Often, people charged with a serious crime are offered plea bargains. Plea bargains allow the state to secure a conviction without the expense and time of a trial and allow defendants to accept a sentence that's often far less than what they might face if the do go through a trial. Often, charges are reduced to something less severe in order to facilitate the deal. However, a plea bargain isn't over until the judge okays it, and you can ruin your own deal. Here are two things that you should know about how to handle a plea deal:
1. Make sure that you understand what you are agreeing to do.
A plea bargain isn't just an agreement that allows you to get a lesser sentence -- you are pleading guilty to a crime. You cannot appeal the verdict after the plea bargain, and you may not be able to appeal the sentence either, should you later regret taking the plea.
Keep in mind that many plea deals include an agreement with the prosecution for a specific sentence, but the judge has the final say and can impose a stiffer penalty. For example, Jared Fogle, the spokesman for a chain of sandwich shops, was expecting a 12.5-year sentence for his pornography crimes instead of the 15.6-year prison term and lifetime supervised release that he was handed by the judge.
2. Don't tell the court one thing and other people something else.
A lot of people accept plea deals because the evidence against them is significant, and they don't want to risk the outcome of a trial. While a plea deal may even mean guaranteed prison time, not accepting the deal means rolling the dice at a trial and getting a much longer sentence in the end.
The reality is that many people rightfully fear what's sometimes called the "trial tax" -- or the more severe sentences that are imposed by judges on defendants who fight the charges when the evidence seems to be heavily against them. However, if you're accepting a plea, you can't tell the court that you're guilty in one breath and then insist that you are innocent in another.
For example, a Texas woman found that her 18-year plea deal was thrown out by the judge, and she was obliged to go to trial after she told reporters, on camera, that she was innocent of her husband's murder. The end result was a 60-year sentence after she was convicted. In a Florida case, a man ruined his plea deal by stating, during sentencing, that the victim "deserved what he got" during sentencing -- which in effect, is offering up a plea of self-defense. The judge cancelled the original plea deal and ordered him to stand trial.
Accepting a plea deal is a complicated decision that shouldn't be undertaken without careful consideration of all the different ways that it can affect your life. Before you accept a plea deal, make sure that you discuss all the implications with your attorney.
For more information, contact Anggelis and Gordon Attorneys At Law or a similar firm.