Everything you want to know about plea bargains

Discover what a plea bargain is. Find out how it works and what it may mean for your criminal case in Maryland.

Many people who face charges in a criminal court will end up with a plea bargain offer. A plea bargain is when the prosecutor offers a defendant a deal, such as a short sentence or reduction in charges, in exchange for a guilty plea. Taking a plea bargain means the case does not go to trial. There are many confusing things about plea bargains. Here is a look at common questions people have about them.

What happens if a person takes a plea bargain?

According to the United States Department of Justice, a plea bargain ends with a criminal sentence by a judge. A defendant must admit he or she is guilty of the crime or crimes in court and on record. The prosecutor then advises the judge of the agreement. The judge may follow the agreement or not. A judge always makes the final sentence. The judge can disregard the plea bargain or deny it and even send the case to trial.

Why do prosecutors offer plea bargains?

According to the American Constitution Society, prosecutors often use plea bargains to free up the system. They help to move cases along more quickly and relieve the already overcrowded criminal justice system.

Because there are so many cases going through courts daily, prosecutors cannot possibly take every case to trial. Trials take a lot of time, especially for violent crimes. There is not enough time or man power to try all these cases, so prosecutors extend plea bargains in hopes defendants take them and they can move cases through the system faster.

Why do defendants take plea bargains?

Many wonder if a person must plead guilty why they would take a plea bargain. Often, they are afraid of going to trial. Many crimes have serious jail time associated with them, such as robbery, and defendants feel the prosecutor is offering a fair deal that provides less time. They focus on getting out of jail and back to their regular lives as soon as possible, which a plea bargain may seem to offer. In fact, plea bargain deals result in 95% of cases ending with a conviction, so many people take them.

What are some issues with plea bargains?

There are some people who feel plea bargains do more harm than good. They feel these agreements can lead to cases ending too soon before the defendant really understands the case against him or her. Sometimes the defendant would be better off going to trial and even have the potential to be found not guilty. Some say plea bargains may result in lengthier sentences than a trial sentence based on the evidence and are detrimental to the criminal justice system.

It is important when you are facing a criminal charge to have excellent legal representation, such as the Law Offices of Thomas C. Mooney. A good attorney can carefully examine any plea bargain and ensure you get the best deal possible.