If you are charged with a crime, you have a legal right to defend yourself. And one of the defense strategies you can consider is entering a plea deal with the prosecution. Also known as a “plea bargain,” a plea deal often lets defendants plead guilty to a lesser crime in exchange for lenient sentencing.
Like most things in life, a plea deal has its merits and demerits. For instance, a plea deal strips you of some rights, like the right to appeal a conviction. This is why you need to understand what you are getting into before accepting one.
Because you give up the right to appeal, the court wants to make sure of the following when there’s a plea deal involved:
You understand what the deal means
A plea deal is pretty much like a contract. To be accepted, the court must be convinced that you voluntarily entered the deal and that you understood the consequences. In other words, you need to prove to the court that you had sufficient information regarding the deal before agreeing to plead guilty
You are entering into the agreement willingly
You need to understand that while your legal counsel may encourage you to accept the deal, they cannot force you to do so. If you did not enter the deal willingly, you may change your mind and appeal the verdict.
You are willing to admit your guilt
Although there are exceptions, many plea deals require defendants to accept responsibility for their crimes. If you’re unwilling to say that you’re guilty, that could make a plea agreement improbable.
Protecting your rights
A criminal conviction will change your life forever. Even after paying your price to society, you will still have a criminal record that can limit your opportunities. Learning more about your legal rights as a suspect can help you defend yourself and obtain a favorable outcome for your case – whether that involves a plea agreement or not.