable, even when you see the case as a slam dunk in your favor. Plus, judges have some discretion in handing down sentences in many cases, so you’ll never know your punishment until after a conviction.
Another advantage is cost: You’ll incur higher legal fees by going to trial, because your attorney needs time to prepare and present your case in court.
Reasons You May Decide Against Plea Bargaining: One disadvantage to a plea agreement is that your guilty plea will become part of your criminal record. You could face challenges with employment or be forced to register as a sex offender.
In addition, you should understand why a prosecutor may be motivated to negotiate. Often, it’s because the evidence against you is weak, and the prosecutor doesn’t want to risk losing. You might opt to go to trial if you have a solid defense.
A Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Understand Your Options
Many criminal defendants view a plea bargain as an attractive option when there seem to be no other choices. The problem is that you may have defenses, but you don’t realize what they are because you’re unfamiliar with the key legal concepts. Instead of surrendering your rights, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik for assistance with your case. We can set up a consultation to review your circumstances, after which we can advise you on the implications of a plea agreement.