Plea bargains are a common part of the criminal justice system. Despite the prevalence of these deals, there are many misconceptions about how they work and what rights defendants have during the plea process.
There are several common myths you should understand.
Myth 1: the deal offered is the best you can get
You might assume that the initial plea offered by the prosecution is the best deal that you can hope for. However, in many cases, you can negotiate for better terms, such as reduced charges or a lighter sentence. There may be weaknesses in the state’s case or mitigating factors that can help you get a more favorable bargain. The plea offered is often just a starting point for negotiation.
Myth 2: you must take the deal offered
While a plea deal may seem intimidating once presented, defendants are under no obligation to accept it. Not only can you negotiate the offer further, but you can also take the case to court if you feel that the deal is unfair. Do not feel forced into taking a deal that is not in your best interests.
Myth 3: you cannot appeal a plea
Many people believe that, once you accept a plea, you lose all opportunities to appeal. Depending on the circumstances, you can potentially appeal or withdraw a plea deal prior to sentencing. In most situations, you need to show that legal standards were not met or new evidence is available.
The majority of criminal cases end in a plea bargain. The more you know, the easier it is to advocate for yourself.