Many do not realize that about 95% of criminal cases do not go to trial, even if they are felonies. The prosecution will likely approach the defense attorney to negotiate a plea bargain, whether before the trial gets underway or sometime later in the adjudication process. Regardless of how the defense attorney feels about the deal, they must convey the offer to their client. It is then up to the client to determine if they accept it.
Plea deals are part of the legal justice system because they are shortcuts. The legal system is booked beyond capacity, and plea deals allegedly shorten the time and cost of a case because it eliminates the trial. The defendant accommodates the other parties’ needs for a faster resolution of the case, and in return, they get a lighter sentence.
Should you accept it?
Plea deals are by nature coercive, and every defendant has the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. The plea deals are what the prosecution claim is a lighter sentence than if the case goes to trial and hands down a sentence. The defendant may even worry that not taking the deal risks the anger of the prosecution, who may say they will pursue the maximum penalty. Moreover, a judge may even agree with the prosecution’s thinking.
Innocent people sometimes end up in jail because they took a plea bargain. It may be because there was not enough evidence at the time to prove their innocence. Proof of innocence may come later through new DNA testing, or perhaps someone admits they did it. Unfortunately, the day of reckoning may never come, and no one can get back the time lost due to incarceration and other penalties.
A defense attorney can still provide guidance
Along with defending the rights of their clients, attorneys also assess the evidence against the client and offer their opinion on the likelihood of an acquittal if the case goes before a jury. They base their thinking on their legal education and experience handling other cases, but they are not the ones charged. The attorney should give an honest opinion about how to proceed. It may be to take the deal. But it may be to fight for a better deal or to be acquitted by a jury of your peers.