When should I seek a plea bargain?

Every criminal defendant dreams of being able to assert the perfect criminal defense to obtain a verdict of not guilty. However, in the face of irrefutable evidence brought forward by the prosecution, some criminal defendants will be up against an insurmountable obstacle. They won’t be able to secure a not guilty verdict, no matter how many cutting-edge defense strategies they attempt to deploy.

For example, imagine that you were accused of shoplifting. You’d like to deny the charges, but surveillance video footage clearly shows you surreptitiously taking the item at issue, putting it in your backpack and trying to leave the store without paying for it.

In these situations, when a criminal conviction is probable, most criminal defense lawyers will offer their clients the wise counsel to try to negotiate a plea deal. A plea deal, or plea bargain, is akin to a settlement in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to certain criminal offenses in exchange for a dramatic reduction in his or her punishments. Sometimes, defendants can use a plea bargain to avoid jail or prison time or receive some other benefit that wouldn’t have been possible if the defendant tried to unsuccessfully fight the charges in court.

The decision to enter into a plea deal, although beneficial in many circumstances, should not be taken lightly. Regardless of if the accusation involves an illegal drug crime, shoplifting, fraud or something else, the defendant needs to fully understand his or her legal predicament – including the chances of conviction and the likely punishments in the event of conviction – before he or she chooses to negotiate and to agree to a plea deal. The defendant also needs to clearly understand what the consequences of the plea deal will be in terms of conviction and the scope of possible punishments.