Criminal charges can weigh heavily on you as your court date slowly approaches. You might see reprieve on the horizon when the prosecutor offers you a plea deal, but make sure you know the consequences before you jump at the opportunity.

Courts resolve up to 95% of criminal cases with plea bargains. A process designed to move cases swiftly through the system at a reduced cost to the state, agreements appeal to many when they quickly take the mystery of a trial out of the equation. But deals often come with consequences, and you might pay a high price in the long run for short-term peace of mind.

Bargaining costs

You might decide that the price of a plea deal is too high:

  • Dismissal: The biggest consequence of a plea deal is that you’re typically waiving your right to a trial. There will probably be no fact-finding and no public arguments made on your behalf if you sign your plea deal. You’ll have to accept the terms that the prosecution sets before you.
  • Judgment: While a judge may run up against restrictions from laws and regulations, a prosecutor might have a great deal of leeway in what they can ask and offer. This causes an enormous discrepancy in sentencing from case to case, depending on where the case is taking place.
  • Innocence: The bottom line of most any plea deal is that you’ll have to enter a guilty plea. You might be able to skip the trial and put the process behind you quickly, but your fate will rely on circumstances like your previous record and the severity of charges rather than your innocence.

Plea bargains have advantages, but you’ll want to think long and hard who is the one benefiting. Make sure you know what’s at stake, and you can start making a plan for fielding the incoming plea deals.