A defendant in a criminal case can face many confusing situations as the case goes on. One of these is the plea bargain. At some point in the case, the prosecutor may put an offer on the table. If the defendant agrees to take the offer, there will be no trial. In exchange, prosecutors typically offer incentives like a reduced sentence or lesser charges. For some types of minor crimes, you may even have the option of avoiding jail time instead of serving probation.
Admitting to wrongdoing
So, what is the catch? For one, many bargains require you to go on the stand and officially admit to committing a crime (usually one that is less serious than the original charges). Someone who is actually innocent may have a hard time with this requirement. When you take a plea, in most cases you also give up your right to appeal your case or challenge any previous parts of your case, such as conduct by prosecutors or law enforcement.
Another thing to know about plea bargains is that, for many purposes, they count the same as convictions. Pleading guilty to some types of crimes can bar you from holding certain jobs. If you are not a United States citizen, a plea can affect your immigration status. In most cases, you will still have a criminal record. Some DUI pleas can affect your driving license; many people are not able to travel to work and school without driving.
Of course, for some defendants, the benefits of taking a plea outweigh the negative points. This can happen if the prosecution’s evidence against you is so strong that you will probably lose at trial. In such a case, it may not be worth it for you to go through this stressful experience just to end up with harsher penalties. Some defendants may also prioritize avoiding the publicity and damage to their reputation that a trial can bring.
Making a decision
Wisconsin law encourages plea bargains, as they can benefit both the court system and the defendant. Deciding whether you should accept a plea bargain is a complicated decision that depends on the specific facts of your case. For this reason, you should never agree to any bargain before discussing it extensively with your attorney. While this is your decision to make, an experienced defense lawyer can evaluate all the factors and make sure you understand all the potential consequences. Your attorney can also negotiate with prosecutors to help you get a better deal. Choosing a qualified defender to stand up for your rights is the best thing you can do to help your case.