If you are facing a felony conviction for your charges, at some point in the adjudication process, your criminal defense attorney may be approached by the prosecution to negotiate a plea bargain. Your attorney is duty-bound to present this information to you, but should you take the plea bargain that’s being offered to you?
The problem with many plea bargain situations is that the process is coercive to the defendant. Our country’s legal system is being crushed under the weight of its cases. Plea bargains are a necessary part of the resolution process because it eliminates lengthy and costly trials. Only about 5% of criminal cases in the federal and state courts actually make it to trial. The other 95% are pled out by the attorneys for the defendants in deals of varying benefit to the defendants.
What if I refuse to plead?
Every defendant has a right to take their case to trial to fight for a “not guilty” verdict. The reality is that if each defendant went to trial, our justice system would collapse, denying justice for all. Defendants may fear angering the prosecutors who can keep them behind bars during the proceedings or scuttle exculpatory evidence.
Venal prosecutors and judges in some jurisdictions penalize defendants who refuse to plead guilty. Should the trial end in a conviction, they may lobby for and hand down much harsher sentences than they do to defendants that reluctantly accept bad plea bargains.
You must make your own decision on plea bargains
Your attorney can and should assess the evidence against you in the prosecution’s case. They can offer their opinion about your chances of acquittal should the case go before a jury.
But they cannot do your time for you. You should be at peace with the decision to plead guilty. If you are innocent of the charges, this can be a bitter pill to swallow. The decision carries a lifetime of repercussions and should never be made rashly.