When you are facing criminal charges, your lawyer is tasked with doing everything possible to assist you in avoiding a conviction. In some cases, however, the evidence against you and the overall circumstances might just be too overwhelming. Or, maybe you actually did commit the offense for which you were arrested. While it may seem like you have no good options in such a situation, that is simply not true. As a matter of fact, there may be several avenues available to you to limit the damage to your future. A plea deal or a plea bargain is probably the most common of these options.
Did you know that less than 10 percent of criminal cases in California ever go to trial? The overwhelming majority of criminal matters are resolved through negotiations between prosecutors and the suspect. The suspect, of course, is usually represented by an attorney who negotiates on the suspect’s behalf. Often, a judge is included in the negotiations so that his or her authority can be utilized to approve whatever deal is reached.
In the process of creating a plea deal, representatives from the prosecutor’s office will usually offer to reduce the suspect’s sentence by lessening the number or severity of the charges. If there is only one charge with a range of possible penalties, the prosecutors may also offer penalties on the low end of the prescribed range. For example, if a particular charge carries up to one year in jail, a prosecutor may offer 10 days in jail in exchange for a guilty plea.
Depending on the charges and the circumstances, a plea agreement may allow the suspect to participate in a diversion program instead of entering a traditional guilty plea. Successful completion of a diversion program will usually result in the charges being dropped with no conviction or permanent criminal record.
There is no question that criminal defendants often benefit from plea bargains—especially defendants who were, in fact, guilty. Prosecutors and the government, however, are also interested in securing deals in most cases. When a case is resolved through a plea bargain, it saves prosecutors from having to build a case for trial, usually resulting in a significant savings of time and money. Plea deals also leave the courts more available for other matters. There are also situations in which prosecutors offer plea agreements to convince the defendant to provide information that can be used to prosecute other criminals.
There are those who believe that plea agreements effectively allow criminals to avoid taking full responsibility for their crimes. Others say that most plea bargains offered actually compromise a suspect’s rights to a jury trial and due process. According to the Supreme Court of the United States, however, plea deals are not problematic as long as they entered into voluntarily by defendants who are fully aware of the terms and consequences of the agreement.
If you or a member of your family has been charged with a crime, contact a Santa Clara County criminal defense lawyer. Call 408-277-0377 for a confidential consultation with Wesley J. Schroeder, Attorney at Law, today. We will help you explore your available options and make the best decisions for yourself and your loved ones.