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Judge's gavel and alarm clock with text "plea deal" on green background - Manavi Law GroupIn this article, you can discover…

What Is A Plea Bargain And How Is It Typically Offered?

A plea bargain happens when the defense and the prosecution agree that you have committed a crime and the prosecution offers you a particular sentence in exchange for a plea. As the defendant, you can bargain for both the sentence and the charge you’re convicted of.

A plea bargain may be offered very early on in proceedings, possibly as early as your first appearance. It’s often wiser not to accept an initial offer and wait for a more favorable offer to be extended during a second, third, or fourth appearance.

The plea bargain won’t typically be offered to you directly. The prosecuting lawyer will offer it to your lawyer on your behalf. You will then have the opportunity to learn what kind of evidence the prosecution has against you and decide with your lawyer’s help if you would like to pursue a plea bargain.

Your lawyer can also offer specific counter-offers on your behalf consisting of different charges combined with different sentences. This negotiating process between legal teams can often lead to more favorable results for you, as opposed to simply taking an initial offer from the prosecution.

What Are The Advantages Of Accepting A Plea Bargain?

The biggest advantage you have in accepting a plea bargain is certainty. You know what you’re going to be convicted of, and you understand exactly what your punishment is going to be. There are rare circumstances where a judge does not sign off on a plea bargain that the prosecution and defense teams have negotiated—usually because the sentence is too light—but those instances are exceedingly rare.

While you may come to the table with a specific sentence in mind, requesting it is often unwise. Instead, something to ask yourself as an accused person is, “What can the prosecutor prove?”

If they can prove one, two, or three different crimes, it’s often wisest to make an offer for the least offensive crime. This least offensive crime typically carries the lightest sentence and allows you to wind up with a better plea bargain overall.

What Are The Potential Drawbacks Of A Plea Deal?

One drawback is that plea bargains generally can not be appealed. Your resulting conviction will stay with you and generally remain on your record unless it is expunged. In extremely rare cases, a plea bargain may be withdrawn, and the case dismissed if State laws change. Generally, though, a negotiated plea bargain will remain with you forever.

For these reasons, it’s important to understand the consequences of accepting a plea deal, and realize that your plea will likely be a part of your legal record unless you get it expunged later.

How Do I Know If A Plea Bargain Is A Good Deal?

A plea bargain is a potentially good deal only if you’re actually guilty of the crime and can commit to the sentence being offered. If you’re considering accepting a plea bargain involving prison time, consider if you can mentally and physically handle the stress of confinement. If not, further negotiations would be a safer avenue to take.

There are cases where the Defendant may be willing to do prison time but is offered home confinement instead, through negotiations between the Defendant’s lawyer and the prosecution. This would be an excellent outcome in light of the alternative punishment of prison.

What Should I Consider Before Accepting A Plea Bargain Deal In California?

The first thing to consider is whether or not you are actually guilty of the crime or crimes you’re being charged with. You should also consider if the prosecution has enough evidence to convict you of any of those crimes.

Next, consider the range of penalties for those crimes in California. A lawyer can inform you as to those ranges, and you can then decide if those options are sentences that you can handle. From there, you can judge whether the plea bargain you’re being offered is a good deal or a poor one for you.

What Happens If I Reject A Plea Bargain?

If you reject a plea bargain, the case will ultimately go to court and be decided by a jury, who will decide whether or not you’re guilty of the crime. If they do find you guilty, you have no further control over what the sentence will be; a judge will hand that sentence down, and you have limited say in how severe or lenient that sentence is.

The judge also has very little familiarity with you; the only things they know about you are what is said in trial. Should the jury find you guilty, the judge will then apply their experience to determine if you’re going to receive a tougher sentence or a lighter one.

Why Is It Important To Discuss My Case With An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Before Accepting A Plea Deal?

An experienced criminal defense attorney can consider which crimes you are guilty of and negotiate for lesser charges. They can advise you in pleading in a way that is more beneficial for you and helps reduce your sentence. If you attempt to negotiate on your own, this knowledge of the law would be unavailable to you.

An experienced private criminal defense attorney can negotiate well, take the extra time to review your case and work hard for a better outcome. Should you use a public defender, you may find that they don’t have the time to dive deep into your charges or negotiate a better deal.

If you’re considering a plea bargain, the best thing you can do for yourself is to hire a diligent and practiced private criminal defense attorney to represent you. A private attorney can better understand you and make the time to work hard for the best deal possible.

For more information on Navigating Plea Bargains In California’s Criminal Justice System, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (310) 879-5616 today.

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