Plea Bargain FAQs
When facing criminal charges, it is important to our clients that they have options. If it is in our clients best interest to go to a trial, then a competent trial attorney should take the case to a trial. But in some cases, a plea bargain may also be an option. Some basic questions about plea bargains include:
What Is a Plea Bargain?
The Legal Information Institute (LII) defines plea bargains as “agreements between defendants and prosecutors in which defendants agree to plead guilty to some or all of the charges against them in exchange for concessions from the prosecutors.”
Why Would a Defendant Accept a Plea Bargain?
In a plea bargain, the prosecutor typically recommends that the judge impose a lower sentence than the maximum. In many cases, defendants agree to plead guilty in order to limit their criminal liability and exert some control over the outcome of their case. Judges can be very unpredictable when it comes to sentencing after a guilty verdict, so many defendants agree to the lesser sentence rather than chance having the judge “throw the book at them.”
Each defendant may have their own motivations for agreeing to a plea bargain. An attorney may play an important role in advising a client about a plea bargain.
Why Would a Prosecutor Accept a Plea Bargain?
Prosecutors are often concerned with convictions. Plea bargains allow prosecutors to obtain a guilty verdict without even going to trial. In some cases, the prosecution may not offer or agree to a plea bargain. As the American Bar Association (ABA) explains, though, plea bargains are “prevalent.”
When Do You Enter a Plea Bargain?
An attorney may negotiate a plea bargain at any time during the pendency of a criminal case. Most often, in Missouri, plea negotiations occur after arraignment and prior to trial. A Defendant may enter a plea of guilty at any time in front of a judge. This is when the plea bargain will become formal.
Can Either Party Withdraw a Plea Bargain?
A plea bargain—and by extension a guilty plea—is generally binding once both parties have agreed to its terms. There may be exceptional circumstances when a plea bargain is nullified. If the defendant provided a false account of events within the plea bargain, the deal may be withdrawn by the court. If a prosecutor coerces a defendant, a court may also overturn a plea agreement.
Who Has Final Say Over Accepting a Plea Agreement?
The defendant has the ultimate say over a plea bargain. A prosecutor cannot make the defendant enter a guilty plea—the defendant, and only the defendant, can do this. If a defendant has any qualms or questions about a plea bargain, they should voice their concerns to their lawyer. Never accept a plea agreement that you have not thought through.
Finally, a Court may choose not to accept a plea deal. Though rare, the final sentence of a Defendant is decided by the Court and they may choose not to accept the negotiated deal. Often, the Court will notify the parties before doing so.
Call Us Today to Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer in St. Louis
You need capable legal help if you’re facing criminal charges. A plea bargain may help minimize the harm that you’re facing. Bruntrager & Billings, P.C. will seek the best possible outcome for you. Call Bruntrager & Billings, P.C. today at 314-646-0066 for a no-obligation discussion about your case. Don’t take on the justice system alone. We are ready to help.
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