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Factors Impacting Plea Deals

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Individuals who are charged with crimes are typically concerned about how a guilty verdict could impact their lives. Will they face incarceration? Are fines going to be imposed? Will having a criminal record ultimately affect their ability to secure housing, employment, or other essentials of life? Sometimes, they wonder if accepting a plea deal is a good idea. While every case is different, having an experienced criminal attorney to advise is likely to impact outcomes for the better.

What is a Plea Deal? 

The majority of criminal cases in this country are resolved through plea-bargaining, wherein the accused submits a guilty plea in exchange for a lesser charge or sentence. Both the prosecutor and the defense must agree to the terms of the deal which typically occurs when both sides feel they have something to gain through a plea deal.  A plea deal gives the prosecution a conviction without undergoing a labor-intensive trial which could be both costly and time consuming for an already overburdened court system. The defendant typically gains a reduced charge or a lesser sentence or both. So which defendants are most likely to accept a plea deal? 

Factors Impacting Plea Acceptance 

Research indicates that when offered plea agreements certain factors influence whether or not the accused accepts the deal. Key issues include:

  • The seriousness of the charge(s);
  • The prior record of the defendant;
  • The strength of the evidence against the accused;
  • Whether or not the defendant is incarcerated at the time of the offer;
  • Whether the accused has a public or a private defender;
  • The perceived likelihood of a guilty verdict at trial.

Why Accept a Deal? 

Studies indicate that accepting a plea deal can benefit defendants in certain circumstances for two key reasons:

  • Defendants can avoid harsher sentences that judges can deliver following a jury trial;
  • Prosecutorial discretion allows for substantially lesser sentences;

When the Judge Disagrees 

Defendants should understand that any agreement between the defense and the prosecution must be approved by the judge. In some instances, a judge may choose not to accept the plea agreement or the prosecution’s and defendant’s recommendation in a plea agreement.

Moving Forward 

If you have been charged with criminal activity, you need quality and experienced legal defense. Whether you choose to go to trial or wish to pursue a plea agreement, you need an attorney who knows how to handle plea negotiations with the state and federal government.   Attorney Deric Zacca has 20 years of experience in federal and state criminal defense. Contact him in Fort Lauderdale for a confidential consultation.

Resource:

bja.gov/Publications/PleaBargainingResearchSummary.pdf