Plea Deal

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Plea Deal

When you’ve been charged with a crime in California, determining whether you should go to trial or accept a plea deal is a difficult decision. A plea deal is an agreement in a criminal prosecution in which a defendant is given a chance to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence. 

Thus, when a defendant accepts a plea deal, although the state still obtains a conviction, the punishment received by the defendant is less severe than they would have otherwise received at trial were they found guilty. In other words, depending on the circumstances, a plea deal can be highly advantageous to both the defendant and the prosecution. In this article, we discuss plea deals in California. 

Criminal Trials vs. Plea Deals

Criminal Trials vs. Plea Deals

Around 90% of criminal cases in the United States are settled via plea deals. This also applies to California. In fact, defendants receive plea deal offers in the majority of California criminal cases. 

A defendant is not required to accept a plea deal, however. Each defendant in a criminal case has the right to a fair trial. So, when deciding whether to accept a plea deal or go to trial, it is important to consult an experienced California criminal defense attorney. 

Anatomy of a Plea Deal

A defendant can be offered a plea deal at any stage of the criminal process. For example, a plea deal offer may occur at arraignment, which is the court appearance in which a defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty, or it may happen at trial. 

What normally happens with a plea deal is that the defendant in a criminal case decides to plead guilty to a lesser charge, which comes with lesser penalties. For example, the state may offer a defendant the opportunity to plead guilty to a misdemeanor in lieu of a felony, or a defendant may plead guilty to an infraction instead of a misdemeanor. 

However, although a plea deal results in lesser charges, this may not be ideal for a defendant who is adamant about their innocence. For a defendant in this situation, a criminal charge of any kind may be unacceptable. Given the importance of a plea bargain in a criminal case, every defendant should consult a criminal defense lawyer before making a final decision. 

What Are the Pros of a Plea Deal?

As with all major decisions, there are pros and cons to accepting a plea deal. The pros of accepting a plea deal include: 

Plea deals save time: Once you accept a plea deal, the case is effectively over. However, if you take your case to trial rather than accepting a plea deal, the process can take weeks or even months to conclude, depending on the complexity of your case.  

Plea deals save money: In addition to being lengthy, trials can be expensive. The longer a trial goes on, the more legal fees you accumulate if you have hired a private attorney. 

Plea deals are predictable: When you accept a plea deal, you avoid the risk of being found guilty at trial of a more serious charge. 

What Are the Cons of a Plea Deal?

Although plea deals have their advantages, they also come with several potential drawbacks. The cons of accepting a plea deal include:  

A plea deal will result in a criminal record—even if you’re innocent: If you are innocent of the crime with which you’ve been accused and accept a plea deal, you are accepting guilt for something you didn’t do. Although this may be the best option in your situation, it can be a difficult pill to swallow for someone who’s done nothing wrong. 

A plea deal can have additional consequences: Although a plea deal can result in a lesser charge, it still results in a criminal record. In addition to the penalties associated with your charge, other consequences can result from having a criminal record. For example, a criminal record can make it difficult to find employment, secure housing, or own a firearm. 

A plea deal can reduce your appeal options: Finally, pleading guilty through a plea deal can reduce your appeal options. Following a criminal trial in which a defendant is found guilty, they still have the option to appeal the decision. However, once you accept a plea deal, you generally have few appeal options left.

Contact a California Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help Deciding Whether To Accept a Plea Deal 

If you’ve been accused of a crime in California, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. A lot is at stake when you’ve been charged with a crime. 

An experienced California criminal defense attorney can help you decide the best course of action in your case. They’ll advise whether accepting a plea deal is in your best interest. Contact the dynamic legal team of Ahmed & Sukaram, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorneys for a free consultation at (408) 217-8818.

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