When you face criminal charges, a whole new set of emotional and legal challenges arise. When going through the process, you may hear the words “plea” or “plea deal.” A plea is the response you give to charges, and a plea deal is an arrangement made by you, the prosecution, and the court. But what exactly does this practice entail? And should you always accept a deal if offered?
What is a plea?
A plea is the response a defendant gives to the charges they face. There are three different types of responses someone can give in a criminal case. These three responses are guilty, not guilty or no contest. A guilty plea means that you admit to committing the crimes as charged by the government. A not guilty plea means you do not admit to committing the crimes as charged by the government. A no contest plea means you accept the charged facts but do not admit guilt. If you plead no contest, you will be convicted and sentenced just the same as you would if you pleaded guilty. Unlike a guilty plea, however, your no contest cannot be used against you in a civil lawsuit by the victim.
What is the difference between guilty pleas and no contest pleas?
There are some similarities and differences between a guilty plea and a no contest plea. Whether the defendant gives a guilty plea or no contest plea, the sentencing remains the same. Further, guilty pleas and no contest pleas mean that you will not go to trial. You can also attempt to get either guilty or no contest plea convictions expunged. Neither change what happens after conviction, like how soon you go to prison. The difference between a guilty plea and no contest plea comes up after sentencing. If you plead guilty, your admission of guilt can be used against you in a civil lawsuit by the victim. If you plead no contest, however, your plea cannot be used against you.
What is a plea deal?
A plea deal is when someone pleads guilty or no contest to one or more charges. These deals are also known as plea bargains. You may take a plea deal to get a more lenient sentence or have other charges dismissed. Usually, a plea deal’s terms are between the defendant and the prosecutor. In general, courts have to approve of the plea deal as well. This is especially the case when the plea deal involves a specific sentence.
If you make a plea deal and plead guilty or no contest, you will not go to trial.
Are there different types of plea deals?
Yes, there are three types of plea deals in the United States. Charge bargaining is when someone pleads guilty to a smaller charge. Usually, this results in a prosecutor dropping a criminal charge that comes with a longer or more impactful sentence. Sentence bargaining is when someone pleads guilty in exchange for a lighter sentence.
When is it a good idea to make a plea deal?
It depends on every case. But, it is important to remember that the prosecutors are the ones to offer a plea deal. Sometimes, it may be in your best interest to take the deal. Other times it may be better to go to trial. Sometimes, prosecutors may offer a plea deal because they do not know if they will win at trial. For example, they may not have enough evidence to stand in a trial. An attorney can help figure out why the offer is being given to you, and whether you should take it.
There are several different types of pleas and plea bargains. Each plea and plea bargain has its own outcome. The best option is not always to take a plea deal, even though it may be tempting. Speaking with your counsel about the case and what is in your best interest will be your best option.