It’s scary to be charged with a crime when you’re facing an uncertain future. When an offer for a plea deal comes through from the prosecutor, it may seem like a bargain in comparison. At least your ordeal will be over, right?
Not so fast. Most people don’t realize exactly what rights they’re giving up when they make a plea deal until it’s too late. When you take a plea agreement:
You give up the right to a trial of your peers
A plea deal means that the court will never hear your side of the story, nor will you be able to confront the witnesses against you. That can be a difficult pill to swallow for some people.
You give up the right to an appeal
Your plea agreement may or may not come with a sentence recommendation. Even if it does, that doesn’t always mean the judge will agree with the prosecutor’s recommendation. If a judge doesn’t agree, that’s seldom in a defendant’s favor. Since you’re pleading guilty, you also cannot appeal the conviction if you decide you got a raw deal.
You give up the right against self-incrimination
When you’re suspected of a crime, you have a Constitutional right against self-incrimination that’s absolute. If you agree to a plea deal, however, you may be required to admit your guilt in open court and even give an account of your crime and your full involvement.
In addition, you will walk away from the case with a criminal record. If you’re ever in trouble with the law again, you could face the possibility of a sentence enhancement for being a “repeat offender.”
Plea deals are common, and they can be a successful way to resolve your case – but you need experienced legal guidance to tell you when you should consider making a bargain and when you should put on a strong defense.