What You Should Know About Plea Bargains
May 10, 2023
According to statistics from the Texas Crime Report, there were over 1 million (1,006,887) total criminal arrests statewide in 2021. When arrested and charged with a crime or during a criminal proceeding, a defendant may have the option to plead guilty to the alleged offense.
In exchange for submitting a guilty plea, the prosecutor may offer the defendant a plea bargain – in the form of a lighter sentence, reduced punishment, or dropped charges. While taking a plea deal can help save costs and get the case over with swiftly, the defendant would be waiving their constitutional rights to a fair trial.
Attorney Mekisha Jane Walker helps clients discover their options in criminal cases. As a strategic Texas criminal defense attorney, she can investigate all of the facts of your case, educate you about the benefits and potential ramifications of taking a plea bargain, and determine the best course of action. The firm proudly serves clients across Houston, Texas, and surrounding areas throughout Galveston, Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, and Brazoria counties.
What Is a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain, also known as a plea agreement or plea deal, is an agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal offender. In a plea deal, the prosecuting attorney will offer the defendant a reduced charge, lighter sentence, or drop the criminal charges if the defendant agrees to submit a plea of guilty.
For instance, Mary is facing felony theft charges. She can ask her legal representative to help negotiate a plea agreement under which she admits to misdemeanor theft. In exchange, she will be facing the lesser charge of misdemeanor theft, time served, community service, or diversion program.
How Are Plea Bargains Made?
To negotiate the plea deal, the defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor will meet privately or outside the court. A plea agreement can also be discussed in the courthouse hallway between both attorneys. Generally, either party can propose a plea bargain – depending on what is considered fair.
However, negotiations may be quick or take an extended period, depending on the facts of the case and other surrounding circumstances. The offender will have the final decision whether to reject or take the plea bargain.
Pros and Cons of a Plea Bargain
Here are some pros and cons of taking a plea agreement:
reduced or dropped charges
lighter sentence or more lenient penalties
helps reduces publicity and keep your case fairly private
able to conclude the case quickly
removes any uncertainty in your case
helps save time and the cost of legal fees
reduces the amount of caseload on the prosecutor or judge
waives the defendant’s right to a fair trial
surrenders your right to achieve a potential “not guilty” verdict
no sense of vindication
prosecuting attorney may not have a strong case against the defendant
defendant may be compelled to take the plea agreement to avoid maximum penalties
plea agreements with prosecuting attorney are non-binding in court
defendant will have a criminal record/history
A seasoned criminal defense lawyer can fully explain the benefits and downsides of accepting a plea bargain, explore your possible legal options, and help determine the best way to proceed with your case.
Types of Plea Bargains
Here are the four types of plea bargains that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ):
Charge Bargaining – In charge bargaining, the offender will plead to a reduced charge or less serious offense compared to the initial charge.
Count Bargaining – In court bargaining, the defendant will negotiate the amount of charges they will be facing. Thus, resulting in a reduced number of charges.
Sentence Bargaining – In sentence bargaining, the prosecutor guarantees the offender a reduced, lighter, or alternative sentence in exchange for a plea of guilty or no contest.
Fact Bargaining – In fact bargaining, the prosecuting attorney agrees to specific facts of the case. In exchange, the defendant will receive a reduced charge or sentence.
A strategic attorney can evaluate the surrounding facts of your case and determine the right plea agreement to pursue.
What Happens if I Agree to a Plea Bargain?
When an alleged defendant accepts a plea deal, they’re admitting to committing the crime. In exchange, the defendant expects to receive some form of consideration or leniency from the state. Unfortunately, agreeing to a plea bargain automatically waives the defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial. Also, you will have a criminal conviction on your public record.
Additionally, the Texas criminal court will decide the appropriate sentence, penalties, and what would happen to the defendant. Generally, having a criminal record or history may cause increased difficulties in securing accommodation, financial loans, employment, educational opportunities, and public assistance.
Dedicated Legal Defense: Walker Law Office
Accepting a plea agreement waives your right to a trial and puts your fate in the hands of the prosecuting attorney or the state. Therefore, before taking the plea deal, you should understand the benefits, potential ramifications, and available legal options. Attorney Mekisha Jane Walker has the diligence and expertise to protect clients facing criminal charges from the worst possible situation.
As your legal counsel, she can assess your case details, determine whether taking a plea bargain is right for you, or explore your prospects of a favorable outcome at trial. Above all, you can count on Mekisha Jane Walker to fight for you, help negotiate a favorable plea agreement, or eventually help get your charges dropped or dismissed.
Taking a plea deal without knowledgeable guidance is never advisable. Contact Walker Law Office today to speak with a reliable lawyer. Attorney Mekisha Jane Walker can help you navigate the criminal justice system and represent you diligently at every stage of the legal process. The firm proudly serves clients across Houston, Texas, and surrounding areas throughout Galveston, Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, and Brazoria counties.