Plea bargains have a somewhat mixed reputation. Some think they take advantage of people in desperate situations, while others believe they allow criminals to escape without facing proper consequences.
On top of that, not every plea bargain provides equally for every person. The reasons a prosecutor may offer one differs from case to case. Before you accept one offered to you, it is important to know as much about it – and plea bargains in general – as possible.
Cornell Law School examines the use and purpose of plea bargaining in the justice system. Plea bargains serve as a way to speed cases through the system by avoiding a trial, as you plead guilty instead of going through the trial process to have a jury determine your guilt. In exchange for accepting a plea bargain, you may have certain things offered to you. Common exchanges include:
Sometimes, a plea bargain may also get offered in an attempt to catch “bigger fish”. In this case, you may get asked to testify against someone else in exchange for a reduced or lowered sentence.
Many people feel compelled to take plea bargains because they simply want this nightmarish ordeal to end. Prosecutors often do a great job at convincing you that it is the only way out of a bleak future, too. But in many cases, prosecutors do not offer plea bargains for your good. They may do it to speed your case through trial, or because they feel their case against you is weak. They may even offer just because the judge expects them to.
Instead of leaping at the first offer you get, it is crucial to examine it carefully to ensure it actually benefits you. This is where having legal aid on your side can make a world of difference.
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