When facing criminal charges, you may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of facing serious penalties, such as hefty fines and possible jail time. There are several ways that you can approach the situation, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. You may enter a plea of not guilty, guilty or no contest, or you might choose to not enter a plea at all.
Plea agreements, also referred to as plea bargains or plea deals, allow you to come to an understanding with the prosecutor regarding the case. It often requires you to plead guilty or no content in exchange for leniency with the penalties.
What does a plea agreement entail?
Plea bargains are not available in every criminal case. The prosecutor must be willing to create an agreement after looking at several factors. These include the following:
- Whether you have a prior criminal record
- Whether the prosecution has a strong case
- Severity of the crime
- Whether violence was involved
Either the prosecution or the defense can initiate a plea agreement, but both the prosecutor and judge must sign off on the arrangement before it is put in place.
What are the benefits of a plea agreement?
By settling the case through a plea agreement, you may avoid the stress and expense of having to defend yourself through a courtroom trial. Although the charges may still be applied to your record, a plea agreement often ends with minimal penalties, depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. Some people choose to accept a plea bargain because it allows them to put the charges behind them and start new. It also bypasses the prolonged trial process. Since a plea arrangement is a contract between the prosecution and the defendant, breaking the plea bargain is a breach of contract.