Should You Plead Guilty to Your Charges?
If you are arrested and have criminal charges issued against you, you may imagine having to go through a dramatic trial like you so often see on television. While trials are appropriate in some cases to fight wrongful charges, most criminal cases are resolved without a trial. This is because a defendant may choose to plead guilty. While pleading guilty is often the best decision in a case, you should never plead guilty without first discussing all of your options and the implications of a guilty plea with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Plea bargaining is a very important part of the modern criminal justice process and it involves negotiations between a defense attorney and a prosecutor. Generally speaking, an unrepresented defendant will not have the opportunity to plea bargain on their own behalf. If you do not have an attorney and you plead guilty, your fate will likely be at the discretion of the judge. However, a skilled defense lawyer can talk to the prosecutor and present arguments in your favor to try to get a better deal for you in exchange for your agreement to plead guilty and avoid trial. Some issues that may be negotiated include the following:
Pleading to lesser charges – Sometimes, a prosecutor will amend the charges against you to which you must plead guilty. For example, if you have four different charges, a prosecutor may be willing to drop three charges in exchange for a guilty plea to the most serious charge. In addition, a prosecutor may agree to amend down a charge to a lesser charge if you agree to plead guilty. Two common examples of this include:
- A person charged with driving under the influence (DUI) instead pleading guilty to reckless driving (known as a “wet reckless”); or
- A person charged with first-degree murder facing a possible life sentence or capital punishment instead pleads guilty to second-degree murder.
Chance to negotiate your sentence – Even if you plead guilty to the original charges issued against you, your attorney can negotiate your sentence as part of plea bargaining. For instance, if the prosecutor was going for a maximum sentence, they may be willing to reduce the recommended sentence if you plead guilty. In addition, your attorney may agree to conditions such as substance abuse treatment, ankle monitoring, and similar programs in exchange for no jail sentence.
Avoid the Uncertainty of Trial
Pleading guilty can give you more control over your future than at trial. At trial, you are at the mercy of whatever the jury decides and whatever the judge deems an appropriate sentence. Defendants have very little control at trial and, therefore, plea bargaining can often be the more beneficial option.
Contact a Boca Raton Criminal Defense Lawyer to Discuss Your Case
The best way to know whether pleading guilty is right in your case is to consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who understands how to handle criminal cases in Boca Raton. Please call Lavalle, Brown & Ronan at 888-646-1315 today.