If you are facing criminal charges here in Georgia, at some point you will likely be faced with the decision of whether or not to accept a plea bargain in your case. Not all defendants will have that option, however, and the more serious the charge for the alleged crime, the less likely a plea will be proffered.
But don’t be too eager to accept a plea bargain in the case just because the prosecutor offers you one. To make the best decision for your circumstances, read on to learn more about plea bargains.
Plea bargains allow the legal system to function
Without plea bargains to relieve the stresses of overburdened criminal justice courts all over the country, the American justice system would quickly become too bogged down to function in any meaningful way. So, plea bargains are a necessary evil, if you will. Also, prosecutors like them, because they can claim guilty pleas as “wins” for their records come election time.
But some defendants can benefit from “copping a plea” as well. The negotiations between your criminal defense attorney and the prosecutor can drop a felony charge down to a misdemeanor or trade jail time for home incarceration or even probation.
For both defendants and prosecutors facing jury trials, plea bargains remove the uncertainties of jury verdicts, as it is impossible to predict whether empaneled jurors will vote to acquit or convict.
Examine the drawbacks
Make no mistake — a plea bargain is a conviction, just as if you were found guilty at trial by jury or judge. The same adverse consequences in all areas of your life will arise from a plea bargain, including:
- Employment opportunities
- The right to live in public housing or access some social service benefits
- Second Amendment rights (in some cases)
- Educational opportunities, including scholarships and student loans
The fact that a prosecutor is offering to plead your case can also indicate that they have a very weak case against you. Make sure that you are aware of all legal factors before determining whether or not to accept a plea bargain.