If prosecutors have charged you with a criminal offense, you may want to put the matter behind you as quickly as possible. To streamline criminal proceedings through increasingly crowded court dockets, prosecutors often offer defendants plea bargains.
Before accepting a plea deal, you should have competent legal counsel. After all, the agreement may have consequences you have not considered. Asking yourself three questions may help you determine whether a plea agreement is right for you.
1. Do you understand the plea?
For a plea deal to be legally valid, you must knowingly and voluntarily accept it. The judge in your case is likely to ask you whether you understand the terms of the plea bargain.
If you do not, you should not accept the plea deal until someone who understand criminal law explains it fully to you.
2. Does the plea match the prosecutor’s words?
Prosecutors may promise you a variety of things in exchange for accepting the plea. Regrettably, what appears in the deal may vary considerably from the prosecutor’s words.
Put simply, if a promise or anything else is not in writing somewhere in the plea agreement, you should treat it as if it does not exist.
3. Did you commit the crime?
Although there are exceptions, accepting a plea deal is usually an acknowledgement of guilty. If you take the deal, you may have a criminal record that lasts a lifetime.
With a criminal record, you may have difficulty obtaining an education, securing housing or landing a job. Accordingly, if you did not commit the crime, you may want to think twice before accepting a prosecutor’s plea bargain.