The Costs and Benefits of Plea Bargains
Plea bargains, also called plea deals, are a crucial component in many Texas criminal prosecutions. Most people think they have only two options when facing criminal charges: plead guilty to the charges or go to trial. In reality, most criminal cases are resolved prior to trial through a plea bargain. A plea bargain is essentially a negotiated “deal” wherein the defendant exchanges his or her guilty plea for a reduced charge or lesser sentence. But plea bargains have both benefits and costs that should be considered.
Benefits of Plea Bargains
Plea bargains are negotiated between the prosecution and the defense. They attempt to reach a mutually agreeable resolution: a better outcome for the defendant and a lightened trial load for the court. The courts want to avoid trial because they are resource intensive. Courts typically have a backlog of cases awaiting trial at any given point. The defendant also benefits. He or she avoids the costs, risks and uncertainty of trial. In a trial, the defendant’s fate is often in the hands of the jury. Moreover, the defendant saves attorney fees, court fees and the costs of obtaining evidence, such as expert testimony.
Plea bargains also have the added benefit of giving the defendant options. If he or she does not want to plead guilty to the charge he or she is facing, a plea bargain may provide a favorable alternative. For example, if the defendant was facing a charge with a mandatory jail sentence, his or her attorney might be able to negotiate a deal wherein the defendant serves no jail time.
Costs of Plea Bargains
While plea bargains can provide the defendant some level of flexibility in terms of options, they also come at a cost. Typically, you will need to hire an experienced attorney to get the best plea bargain. Although the defendant would still end up avoiding the cost of trial, he or she would most likely have to hire a criminal defense attorney skilled at negotiating plea bargains for best results.
The most important cost of plea bargains to keep in mind is the defendant is still pleading guilty. In a trial, the defendant would have a chance of acquittal. An acquittal would mean he or she would walk away with no criminal conviction. In accepting a plea bargain, the defendant is pleading guilty to a crime and will acquire a criminal record in the process. In light of this fact, it becomes less of a “bargain” and more of a burden. Unfortunately, many defendants don’t consider the costs of a criminal record until it’s too late. But if you consider the destructive potential of a criminal conviction, you can see how costly they are. For example, a criminal conviction can:
- Cause you to lose your job
- Hurt your chances when applying for a job
- Result in denials when applying for apartments, loans or even insurance
- Hurt your financial aid options
- Cause you to lose certain rights (e.g. a family violence conviction will result in the loss of firearm rights)
- Damage your reputation and status in your community
- Result in the loss of certain relationships
- May be used against you in future criminal cases
These are just a few of the many harsh consequences of a criminal conviction. The worst part is these consequences often last a lifetime.
The only way to make an informed decision on how to plea is to discuss your case in detail with a seasoned Dallas-Fort Worth criminal defense attorney. An attorney can go over all the costs and benefits of plea bargains and advise you on what you should do given the details of your case.
If you’re facing criminal charges in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, JBabb – Criminal Defense Attorneys is here to help. JBabb – Criminal Defense Attorneys will advise you on the best course of action. With law offices in Dallas and Denton, our attorneys provide compassionate legal services to Dallas, Collin, Denton, Ellis, Rockwall and Tarrant counties. Our experienced attorneys handle a wide variety of criminal cases including DWI/DUI, assault/family violence, and other misdemeanors and felonies. Call (214) 329-9433, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out our confidential online form to schedule a consultation with a Dallas-Fort Worth criminal defense attorney.