The courtroom drama is a staple of television and movies. As a result, many people facing criminal charges are under the impression that their case will be resolved through a trial. The fact is that the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through a plea bargain. In a plea bargain, the prosecution makes some sort of offer to the defendant, such as a dismissal of some charges or a reduction in penalties, in exchange for a guilty plea. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 90 and 95 of cases in federal and state courts are resolved through a plea bargain.
Prosecutors offer plea bargains for many reasons. One reason is that it would simply be too time-consuming to take every case to trial. Another reason is that in some cases, the prosecutor knows that he or she may have difficulties proving each part of a case beyond a reasonable doubt in trial.
You don't know what you don't know
Anyone facing a criminal charge who receives a plea offer needs to consider many factors with the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Without a lawyer on your side, you are not likely to know if a plea offer is good or bad. There are many factors that go into deciding whether to accept or reject a plea offer. These factors include:
- Are the penalties in the plea agreement substantially lower than the penalties you would face if you were found guilty at trial? A defendant who pleads guilty should receive some benefit in exchange for doing so, whether it is a shorter jail term or no jail term at all.
- How will pleading guilty to this charge impact other areas of your life? For instance, if you have a commercial driver's license (CDL) and plead guilty to drunk driving, you may be out of a job.
These are just some of the factors any defendant needs to consider. Scranton criminal defense attorney Craig Kalinoski brings more than a decade of legal experience to bear on every case. He is a former police officer in addition to being a lawyer. As a result, he understands law enforcement from different perspectives. This gives him, and his clients, real benefits when facing criminal allegations.
Source: Plea and Charge Bargaining, Research Summary, Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice