What You Should Know About Plea Bargains
Feb. 21, 2023
When facing a criminal charge in Florida or during an arraignment, the prosecutor may offer a defendant a lighter sentence or agree to drop the charges if they submit a plea of guilty. However, before pleading guilty to a charge or taking the prosecutor’s plea deal, it is better to understand the benefits and potential ramifications.
At The Law Offices of Hoskins and Penton, P.A., we’re committed to offering experienced legal counsel and reliable representation to clients in their criminal cases. Our trusted criminal defense attorneys can help you understand what a plea bargain is, how they’re made, and the benefits and drawbacks. Reach out to our office in Clearwater, Florida, today to learn more.
What Is a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain – also referred to as a plea deal or plea agreement– can be described as an agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant. In a plea bargain, the prosecutor may offer a defendant a more lenient sentence, reduced charge, or dropped charges in exchange for pleading guilty to a crime.
For instance, say you’re loved one is facing drug possession with intent to sell charges. They can ask their attorney to help negotiate a plea deal under which they will admit to possessing the controlled substance. In exchange, your loved one will face the reduced charge of simple possession, probation, time served, and substance abuse treatment.
How Are Plea Bargains Made?
Usually, the prosecutor and defense counsel will meet privately outside of court to negotiate the plea bargain. The plea deal might be proposed by either party.
Depending on the surrounding circumstances of the case, negotiations can take a long time. In less complex cases, the bargain may even be proposed after a brief discussion. Regardless, both parties would have investigated the case thoroughly to determine a fair plea bargain and the defendant will have the ultimate decision to accept or reject the plea deal.
Pros & Cons of a Plea Bargain
More lenient or lighter sentence
The case can be concluded in no time.
Eliminates the uncertainty in your case.
Keeps your case fairly private or reduces publicity.
Reduced case load on the judge or prosecutor.
Save time and cost of legal fees.
Waives your constitutional right to a trial.
Gives up your right to a possible “not guilty” verdict. Hence, no sense of vindication.
Poor case investigation and preparation.
The prosecutor might have a weak case against you.
You may be coerced into accepting the plea deal to avoid maximum punishments.
Agreements with the prosecutor are non-binding in court.
You will have a criminal record.
A trusted criminal defense attorney can enlighten you about the benefits and risks of a plea bargain as they pertain to your unique case.
Types of Plea Bargains
According to the U.S. Justice Department, there are four types of plea bargains that can be negotiated. These include:
Charge Bargaining – requires that the defendant pleads to a less serious offense or reduced charge compared to the original charge.
Count Bargaining – requires negotiating the number of charges the defendant will face. This eventually results in a reduced amount of charges.
Fact Bargaining – requires the prosecutor to agree to certain facts about the case in exchange for a reduced sentence for the defendant.
Sentence Bargaining – requires the prosecutor to assure the defendant a lighter, reduced, or alternative sentence in return for a guilty or no contest plea.
What Happens If I Agree to a Plea Bargain?
In Florida, an accused person who agrees to a plea bargain admits that they committed the offense. In return, the defendant will expect some leniency or consideration from the state. Generally, pleading guilty – or taking a plea agreement – automatically waives your right to a trial.
Furthermore, the Florida court will determine your penalties, sentence, and what happens next. However, with a criminal conviction on your public record, you may face increased difficulties in getting a financial loan, housing, a new job, public benefits, and educational opportunities.
Understand Your Rights
Taking a plea bargain limits your legal options and leaves your fate in the hands of the prosecutor or state. Before agreeing, it is important that you understand the benefits, downsides, and your different legal options.
Never accept a plea bargain without reliable guidance. Our experienced legal team at The Law Offices of Hoskins and Penton, P.A. will investigate all of the facts of your case and fight for your best outcome in trial. We will work diligently to protect your legal rights and help negotiate a reduced sentence or favorable plea deal with the prosecutor or, ultimately, get your charges dismissed or dropped.
Contact us at The Law Offices of Hoskins and Penton, P.A. today to schedule a consultation with strategic criminal defense lawyers. We’re proud to serve clients throughout Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, and Tampa, Florida.