A significant majority of criminal cases do not go to trial. They are resolved through plea deals between the prosecution and the defense. A plea deal generally involves the defendant pleading guilty, or entering a plea of nolo contendere (no contest to the charges) in exchange for certain concessions by the prosecution.
You may be able to get such a deal if you are facing criminal charges. Your decision to accept or reject it should be well-informed, given what may be at stake if your case goes to trial. Here is what you need to know.
The necessity of plea deals
Trials are time-consuming and costly, and the justice system is already dealing with a backlog of cases. Plea deals serve to avoid trials for these and other reasons. In addition, a plea deal takes the uncertainty of a trial where things can go either way.
Types of plea deals
The kind of deal you will receive depends on the facts of your case. The common types of plea deals include:
- Pleading guilty to a lesser crime than the one you were originally charged with (charge bargaining)
- Pleading guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence (sentence bargaining)
- Admitting guilt to some of the charges if you face multiple counts (count bargaining)
- Pleading guilty or no contest to prevent specific facts of the case from being presented in court (fact bargaining)
No matter the deal on the table, it helps to have proper legal guidance and a review of your case to determine the best way forward. Remember, you still have a constitutional right to a jury trial. You may stand a better chance at trial in some cases, while taking the plea deal could be in your best interests.