Top 5 Things to Consider Before Accepting a Plea Bargain
The American justice system is one of the most well-respected in the world, but no system is perfect. The issue here is one of massive overload. The courts are constantly packed, and cases frequently get pushed off for months as there just aren’t enough judges and resources to work through everything. One of the biggest assets to the legal system over the years is the plea bargain. This is a way that the plaintiff, the defendant and their attorneys can work through the case and come to an agreement without requiring a trial. It’s a way that the system can save time and money, and many defendants can also settle for a reduced sentence and more leniency than they would find if the case went to trial. Many civil cases also end in a plea bargain, as it behooves both parties to save the legal fees and settle out of court whenever possible. But choosing to go with a plea bargain isn’t always an open and shut case. There are many variables at play, and you’ll never be absolutely sure you’re getting the best possible deal. Here are the top five things to consider before accepting a plea bargain.
First of all, do you have an attorney experienced in the plea bargain process? If you can’t afford an attorney in a criminal case you will be assigned one, but he or she may not have much experience with plea bargaining. This really comes down to choosing the right attorney for your needs, or making sure the court assigned lawyer is up to the challenge. If you don’t have a savvy attorney on your side, chances are you won’t get a great settlement during a plea bargain. But in those instances you won’t necessarily be well represented in court either, making this choice the most important one you’ve got.
Secondly, has your attorney received all of the discovery in your case prior to working out the plea bargain deal? By law you are allowed to see all of the evidence put out against you in a case. Otherwise, it cannot be used to try and convict you. Make sure you don’t sit for a plea bargain until discovery has taken place, so you know what you are up against. When you weigh all of the evidence it may drive you to try for a better deal, or to take the deal offered knowing what you are up against.
You’ll also want to make sure your attorney lays every single option on the table for your review. You may be tempted to take the plea just so you don’t have to go to court, but that’s not always the wisest move. Make sure you’ve been brought up to speed on all the different ways the case could go, the best case scenario and the worst, so that you can make an informed decision.
You should also get to know the potential punishments you face, and the various consequences that could be in play if things go badly. You need to know the stakes in order to understand the quality of the plea bargain deal that has been proposed. If the plea bargain involves jail time and a significant black mark on your record, you might be inclined to take your chances. But if the punishment you could face in court is extraordinarily severe, any plea bargain may sound good.
Finally, understand how the specifics of the plea bargain may be impacted by the rules in your particular region. For example, criminal lawyers in Dandenong face a different set of rules than in Sydney, or here in the states. And each state has differences that may come into play depending on the type of case you are facing. If your lawyer isn’t up to speed on the specific state and county regulations they may misread the plea bargain being offered and set you up for a serious error that could follow you for the rest of your life.