The criminal justice system can be complex and daunting for those who find themselves facing criminal charges. What should I plead? If I take a deal does that make me guilty? Do I even have a chance of winning?
The plea deal, a legal agreement between the prosecution and the defendant, is an essential element of being formally charged with a crime — but exactly what is a plea deal? And what implications will taking one have on the rest of your case? Whether to accept or reject a plea deal is a pivotal decision that can significantly impact a person’s life, so it’s essential to understand the implications fully.
In this article, the Houston criminal lawyers from Thiessen Law Firm will delve into the concept of a plea deal, exploring what it means to take one and the reasons why opting for a plea deal may not be the smart thing to do.
Thiessen Law Firm has built a reputation for winning complex, high-stakes felony DWI cases. If you or a loved one is facing a charge that you’ve got to beat, you’ve got to call Thiessen Law Firm at (713) 864-9000 today.
What does it mean when you take a plea deal?
When you are charged with a crime in Texas, you will always have the opportunity before the beginning of a trial to enter a plea. If a defendant pleads “Not Guilty” to the offense with which they have been charged, the case will proceed to trial.
But before trial, if the defendant doesn’t plead “Guilty” during their initial plea (and they shouldn’t) the prosecution may offer a plea deal to the defendant. A plea deal, sometimes also called a plea bargain, is an offer from the prosecution to try to entice the defendant to plead “Guilty” before going to trial.
Common plea bargain examples include the following:
- If you are charged with a felony offense the prosecution might offer a plea deal in which you plead “Guilty” to a misdemeanor.
- If you are charged with multiple counts of an offense or multiple offenses, the prosecution might offer to drop one or more charges.
- If you are charged with an offense that comes with significant prison time, the prosecution might offer to lessen that time.
Is a plea deal the same as pleading guilty? While taking a plea deal would mean that you would be required to plead guilty to either the crime you were accused of or a similar crime determined by your attorney and the judge, you would be doing so in exchange for a lesser sentence or the dropping of some charges.
Is a plea deal a good thing?
It can be, but generally speaking, maintaining your presumed innocence is priceless — especially if you have a good lawyer.
Here are some reasons you might not want to take a plea deal:
- Maintaining innocence. As previously stated, perhaps the most fundamental reason to reject a plea deal is to maintain that3 you are innocent of the crimes you are being charged with. Accepting a plea deal means admitting guilt to a crime that you are otherwise presumed innocent of.
- You have faith in your lawyer to win your case. Your lawyer will have a better idea of how winnable your case is, and following their advice on whether or not to accept a plea deal is generally the right thing to do.
- Weak case from the prosecution. If the prosecution’s case is weak or lacks compelling evidence, you and your attorney will likely choose to take your chances at trial with the knowledge that a jury may find you Not Guilty.
- Unfair terms of the deal. Plea deals often contain terms that are unfair or overly harsh. Especially when the prosecution feels strongly about their ability to convict, they might not give you enough to justify a “Guilty” plea.
- You’re concerned about the long-term consequences of a conviction. While a plea deal can offer short-term benefits, pleading “Guilty” will have long-term consequences. A criminal conviction, especially for a felony charge, can affect employment prospects, housing opportunities, and immigration status.
- You have a prior criminal record. Unfortunately, plea deals are often the wrong idea for defendants with prior criminal records. Prosecutors are notoriously punitive with repeat offenders, for whom choosing to plead “Guilty” may carry more severe consequences.
While there are plenty of plea bargain pros and cons to sort through, and the circumstances will vary greatly in each individual case, you should generally only take a plea bargain if you don’t think you can win your case, but if you have a good lawyer, you should feel pretty good about your ability to win your case.
On that note, you’ll want to make sure that you hire a trial lawyer to come to your defense. A trial lawyer is an attorney who isn’t afraid to fight for you in court, and who specializes in building strong defenses and winning cases, not negotiating plea bargains.
Continue reading about important components of the criminal justice system:
Fight another day with a top criminal lawyer from Thiessen Law Firm
Now that you know the answer to the question “what is a plea deal?” You have to go about choosing whether or not to take one. Choosing whether to take a plea deal is a critical choice many defendants will have to make, but they should make the decision with the help of a skilled attorney. An attorney can help you by weighing the potential benefits of a reduced sentence or other concessions against the risks of admitting guilt and accepting the consequences of a criminal conviction.
So, is a plea deal a good thing? Ultimately, the choice to accept or reject a plea deal should be based on careful consideration of your circumstances, the strength of the prosecution’s case, and your faith in your own legal representation.
Mark Thiessen of Thiessen Law Firm is a criminal trial lawyer who wins tough cases. If you or a loved one are facing charges that could stand to ruin your lives, make sure that you have an attorney in your corner who will fight for you before accepting any deals from the prosecution.
The attorneys at Thiessen Law Firm know how to beat a DWI in Texas, and can give you the best shot at the best possible outcome for your case. Call Thiessen Law Firm today at (713) 864-9000 or contact us online for a free consultation.
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