What Is A Plea Bargain?
Plea Bargains in South Carolina
Criminal trials are a terrifying experience. Regardless of how secure you believe your case to be, you are still leaving your fate in the hands of strangers. Luckily, it is possible to avoid a criminal trial altogether with a plea bargain. A plea agreement is when a prosecutor offers you a deal to avoid the trial. The deal they offer will often be a lighter sentence or a smaller fine. While a plea bargain can lower your consequences, it also relies on you admitting to being guilty of the crimes the court has charged you. Therefore, accepting a plea bargain is an intimidating endeavor. It is imperative that you understand what you agree to when you accept a plea bargain.
Three Types of Plea Bargains
There are three types of plea bargains. They are charge bargaining, sentence bargaining, and fact bargaining.
A charge bargain is the most common type of plea bargain. A charge bargain reduces or eliminates some of your charges in exchange for your guilty plea. So a prosecutor might offer to reduce your murder charge to reckless driving.
A sentence bargain is when a prosecutor offers to lessen your sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. Your guilty plea will be for all the charges against you, however.
Fact bargaining is a rare form of plea bargain. Many courts do not even allow it. In a fact bargain, you must admit that certain facts are true. If you do, the prosecutor agrees not to enter some facts into the court evidence. You and your attorney will work out the bargain with the prosecutor, and a judge must approve it.
What are the benefits of a plea bargain?
A plea bargain may seem like a poor option since you have to plead guilty for the crimes the court is charging you. The best aspect of a plea bargain is that it allows you to skip the court trial. Trials are often stressful, expensive, and time-consuming. A trial also has no guarantee to go the way you want it. However, a plea bargain is certain.
A plea bargain offers a few other pros:
A plea bargain is quick. A plea bargain allows you to know your sentence the day of the bargain as opposed to a lengthy trial that may not end if your favor.
A plea bargain may lessen your charges. If you must have charges on your criminal record, it is logical to lessen them as much as possible. Specifically, reducing a felony to a misdemeanor is wonderful. Only having misdemeanors on your record allows you to do the things convicted felons cannot. Not having a felony means you can own a firearm, vote, and receive and keep an individual professional license. Alternatively, if you already have two felonies, avoiding the third strike could save you a significant amount of jail time.
A plea bargain can shorten your prison sentence. If you accept a sentence bargain, you will spend less time away from your normal life than you would have if the court had found you guilty in the trial. Your sentence may even be reduced to community service or probation depending on the situation.
If you are in jail or prison at the time of the plea bargain, signing a plea bargain may get you released and placed on probation if the judge accepts the deal.
A plea agreement can also allow you to avoid publicity or enable you to protect others involved in the crime.
Cons of Plea bargains
While plea bargains may often be the safest option for defendants, they are not always the best choice. It is imperative that you know the consequences of accepting a plea bargain before you agree. There are a few situations where accepting a plea bargain is detrimental.
Some professional licenses may be revoked after you plead guilty. Even if the guilty plea is only for a misdemeanor, it is better to have a misdemeanor than a felony on your record. Some professions that require a license are doctors, accountants, and real estate brokers. Ask your Columbia criminal defense attorney if you are at risk of losing your license before you accept a plea bargain.
If you are in the country illegally, you may face deportation after a guilty plea.
If your plea bargain involves probation, any violation of the probation may revoke the entire agreement. If you break probation, you may have to serve the maximum prison sentence.
If you agree to a plea bargain, you lose your right to appeal. That means you are not able to appeal you any issue of your case or sentence.
Before accepting a plea bargain, it is wise to speak with a criminal defense attorney in Columbia to ensure that you are making the right decision.