95% of all cases end in a plea-bargain. Plea-bargaining is an excellent way to avoid a potential stiff conviction in favor of an agreed upon lighter conviction. For instance, in a drug possession case, a judge may be convinced to dismiss the charges in return for the defendant's successful completion of a rehabilitation program. Some judges and prosecutors are amenable to plea-bargaining, whereas others are not. Plea bargaining enables the judges to move cases through the legal process, and prosecutors to rack up convictions.
Five things to ponder when considering a plea bargain:
- A judge-approved guilty or no contest plea bargain may result in a criminal conviction. The conviction will show up as a criminal record.
- The defendant may lose rights and privileges as if the defendant were convicted after trial.
- A no contest plea says "I don't choose to contest the charges".
- A guilty plea serves as an admission of guilt.
- A plea bargain may result in a lighter sentence and completes the matter quickly.
How to plea-bargain a good deal:
- The defense must show responsibility for the crime is minimal.
- The defense must show the impact of the crime elicited little damage.
- The defense must explain mitigating circumstances that led to the crime.
- The defense must establish weaknesses in the prosecutions case, such as lack of evidence or lack of witnesses or factual inconsistencies.
- The defense must establish good character on the part of the defendant. The crime was a departure from normal conduct.
- The prosecution and defense must mutually desire a reasonable settlement.
- The impact on the defendant's family or dependents would be a hardship.