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 Plea Bargains 101 – What do you need to know?

Plea bargains make a regular appearance in Hollywood films and as plot devices in crime shows on television, but do you know actually know what a plea bargain entails? Read ahead to learn everything you need to know about plea bargains and what they can mean for you.

What is a plea bargain?

If you are charged with a crime, in many instances the prosecutor will offer you a plea bargain. This is defined as an agreement between a prosecutor and defendant in a criminal case in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty. In return, the prosecutor will make a concession that benefits the defendant; in many cases they will dismiss some of the charges, ensure that they are less serious than the original charges, or recommend a more lenient punishment from the judge. 

3 Kinds of Plea Bargains

Charge bargaining – Of all of the plea bargains, this is the most common in Florida. In exchange for a guilty plea, this will drop some of your charges or reduce your charge in different ways. A good example of charge bargaining would be with a murder charge; if you agree to plead guilty, the prosecutor will reduce the charge to manslaughter rather than Murder Two.

Sentence bargaining – If you accept a sentence bargain, you will plead guilty to the original charge in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Fact bargaining – This is the least common type of plea bargain, and not all of the Florida courts allow it. With a fact bargain you will admit to specific aspects of the crime in exchange for the prosecutor agreeing not to enter other facts and the judge agreeing to the bargain. This can lead to a lesser sentence.

Benefits of a plea bargain 

While you will still have a criminal record if you accept a plea bargain, there can be many benefits of this kind of arrangement. You will avoid the embarrassment and potential press coverage of a trial, and you can often negotiate a shorter sentence and get back to your real life as soon as possible. Even though you will still have a record, it will be for a lesser charge that may have less negative repercussions in your life.

Should you accept a plea bargain?

Only a skilled defense attorney can help you to make this decision. While accepting a plea bargain can help you to avoid harsh consequences or serve less time in prison, it necessitates admitting your guilt. This will mean that you will have a criminal record for the rest of your life, you may face deportation and you may face difficulties landing a job, a rental property and credit or a mortgage from your bank. The pros and cons need to be weighed carefully, and you need to think clearly about what both options could mean for your future. Your criminal law attorney can also help you to understand the ins and outs of how your sentence will be determined in Florida.