Becoming the target of criminal charges can leave you with difficult choices. If you contest the charges in a trial, there is no guarantee you will receive an acquittal. This is why some people plea bargain their case. Basically, this involves pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser charge or community service, anything that lessens the severity of what you might receive if a court finds you guilty.
A decision to plea bargain is not something to take lightly. As FindLaw explains, there are reasons why going through with this option could be to your benefit but may also lead to an undesirable outcome.
The positives of a plea bargain
The possibility of a lesser sentence is a major benefit if plea bargaining is successful. It can reduce your jail time or eliminate imprisonment completely. And by plea bargaining down an offense, you do not incur a larger number of offenses or serious crimes on your record. This could lower your risk of a stiffer sentence if you become the target of criminal charges again in the future.
Plea bargains can also help protect your livelihood. If you face the loss of a professional license if a jury finds you guilty of a felony, you might plea bargain the charge to a misdemeanor and maintain your license.
The negatives of a plea bargain
The problem with a plea bargain is that while you may work out a deal with the prosecutor and a judge, it is still possible for a court to reject the deal and move the case to trial. And by entering into a plea bargain, you could eliminate your chance to appeal your case if the outcome does not turn in your favor.
You might also feel pressured to take a plea bargain even though you know you have done nothing wrong. Sometimes people choose to plead “no contest” instead of actually pleading guilty to avoid this problem. Plea bargaining can be a tough choice and it is important to learn all the ramifications of going through with it before proceeding.