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Should you agree to a plea bargain?

Defendants sometimes dither over whether to seek out or accept a plea bargain to the charges they face. The legal system in the United States depends upon plea bargains to keep it chugging along. Otherwise, it would get hopelessly bogged down with all court cases being taken to trial.

The fact is that 90 percent of criminal cases get plea bargained. Plea bargains can be an effective resolution when a case appears destined to end in a conviction. They allow defendants the opportunity to plead guilty to less serious offenses, and sometimes to receive more lenient consequences, like probation, instead of jail time.

But plea bargains are not always in defendants' best interests. If you are truly innocent of a crime, it's a hard pill to swallow to plead guilty, whether the penalties are less steep with the plea.

Other times, the prosecution has a very shaky case against a defendant. Rather than take it to trial and lose, they extend a plea bargain offer in the hopes of bluffing the defendant and his or her counsel of record.

No defendant should automatically assume that a plea bargain will be offered or that they should accept it if it is. Many factors must be present for plea bargain s to enter the mix.

If your crime was especially heinous, it's highly unlikely that the prosecution would offer a plea, or that the court would accept it if they did. The greater the public outcry over a crime, the lesser chance of pleading to a lesser charge.

If you are charged with a crime and get offered a plea bargain, discuss its merits with your criminal defense attorney. Then and only then, make an informed decision.

Source: Findlaw, "Plea Bargains: In Depth," accessed July 07, 2017

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  • Kentucky Justice Association
  • Kentucky Bar Association 1871 Lex Ordo Justicia
  • United States District Court Western District Of Kentucky
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