Being charged with a criminal offense can be enormously intimidating, especially if the potential penalties threaten to take you away from your family and ruin your career. While there might be a criminal defense option that clearly dictates that you should take your case to trial, in the vast majority of cases there’s at least some level of risk associated with going to trial.
That risk pertains to both sides, too, which is why prosecutors often offer plea deals that, if agreed to, provide for a conviction on lesser charges and/or decreased penalties. It can be extremely challenging to analyze a plea deal to determine if it’s right for you, but to reach a better, more informed decision, you might want to consider some specific characteristics of your case.
Is a plea deal right for you?
Your first instinct might be to fight for dropped charges or an acquittal, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes that is not a realistic goal. This can be a difficult truth to contend with, but you need to take these factors into consideration when figuring out whether accepting a plea deal is actually in your best interests:
- The strength of the prosecution’s case: You need to get a handle on where the prosecutorial strengths lie. If it’s in witness testimony, are you able to attack credibility? If it’s in physical evidence, are you able to suppress the evidence by attacking chain of custody or utilizing the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine? The answers to these questions and more will help you better understand just how strong the prosecution’s case is and what is at risk if you decide to go to trial.
- The strengths of your defense: Maybe you have credible witnesses who can attest to your alibi or speak to your intent (or lack thereof). Maybe you have physical evidence that can demonstrate that you’ve been misidentified or that there’s an ulterior motive behind certain testimony. Whatever he situation, if your criminal defense is strong then you probably shouldn’t settle for a plea deal.
- The difference between the plea deal and conviction: If the plea deal offered to you provides for significantly lower penalties, then it should be considered more fully than one that essentially provides for the same penalties as those you would face upon conviction for the crime charged.
- What do you want to be public: Depending on your career or your standing in the community, you might not want details of the alleged crime to come to light. In these circumstances, a plea deal can help protect you from information that might otherwise come out at trial and thereby become public.
It should go without saying that a plea deal shouldn’t be your first option. Instead, you need to aggressively approach your case to see if there is anyway to either negotiate for dismissed charges or litigate your way to acquittal. In fact, depending on the circumstances at hand, you might have a whole host of criminal defense options at your disposal. It might be wise to fully vet each one with an experienced attorney who has a record of success in this area of the law.