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The Pros and Cons of Plea Bargains in Criminal Cases

Michigan criminal defense attorneyWhen you are charged with a crime you can invoke your Constitutional right to take your case to trial. But it may be better to seek a plea bargain with the prosecutor. Making a decision is difficult but Attorney Michael P. Manley can help you with a strategy designed to get you the best result.

That strategy may include a plea bargain. That’s when the prosecutor and the defendant work out an agreement together, instead of taking the case to trial. Most often it means you will plead guilty to a reduced charge and, therefore, get a lighter sentence. It’s a common practice by prosecutors; in fact in the United States the majority of cases are settled this way and never go to trial.

However, if the evidence against you is weak, you may have a good chance of having your criminal case thrown out in court. Depending on your criminal case, there are serious advantages and disadvantages of plea bargains.

Advantages of a plea bargain

Seeking a plea bargain can work to your advantage because you can negotiate a lighter sentence and have your case disposed of far more quickly than scheduling it for trial. Trials are often scheduled months in advance, and, depending on how much evidence is involved, a trial date can take a year or more. If you are held on bail and you are not able to post it, you will be stuck in jail. In fact some people spend more time in jail waiting for their trial date than they would have if they were convicted and sentenced. That’s a strong point to consider.

If you are not held on bail there may be less incentive for you to seek a plea bargain. You may want to force the prosecutor to prove the case against you and, therefore, thoroughly lay out the merits of the charges. That can be very hard to do because the standard of proof in the criminal court system is that charges must be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Getting jurors to agree that the charges have been proved to that standard is often a very tall task.

But you may face a waiting time of months to years to get your trial. Your case will be delayed if there is a need for evaluations (both physical and mental), forensic testing, DNA or fingerprint testing and especially cell phone evidence. In addition, the prosecutor may request more time to prepare and courts often have scheduling conflicts.

The disadvantages of a plea bargain

While plea bargains have the advantage of speeding up the conclusion of a criminal case, they negatively affect those who have been wrongfully charged. In order to prove your innocence in a criminal case, a thorough investigation is required. Without the proper evidence needed to support your defense, you could face unnecessary jail time, probation, or other penalties.

Whether the evidence against you is strong or weak, it's best to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight for fair treatment from the justice system. Contact Attorney Michael P. Manley today to discuss your options.

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