A plea deal is when your attorney and a prosecutor negotiate an agreement on your behalf, whereby you plead guilty so that your case does not go to trial. Your attorney is the only person who should advise you as to whether or not a plea deal is possible, and if it is possible, whether you should accept the deal. Here are some typical reasons for accepting a plea deal:
Victims and Witnesses: Plea deals are offered so that victims do not have to go through the stress of a trial. In addition, if the prosecution believes the witnesses against you will not come across well on the witness stand, a deal may be offered to avoid that scenario.
The Court Calendar: Judges encourage plea deals to keep the court calendar from getting clogged up. If your case can be resolved without a trial, the court saves time for other cases that do not involve plea deal offers and cases where a deal is offered but refused by the defendant and their defense attorney.
Reduced Charges: Sometimes the prosecution will offer to drop some of your charges if you will plead guilty to one or more of the remaining charges. The prosecutor may believe it is more cost effective to offer you a deal than to take the case to trial. One scenario might be if you are charged with three crimes and the prosecutor offers to drop two of charges in exchange for a guilty plea for the third charge. Again, only your attorney should advise you as to whether you should accept a plea deal.
Personal Illnesses: If you are facing a serious illness, the prosecutor may offer you a deal. He or she may be concerned that a jury will hesitate to convict someone who is seriously ill or disabled.
First Offenses: For your first offense, you could be offered a deal. Obviously, this will depend upon how serious your charges are. If you are charged with something non-violent and it is your first time in trouble with the law, the prosecutor may talk to your attorney about a deal. At times, even people who have committed violent crimes can receive plea bargain offers.
Important Testimony: If your testimony against a co-defendant or another significant person will help the prosecutor win the case, you may be offered a plea deal. This type of offer would require you to assist the prosecution by acting as a witness or by providing information against the other individuals.
A plea deal does not mean you will not go to jail or prison. In some cases, if you will plead guilty, the prosecutor will agree to suggest a lighter sentence than the maximum possible. In other instances, the prosecutor will agree not to oppose your attorney’s request for probation instead of incarceration, or a request for a lighter sentence than you are facing. In most cases the judges agree with the plea deals and sign the orders, but they are not required to do so. Your attorney should absolutely advise you about these matters.