A plea deal or plea bargain is a common way to resolve criminal cases. Instead of going to trial, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest. The prosecutor agrees to make concessions, such as reduced charges or sentences for a guilty plea.
Setting your criminal case with a plea deal allows you to avoid court. However, you should discuss your case with an experienced West Chester defense lawyer to ensure the terms are reasonable, given the facts of your case.
What Does It Mean To Plead Guilty?
When you plead guilty, you admit that you committed the crime. A guilty plea must be given willingly and knowingly. In other words, it is unlawful for the police or the prosecutor to coerce someone to plead guilty.
Pleading guilty means you give up your right to a trial. Instead, you agree to accept the judge’s sentence for the crime.
What Does It Mean To Plead No Contest?
Some lawyers negotiate a plea agreement that includes a no-contest plea. When a defendant pleads no contest, they do not admit or deny the criminal charges. Instead, they agree to give up their right to a trial but do not admit their guilt.
The result of a no-contest plea is the same in criminal court as a guilty plea. The judge sentences the defendant for the crime as if the person admitted they were guilty.
No contest pleas are used primarily in two situations:
- The person does not remember committing the crime because of an impairment
- The person does not want to admit liability because of a potential civil lawsuit
If a person was injured in the commission of a crime, the injured person might sue the defendant in civil court. A personal injury lawsuit is separate from a criminal proceeding. The civil lawsuit seeks compensation for damages.
For example, a drunk driver causes a traffic accident. The injured parties might file a car accident claim seeking compensation for their injuries, financial losses, and other damages.
When a defendant pleads guilty, they admit to committing the offense that led to the person’s injury. The guilty plea could help the injured party prove their claim in civil court. Therefore, pleading no contest allows the defendant to resolve the criminal case without admitting liability for civil damages.
Why Are Plea Bargains Used in Criminal Cases?
Most criminal cases end with a plea deal. There are many benefits to using a plea agreement to resolve a criminal case. For example, a plea deal avoids a trial, which allows the prosecutor and the defense to avoid the uncertainty of a trial.
For the defense, a plea deal can speed up the resolution of the case. Therefore, the person can serve their sentence and put the matter behind them. Going to trial can also be more expensive than negotiating a plea agreement.
Some defendants agree to a plea deal to avoid specific facts being revealed in court. A trial could result in the information becoming public that the defendant wants to remain private.
Also, the defense knows what to expect at sentencing. The prosecutor might agree to reduce the charges, thereby reducing the sentence. For example, the defendant might be sentenced to probation or community service instead of facing jail time.
What Factors Does the Prosecutor Consider When Negotiating a Plea Deal in West Chester?
A prosecutor may consider numerous factors, including aggravating circumstances and mitigating circumstances, such as:
- The person’s criminal history
- The severity of the crime
- The person’s age
- The harm caused to another person or party
- The role of the defendant in planning and committing the crime
- Whether the person used a weapon to commit the crime
- The amount of damage caused by the criminal act
The prosecutor also considers the strength of the evidence the state has against the defendant. If the evidence is weak, the prosecutor might agree to a plea deal to avoid the possibility of losing the case at trial. Also, the prosecutor considers potential defenses the person might raise at trial and the likelihood those defenses could result in reasonable doubt.
Don’t Accept a Plea Deal Without Talking With a Criminal Defense Attorney
Prosecutors are trained, skilled trial litigators. They use various techniques to convince defendants to accept a plea deal. However, the terms of the plea agreement might not be fair.
For example, a prosecutor might charge a defendant with multiple criminal offenses with the intent of dropping one or more offenses as an incentive to secure a plea deal. Likewise, the prosecutor might charge a defendant with a felony to negotiate a plea deal by reducing the charges to a misdemeanor.
Defense lawyers are familiar with these tactics. An experienced criminal attorney reviews your case to give you an honest assessment of your chances in court. Ensure you get the facts from a trusted defense lawyer before you agree to a plea deal.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our West Chester Criminal Defense Lawyer
Navigating a plea deal can be challenging. Our experienced West Chester criminal defense attorney aggressively negotiates with the prosecutor for reduced charges and sentences. Contact our Dicindio Law, LLC office to schedule a free consultation at (610) 430-3535 to discuss your case and how we can help you at.