Plea bargain 101: What you should know before accepting one

Do you have a plea bargain on the table? Find out everything you need to know about theis option the prosecutor is offering. See if taking it is your best deal.

When a person faces criminal charges in Tennessee, he or she has several options on how to proceed. There is always the option of entering a guilty plea the first time appearing in court. However, most people will plead not guilty and then move forward with preparing for a trial. Typically, though, most cases never make it to trial because the prosecutor offers the defendant a plea bargain.

Plea bargains have a place within the criminal justice system, but they also can go wrong very easily. It all depends on how the prosecution uses them, and how well the defendant understands them.

What is a plea bargain?

Cornell Law School explains a plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and prosecutor for a guilty plea in exchange for reduced charges or reduced severity of charges that result in a reduced sentence or less severe punishment. When entering this type of agreement, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charges and forego the right to a trial.

Why do prosecutors offer plea bargains?

Plea bargains are seen as a good move to save time and money. Since they end a case, they save money on going to trial. They free up the court to hear other cases and also allow public defenders to have more time to work on other cases.

The idea behind plea bargaining, according to the United States Department of Justice, is to avoid a trial in the event the prosecution has a very strong case to convict. However, offering such an agreement does not always hinge on the prosecution having a strong case.

What are the downsides of a plea bargain?

Prosecutors offer plea bargains in many different types of cases. It is not always because they have a strong case. In addition, ideally, everyone who takes a plea bargain is guilty, but that also is not always the case. Sometimes, out of fear of a severe punishment, a person will take a plea bargain when he or she is not guilty.

It is also common to enter into this agreement if the defense feels it does not have a strong case or that there is circumstantial evidence that may sway a jury. This is true even if the person is not guilty.

It is essential that anyone facing criminal charges speak to an attorney before taking a plea bargain. A solid defense team, such as Summers, Rufolo & Rodgers, can properly assess the agreement and ensure if it is the right move for a defendant to take.